Are my type oxidizing?

I’ve found some lead types in the cases with a strange whitish rust on the top.

The shape of the type is hard to identify (see attachments please).

Are the types oxidizing? Do I need to remove the ruined types from the case?

Is there any way to recover them?


image: dscn9384d.jpg


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Nero, it looks like that’s a script that you’ve got there, that has oxidized. From what I can see, it might be something like Excelsior or Calligraphiques noires. There has been a post here about removing it and cleaning the font. You can probably also find it on Flickr. The type has been stored in a place with a high humidity level.

Hello Thomas :)
exactly, the old owner stored it in a room with very high humidity..the wood cases are colonized with molds and others. I cannot understand why the bigger part of the fonts are in good shape and just some are really oxidized.

Are you referring to this topic?

Flickr..for what?

Thanks :)

The flikr series is probably the one by interrobang, where he shows removal of oxidation. Multiple threads on the various lists have dealt with this (search for “type blight”), recommending different treatments such as lye and washing soda.
Type like that is definitely worth the effort of restoring to printability.

Hello parallel_imp,
thanks for the reply.

I can’t understand what I should search on Flickr!

I agree with you, this genre of type is too much beautiful to do not try at least to save it.

The flikr photos were posted by interrobang or perhaps interrobang letterpress. I saw them after he posted a link to them either here or on Letpress in a thread on type blight. The thread referred to using borax and baby shampoo to soak the type to loosen ink but also corrosion, and brushing the type clean.


If the type face surface itself is oxidized you likely cannot save it as it is corroded. Plus, lead oxide (the white powder or residue) is somewhat hazardous to your health (same stuff as in paint). You can get rid of it per the above techniques (household lye will also dissolve it), but it is best to get rid of the type by recycling the metal to a salvage dealer.


I agree with Gerald, if the face has oxidized the type is generally lost.

I have had some good luck resurrecting type with corrosion on the sides. I first clean the type with about 1/2 cup of lye in a quart of water (always add the lye to the water rather than the other way) in a stainless steel container.I purchased a stainless steel ladle with holes in the bottom to hold the type. Let soak for 30 to 45 minutes, then rinse in a half and half vinegar and water bath for 15 minutes. Rinse with flowing water and dry immediately. Sometimes the type will need to be brushed to remove all of the dirt and residue. After the above steps I lay the type on a tray coated with WD-40 and lay the type on the tray on its side, and spray the type liberally with the same. After another 15 minutes I start wiping the type dry with a rag.

It is time consuming, but I have revived some types that should have otherwise been scrapped. Use great caution with lye, it will burn the skin and cause other serious injuries.


Thank you guys, I’ll try at least using an ultrasonic device.

I’m quite afraid using some caustic remover..but it will be the next step if ultrasonic won’t work.

It’s really a shame to lost these wonderful types…


Hey Fabio:
I told you that you cannot use type that you dredged out of the Grand Canal, no matter how cheap it is!!!

Hello linegauge,
you’re right :)

I have however A LOT of characters with lead oxide (just the whittish “mold”) on the surface, and I’ll try to save those.

This morning I’ve used a cleaner for the home on some types and the oxide washed away but the lead now is darker. Generally this is the oxidation given by this cleaner of metal but perhaps it can be also the previous lead oxidation.

Next step is to see the result with the ultrasonic cleaner..


Today I’ve tried to put the characters into the ultrasonic cleaner.

I’ve tried it with a special soap used for the ink residues in screenprinting, in another batch I’ve added also a very bit of Fotochem 2080 (high-alkaline and dense paste, a haze remover used in screenprinting) and started the cycle for 1 and 2 minutes.

In both the trials I haven’t seen any good result, removing the lead oxidation. Neither the not oxidized characters were cleaned.

I’ve found to brush the Fotochem 2080 directly on the lead removes the old ink. Instead for the oxidized characters there isn’t any solution..also trying different time with only the haze remover.

The trials was done very fastly, so I hope to find a solution in future..for example trying a longer ultrasonic washer cycle like 30 minutes.