Resuscitating soggy, cold, old job typecases

I was fortunate to have received the gift of three old wooden typecases of varying vintages. They are in decent shape, but have been stored for many years outdoors in a barn, and came to me cold, soggy and in need of some resuscitation.

I welcome advice on the best way to bring the cases back to an active life of holding type without shocking them into cracking up or splitting apart.

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I’ll give my .02.
My experiences with cases like the ones you’ve shown, where the dividers are broken, I have taken reglet cut to size and wedged them against the broken section. I have also used 2pt leads to accomplish the same. This is in no way an attempt at a total restoration but it does work.
Not much you can do with a warped bottom except to replace it. I’ve never replaced a warped bottom, but it seems masonite would make a very good replacement.
I don’t know what they call “masonite” in other countries except the US, but it’s a thin pressed hardwood board.
It seems what you’re asking may involve some temperature, humidity issue, and the only advice I could give is maybe take it to a warm humid place for a while like a basement where you have a clothes dryer.
I suppose I wouldn’t worry too much about cases like this personally, and I have a few…..but I can understand the desire not to make them any worse than they are.


I have followed a method which has partially been gained here. I have a raised bathtub hooked up in the basement, which is there to bathe our dogs. It has a hose nozzle and hot and cold running water. I hold a typecase vertically with the short side down, and not facing directly at me. Then I set the nozzle (a plastic one with a valve and various settings) to a fast spray of hot water. Then I give the case a very quick but complete cleaning for only a few seconds. In the first second or two a lot of dry dust and dirt and probably lead dust comes out, so wear a face mask and don’t hold the case so the dust comes back directly at you; hold it to the side of you or brace it so you don’t have to hold it. When the old paper gets wet, which is usually in the botttom of the compartmets, it will probably come out too. After about five seconds, turn the case the other way and make sure you clean all of the compartments, maybe ten seconds total. Then let it drain for a few seconds, and then start drying with a heat gun, or maybe a high capacity hair dryer. When the case is dry to the point of being only damp, leave it next to an electric space heater to dry it the rest of the way.

The oldest cases have boards on the bottom. If your case has a plywood bottom, and the plywood is delaminated, it is better to replace it. I use the thinnest plywood at a store like Home Depot, which is about 3/16 inch thick. It is still probably too thick to fit in the slots at the bottom of the case, so has to be milled down at the edges a little, on a table saw. It is not an easy job to get the old bottom out because there are usually many nails which go through the bottom, up into the partitions, which have to be taken out. After I put the new bottom in, I don’t put all of those nails back in. I just put wood glue around some of the partitions, and that has held the bottom from sagging down.