HOME -> TYPE CABINETS -> RESTORING
AN OLD CITY STAND -> May11 Aug 9 Aug 10
Aug 12 Aug 17
Aug 26 Sep 10
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Restoring an old Hamilton
City Case Stand
originally shipped to ATF for resale prior to 1906
Case Western University in Ohio was setting up a
printing department. They wanted an open "City Stand" type
of rack to hold their type cases.
We had 4 old type case stands in the barn - in pieces.
This article is about restoring one of them to good usable
The Type Cabinets page shows
a variety of wooden racks for type cases. "Wooden Case
Stands", "Wooden Case Racks", the "Student Compositor's
Stand and Desk" and the "City
Case Stands" as shown here and on this page.
are the Wooden Case Stands and City Case Stands as they
have been stored in the barn.
One Single rack and 3 double racks -
- One double Wooden Case Stand that will hold 8 cases
on either side for a total of 16 cases,
- another Wooden Case Stand that will hold 12 on
either side, for a total of 24 in the rack.
- One "double" City Case Stands that will hold 15
cases on either side for a total of 30 cases in the 6'
- The fourth rack - the one chosen by our client - is
a City Case Stand that will hold 15 cases in a single
stack. This is the one pictured here.
These are the
side pieces of the Hamilton City Case
Stand which we will be restoring.
Note the extra details of the City Stand - the
slots and runners.
It is prepared to hold two cases firmly on the top
as well as a "type bank" board beneath each of the
cases. When there is no case in place - or when
the lower case is slid up, forms and other items
stored on the type bank can be accessed.
A permanent shelf below the upper case can also be
accessed after the case is put away. This is a
convenient place to keep leads and slugs, etc...
that at the bottom, there is a cross-piece that
does not quite match. This is part of a riser
(repair?) that was added to this rack long ago -
long ago enough that the soft wood used had many
years to be damaged by moisture. We will replace
this with risers made of Maple or another hard
wood that will hold up well for the next 50-100
years. Hamilton used Elm.
We've removed this side's risers
and have begun cleaning up and sanding the
The wood is very dry and will benefit from a good
dose of boiled linseed oil...
The new risers/base blocks will
be made of hard wood so that they last much longer
than the soft-wood patch that was attached many
We measured the Stand and discovered that it is 4"
lower than when it was new. That suggests that the
bottom 4" were lost to water damage and these 4"
risers were added to repair the cabinet - but that
was a long, long time ago and the new soft-wood
risers have also deteriorated and will be
shipped this stand to the ATF office in New York
City - note the address stenciled on the side of
the rack. An interesting note in dating this piece
is that the General Offices of ATF had already
been moved from Williams Street to Jersey City by
Unless, they continued to ship product from the
Williams Street location, this City Stand may have
been made - and shipped to ATF prior to
1906. - Hardly conclusive, but interesting...
Sat 5/11 -
Eureka! "I have found it!" - For
weeks, I have been searching for a nice, clean piece of
Poplar to use to complete the restoration of the Hamilton
City Type Case Rack for Kurt out in Ohio.... I went to
Lowes, Home Depot, Opdyke Lumber; I went on line looking
for a local source. I called Heacock Lumber - the mill
where I got my last lot of rough cut poplar - that I used
when we built the new workshop. No luck. I did order more
rough cut 2x6's, but they are being custom-cut and will be
far too green to use for anything important..
And then.... I walked into our local Hardware store -
Frenchtown Home & Hardware - which has served our
local community for many years as "the source" to find
pretty much anything we might need related to hardware or
home devices.... Well, when Mike took over from Gene, he
also took over the space next door; the pharmacy moved
into town and the hardware store doubled in size... and,
over in one corner, Mike began displaying locally milled
lumber - nice stuff - maple, walnut, etc.... AND some
really, really nice, clean, straight, seasoned POPLAR! It
cost me $40, but it is worth it. THIS is THE piece of wood
I have been looking for. I could not be happier... and
Kurt will also be happy to get his restored circa 1900
Hamilton City Case Stand...
now that the tractor and
web server issues are behind
us, we can finally get back to working on
this classic Hamilton City Stand.
We have assembled the pieces - all except the long bolts
which "are around here somewhere". I'll find them.
So far, I a have cut the new Poplar risers - and believe
me, cutting precise "L" shapes from a thick piece of
Poplar is a bit tricky! In the photo to the right, I am
drilling the first one to match the bolt hole of the old
Next, we'll remove it and run it through the thickness
planer until it fits perfectly next to the 100-year old
legs of this old classic, then we'll cut a mortise for the
crosspiece, drill it for the embedded bolt, and attach it
to the main frame. Later, when it arrives in Ohio,
assembly will be simple, with all pieces pre-fitted. We
are also beginning to feed this 100-year-old dried wood
with some brushed-on Linseed oil. This repair will last
another 50+ years...
Well, today, we finished milling, fitting and mounting the
risers. We also sorted through all of the upper front and
rear crosspieces and found the two - the only two out of
the multiple sets that we have - that fit perfectly; these
are the ones that were made for this frame 100 years
So this is the "First Fitting". We still need to fabricate
the front and rear lower cross pieces - and mortise them
into the risers.
click on the photo for a close-up view
And, we need to make the front-rear braces as well. They
will likely mount to the inside of the risers with a
1/2-mortise We'll figure that out tomorrow... And then
we'll continue the sanding of rough spots and oiling of
the entire frame. The sanding will get rid of splinters
and dings acquired over the years and the oil will bring
this dry, 100-year old wood back to life...
We did find the long bolts, btw... the original carriage
bolts that held the risers on so many years ago. But
carriage bolts rely on firm, fresh wood to hold still as
the nuts are tightened. I wanted to keep the old, patina'd
bolts rather than use shiny new hex head 6" bolts. The the
round-head carriage bolts are no good to re-use on old
wood, and, rather than press into and grip the wood as
they did 50+ years ago, they just spun when we tightened
the nuts... So, to get a grip on the head, we ground down
two sides of the round head, making two flat sides that
could be gripped using a 9/16" open end wrench.
And then we turned the bolts on the lathe to round off the
square shank at the end - beneath the head. We wanted to
fit washers beneath the head, but carriage bolts are
squared on the inside to grip fresh wood. And now, that
square got in the way, so we turned them off and made them
round - to fit the washer. When the bolts were ready, we
installed them with washers on both sides and used the
open end wrench to hold the carriage bolt head from
turning as the nut is run in on the other end. It is nice
and tight. And, it looks more original this way....
Monday, August 12 Getting all of the pieces
These are the pieces to finish the job. The
rough-cut Poplar will be milled to thickness, then cut to
make front, rear and side pieces with joining tenons on
Milling the wood and
Mortise & Tenon
- We cut our rough cut Poplar 2x6 into lengths for
the lower front, rear and side pieces. The old pieces that
were on this unit were not re-usable, so we are making new
pieces to replace them.
First, we had to
mill the Poplar down from 2" to 1.25" using our Thickness
Planer. It took some time, but was worth the effort. Soon
we had the wood to the desired thickness. Then we ripped
each of the two pieces in half to make 2 identical side
braces and two identical lower front and rear braces.
We cut the tenons on our Hammond Glider Trim Saw - a saw
so precise, the you can trim to within 1/2 of a point. But
today, we were just hogging off a lot of wood to make the
By adjusting the blade to just the right height, we cut
.5" tenons that will fit snugly into the .50" mortises we
will drill on the drill press.
Next, we drilled our first mortise and, as you can see, it
came out well and resulted in a perfect fit of
our test pieces.
Now we have to remove and mortise the risers to accept the
new tenon'ed cross pieces.
...getting a bit closer every day.
Friday, Aug 17
It's got feet! Yes.
The side rails are done, mortised and tenon'd and fit back
into the sides of the stand to check their fit. It's
perfect! Now the stand reaches its full original
height. And, these feet that we call "risers" are made of
custom-milled Poplar that will last at least another fifty
Next, we will drill 4 more mortises into the risers - plus
holes for the hidden bolts that will hold this all
together. The we'll fit the tenon'd front and rear lower
cross pieces into their respective mortises for nice,
solid joints, and we will have put the whole thing
together! held in place by 6" hidden bolts - just like
from the factory over a hundred years ago... This thing is
Tuesday, Aug 26
Finally. After far too long - and after a recent press
move followed the flood, this
125-year-old Hamilton City Stand Open Frame Type Case Rack
is all together.... All that's needed now are some shelf
boards for the top, some long bolts to hold it tightly
together, one set of replacement rails for the top slots,
and some finishing.
I will stain the new pieces to make them less obvious,
sand any remaining splinters and rough spots on the old
frame, then oil everything to bring the old, dry wood back
to life and to protect it during it's next 100 years.
The 8 mortise & tenon joints, backed up by 6" long
deep bolts will assure that it stays tight and square and
can handle the weight of 15 type cases full of metal type,
plus what ever winds up on the sloping work top.
Well, more days have passed and the stand is not ready to
ship yet. But it is together and everything fits and works
as it should. In the photo to the right, you can see the
bright blond poplar parts standing out in contrast with
the 100+ year-old aged wood. We found a special stain at
Home Depot today that claims to put an "aged" finish on
fresh wood. We'll try that out tomorrow and see how well
it works to make this two-tone piece one single, boring
The two new case slide rails are made and installed. They
are not, btw, meant to hold a type case. Instead, they
hold a large type-case-sized board that can be used for
materials storage. A photo from behind will show that
better. I'll post it as soon as I get a chance. I've also
milled some of the poplar to fit into the side rails as
galley boards. This City Stand is the premier of the
open-frame type case racks. It includes one flat storage
board as well as two more sloping storage areas - "galley
boards" - that can be used to hold galleys of type,
spacing, engraivings, ornaments, borders, sorts - what
ever. Lots of extra - and handy - storage in this stand.
The Stand now has two new lower cross rails. I made a dumb
mistake while cleaning up the first set I had made - the
ones shown in the photo above... In "cleaning up" the
tenon joints, I trimmed off just a bit too much of the
cross-piece length. Everything looked and fit beautifully,
but when I tried to slide a case in.. damn! It was 1/8"
too tight. No good. I had to make two new lower rails...
Not quite "back to the drawing board", but certainly "back
to the Hammond Saw", indeed.
And, more than
that, each cross rail needs to have a 5" deep hole drilled
in from the end for the assembly nut and bolt. Drilling a
5" deep hole perfectly centered and parallel to the length
with a hand drill proved difficult, so I removed the tail
stock from my metal lathe, made a "sled" to hold the rail,
inserted a 5/16" drill bit in the lathe chuck and made my
own sort-of-horizontal-drill press, sliding the rail along
the sled and over the drill bit. In any case, it worked
and I got the holes drilled down the center.
So. Some more photos. A little more sanding of rough
edges, and then this tricky new stain to make the new wood
look old. Let's see how well it works. And then, I
can strap it the skid that's waiting for it outside the
door, build a protective box around it and get it on the
way to its new home.
Sunday, September 15
Finally got the last of the sloping shelf inserts done -
one of which has a nice little lip attached to hold the
galleys from sliding off the edge. It's fastened in place
using fluted dowels rather than a couple of finishing
nails that might come loose in 10-20 years. These pegs
will hold the lip in place for the next fifty years... I
also added a removable cross-piece to help support any
type case set on the upper shelf. Now all of the wood is
cut and planed and fit and ready to be stained.
I also came up with a neat trick to make it easier to fit
the square nuts that hold the cross-pieces in place.
I'll be adding photos to show how I did what I did and
The special new stain I found - an "Aging Accelerator"
stain - is working well to blend the fresh blond Poplar
with the now 100+ year-old untreated wood that Hamilton
used when they built this piece over 100 years ago.
So. No photos tonight - just a quick text update. I'll be
back with photos soon...
page last updated September, 2019