My find of the year: A Hamilton Type Cabinet

I finally got one! This post has been a long time coming, way back in summer 2010 I was trying to figure out what I could store my beads in other than these little plastic boxes with the little dividers. I wanted something that was larger where there’s no chance of me knocking it over and spilling all the beads out. And then I ran across a blog post from a jewelry designer who’s husband gave her a letterpress cabinet for Christmas. I was like that would be PERFECT! I’ve always loved old antiques especially things with lots of compartments like card catalogs (still working on getting one of those), or apothecary cabinets. So I set out on a quest to find my own letterpress cabinet, they go for approximately 1200 dollars on eBay, which is about 1000 bucks out of my budget. Contacted various antique stores in the city, but most said they get them in occasionally but didn’t have any in at the moment. Finally I stumbled across the letterpress community Briar Press and lo and behold I signed up at just the right time. I came across this beautiful little letterpress ad, The Platen Press Museum in Zion, IL was having its annual sale. Zion is about an hour north of me.

Letterpress sale in Zion

Platen Press Museum Annual Letterpress Sale

I called the the owner Paul Aken and he said he had a couple cabinets, make sure I get there early because people line up to get stuff, he only has this sale once per year. Whew, and the single ones will be about 200 dollars! Right in my tiny little antique loving budget. LOL. So I showed up at about 8 in the AM, lol there’s no line, and I spotted the one I wanted! That little one next to the double wide. I was informed that it was 110 years old.

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The little one in the middle of the pic, between the double wide (would have loved that) and the lady in blue.

Here’s a few more of the offerings. Cabinets and drawers full of lead type.

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These cabinets were full of lead type.

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Two Presses, I would have loved to have one, but that's not in my budget. Plus I don't need any more hobbies just yet, they do produce some beautiful prints though.

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Love the "You pi it, you buy it sign"

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Such a small town, felt like I was back in Indiana, the only open was McDonalds lol.

Everyone was so nice, I forgot to take picture inside, he had stacks of these cabinets up to the ceiling full of lead type.  Would love to do a class or a workshop.  I’ll have to go back at some point, such a long trip though.

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After a long trip home the cabinet was tired, and passed out on its side :).

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Drawers a-plenty.

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Closeup of the handle, I bought a couple extra drawers too, that brass handle underneath was one of the extras.

I was told that to clean it out take it out in my yard and hose it down with a pressure hose, and then let it dry in the sun. I was like um, I live in the city in an apartment, so no hose / yard. Plus it was May, so no drying sunshine yet. So I came home and tried to figure it out the best way I could. As I mentioned earlier it was about 110 years old, and it was lined with oilpaper, it had a nice collection of lead dust, and some white powdery substance. I was told it may have had a mouse nesting it in at some point. GROSS. There were also spider webs. Yuck. So I vacuumed out all of the compartments and the cabinet. And then began the arduous task of taking an exacto knife and cutting around each of the compartments and then peeling the paper back.

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Cut away some of the oilpaper. Revealing some very nice wood underneath.

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A little bit further, here you can still see some of the dust.

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Before and after.

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3 down 15 more to go.

After a few drawers, some of them have paper that won’t come out with the usual method, so then I had to figure out what to do about that.

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Doh, some of the paper won

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More paper that won

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Yucky white powder on the ba

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All clean!

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Closeup of the ick. Yuck.

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I didn

I was very excited to see it was a Hamilton, there’s a Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum in Wisconsin, I would love to check that out one day.

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Got to a few more drawers where the paper came out easily.

Found another technique, instead of cutting around all four sides, I only have to do two and then can pull the strips out better, that way I don’t have to pick the little pieces out from under the wood dividers.

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See the little strips of paper left behind, this is what I learned to avoid a little better, had to pick them out with the exacto knife. One by one, took forever.

Got to a few more drawers where the paper came out easily.

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Got to a few more drawers where the paper came out easily.

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Yucky wood.

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I think it may have been moisture that caused the paper to stick.

Now it’s time to start on those that were stuck, I bought Murphy Oil Soap and mixed it in some warm water. I then put a little bit in each compartment, not too much because I didn’t want to damage the wood. Then I started scraping the paper out with the exacto knife, it helped a lot.

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Scraped out a few, revealing that pretty wood again.

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Shot of my soapy water and Murphy Oil Soap.

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Scrape scrape scrape, and then vacuum.


Watch me work 🙂


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Almost done. Time to put the drawers in.

Putting the drawers in! Doot doot doot.

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And now to put all those beads from the plastic boxes into their nice wooden counterparts.

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Hm, maybe I shouldn

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Couple boxes to go.

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Almost done again.

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A shot of my tools.

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Added bar stools so I can work on top of the cabinet. They aren

Next post I’ll show you all my goodies in the drawers. I kinda miss it not having all that stuff on top, I may have to reorganize some kind of way so that it doesn’t. Makes it feel more spacious without all the clutter.