Clasp Restoration for Family Bible

2009 April 1

Documenting a commission for Bible clasp construction
Originally posted on, 2004.

Original Clasp

Original Clasp

This brass clasp on the left is a type commonly found on old Bibles and albums. They were machine made, stamped out by the hundreds, I imagine. It might be possible to make a reasonable facsimile of the original clasp through the process of photo-etching. But, unless done in a larger production run, it would not be cost effective. In this particular case, I proposed to create a clasp which was sympathetic with the original part. I replicated the basic shape, created a complimentary shape for the hasp, and patinated the new brass parts to match the color of the existing part, and attached the clasp to the boards.

Making the Clasp and Hasp:

The steps are outlined below in the photos.

Attaching Clasp

After the clasp and hasp are riveted, cleaned and patinated, they are ready to be attached to the board.

The new clasp must be fastened to the board through a new hole, as the old hole is usually too large to re-use. The old hole was filled with a piece of a hardwood toothpick (…otherwise known as the conservation toothpick… ) and glued in with PVA.

The boards were very thick. Hammering a pin through the board without a guide hole would risk damaging the board, so a very small guide hole (much smaller than the pin) was drilled through to minimize the stress in order to make it easier to hammer the pin.

Since these boards were pasteboard, a little brass plate, a small circle of brass with a center hole, is used as an anchor for the rivet on the inside of the board. A recess was trimmed out for the plate and the pin was riveted. (photo 13) Paper was used to fill in any gaps, then sanded down flush with the board, so as to not interfere with the pastedown.

Only one rivet was used to secure the clasp to the board since there is a lip on the front of this clasp which secures it onto the fore edge.

As every clasp is different, one always has to start from the beginning each time, which tends to make this sort of prroject quite time consuming. It tends to be frustrating, but in the end is quite satisfying.

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