I have some Goudy Cursive (I think) that appears to have oxidation.

I hate to see type scrapped but I’m thinking that is what I need to do if I’m not willing to clean it with Lye.

I am wanting some expert opinions. Is this what oxidation looks like?

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Yes, It does look like the type is oxidized. If I were you, I wouldn’t scrap it, it actually looks like the face itself is still clean and not pitted. There are probably many on this list who would enjoy using this type after putting in a bit of cleaning time to renew it.

There’s a thread on here somewhere that has a type-soaking solution which helps to remove the oxidation. I’ll see if I can conjure a link.

http://briarpress.org/23272 Also http://briarpress.org/33061

Do Not Dry brush it , the powder is what makes lead bad !!
I just oiled mine that was in trouble and then brushed it off , some of the pitting fills with ink after a couple of passes and to be honest part of the look of letterpress is the patchy inking of type .

After you clean or even before which would stop this oxidation, spray it with a light coat of cooking spray. I use that on my Mag. Cuts and bag them. I have some that are 35 years old. No Oxy

Get a good manuscript matching the amount of types you have. Set it and print it. Clean the form with kerosene and a soft brush, distribute the types, get a new manuscript etc. The best way to protect types from oxidation, is to use them. Remember to wash your fingers :-)
Gott grüß die Kunst

Yes, that is oxidation. It is poisonous. Do not touch it without gloves and get rid of the gloves afterward. I would not even attempt to save it. Have it recycled.

That case could be contaminated as well, or if the original case, could itself be the agent. Wood cases in a very damp basement or the result of flooding can leach acid, and that is one of the causes for oxidation.


Some potentially good advice kicking around, but it would appear to be being treated as if you were dealing with several hundred contaminated case over weeks or months???doesnt appear to be in that league. What I have done many, many times and a long time ago, resort to disposable gloves and tweezers, (gloves if you feel that your skin has not yet become impervious to all the chemicals that you have thrown at it already) with such a relatively tiny amount to be dealt with!!! hardly coming into the realms of anthrax or aids anyway. With your gloves and tweezers individually,as letters, or in bulk, lower into whatever size container is needed with a few cents worth of common DIESEL, YES ordinary DIESEL, it will neutralise everything on, in, under your type, of course even into the tiny pits, decant your diesel for re-use, sit your type on kitchen towel or similar, to drain, and then treat as if you have just printed a job, i.e. wipe the face with your normal post job agent for immediate use, OR drain down and recase, it will last for ever unused, diesel will not evaporate like W.D. 40 or whatever equivalent you use, take a look at any one of your motor vehicles that run on diesel, 5 years 10 years 20 years on the road and the area around the fuel filler is perfect, steel or aluminium!!!! DIESEL as a soaking/penetrating/lubricating agent is vastly superior for cents price wise than all the over the counter products. It is virtually non inflamable (i.e. COMPRESSION IGNITION ONLY) it stores forever without evaporation, gives of virtually no fumes, and will squirt from a squirt can with any length small bore flexible tube 2/3/4/ feet into the bowels of your machine, even possibly mixed 50/50 with conventional oil. For a few cents a time TRY it

Thank you all for the help. Yes, the face of the type appears to be in good shape so I was hoping to save it.

I had seen the lye thread and it scared me. I’ll look into some of these some more and give it a try. Thanks!

The type appears to be ATF foundry type, and well worth saving. Of course you should take the appropriate precautions, but fear should not be part of the picture. All type in your cases (except perhaps brand new fonts) will have a modicum of corrosion, whether visible or not. This just has gone to another level, and just like handling your other fonts, washing the hands after handling is essential.

If the powder is loose, you would want to do little to disturb it, but a bit of care should work for you now that you are fully aware that the corrosion may indeed contain an oxide of lead.

John Henry
Cedar Creek Press

If you have access to a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter you could set up the hose so you could brush the type with something like a stiff toothbrush while holding it close to the vacuum hose. The HEPA filter should eliminate any possibility of breathing the lead oxide. You would I think still be well advised to use rubber gloves while handling the type and wash them afterwards.


As it appears that small imperfections on the face, are of concern, tried and tested method from way back and providing that you use nothing bigger than a C. and P. forme, (possibily) H,berg probably too heavy to handle, lock up as much type as practical 6 pt leaded and no kerns touching each other, obtain ex litho blanket stick down with D.S.A. or conventional glue, with rubber side up, on your stone or kitchen table!!!and with LIQUID metal polish, e.g. for silver preferably, pour very little onto the blanket and with your forme face down, gently reciprocate, the metal polish,will without removing, barely microns, return your type to passable printing surface, unless they were too pitted, in which case they were dead anyway!!! The principal of locking in the chase eliviates the possibility of rounding off any edge, it has been responsible when trying to retrieve a working surface, with a variation of this idea, on a single letter or a block to do just that, potential problem!!! >>> No litho blanket, no problem, beg, borrow, steal or even buy piece of silk or similar, as long as its stuck flat the principle will hold good. The very same idea is normally standard practice on the Ludlow when casting very large type, i.e. buff the face down, to remove the inclusions, when the ludlow pump cant push enough metal fast enough.>>> IN ESSENCE this would be a modern version, of what always used to be done, by all the “good old boys” with their Cafe Racers, when overhauling engines, i.e best possible surface on the valves and seats, on cylinder heads, it went thus:- coarse grinding paste, fine grinding paste, metal polish, and even snitch a little “Mummys” best margarine mixed with a little of “Daddies” ciggy ash, the working surface of valves, ended up better than todays working surface on intaglio or gravure surfaces!!!!! Any of the good ole boys even remotely know where I am coming from??????? Perhaps an online tiny seminar, would be good, because I am sure some new ones will ask, Intaglio, Gravure,??? Whats He wittering about, its part of the plot and our heritage, surely???

Hello 2x2,

If you’re scared of lye, try soaking your type in plain vinegar, lightly brushing, and then rinsing really well with water. Lye’s really good for dissolving organic material like old ink, but I don’t think you need it if lead oxide is the only problem, and that’s what it looks like from your photos.

I second Gerald’s safety precautions: wear gloves, a mask, and some sort of smock that you can toss. Ideally you should look like one of those clean-room workers.

As for final coatings, I wouldn’t use any kind of vegetable oil, which is what cooking spray is. It hardens and gets rancid — just think of an old pan that someone forgot to clean. I use a solution of 3-in-One (about 10%) in mineral spirits, which I spray on with one of those tiny bottles made for eyeglass cleaner. Before you print, you have to wipe down the type with typewash.