16 July 2018

Homemade budget type Cases

After having trouble finding reasonably priced type cases for wood type (the open type cases) I decided to make my own. I had an empty cabinet with space for 22 cases so it was the only option really in terms of cost as letterpress equipment in the UK is in high demand & type cases seem to be used from everything from trinket holders to coffee tables!

The first thing I did was look at a type case and take measurements & figure out the construction method. I think the type case I used as an example was made in the 60's or later.  The joints at each corner are finger jointed, and there is a groove on the inside of all the battens for the 3mm sheet base board to slide into / be supported by.

Initially I thought that it was overly complicated. Essentially you could just get the same size batten cut it to size and glue it on top of a sheet of hardboard (butt jointed) then use metal fixings (nails/screws) to reinforce it. This would do the job and save time.

However after reading up on some basic wood work it turns out that finger joints are extremely strong due to the large surface area they create for glueing. Also the front batten on type cases is higher so that each case closes together tighter helping to stop dust getting into your type cases.

Plus I felt I had to have a go at doing it properly so I actually had an end product that was akin to the proper type cases....so finger joints it was.

One note is that there are different standard sizes of cabinets / cases.

English, American and Scotch according to the Stephenson Blake Composing Room Equipment Catalogue (1920's) here are the measurements given.....

English - 32 1/2 x 14 1/2 x 1 3/4 inches.

American - 32 3/16 x 16 5/8 x 1 1/2 inches.

Scotch - 34 x 15 x 1 3/4 inches.

So...........Measure twice.....cut once!

Below are the plans I made for myself for an English standard cabinet / type case.....I'm not even sure if they are useful / intelligible to anyone else!....(I'm not a professional draughtsman)

A note on timber

I looked into getting quality beech / hardwood  batten at the correct size and the cost was astronomical.  The only option on a budget is to find timber at the correct dimensions so there is no machining cost. Amazingly after looking in various D.I.Y stores (BandQ) the pine batten they sell was near enough the correct dimensions. (perhaps its an old standard size) 
DIY store pine batten is really poor quality - you really have to ferret through the stock and try to find the best of a bad bunch....the packs are twisted, warped & full of knots but if you're lucky you will find some straight & consisted timber.

For the base sheet I used 3mm hardboard.

In the end the cost of each type case came to £8.36 per case....minus glue,wax & many hours of your time! 

Having the equipment to do it all in the first place is another issue, I used a router, a table saw and a small palm sander.
I had to build a finger jointing jig (lots of examples on youtube) for my router and luckily I had a 5mm router bit handy.

For the 3mm groove for the hard board sheet I used the table saw and ran them through with a 7mm depth.

Finishing them was just a case of sanding, then I used bees wax. I did think about staining them but theres no point trying to polish a turd as they say.

I was only able to glue one type case together at a time because I had a limited number of clamps...you can never have enough clamps.

I've yet to decide on handles but I think I might just turn some wooden knobs on the lathe rather than buy 22 metal ones.

If I get round to making more I will actually take photos of the making/ construction process. I'm also going to scan some Stephenson Blake Composing room equipment pages and upload those here....it's amazing the cabinets and equipment in general that used to be made. There must have been a really highly skilled carpentry / cabinet maker trade that was linked intrinsically to the printing trade in general.

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