Restoration of Hamilton Type Case Help

I recently aquired 2 Hamilton type cases/drawers. I believe theyr’e both a “California Job Case” by the inside layouts. Each has a different handle/pull, and the case pull in picture #1 does not have a lip on the front (raised, beveled top), it’s just flat.

Although I am curious about when they were manufactured, what I’m really stuck on is how to restore them. They are both filthy, and the paper lining is missing in bits and pieces on both.

Do I just wipe them off with a wood cleaner? If so, what’s a recommended brand? Orrrrr…

Do i wash them? And let them dry in the sun?

Can i take them partially apart, and re-sand/stain the frame & back?

And what about the drawer pulls? Do i clean those too?

I did not purchase these for any monetary value, but because I wanted each of my children (college) to have one to display all of the lapel pins & buttons, and little nick knacks we’ve collected over the years on our travels. I’m hoping these will be something they do pass down to their children one day.

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This is the case with a flat top . .

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If you only want to get them looking nice for display, take an x-acto blade and cut the paper along all the edges of each partition, this will take a while. Soak the paper in something like simple-green, if you’re lucky that should make it relatively pain-free to remove using a scraper of some sort.

Depending on how dirty it is, you might need to clean the wood using your cleaner of choice, then wipe it all down with a couple of layers of oil intended for protecting patio furniture. I’ve reconditioned a couple of cases that way, and it leaves you with something that looks relatively clean. Then I’ve filled them up with type and began dirtying them again, but to each his own I suppose…

I definitely wouldn’t wash them with water and let them dry in the sun, you’ll probably end up with two warped cases.

A.C. Sir, It sticks in my throat etc etc etc, to offer the following, but on the basis *if you cant beat them, join them* to my shame I have, BETRAYED Myself thus!:- Taken a good typecase, preferably what we call, a compound case subdivided with one vertical centre bar, with lowercase in all the pro rata divisions on most used characters. *** The bottom or backboard, in your case, with a small hardwood block will tap off, progressively and gently, *** Once the back base is off, every compartment is sandable and varnishable if required…..To my shame again, when I have prepared one for show, I lined the base/backboard with baize, red, green, blue, ex Billiard, Snooker, Pool Table, covering??..It sticks in my throat but they look good, and occasionally to ease my conscience and pride, I include the recipients Initials in type 48 point or similar centered in the caps side….With your Handles, apparently cast iron, paint stripper/wire brush clean, aerosol spray, colur co-ordinated etc, then block the raised lettering and scroll work down, must be blocked down rather than finger tip style, the same syndrome as your soft rollers picking up the High/Low spots on your too shallow modern printing plates….Once again will look good.!!….As the lowercase *e* is normally the biggest compartment I have occasionally inserted diagonal sub divisions, to accomodate, for example 10/15/ etc dressmakers thimbles…..I am assuming (possibly incorrectly, for which I apologise if so) that the construction of your cases is similar to ours, in that the backs, are secured with many small panel pins and once tapped out a fraction, can be removed, with an upholsterers staple remover or tiny grips. Hope this is of some help, and just a little inspiration……Good Luck.

When I need to clean cases the first thing I do is to use an air compressor to blow out as much of the dry junk as possible. Don’t forget to wear a filter mask and googles - you don’t want that stuff in your nose an eyes. If the case has a plywood back washing it will probably warp the wood. If it is solid or masonite they can be washed carefully, and are best dried in the sun on a hot day, rotating the case to reduce any pooling and warping. They paper is only attached with paste which will loosen with water, a lot of times using an Exacto knife around the edges (as mentioned above) is all that is necessary to free the paper. If the fronts of the cases have been shellaced they clean up well using denatured alcohol. A light sanding can sometimes remove the dark ink patina around the compartments. I’ve seen cases that were cleaned up and painted which look quite presentable. The metal pulls look nice with a coating of semi-gloss black Rustoleum.


Does this mean that mick on monotype might have an emerging Aesthetic!? I mean these cases as described sound beautiful.

Lasimp, Sir, Yes in the context and use which A. C. envisages, with the backdrop as suggested, filled with a beautiful array of small items, including one or two tiny silver eye catchers they do indeed look good.… … . .***my original thinking was based on observations from Auction Catalogues (4 colour, Printed where I worked for 14 yrs.) Just the illustrations, for example, of sets of Duelling Pistols, Canteens of Silver cutlery, War Medal Decorations, etc against the backdrop of velvet, or in my humble case, pool table covering was the catalyst for my thinking… … .As the use/deployment of the cases for DISPLAY usually involved mounting at eye level, the benefit of nicely prepared handles was, up to a point lost, below line of sight!!! so the trick was to mount the handles uppermost and then hang the case, with 2 ornate, Brass/Repro style cup hooks, … .akin to two (2) question marks facing each other?… … One more little addition, which may not be an option in the States, (but I hope it is) a good number of our cases, for added strength, which helped, when filled with a large font, of a big size of display, had little brass bracing pieces, (CROSSES) at every intersection… . . That would be the *Piece de Resistance* or Rolls, Royce model… … Looked fantastic, but was b****y hard work shining up every brass cross? … . . Even a quick visual scan of BRIAR PRESS masthead shows 64/65 and counting…..Good Luck Mick

I have a box of several handles I have the Hamilton types as in the post I also have an unidentified handle that is exactly the same style as the identified Hamilton with an1869 pat date. I would therefore presume your earlier handle would be possibly in the 1870s. As far as disassembly of a type case it is a very difficult task, some early cases have 1/4” solid wood on the back and some of the later ones have three ply plywood that slides into a machined slot, either types are very difficult to get apart, but doable. I had one that was badly rotted and mouse chewed each nail was a challenge and some broke off and never came out, I have a friend with a planer and we machined some 1/4” stock and recovered the back and I cut some new sections and replaced the chewed ones. I didn’t replace the paper because it was too much hassle. The case looks somewhat mismatched because of the new parts and the old parts but it is solid and clean. There is no way to speed up 100 years of patina. Dave