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Writing Slope Restoration

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9 hours ago, Graywolf503 said:

JayHomeBody, when I'm able, I will start a second thread on the new writing slope and we'll link to it from here.

Thanks dude! I'm looking forward to it! 💛

I am the tarot reading, bookworm, whiskey drinking, witchcraft practicing, old fashioned writing, aunt Beasty in my family and I love it. Tarot readings for sale or trade, especially ink as I've lost all of my pen stuff from a bad burglary last year. And I need penpals! Anyone interested, please PM me!

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Further developments. I removed the velvet from one of the leafs. The first picture shows the leaf without the velvet writing surface. At the top is where the reinforcing strip was glued (grayish color).  The leaf itself is made of three wooden parts with wood veneer outlining the area where the writing surface goes. There is a large wood panel and 2 smaller side panels that are glued to it. In the photo you can see to upper toothpicks which define the border for the wood side panels. The lower right-hand toothpick points to an area where the veneer was broken on the bottom. It appears to be well glued in place and so I think it was repaired at some time in the past. If you look closely where the bottom toothpick on the left is located there is a large number 4 written in pencil. I'm not sure what this was for.

The second photo is the backside of the actual writing surface. Here you can see the number 4 (in reverse) much better than on the wooden leaf. You can also see the reinforcing fabric much better as well. These photos are of the bottom leaf, the upper leaf had one of the side panel separate as shown in my last postings. It is being held on by a piece of veneer and the writing surface. I'm currently going to procure some hide glue and glue this into place better prior to removing the writing surface.

Had a minor setback with the bookbinder. He relates that he has recently moved his office from my hometown to Louisiana. He is willing to do the work however I'm concerned about shipping the writing slope to him and having it shipped back. He states that he does have a velvet material that could be used as a writing surface and that he can do embossing or imprinting on it. He is also willing to do some gluing of wooden pieces as well, should I decide to have him work on the box.  I may consider purchasing a writing surface from him and gluing it down myself. I would procure some scrap pieces from him as well so that I can practice gluing prior to doing this.

More later as I am able.  Thanks for reading.



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Graywolf503 I hesitated to reply, As it happens I know the answer to your number question but I do not want to come over as a know it all. I have been working on writing slopes for many years and have done extensive research.

The number 4 is quite interesting my understanding of the use is not only because it is the fourth corner, A number one could be confused as a line. numbers 2 and 3 have curves a simple no 4 can be made with a line crossing an L shape. Simple to make easy to read it really is that simple the man who put that number there may not even have known what it meant.

At least that is what I was told. :)

I hope that you are going to invest in a better tape measure :) 

If you send the slope to the bookbinder is really your decision but if you want the velvet done the way you want it then find or make a sturdy box for it to travel in. If it were me I would make a wooden packing case for it.


For more details on my current projects please visit my blog.




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  • 2 weeks later...

Greetings all. Sorry I have not been posting but we had a terrible storm here which knocked out electricity and Internet for eight days. Had to work on a generator and keeping the house from freezing and so didn't leave a lot of time to work on the writing slope.  My family and I are doing well at this time, the power's back on, we didn't lose any food, and also the Internet is back on.
MY63 - thank you for your information. I always appreciate your extensive knowledge and your willingness to share. I have elected not to utilize the bookbinder as he is in Louisiana and I live in Oregon. I really don't want to ship the writing slope that far, and I agree it would need to have a wooden box built to ship it.
I had ordered some Titebond liquid hide glue and plan to use this to glue up some loose wooden joints. The storm slowed shipping down, and I have to prepare an area to glue it up as I don't wanted to work in my garage as I feel it would be too cold for the glue. One of the leafs has a loose joint and I just discovered some of the veneer around the leaf is loose. Once I've glued these up and allow them to sit for several days, I'll be ready to begin putting a new writing surface on the box. I have ordered some velvet and have included a photo to show how it seems to match the original velvet. I removed the old velvet from one of the leafs and now must do the same on the other leaf.
I have been experimenting with flour glue as I felt this may be what they used to glue the velvet down. I have some scrap velvet available and have been utilizing both flour and cornstarch as glues. Surprisingly, it doesn't soak through the fabric as I thought it might. My recipe is 3 tablespoons of either flour or cornstarch per 1 cup of water. I mix the 3 tablespoons into the water small amounts of the time with stirring while the water is cold. Once I have this mixed in again heated slowly on the stove until it just thickens. I think either the flour or the cornstarch would work as a glue as they both seem to give good adherence and it's difficult but not impossible to remove my test velvet from a wood piece.  It does seem to remove quite easily with a small amount of water and allowing it to soak. I think I prefer the cornstarch as it makes a white paste, the flour seems to be slightly off-white.
There is a pattern that is embossed into the old velvet around the edges. I've investigated this and found that it's very easy to do the embossing. You just need an appropriate rubberstamp, spray it with water, place the velvet good side down on the wet stamp, use some aluminum foil on the back of the velvet and iron on the wool setting with your iron.  I have not tried this but have obtained a couple of stamps to work with my scrap velvet to see how this does. I would then have to find an appropriate stamp and see if I can make a border around the velvet.
I will also need to cut a template for cutting out the velvet to apply to the writing slope. Will continue to update as I have information and time


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I have finally been able to catch up on cleanup activities and had time to devote to the writing slope. First thing I needed to do was to finish gluing one of the leafs that had a loose board.  Used liquid hide glue and it seemed to work well.

The old velvet writing surface pulled off the wood with some effort. Cleanup was easy, small amount of water applied to the wood allowed to stand for a minute and using a plastic credit card was able to scrape any remaining fabric and glue away from the wood. Allowed the wood to dry overnight, the surface appears very clean.

The first photo shows the prepared leafs, they are ready to accept the writing surface. Note that the second photo shows a small area indicated by the toothpick. This appears to been a spot where the handle for the leaf was attached, it appears in the same location on both leafs. Unlike using a ribbon as most writing slope use, this may have been some kind of yarn or thread, glued into the board, and going through the writing surface. The hole does not penetrate the leaf. At this time I have not cleaned out the hole, I'm not sure whether I will use it or not.  If anyone has ever seen a writing box with handles for the leafs that involve thread or yarn instead of ribbon please leave a comment thank you.

The third photo shows the reinforcing strip and glue on the leafs. Sorry for the quality of the photo but I was in a bit of a hurry to get everything together. I had trimmed the velvet to fit into the recess on the wood. This was a bit tedious but thankfully it wasn't too bad as I was able to use my wife's sewing equipment including her rotary cutter.

After applying the glue to both sides of the reinforcing strip and placing it down I went back over the wood surfaces with the glue.  This was a homemade glue utilizing 3 tablespoons of cornstarch mixed into one cup of water and heated slightly until it began to thicken. I'd experimented gluing various pieces of fabric and velvet to wood and this seemed to work well.

After I had to glue applied, I carefully placed the velvet writing surface onto the area and began to get it into position. There was some grab to the glue but I was able to move the writing surface and get it into proper position. One big concern was whether the glue would soak through the velvet. This did not seem to be the case in my tests and it also was not the case when I applied the velvet writing surface.  I used a round pencil as a roller and removed any pockets in the velvet. The fourth photo shows the velvet in position and glued in place. I plan to leave this for several days to allow the glue to adequately dry. Cleanup was great, a damp rag removed any excess glue. A small trace got onto the top of the velvet, but again the damp rag was able to remove it.

Will report more once I have let the writing surface dry, and see how it does when I move the leafs and close the box. 





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Oh no! So sorry that this happened my friend. I will say prayers for you to be healed.

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Graywolf503 - Great update, thanks! This has been so fun to follow, and it's such a great (and worthy) item to restore and use. I'm so glad to see that the glue process did not become a sticky situation. ;) 


I mentioned in an earlier post that I had done something very similar. Here are a couple photos of my project from a few years ago, which I enjoy actually using. I purchased this French (I believe) writing slope for a very good price from a local shop. There was some damage to the Boulle work, but it was all intact. Some careful bending, clamping and gluing, and it turned out well, I think. There is a partial crack across the lid, but it appears to be where two pieces were joined originally, and I didn't think it detracted too much from the overall piece. (And I didn't want to mess with the ebony finish, as I knew the results would stand out more.) As you can see, I'm still searching for matching inkwells (neither came with this piece). 


About the writing surface:
It had be replaced at some point with modern, chunky, HOT-PINK felt. It took some effort to remove it (and all its fuzzy residue), but I eventually succeeded and, more or less, followed the same path as you did (except I used a watered-down fabric glue). Like you, I wanted to heat-emboss the edges but was afraid to try, as this was the last piece of this velvet I had. My plan is still to finish the edges with a fine, thin, silk ribbon to blend with the deep purple - when I find it...  


About the velvet:
It is a remnant of an antique dress of my grandmother's (a very short cotton nap). According to the family, she only wore it a few times before wear started to show under the arms. We have had much more use out of that fabric over the past 80 years than she ever did wearing the dress! My grandmother lined a hat brim with it, my mother made a hat from it, it has been used to restore a velvet mat on a Victorian picture frame, lined a couple jewelry boxes, etc. The ultimate "Reuse Recycle Repurpose." 😆



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CursivesFoiledAgain - what a beautiful writing slope that you have!  I love it! I'm glad you were able to get rid of the hot pink writing surface. And to incorporate some of your own family history in terms of the velvet that was your grandmother dress, excellent!  You've turned the writing slope into a family heirloom.

As with your box, mine has two cracks, the worse one on the bottom. However it does not seem to have affected the structural integrity of my box and so I decided as you did to leave them alone. Like you, I've elected to leave some things alone with the box instead of trying to restore to like new.    I call these  "honorable scars."

In terms of matching inkwells, eBay can be your friend if you don't mind reproductions.  One seller on eBay, ga.bottlepicker, has reproduction inkwells that would appear to fit in writing slopes. I think he has multiples of the same inkwells. Some of the inkwells even have reproduction dip pens with them.  Several years ago I bought two reproduction inkwells with brass screw on lids, unfortunately the seller is no longer on eBay.  From your photo, I think this might be similar to the left-hand inkwell in your box. I'm still looking for appropriate dip pens to place in the box.

I thought about using fabric glue to glue down the velvet, there's some indication on the Internet that mod podge could also be used.  However, I wanted something that I can easily remove but would be very durable. I had tried flour and cornstarch to make a natural glue, and both seemed to work. I wanted something that easily be removed if I decided to change the writing surface.  I feel a flour glue would've been available when the box was made and was likely used to glue down the surfaces. Just today I attempted to close the box after gluing down the writing surface and letting it dry for two days. There was some tearing noises but nothing came loose and now it seems to open and close normally, without noise. I closely inspected everything could not detect any problems, I felt that the initial noise was just due to glue that had crept into unusual places and needed to be loosened up. I'm not sure how long the cornstarch glue will last. I'm not too concerned as I have a large quantity of velvet and can redo it if needed. Like you, I elected not to do heat embossing, mostly because I could not find a border stamp that I liked. 

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Graywolf503 - 

Your progress is wonderful - and has been so fun to follow. When I laid my new muslin "hinge" down, I had a bit of that "ripping" sound, too, but all was well. I did "flex" the hinge while the glue on the velvet was still wet to ensure a little more give in the fold, since it was vintage fabric. It all ended up fine.

Thank you for the ink bottle thoughts and dealer info. I'm in no rush, so still hoping to find an antique twin for one of the two I have. I prefer the brass-capped one, though the ink dries out terribly fast. I tried applying a thin, hand-cut cork gasket inside the lid, but then it wouldn't screw on. I suppose folks back then just used their inks faster... 

Anyway, great job - and thanks for sharing! 

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