California Case Dimensions

Ok, two odd questions:

First, what are the dimensions of a full-size California case? I’m planning on making my own based on one I picked up off eBay, but I want to make sure I don’t have a 2/3 case!

Second, I’ve seen a few posts on other message boards mentioning the use of alcohol to clean type. Is this ok in lieu of traditional “type washes” or mineral spirits? I’d love to be able to use something that is so safe (relatively speaking).

Log in to reply   6 replies so far

Alembic Press has everything you ever wanted to know about type cases on their web site This site:

As for cleaning type, alcohol will probably not get old ink off metal type. It is better for wood type. Type Wash, solvent, Cal wash and mineral spirits will do a better job will do a better job.

I use alcohol for metal type because it dries faster. I use mineral spirits for wood type because it’s an oil based product and it keeps the wood conditioned. I would not use alcohol on my wood type.

I have 6 cabinets and 1 double case, drawers don’t just slide in from one cabinet to the next, some are little bit tight while others are perfect. Some cases are too high and are not made but one particular cabinet.



Of course you are correct. Thompson, Hamilton, wood or metal. They are all slightly different. I have a wood Hamilton Porter cabinet and about 18 of the original cases. Several of them stick. I use silicon spray on the rails.

As for the type. I stand corrected. I was taught to use alcohol on wood apparently in error. It explains why some type I cleaned became more spotted after I cleaned it. It is good to give the correct information to the less informed.


If you are going to make your own cases, and they will be in an area where mice can get to them, be sure to make them so they close up tight in the cabinet on all sides. Mice love to nest in cases which are spaced apart, and don’t mind the fact that some compartments are rather small because they can chew out the partitions to make any size room or apartment they want.

That’s a funny story about mice. I got two cabinets and when I pulled out the top 4-5 cases on each there was mice or rat droppings all over. What a freaking mess, the type had to be cleaned and the cases aired out.

Good point Geoffrey.

This is off-topic, but here’s another printing related mouse story. My print shop was in my garage and I used to keep a live trap there. One evening after dark there was a mouse in the trap so I took the trap outside and let the mouse out. I didn’t see it skitter off but it was dark so I just figured it ran out fast and didn’t think any more of it. After going back to the house, I sat down in the kitchen on a wooden chair and started reading the newspaper. A while later I felt something in the region of my leg and looked down, and there was the mouse holding onto the side of my leather work boot with its little claws. Apparently when the mouse was let out of the trap, it ran up my boot and up inside a leg of my jeans, but since the fur on its back was so soft, I didn’t even feel it. I wasn’t sure what to do, and it was a long time ago, but I think I got up and slowly and gently walked to the kitchen door and went outside. During this, the mouse luckily didn’t move from my boot. Once outside, and after a shake, the mouse jumped off and sped away!