Wood Type Repair


I recently picked up a bag of type in need of a good cleaning and repair. If anyone has advice on how to go about doing this-it would be much appreciated.


image: woodtype.jpg


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Some wood glue and a clamp is all I used to fix mine. Worked great.

Do you know what material the cut-out letters are? Some manufacturers used celluloid, I believe, and some ivory, and probably some used thin veneer wood. The wood veneer should glue fine with wood glue but it doesn’t work with plastics and I suspect the same would be true of ivory.


It might be best to proceed with just one or two pieces first, to find out how to complete the repair task. Regardless of the veneer material, I recommend that you reattach the printing faces first, before cleaning them. But before trying to join the pieces, you need to check if there is any residues of the early glues used. This might show up as a strong texture or could, by now, be reduced to dust. A light scraping with the side of a single-edge razor blade, used as one might do with a furniture scraper, could quickly remove the residues from both the back of the veneer and the front of the support block. It the veneer is not wood then a polyuerathane glue such as Gorilla Glue could be used, or an epoxy instead. But if it is wood, then a good wood glue will suffice. But as stated in the previous post clamping. regardless of the adhesive used, will be necessary. Remember to protect the face and back of the support with a piece of smooth wood, or similar. How big is the font? If it is larger than 15 line, you might need to ensure that the veneer is held flush along the entire length. This could be done with the pieces of smooth material that protects the face. I have used half-inch thick pieces of hardwood.

For cleaning, it is difficult to tell from the photo. It might just require a dusting, or a wipe of mineral spirits or similar. After you reattach a few pieces, try printing them and see how much cleaning really will be needed. Good luck!!


At one time, I had many examples of veneered type, and had repaired some of the characters.
Most of those were from Hamilton’s earliest years of manufacture and were known as “Holly” Wood Type. I’m not sure what wood was used for the veneer, but the main problem, in printing with them, is that the veneer is glued to side-grain (rather than end wood), which shrunk, over the years, and that would loosen the veneer top. As Jim mentioned, the old glue spots should be removed before re-gluing. This veneered type needs a lot of underlay, also, to bring it to type-height.
I would like to recommend that interested printers obtain a re-print of Hamilton & Katz’s 1884 catalog, showing many of the early faces. It appears that the type shown in the photo may be Number 24, an early Hamilton showing of French Clarendon. The re-print can be obtained for $15, if there are any left, by sending a snail mail to:
David W. Peat
1225 Carroll White Drive
Indianapolis, IN 46219

Dave Greer