Featured Victorian-era Gentleman's Writing Slope

Discussion in 'Antique Discussion' started by Shangas, Apr 1, 2015.

  1. Shangas

    Shangas Underage Antiques Collector and Historian

    Yes. Another one.

    I bought this thing at least a month ago from a lovely lady who lived near the coast. She was selling it and I found out about it online. She knows I love this stuff. We got in contact and after a lot of umming-and-aahing-and-hmmming, we figured out how to make the deal.

    I went down to pick it up, paid a very good price for it, then took it back home.

    The box was VERY rough. VERY VERY rough. If it was much worse, I would not have bothered buying it. But I saw it as a chance to get a cheap box and fix it up for myself to use.

    It took me a while to fix this thing. The box was so far gone that it was almost a throw-out. But if I could fix it, then I would have a nice, rough-looking antique writing slope which I could use, without worrying that I'd break it. So I took a few photographs of it, and then got to work.

    Here's the BEFORE shots:

    As you can see, the exterior is in pretty bad shape. It's been knocked around and everything. But I decided to buy it for the following reasons:

    1. It was cheap.
    2. It was structurally sound.
    3. It's good fixer-upper practice.
    4. I can do a complete refurb if I want to, and it won't hurt the value (there's hardly any left, so what the hell does that matter??)
    5. It had the ORIGINAL INKWELL (And those are damn hard to find).

    Anyway. Here's the interior...

    The Aide Memoire was dried up, cracked, peeling, crumbling, ripping off. It was just cheap card-stock cut and glued on, anyway. Saving it was absolutely not possible. It fell apart completely when I was getting it home.

    Absolutely EVERYTHING in this box was broken in one way or another. That included the organiser...

    ...the accessories caddy...

    ...the writing-slope...God...

    The thing was a total mess. Anyway, once I got home, I got to work.

    The first thing was to VERY carefully pull apart the inkstand.

    The inkstand was designed to slot neatly into place. You have all these pieces of wood that just go pop-pop-pop-pop-pop!! And they just slot into place. No glue. No nails. No screws.

    Unfortunately, some idiot decided that this wasn't enough. And they glued it together.

    Over time, the glue dried and crumbled, and some other bright spark decided to pull it apart...and broke it. And then they tried to fix THAT and it just...yeah. Disaster on top of disaster.

    So using a very sharp knife, I CAREFULLY pried the inkstand apart, sliding everything open. Cutting off the glued bits of wood and laying everything out.


    I glued together the broken bits of wood. Then I simply slipped everything back in as it should be. I used fine-grit steel wool to scrape away all the black ink-stains that were all over the wood. That was a result of the leaking inkwell.

    Gluing the broken bits back together...

    Then I put it back together after the gluing and the cleaning.

    Next step was to cut away the damaged leather on the accessories caddy. It was beyond my ability to repair it, so I decided to just try and make the best of a bad situation.

    After that, I had to replace the Aide Memoire. It was SHOT. Completely ruined. Pointless trying to salvage it in any way at all. So I pried off the old card...

    ...made tracings...

    ...then cut out, and put down new card-stock to replace the old stuff.

    Next came repairing the organiser. This was a bit easier. I managed to use the remaining bits of wood...


    To trace and make copies...


    Then I just glued it in and slotted everything together...


    Next came the lock. I couldn't find a single key that on its own, would operate the lock. So I pulled the lock out, broke it open, cleaned it, and then tested and filed down a key to operate the lock...


    After that, I had to pull apart the inkwell.

    The inkwell is made of three parts:

    Glass bottle.
    Brass collar.
    Brass cap.

    The collar is glued to the glass neck of the bottle with some sort of filler-adhesive, which had dried up completely, cracked and crumbled.

    I pulled it apart, chipped, sanded and scraped away all that crap, and then glued it back together with epoxy. This glues the collar back onto the bottle. It also creates a watertight seal.

    I replaced the seal in the underside of the cap, let all the glue set, and then filled it with ink and tipped it over.

    Not a DROP leaked out. Perfect!!

    I then reassembled everything, put it back. And the result is...
    cxgirl, antidiem and KingofThings like this.
  2. Shangas

    Shangas Underage Antiques Collector and Historian









    I filled the box with original Victorian-era ivory accessories. Ivory page-turner, letter-opener, and ink-eraser knife. And one glass dip-pen.

    For something that looked like a piece of crap when I bought it, I think I did alright :)
    kentworld, cxgirl, antidiem and 5 others like this.
  3. Bev aka thelmasstuff

    Bev aka thelmasstuff Colored pencil artist extraordinaire ;)

    I am humbled by your talent. My husband is a locksmith and that's exactly how he makes keys for old chests and cabinets. We collect old bit keys (skeleton keys) at flea markets and yard sales. First, he finds a key that fits in the lock, then he carefully impressions and files new wards so it works. Any time you need a locksmith job in the States, come see us. ;)

    Even though the prevailing wisdom says to leave antiques untouched, in the case of something that's been severely damaged, this is a wonderful example of what can be done to salvage it.
    cxgirl, Shangas, silverthwait and 2 others like this.
  4. Shangas

    Shangas Underage Antiques Collector and Historian

    It's a huge problem, Bev.

    People say: "ooooh you shouldn't restore it! It should be kept original! It ruins the value!!"


    What VALUE do you IMAGINE is LEFT?

    Maybe scrap firewood value. There IS no value left! It's useless!

    So I restored it. Otherwise it would've just been thrown out. And then I'd get the other spiel:

    "It's so beautiful!!! Why didn't you save it!?"

    I restore these things because if I didn't, nobody would, and they'd be thrown out. And it has no value left so I don't feel guilty about it. This thing was one crack away from being thrown in the fireplace.
  5. KingofThings

    KingofThings 'Illiteracy is a terrible thing to waist' - MHH

    Nice work! I have salvaged piles of wood back into what it was and it's rewarding like this! :) Thank you for documenting it so well! :)
    Shangas likes this.
  6. silverthwait

    silverthwait Well-Known Member

    I Must point out that your patience, and knowledge of how-to, is Mind boggling!!!

    As in, I'm gobsmacked!
    jackolin and KingofThings like this.
  7. Shangas

    Shangas Underage Antiques Collector and Historian

    Thanks folks.

    I almost gave up on this box at one point. I was one step away from shoving it in a cupboard and forgetting about it! Or, sending it to a locksmith to fix the lock and key.

    But to send it to a locksmith would mean having to haul it there. Explain the situation. Wait two or three weeks. Go and check on it. Pay the guy, haul it back...

    I wasn't going to waste $30, $40, $50 on something I can do AT HOME.

    I studied how these old fashioned lever-locks operate and how they're put together. I unscrewed the lock, levered it apart with a screwdriver, and then I gave it a slosh around in the ultrasonic cleaner to try and scrape off any old crap that was stuck on it.

    Once that was done, it was a matter of finding a key that fits over the post. And then testing it over and over again on the spring-bar and lever. Then I'd take it out, mark the spots on the key, get out my set of files, file down the key-head, stick it back in. Test it. Take it out. File it. Stick it in. Test it. File it. Test it.

    Over and over. Until I finally got the key into the shape where it would turn the lock back and forth, reliably without jamming or skipping and jumping.

    Then I reassembled the lock, clamped it together to stop it falling apart, slotted it back into the box, screwed it back down and tied the key to the handle to stop it being lost.

    ...this is the first time I've ever done that. But at least now I know how to cut antique keys.
    cxgirl, gregsglass and Messilane like this.
  8. silverthwait

    silverthwait Well-Known Member

    Bev - does your DH need any help?? :)
  9. antidiem

    antidiem Well-Known Member

    Great job on the box! :D
  10. Shangas

    Shangas Underage Antiques Collector and Historian

    I have ANOTHER BOX (yes, you read that right) which is currently being restored.

    Once that's done, I'll post that here, too.
    antidiem and cxgirl like this.
  11. cxgirl

    cxgirl Well-Known Member

    This is lovely, thanks for sharing this Shangas!
  12. Dax

    Dax Indigo Guy.

    You have done a very commendable job of restoration on your Victorian ladies lap desk/writing slope. I usually discourage my clients who wish to restore antique pieces simply because a botched job not only ruins the piece but also halves its value. However in your case you have taken something already ruined and restored it well.
    Good job.
  13. Shangas

    Shangas Underage Antiques Collector and Historian

    The box was one crack away from the rubbish-dump. There was nothing left to devalue. Only value to be added.

    And it is a guy's box. It originally belonged to a doctor.
  14. komokwa

    komokwa The Truth is out there...!

  15. Shangas

    Shangas Underage Antiques Collector and Historian

    Not only have I seen it, I wrote it. That's my blog :)
    Bakersgma, Messilane and gregsglass like this.
  16. komokwa

    komokwa The Truth is out there...!

    Well I found it without your help ! :happy::happy:
    gregsglass likes this.
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