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

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Clasp Restoration for Family Bible
Documenting a commission for Bible clasp construction/restoration.
This brass clasp is a type commmonly found on old Bibles and albums. They were machine made, stamped out by the hundreds, I imagine. It tmight be possible to make a reasonable facsimile of the original clasp through the process of photoetching. But, unless done in a production run, it would not be cost effective.

In this particular case, I proposed to replicate the basic shape, create a complimentary shape for the hasp, and patina the new brass parts to match the color of the existing part, and attach the clasp to the boards.

Making the Clasp and Hasp

Bible as received.(above)
Textblock is wrapped.
Endpapers are not pasted down.

(1) I made a rubbing of the existing clasp to use as a pattern for the new one.

(2) Next, I cut out the pattern, compared it to the original,and made any corrections necessary.

(3) Comparing the thickness of the clasp to brass stock to determine which gauge would work best for the new clasp part.

(4) Pattern is glued to metal of the right thickness, and the pattern is sawed out with a jewelers saw


(5) The clasp was formed to fit over the fore edge of the book. Tubes for the hinge were soldered to the clasp piece.Parts were tested for proper fit.

(6) The tube was soldered to the hasp.The rod for the rivet was fitted. Final adjustments were made before riveting the hasp and clasp together.

(7) Clasp fitted together to check hinge action


(8) Textblock is wrapped, but clasp was tested unwrapped to confirm fit.

(9) Completed, patinaed clasp. (10) Checking the color match.

Attaching Clasp

The new clasp must be fastened to the board using a new hole, as the old hole has become too large.The hole remaining from the previous clasp attachment was filled with a piece of a hardwood toothpick (...otherwise know as the conservation toothpick... ) glued in with PVA.

The boards were very thick. Trying to hammer 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 stress in order to make it easier to hammer the pin.

(11) 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. Paper was used to fill in any gaps, then sanded down flush with the board, so as to not interfere with the pastedown.

(12) Only one rivet was used, since there is a lip on the front of the clasp which secures the clasp onto the fore edge.

The completed clasp on the book. (Textblock is shown wrapped for protection.)


All terxt and images copyright© Joycelyn Merchant 2003-2008. Now and forever.