Rosewood Boards

2009 April 1

Clasp Style II: Originally posted 2003 on

The brass book clasp on the little book below is a variation on the one above, also made from 22 gauge brass sheet, using only files, round nose pliers, nibbler, flush cutters, ball-peen hammer and riveting hammer.

Rosewood with clasp. 2.5 X 2.5

Rosewood with clasp. 2.5" X 2.5"

Clasps are 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 advisable.

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.

This book is sewn in the Ethiopian, or Coptic style with a link stitch. The rosewood was found. The pieces are scraps from a xylophone maker. The suede is from a thrift store garment.The paper is recycled from an earlier project.

The AreaCodex, First Attempt, Wooden Boards

2009 April 1

Using Wooden Boards: Originally posted 2003 on

When I first began exploring how to make book clasps, I didn’t really know that much about wood board books so I used whatever wood I had on hand, which happened to be cheap plywood.

Area Codex: First attempts on wood boards

Area Codex: First attempts on wood boards

The text block in the example to the left is part of a telephone book which was guillotined to size. It served as a quick and cheap option to use for making practice books in wooden boards to which I could attach clasps. Because I used the telephone book, I christened this book the

The main lesson learned from this experiment was that cheap plywood makes for horrible book boards, so don’t waste time trying to make it work. Some people have had some success with a higher quality plywood, but I still prefer solid hardwoods. Later posts show better examples of wooden board books with clasps.

I did come up with two interesting possibilities for non-traditional clasps which I made by modifying existing hardware parts.

The one on the lower right is made from a picture hanger riveted to a handmade leather cord. A piece of ivory piano key was glued on over the rivets with silicone glue. The clasp on the bottom left was modified from a piece of copper strap, a found item, some type of battery cable, I’ve since learned.

Each strap is riveted onto the back board, comes around, up and over onto the top board to hook over pins, modified from cup hooks which are riveted through the center of the top board and through a little brass plate on the inside to secure them.

In the Beginning: Clasp I

2009 April 1

Clasp I: Originally posted 2003 on

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, Volume XXIX, No 2, Fall 1991. Copies available from the Guild of Bookworkers, 521 5th Ave., New York, NY 10175.

First Clasp

First Clasp

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 parallel 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 to the 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.

Closure: The Bookclasp Blog

2009 April 1
by JM

Welcome to my new blog about constructing metal book clasps, bosses, and other types of book hardware. I’ve created it as a supplement to my original website,, in order to offer the information in a blog format which I think will be a little more convenient to use. Although my original site will still retain all of its original content, including the examples of book clasp repair and restoration, and general information on clasp construction, this blog will also soon mirror much of that info, and any new updates will be posted here

As a way of introducing my blog, I am posting the original introduction here.

While learning about bookbinding and conservation, I realized that information about and resources for book closures or book furniture were very limited. So I did some research, and began to make my own clasps, bosses and other book hardware. I hope sharing my venture into this aspect of the book arts will provide a small contribution to a neglected area.

In 2003, I began to teach workshops on designing and making metal book clasps, teaching bookbinding students and book artists enough simple metal working techniques to enable them to easily make some clasps using readily available tools and materials. The first workshop was at Columbia College Center for Book and Paper Arts in January 2003. Since then I’ve taught workshops at Paper and Book Intensive (PBI), 2004; at the FOCUS Conference of the Oregon Book Arts Guild, 2005; for the New York Guild of Bookworkers; and at the Huntington Library in Pasadena, CA in 2006. In 2007 I taught workshops for the California Hand Bookbinders, and for Hollander’s in Ann Arbor, MI. I taught again at the Center for Book and Paper Arts at Colombia in January 2008. The only workshop I will be teaching this summer will be held at the Focus on Book Arts (FOBA) Conference in Portland, Oregon. Info here.

I also occasionally accept commissions to custom make replica clasps, or clasps which echo the feel of lost clasps, or to make missing parts for clasps on antiquarian books and old family Bibles. Some examples of that work are shown on several pages beginning here. In addition to focusing on the book clasps, I also sometimes make books with or without clasps, and do some limited book repair.

The book arts community is especially generous in sharing information, and it is in that spirit that I offer this blog and associated web site. Although the very specific details of clasp making are not covered here, this blog and website can still serve as a useful reference for others who are interested in this subject.

Examples of books and clasps shown on this site may not necessarily be historically accurate; rather, they are offered to demonstrate a variety of clasp styles and methods of attachment.