Clean lead type

I recently purchased a full tray of 12pt Garamond type at an online auction. The Hamilton drawer was included in the lot. When I received the lot the drawer and type was covered with a powder of fine soot (dust). How can I clean all of the type to remove the fine dust? Thanks, Larry

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You can cover the hose of a vacuum with cheesecloth and vacuum each compartment of the case. I’ve also heard of people covering the case with window screen and vacuuming over that.

Hamilton and other companies used to sell bellows to blow the dust out of the cases, so you could try a vacuum cleaner with a blow outlet.

It’s not a very good idea to blow out the dust, it’s much better to use a specially designed tool that you use in combination with a vacuumcleaner.

Not exactly Rocket Science, (just the teeniest logic) BLAST & VACUUM combined, as virtually every vacuum cleaner has Air Outlet,??,… Combine the both, for ZERO Outlay thus:- with plastic cap from aerosol can, fitted over the large bore of the Vacuum inlet. and adaptor pipe from the outlet/blast end, with restrictor, (reducing down pipe) also in the plastic cap, (of course with gauze filter also)…***Blast and recovery!!! in effectively closed circuit, not one speck going A.W.O.L. except into the bag/trap of the Vacuum.!!!!***
PIE IN THE SKY, CLAPTRAP, BULL****? Unfortunately, NOT (with apologies to the P.C. Brigade,) …The very same principle as SHOT BLAST GUNS?? I.E The blast nozzle, propelling the shot at the item, to be cleaned, in the centre of the rubber cup, and the vortex, returning all foreign bodies to the filter in the machine.
Substitute, Item to be blasted for, *Type to be cleaned* & *Shot* propelled, for air blast only>????

I think atf made an attachment that you hooked on a vacuum hose, it would suck the type from the compartment and the dust would go into the vaccum there was a screen to catch the type, you pulled a trigger to release the vacuum and drop the type back into the case. All you need is a piece of window screen over a vacuum attachment.

This is what we’re talking about

image: tool.png


Wow! Thanks for sharing the photo. I have never run across anything like that attachment.

The ideas above are tried and true. I would use a fine screen in lieu of cheesecloth just to make sure your soot/dust passes through it and into the vaccuum cleaner.

Also see if there is a way to decrease or tone-down the amount of suction being pulled through your vaccuum hose. Some vaccuum cleaners are very powerful and the suction can be overwhelming (especially on smaller point sizes). Maybe pinching the flexible hose slightly might help.

Also, do this outdoors as some of the fine soot/dust might escape the exhaust on your vaccuum cleaner. You don’t want to add more fine particulates to your indoors air.


I have the vacuum cleaner tool too, and it’s not my favorite way to clean types and cases. The best way is to fount the types up in a galley - then clean the case with the vacuum cleaner and put the sorted types back. If the types are dirty you can easily clean them when they are founted tied up in the galley - carefully with a soft brush and maybe some good solvent to remove old ink. Normally I give the types a bit kerosene afterwards to protect the types a bit from oxidation.
Gott grüß die Kunst

I think suction with a screen is better than blast without. You want each stick of type to stay in its own box, but remove anything smaller. The trick is finding the right mesh of screen that allows passage of waste to a vaccuum. Just blowing the waste out may redeposit it into other boxes, along with the type.
The right amount of blast to clear the period box may not be enough to blow the crap out of the em or W boxes. Suck it all up to a screen and the good stuff falls back into its original place.
I have an ATF transfer case and it only passes small particles. That mesh wasn’t designed for 30 years of dust. And it would take a much coarser screen to pass any mouse turds.
There was another vacuum, (Hurriane or Cyclone?) that passed the intake flow over a receptacle that took in the heavier stuff; you could vaccuum the cracks of the floor and separate type from dirt. You’d still have to hand sort the pebbles and screws from the type.

I acquired a bunch of type cases filled with type and squirrel crap and bullets (mostly shell casings). The owner had suffered from Alzheimer’s , and his degeneration was documented in his garage shop. The bullets were strange enough, and easy to deal with, but the squirrel crap was another thing. It was too large to vacuum with a screen, but was light enough to blow out, and dangerous to breathe. I put on a dust mask and goggles and set up the cases outside on the ground. Using compressed air I could easily blast the dust and feces out on the large types, but the first time it did it to 10 point type I got a shower of type. By using a piece of very stiff binders board, and very short air blasts, I was able to deflect the blasts and hold down the type at the same time, but fling the poo away from the case. It was a filthy, and disgusting job, but I acquired some very nice type that no one else would touch.


The old technique was to remove the bottom boards from a type case, tack screen mesh on the top of the case, then place it ontop of the case to be cleaned, and invert the full case so that the type fell into the mesh-bottomed case.

The type could then be hosed down and left to dry before reversing the handling to return it to its original case (which would be hosed down and dried whilst empty).

Classic apprentice drudgery.

Hosed down with what?? Water?

Oops - yes, water - forgot to state that.

The proceedure outlined was to clean off dust and grime; in a printing office the type would have been throughly cleaned with a solvent to remove ink before distributing back to the cases.

I sure wouldn’t put an water into my ATF transfer case. It wouldn’t fit the next time I tried to use it. It even has a a grid that fits over the case to accomodate the cases with low partitions. This is dry work.
If there is adhering crud on the type it needs to handled piece by piece, set in lines and cleaned.

Transfer cases were specially made. Trying to alter an existing case doesn’t work.


Contrary to some misconceptions?? A standard typecase with the back removed, and the outer frame and 2 sub-dividers taken down with an electric plane to compartment level, (including the back) and then the back making the front, flipped/transferred, cleaned flipped/transferred back, NOT EVEN a 6 point Hair space migrated from one compartment to another.??? . . One was crapping ones diapers!! at the outbreak of W W II Typecasting in 1954, transferring/cleaning type 1964 onwards, D.I.Y. transfer cases DO WORK????