How do I apply velvet to writing slopes?

Prepare the surface to be covered to achieve a smooth surface. Use a traditional starch wallpaper glue, sprinkling rapidly into water until it is almost snowball consistency. Leave for a few hours until it dissolves completely.

Deeply score the boundary edge with a sharp knife. Spread the glue on the wooden surface thinly with a spatula, forcing it into the wood. Leave for a day to dry. Check that the knife cut edge isn’t filled with glue. Determine the finished velvet nap direction preferred. Then cut to size allowing approx 3/4″ overlap all round. Glue velvet into position. With a sharp knife or scalpel run the velvet into the scored boundary edge. This should cut the velvet to size and any ragged edges should curl down into the cut. At this stage the velvet can still be stretched to neaten any wobbly cut. Leave to dry before closing the box.

How do I apply paper?

  • Prepare the wood surfaces so they are smooth.
  • Size with a slightly diluted glue of the type which you will use to stick the paper. Leave overnight and then sand smooth again.
  • Measure all surfaces to be covered accurately and cut out paper allowing approx ?” seams and 3/16″ (5mm) proud at the top for finishing. Mitre all corners for neatness.
  • Use cow gum, PVA or dry mount to apply. The best glue is the traditional starch wallpaper paste. Mix it to a snowball consisitency by rapidly sprinkling the powder into the water. Leave it for a few hours to dissolve completely. Apply well with a spatula. First apply paper to the inside front of the box. The back is second. Both front and back have an overlap of 5/16″ (5mm) at the sides and bottom. Small v sections should be cut out in the corners to allow a neat fit. Both sides are fitted next without an overlap. Mitre corners. The base is fitted last without overlaps.
  • Work around the surfaces, pressing paper into place using the wooden tools, a smooth ruler or similar.
  • Leave the bottom of the compartments till last.
  • Trim with a very sharp knife after the glue has dried completely.
  • Recover with a well earned cup of tea – this is a laborious process!

How do I cut and work mother of pearl?

The name mother of pearl is usually used as a blanket term to cover a range of iridescent shells. Their working properties are variable, but it’s easiest to regard them as related to flaky glass. The hard part is to convert curved shell into a flat sheet. This is almost impossible without a lapidary machine to grind it, so it is essential to buy sheet cut to the appropriate thickness. Use a wet stone grinder to thin further and to shape the shell. Caution – some shells are highly toxic. Wear rubber gloves and change the water frequently. If cutting dry, still wear rubber gloves and also use dust masks extractors etc.

When cutting an escutcheon or other pierced shape, start with the hole. Use a newly sharpened drill bit. A fret saw or needle file (preferably diamond) can cut intricate shapes. To shape the thin shell roughly on the outside use side cutting snips – the type where the blades meet edge to edge, not with a scissor action. Final shaping is best done with a wet stone grinder or file, cutting along the edge rather than across it. Other useful tools include a mini die grinder with a range of tungsten carbide and diamond wheels, and a fine slitting saw. Polishing is done with a range of wet and dry papers (use wet) followed by finely powdered chalk on a wet paper towel.

A dry paper towel removes the final smears. Microcrystalline wax is best for the final shine.

How do I cut bone?

Bone is related to wood in its working properties. It is much harder than most woods. Metal working tools such as files and hacksaws are usually better. A wet stone grinder is also essential for flattening larger areas and trimming sheets to thickness. As bone is more brittle than ivory it tends to be used in thicker sections and with less detail. If cutting an escutcheon start with the hole.