A website about constructing metal book clasps, bosses and other types of book hardware, showing examples of book clasp repair and restoration. Information on workshops offered by Joycelyn Merchant on the design and construction of metal bookclasps.

Closure, the blog version, is here.

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In the Beginning: Some of my early attempts


Clasp I

The original challenge was to create clasps which could also be made easily by those with minimal jewelry or metal working skills. This necessitated using a limited range of easily available tools.

In my research I found an article by J. Franklin Mowery."Clasps, Schliessen, Clauseren: A guide to the manufacture and the literature of clasps."Guild of Bookworkers Journal, Voxlume XXIX, No 2, Fall 1991. Copies available from the Guild of Bookworkers, 521 5th Ave., New York, NY 10175.

Using that as an initial guide, and drawing from my 25 years experience as a metalsmith, I proceeded to make some model clasps.

This first clasp was made using a small piece of 22 gauge brass strip. Metal files were used for shaping this pattern. Various metal stamps were used to decorate the top of the clasp. Then a nibbling tool was used to make a parrallel slot and the knuckles for the hinge and catch mechanism were rolled around a pair of round nosed pliers.

Brass escutcheon pins were modified and used for the rod which spans the clasp catch and for riveting clasps tothe boards. Escutcheon pins were also used to attach and secure hinge mechanism.

Once the clasps were attached to the book boards, the hasp length was estimated and trimmed. Proper final fit of the catch mechanism was determined by trial and error. Then the strap, or hasp, made of 22 gauge brass, was curled very slightly until it just clipped over the bar on the top catch plate.

When correctly made and fitted, the swell of the book creates enough tension to hold it closed, and simply pressing on the top of the book board will release the clasp.


Clasp II

This little brass book clasp is a variation on the one above, also made from22 gauge brass sheet, using only files, round nose pliers, nibbler, flush cutters, ball-peen hammer and riveting hammer

Clasps attached to boards with brass escutcheon pins, which are turned down into grooves allowing them to lie flush with the inside of the boards. Attaching in this manner helps to prevent the pins from loosening and slipping out over time due to drying out of the wood. Although the pins in these examples have been filed flush with the boards, that is generally not advisible.

The suede spine cover has long flaps at the head and tail which wrap around to protect the text block. It's just a little binding I devised. Neither clasp nor binding is historically accurate.


Left: Small Ethiopian or Coptic style binding. (2.5 x 2.5 inches) Rosewood boards covered with suede spine with wrapping flaps. Handmade brass clasp with hasp.


All content and images © Joycelyn Merchant 2003-2009. Now and forever.