Damaged Type

I have been given several trays of Old Casalon type meaning that it is dirty, some of it looking like it is rusted (?) but certainly water damaged (as is the case). Some of these trays are quite full and could be wonderful additions to my beginning work. Is there a way to clean such type without damaging it? Thanks.

Log in to reply   8 replies so far

Is the “rust” rust colored or is it white or yellow? Type can and does oxidize (which is white or yellow, I believe). There are some recommendations for dealing with that here in the forums. The processes are a little tedious. It’s worth reading up on lead exposure too.

If the corrosion is rust colored, that may be something else. If it is just dirty and inky, I’ve had pretty good luck with a cheap ultrasonic cleaner from Amazon and some orange degreaser. Just make sure you dry the type well. If it really is rust (iron oxide) from steel galleys or something, that’d have to be scrubbed off too, but rust seems unlikely if the type was stored in cases.

Finally, you might want to price new type from Skyline, Quaker City, Swamp Press, M&H, or some such operation just to get an idea of how much time you want to put into the project. New type is sometimes more affordable than you might think.

If it’s WHITE, then it is lead oxide, which is poisonous to inhale or ingest. It can be cleaned if you are careful. If it’s old foundry type, it may be worth it. If it’s Monotype, it may be more easily recast.

The following is from ESPI Metals Corp. Material Safety Data Sheet, Product Name: Lead Oxide…
“The lead must be in such form, and so distributed, as to gain entrance into the body or tissues of the worker in MEASURABLE QUANTITY*, otherwise no exposure can be said to exist.”
*My emphasis.
I’ve never heard of a printer to be ill, or die from lead poisoning.

“The main danger is from inhaling powdered lead oxide; therefore, measures should be taken to avoid the material getting into the air. Wear safety glasses and, if working with the powder, use a fume cupboard. Do not carry out any operations which might release lead oxide dust into the air.”

Typically, commercial printers do not keep lead under conditions which cause the oxide to form - you usually need to keep it in a damp basement for a few years…

Thanks, Bill!
In other words I wouldn’t want to use a brass wire halftone brush on old oxidized type, or cuts. In Michigan (the Water Wonderland) we have the problem of getting zinc or magnesium photoengravers coated with a, I assume, zinc oxide if exposed to the elements, like an unheated garage or basement. We cover the face of these engravings with grease or Vaseline and store them in Zip-Lock bags.

Thanks all. How would one tell if it is old foundry or otherwise?

Four ways: almost all foundry type has a shallow groove centered between the feet (where the casting sprue was cleaned off); almost all foundry type will have an unusual arrangement of nicks, often more than one, usually larger and in a different location than a Monotype nick (but of course you have to know what Monotype looks like! ;-); and most foundry type has a deeper drive than Monotype, so the face of the letter stands higher from the body than with Monotype — again, you’d have to know Monotype to compare. Fourth, many foundry types, especially older and larger sizes, have a pin mark on one side adjacent to the nick side — if the type has a pin mark it’s definitely foundry type. The foot groove is the most reliable, to me, in smaller sizes. You didn’t say what sizes you have, but 18 point and up should be clearly differentiated.


Some Monotype cast type does have a pin mark- like Balto Type, Star, etc.

And a great deal of foundry type does not. You will find a pinmark on BB&S, but not on much ATF which was cast on a Barth.

Also confusing, some Monotype does have a center jet and center groove on the bottom.

One other thing I would add is that foundry type is typically heavier— having been cast with substantially more pressure, it has fewer air pockets.