Wood Type Cleaning

Hello letterpress community. Had a question in regards to wood type. I have some used wood type that I noticed most letters are black, some blue, and some red. Should I bother cleaning all the letters to return the printable area to the wood grain or just brush off the dust? My concern is if I go too far will it change the height of the type or ruin the printing surface of the letters. I want to be able to print with the type and not ruin it’s longevity or printing look. Please see my photo. I cleaned the one letter “E” to show you the difference. Any advice is greatly appreciated.

image: photo-4.jpg


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Use Kerosene and a soft brush. If there is dried ink on the type you can use Naptha or even Lacquer Thinner, but use it sparingly as it will also take off the original finish. The ink tends to soak into the grain of the wood so don’t think it will come totally clean, there is bound to be some coloring down in the grain. It doesn’t take much rubbing before you can tell if it will come clean, and after you do a few you will see the difference in a letter coated with dried ink and one that is colored from use, but cleaned properly.


I tooth brush works for small areas.

Get a good type brush from NA Graphics, make sure it is all natural bristle not one with brass bristles which are used for half-tone plates.