I’ve been watching the secondary market for used card indexes for a while and finally caved and purchased a vintage wooden desk top Shaw-Walker 11 inch card index for 3 x 5″ index cards. It was dusty and dirty and in reasonably good shape, but with some cleaning and some wood polish, it’s in much better shape.
I removed the original tacks on the bottom which appeared to have once held down some red felt. I cut out a new rectangle of green felt and reattached the tacks so that the index won’t scratch up my desktop. The dovetails are in good shape, but it seems like in a year or two some of the joins may need to be re-glued.
In all, for a small $10.00 investment, it’s a stunning addition for my zettelkasten card collection. Compared to some of the cardboard and metal options out there, it was half the price, but is far prettier and infinitely more durable.
Of course I’ve got a strong preference for 4 x 6″, so I’ll be on the look out for something bigger, but this was just too good a deal to pass up. Perhaps I’ll use it like a Memindex or a related productivity tool?
Yesterday I spent several more hours on the Shaw-Walker. I finished removing as much of the rust as I could and did the final rounds of sanding with the 60 grit and 100 grit sandpaper. I vacuumed away a ton of dust and then gave it a good washing down and did a final sponging of it with some acetone. Then I gave five of the sides a good coat of Rust-o-leum anti-rust primer and sat it to dry for 24 hours.
I got out all the drawers and cleaned and vacuumed them out. Then I removed all the hardware including the filing cabinet rods and file stops, the handles, the name plate frames, and the metal shield on the back of the drawer front that prevents files from coming into contact with the drawer handle bolts. It appears that none of the bolts have ever been removed, so it took some WD-40 and some elbow grease to remove them.
I’ll end up sanding, priming, and painting only the front and edges of each of the drawers, though one or two of the bottom drawers will need some rehabilitation work due to rusting.
Finally I spent a part of the early evening removing the heavy tarnish from the metal fittings. A quick magnet test indicates that they’re all ferrous but they appear to be brass plated. So I mixed up a batch of vinegar, salt, and flour paste (~6:1:4) to scrub off the grime and tarnish. After a quick test on one to confirm the results, I spent some serious scrubbing and polishing to get one set of handle, frame, and rod cleaned up. I finished them off with a polishing cloth and the results aren’t half bad, particularly considering their original condition.
It took some serious work this morning, but I’ve managed to clean off most of the rest of the tarnish on the remaining handles, frames, and filing rods. They look quite nice, though still show some signs of tarnish and patina. I finally gave up on the backs of the handles as they’re so heavily tarnished I’m not sure it’ll ever come off.
Yesterday’s progress on the 4 drawer Shaw-Walker filing cabinet. I’ve emptied the drawers and removed them along with the rollers and hardware. I’ve also stripped all the original paint and a significant amount of rust, though I still have all of the bottom panel left, which is the worst of the rust. I’m still hoping that I can salvage the bottom.
On February 7th, I picked up a Shaw-Walker 4 drawer filing cabinet that someone had decided to leave for scrap. Despite some serious rust and a few physical holes on the bottom, most of the cabinet is in reasonable shape and functional. The locking mechanism is still mostly in place, though the piece is missing the locks and keys. Each of the drawers has one or more file stops, of a few different styles.
It contained a handful of paperclips, some sewing patterns, and some check stubs from 1976. I suspect it’s likely from the late 40s to early 60s, but it’ll require some research to track down a more specific manufacturing date as the interior has no immediate clues.
Given the general condition and rust, I think I’m going to fast track it for refinishing this month before I tackle the monster, which portends quite a bit more work and effort.