Restoring A Brass And Ebony Inlaid Walnut Writing Slope


The writing slope has loose and missing brass work and the top is badly scratched.

latestSome brass was cut and filed to size. Using an Old Womans Tooth (also known as a router plane) I rebated the groundwork to the thickness of the brass strip.

CIMG3720The brass is bent on the corners to the exact width of the top, glued and cramped in place.

CIMG3722Cramping the loose brasswork.

CIMG3714Some minor patches were fitted around the hinges


Restoring the interior

The secret drawer compartment was missing its cover which locks into place over the brass clip on the right hand side.

CIMG3750The cover should spring open when the right hand inkwell divider is lifted.

CIMG3706I made a new cover which pushes in over the brass clip and locks in place. The spring pushes it outwards when released. The stamp slide covers up the mechanism.

CIMG3710The lock was cleaned, oiled and key fitted.

CIMG3716The exterior of the writing slope was then meths stripped and re-polished, the inside touched in, cleaned and waxed.

CIMG3729The writing slope was then sanded clean ready for re-lining, which was done in a material as close a match to the original as possible.

yeahThe material was glued into place and cut to fit with a scalpel. Tabs were then fitted and wedged from the underside. The slope is tooled with a wheel that is heated up and rolled around the outside edge leaving a patterned imprint.

yesTooling the edge

xxxxxxxxThe bottom of the slope was then baized.

CIMG3751The finished article



Restoring a Biedermeier Tambour Desk Part 3

Staining and Polishing

As you can see from the picture below, the interior of the desk retains the original deep red mahogany colour, whereas the exterior has been  bleached extensively in direct sunlight. I tried using a polish reviver to bring back the colour with no success, so the next step was to meths strip the exterior. I used meths rather than a paint stripper as this still leaves the grain fairly full.



The next step was to mix up a water based stain to match the interior. I applied the stain with a cloth following the direction of the grain, working quickly to avoid patches and streaking.


After leaving to dry for 24 hours I commenced polishing. As you can see from the picture, a couple of coats of polish brings out the true beauty of the curl veneers.

(Curl or crotch veneers are usually cut from where the tree forks or branches.)


Fitting the leather

Originally a skiver had been fitted to the desk, after consultation with the client it was decided that we would fit a good quality hide in a plum colour with an antique finish and a gold border.  I then had to rebate the ground work out in order to fit the thicker hide. It was then sanded to a smooth finish as any imperfections would show through the leather.


Cutting the leather

The leather was lined up and cut with a scalpel to fit and was then pasted using a lap paste. The air bubbles were removed using an ivory boning tool which has the same effect as a wallpapering brush, to ensure the leather goes down flat and smooth.


The Fitted Leather


The client had owned this piece for some years and had been unaware of the fact that by pulling a spring under the slide, the slide came forward revealing three secret compartments.

2012-12-01 23.12.31

The end result

The whole piece was then waxed using finest quality beeswax and a lot of elbow grease.



Restoring a Bierdermeier Tambour Desk Part 1

Restoring a Bierdermeier Tambour Desk Part 2

Restoring A Biedermeier Tambour Desk Part 2

Replacing the missing gallery rails

I made a simple scratch stock  from a hacksaw blade and a piece of scrap timber. The hacksaw blade was ground to the profile I required. I then draw it up and down the length of the rail to scrape the profile out on both sides.  This could have been done with a router but I find this method far quicker on short lengths of timber.


The rail was then papered with 180/240 grit, dampened with a cloth to raise the grain and  repapered using 240 grit.


The rails were tenoned into the four corner posts.


Turning the gallery spindles

CIMG2512When turning the spindles, I stained and friction polished them on the lathe to save time later, again I dampened to raise the grain and repapered.

CIMG2515Sixteen spindles later …


Turning the feet

These were turned using some reclaimed feet.  They were turned in the same style, but the size was reduced.


The finished feet


Restoring A Biedermeier Tambour Desk Part 3

Restoring A Biedermeier Tambour Desk Part 1

As Featured on BBC’s Antiques Road Show

This lovely late 19th Century Inlaid Chest of Drawers was featured on BBC’s Antiques Road Show at Hartland Abbey last summer and was brought into my workshop earlier this year for restoration.

The chest is inlaid with Ebony, Ivory, Abalone Mother of Pearl and Horn.  There were over 200 missing pieces of inlay which I had to create individually and fit by hand.

19th Century Inlaid Chest of Drawers (Restored version)

Close up of the drawers

Side view

Top of inlaid chest of drawers