DIY: Antique Printer Tray to Jewelry Display

Actually, it's called a type case. Thank you Wikipedia. But since it rhymes in the title and that's what everyone else calls it, we'll stick with printer tray.  From what I can gather, they were used from around 1890 to the 1960's to store moveable type used in letterpress printing. Now, enough with the history lesson and on to the fun stuff. The project.

As you all may know, I am in the process of opening my own little shop of local handmade goodness. In my search for creative ways to display jewelry, I came across a shop that sold these re-finished trays for anywhere between $80 and $140. Ouch, right? So, imagine my delight when I found these on the third floor in the attic (UN-AIR-CONDITIONED!!! IN THE TEXAS SUMMER!) of Adkins Architectural Antiques. For $10 a piece! If you haven't been there, you should. I spent at least two hours poking around. So, this is what I started with.

Pretty boring, right? My first task was to give it a good cleaning and painting prep. I used a damp cloth to wipe it down and then I did something that I am not sure was entirely necessary. I applied Klean-Strip Easy Liquid Sander Deglosser to the whole surface with a cloth. You can find it at any hardware store. I only say I think it may have been unnecessary because the finish on these two pieces was nonexistent.

Next, I used a straight razor to peel off the left over labeling.

By that time, I was ready to take it inside. Again, that Texas summer heat. The next step took a little ingenuity on my part. It was difficult to figure out how I was going to make the tiny holes it took to twist in the screw eye hooks. I settled on (please don't laugh) a hammer and 3/8 inch drill bit. I hammered tiny holes in each of the places I wanted a hook to be placed. The needle nose pliers were for assisting my poor little fingers in the twisting.

Honestly, I did not think I was going to make it. The $100+ that these jewelry displays cost was starting to make sense. But, eventually I did finish.

Next up, paint. I chose a latex paint from Do it Best called Sea Splash in an eggshell finish. It took about 3 coats to get the wood completely covered.

What I did next should have been done before I painted. When I started, I thought that the old rusted handle at the top of the tray looked cool the way it was. But after I finished the paint, I decided I would try to get some of that rust off so that you could read the word "Hamilton" that was printed there. So I taped up the edges of the handle and got to scrubbing using Brasso (again, found at the hardware store).

And scrubbing....In the end, there was really not much of a difference, but I still like that you can now read the word.

All that was left now was to attach the hardware for hanging the tray. I used 2 large picture hangers since the tray is quite heavy.

And viola! We have a fabulous place to store your jewelry.A place where you are free to look without everything getting in a tangled mess. My husband's reaction was something along the lines of, "It looks good. It doesn't even look cheesy." I'll take it as a compliment as it was coming from a dude.

I already have several people placing orders now. Have I actually found a "craft" that I'm good at? Possibly. I'm quite pleased with it.


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