Metal Type - Worth Salvaging?

I was “gifted” a large stack of decaying job cases (35 or 40) filled with unidentified metal type. The stack has stored been outdoors, poorly covered, and they are in a bad state. Along with the type, each compartment of the job cases also contains rat & mouse droppings, fallen leaves, etc. The cases themselves have had termites in a past life and now the wood is beginning to rot — many of them fall apart completely when you try to lift them from the pile. With each passing day more of the compartments are being dismantled by rodents and the contents scattered throughout the yard.

Is this mess worth trying to salvage? If so…how?

Someone suggested tacking fine-mesh screen material to each job case and then vacuuming out the rodent droppings through the screen / dunking each case in bleach solution. That might work if the cases weren’t themselves falling apart.
Should I try to find *new* job cases and transfer the type to them? Or just give up, dump it all together, and sell it to someone as pied type?


(For some reason it won’t let me attach the photo, so I guess you’ll have to use your imagination.)

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I do a lot of this. I call it idiot work.
Is it worth it for you? It depends.
Are they nice faces? Will you use them? is the type in good condition other than being filthy?
Repairing cases is hard and slow work. Better to stand the type on galleys.
If you say where you are and identify the sizes and faces, someone will buy the type as pi.


Like inky said, if they’re interesting, uncommon/rare, (large-size), someone is probably interested. Even if you don’t have galleys, pick the type out of each case, stand upright, and tie a string around it all. This will keep most of each letter together. Whatever you do, don’t dump it all into one bucket.

(You can make a galley substitute with some 1x2 wood battens.)


Once upon a time I sorted through an enormous amount of pied type. To make the long story short it was work intensive. Because it was such a large amount I built wooden sorting racks so that I could keep track of the amounts of each font and do a sort count at any time. Kind of overkill, but I had limited space for any additional type so I wanted to keep what would best serve. Much was damaged/corroded beyond usefulness. Fortunately, at the time, I was in driving range of someone who (still is) casting type. Thus I was able to get foundry credit for and have good foundry type metal be recast for future fonts. Some seven hundred pounds of it!

Many years later I am still using those fonts of type, rescued from dreary piles. Most people that I have talked to about the project said that they wouldn’t have even touched it. As for the decaying type cases you mentioned it sounds as though they are past repair. I would dump them and source “new” ones. There are still good deals to be found on both cases and cabinets with cases. Good luck. Print Print Print!


Everything everyone said is spot on.

For my twopenneth on a much smaller scale:
A printshop close to me had dumped type (that was in good condition) from around 50 cases into a single large crate. They were happy for me to spend a day salvaging what I could for free. I sat in this crate all day fishing out type that was large enough to distinguish - everything 24pt and above basically. Years later I am still using regularly the 5 or 6 full fonts I got out of a short day’s work. As @inky said, will you use it? If you will, any time is well spent. Good luck!

As long as the fonts are still (mostly) separate, I find it’s not that bad….

My method-
separate different sizes and fonts
separate caps/lower/punctuation/spacing into separate sticks or standing in a galley
sort the spacing, sometimes I’ll pull all the thin spaces into their own pile and do them later
sort the punct’s & specials, that’s usually quick
sort the CAPS & lowers; depending on how much there is, I may first do one sort of a-l & m-z and then do the individual letters

Often, I’ll use some marked egg cartons as receivers and transfer to the case when done (or stack them in order in a stick and tie it up).

The main thing is not to try sorting an entire pie of type in one go but to make smaller pies of fewer different letters. Works for me :).

The only real hassle is when you have different but similar fonts in the same size (e.g. Caslon and Centaur).