Cleaning wood type

I searched on here and got to many results so I thought I’d start a new thread.

I just got around 600 pieces of wood type. Now some of it is perfect, if a little dusty and some of it was on a damp floor for decades and has mildew so bad it looks burned.

I’m boar bristling the nicer type and that seems to be working fine and I want to try and salvage the mouldering ones. I’d like to know what chemicals are safe to use on wood type and when I get them cleaned up, is there any sort of oil or anything that I can use to preserve them? I just really need to kill the mildew and arrest the rot soon. Any advice appreciated.


Log in to reply   7 replies so far

If you intend to print from the wood type, you must not damage it further with a cure for mildew. Wood and liquid do not do well together, but I think you must give it a try with full strength bleach. The wood needs to absorb some of the medicine, but you don’t want to leave it soaking and risk warping. A dip and a short soak followed by brushing and drying should be tried on a few pieces.
Some boiled linseed oil will nourish dried wood. Not on the face of the type. The face was originally sealed with shellac. If you are going to try to do something to the face, shellac is the correct stuff. You want it good and thin. Thin with alcohol.
Good luck and report back, please.

thanks inky,
right now I’m just going to brush all of it. some of the type has rot pretty deep, like there’s still dampness coming from the rot. I’m probably going to bake the ones that are that bad at 250 Fahrenheit to have them dry out and kill the mold. once I get that all sorted I’m going to give your method a shot. Thanks for the shellac tip, I always wondered

I used an old very soft tooth brush to clean all the dust and grime off. Then I polished the surface with a green scotch brite pad, it did a wonderful job, taking it back to the original shellac without any damage.

Use a tooth brush so not to scar the wood type face. A coarse tooth brush will help in tight places. Mineral Spirits will be your friend cleaning the type since it’s oil based it will also condition the type.

You should use kerosene to clean your type. Do not use any metal type cleaner as it will take the finish off.

thanks everybody .

I’ll through my two-cents in here about shellac. I have used a lot of it over the years to refinish/restore wooden floors. The stuff I use creates a really warm tone. HOWEVER, the shellac I use can very easily become very sticky/tacky if exposed to hign humidty and warm temperatures (as are hapt to combine here in the Midwest in the summer) so I always put a last coat of spar varnish (the kind used on boats) over the shellac to really seal it.

The exposed woodwork in my house was originally shellaced and it does indeed get a little sticky on very hot and humid days. This stuff was applied about a hundred years ago so it has had more than enough time to ‘cure’.