Cleaning and storing wooden type?


I have purchased a selection of wooden type - all in good condition but will definitely need a good dust/clean before use.

Could anyone recommend the best way to do this?

And I also wondered if anyone had any clever storage solutions for wooden type?

I have some simple type cases (with dividing strips) which I can use for some of the smaller type - but I wondered how people stored larger type? I was thinking about having some shallow shelving made that would allow me to store the type on its side.

But if there are any clever solutions out there I’d love to know (and if you have any photos of your workshops, they’d be great to see).

Thank you.


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Congratulations on your new treasure.
Least may be best. You may damage the type if you try to make it look like new. You want the printing surface to be ready to accept ink.
Wood type was sealed with shellac when new. Who knows what solvents were used since then. With the possibility that some or all of the shellac seal is still there, one does not want to disturb it. Alcohol is the solvent and remover for shellac. No alcohol.
Vacuum first. Kerosene or common paint thinner will usually clean off what needs to come off. Murphys Oil Soap
might work also. If used, wipe dry.
If you store metal type in a cabinet and have some slots open, an open type case works well for wood type. Same size as a regular type case but without divisions.


Hello. I bought several cases of old wood type last summer which were filled with grime and many covered with ink. The same question appeared to me because I am somewhat of a clean nut about my studio and supplies. My solution was inexpensive and worked very well. I used a mild, citrus based cleaning solvent with a soft toothbrush. I was amazed at how much ink came off while applying a steady swirling action with the soft haired brush. The bristles were able to get into the small counters and details of the letters with ease. Once majority of the ink was washed off, I then used clean water to rinse the letters and dried then immediately with a clean rag leaving them out for a few days to completely air dry. The patina was still present but most of the ink (aside from stains) was gone. I went through quite a few toothbrushes (available at the dollar store). This method takes quite a while and your hands may cramp a bit from holding the small type but the results are worth it. Good luck!

There are lots of solutions for storing larger wood type. Shallow flat boxes work very well. In this age of digital photography I don’t know if the tradtional boxes that photographic papers came in are still available, but I latched on to lots of them a very long time ago. I believe that the office-supply stores still sell copy and label papers in boxes like this, but they are mostly around 8.5” x 11” in surface size. The photo paper boxes came in much larger dimensions. All these boxes were about an inch tall so they were perfect for storing wood type and could be stacked.

Depending on the size of your type, it can also be stored on shelves on end, likes books on a bookshelf. In fact, most shops that I have ever been in that had large wood type stored it exactly like that, some even had compartments for storing individual charcters (As, Bs, etc.)

You just have to find a creative solution that works for you.