Restoring and Repurposing a Printer’s Tray

I bought an old printers tray off eBay and set about cleaning and refurbishing it to hang on my wall as a ‘cabinet of curiosity’ for my trinkets. I have very little knowledge of how to do this sort of thing, but thought I’d share my process as it came out pretty well!

I started by cleaning it as it was filthy; full of dust and smeared black grime. I started with a hoover to get up the loose dust, and then wiped it down with a damp cloth.
It was then that made my first unexpected discovery; whilst hoovering I sucked up a bit of backing paper from the floor of the tray I had mistaken for wood. Underneath was pristine, so it became clear that it all needed to come out.
I soaked the paper in warm water first, then when the water had absorbed into the paper, I cut around the edges of each drawer with a pointy tool (mine came from a cake decorating kit). Placing the hoover nozzle flush onto the paper was then enough to suck the whole section off cleanly.
Once it had dried, I gave it another hoover and clean, before beginning the stage that made the single biggest difference. I used steel wool to apply Rustin’s Surface Cleaner, a solvent designed to remove accumulated wax and dirt from wood without harming the original finish. In 20 minutes I had stripped away years of grime revealing the wood’s grain and patterning; it was an incredible transformation!
Next came the second unexpected discovery; the surface cleaner revealed that the metal cross bars between each drawer weren’t black and corroded, but were shining bright brass. I switched to a microfibre cloth to apply the surface cleaner as the wire wool was damaging the brass surface. It took quite a bit of time to clean every one up, but it made all the difference.

The next stage was to give every surface a fine coating of Colron Refined Beeswax, which I had in ‘Jacobean Oak’ colour. I applied it with a microfibre cloth, taking care to fully buff it and work it in.

I then gave the whole thing an hour to dry, before going over every surface one final time with Renaissance Microcrystalline Wax. This is my favourite finishing wax (which I use in my professional life as a museum curator) and was originally developed by the British Museum. It is perfect for protecting most surfaces from handling and environmental attack, and protects the beeswax layer.
My final task was to screw some mirror plates to the back and hang on my wall. I used sticky fixers on the bottom corners to ensure the tray doesn’t bounce on the wall (which adjoins my staircase) and shed my precious trinkets!

I hope that helped you if you’re thinking of doing a similar project.

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2 thoughts on “Restoring and Repurposing a Printer’s Tray

  1. Hi, I have an old printers tray in good condition but missin some of the brass plates. Any idea on where I can get replacements?

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