Is my old type okay?

Hi folks! Newbie here, the lucky heir to a dusty Kelsey Excelsior N and several drawers of even dustier vintage type. Here’s my problem: I’ve read enough to be very wary of type mold, oxidation, and lead dust, but I’m too inexperienced to know if that’s what I’m seeing. This stuff is definitely not shiny new lead. I don’t see white encrustations, though, more a uniform dull darker gray. There is plenty of gray particulate crud in the drawers, too, which I’ve been careful not to stir up.

I want to be safe, but I don’t want to scrap my great-grandfather’s type unless I have to! A lot of this stuff was probably purchased between 1914 and 1930. I doubt it’s anything fancy, but it’s the principle of the thing.

I have some photos — see below. Thanks in advance for any wisdom!

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Here are some images.

image: DustyCutsSmall.jpg


image: DingyType2small.jpg


image: DingyType1small.jpg


I must be getting old but I don’t see anything of great, or minor, concern with this type. I would use it as is direct from the cases but I have always adhered to the basic rule of always washing my hands after handling type and nothing in my mouth that has touched my hands. I’m sitting here with several hundred cases of type almost within touch and a quick check shows I’ve had some of it about 67 years.

I’ve never smoked so that helps, and I keep clean type cases, but I have cleaned my share of dirty ones, far worse that the ones shown here. There are about 600 galleys of type here in the office plus several hundred more in my home shop, so even those do not pose a problem if handled correctly. We are in a very dry climate and maybe that helps. Good hygiene and adherence to safe handling of type products is a requisite.

Thanks for having a look! This has been socked away in a garage, a barn, and a damp basement before coming to my attic, so, not ideal conditions.

Fritz is right about everything! If it’s just dusty, you can vacuum it with a screen over the case, or some mesh or netting over the end of the vacuum cleaner hose. I say, go ahead and enjoy your great-grandfather’s type! Wash your hands after you handle it and you’ll be fine.

Thanks! I found one corner of one drawer that made me realize maybe I -do- know what oxidation looks like on sight, but it’s only maybe 20 pieces of type in total. Everything else is just some flavor of dusty. I’ll put some old tights over the vac hose and get a screen as well. Some of this stuff is really tiny!

The type looks to be in very good condition, you are going to have a lot of fun and will learn a lot. Vacuum it as has been suggested. Later if you feel a need to clean the worst stuff, I have posted here about cleaning it the way the old guys did, with Lye.

Thanks, Dan! I am really excited about this, enough to have sorted a few handfuls of pied type over the past few days.

I’ve got type that looks worse than this. Lead poisoning is mostly overblown unless you are very young or pregnant. Most of us who are older than forty or so breathed in plenty of lead when it was a common additive in gasoline.

I cast my own bullets/balls for my muzzle-loaders. Doing this, you have to use some kind of flux to burn off the oxidation from your lead pot from time to time. This produces prodigious amounts of lead-infused clouds of smoke, which is why most bullet casters do it outside.

Don’t ingest the type or any dust from the case. Wash your hands before you eat. You should be OK. If you are really concerned, you can wear surgical gloves, but the risk is relatively small for most of us.

“There is plenty of gray particulate crud in the drawers, too, which I’ve been careful not to stir up.”
Sounds like mouse turds to me.

gachap -

Whatever it was, the vacuum and a window screen took care of it! Things are looking a lot tidier.