#45 Sheathing a Deckle

I start with paper patterns. First I determine the width of brass needed to wrap over the sides of the deckle. Then I lay out with pencil and rule an “L” shaped pattern for each side.

These are cut out and fixed in place with a few pieces of tape.

A sharp pencil is used to mark the corner cuts.

The corners look like this.

Each pattern is fixed to a piece of soft brass sheet. This brass is .017″ thick.

A sharp utility knife cuts through the paper, marking the brass in the process.

The result looks like this.

The sheet is carefully cut to shape. The edges are smoothed with an abrasive pad.

Getting this part out is a trick. If the two cuts travel a short distance along the same line the waste piece will come out cleanly. I think I try too hard to make the edges meet exactly when the brass is formed to the deckle. It might be better to cut both sides back just a little, showing a bit of wood along the edge.

A propane torch softens the brass. When annealed it droops of its own weight.

Vinegar, salt and an abrasive pad restore the brightness.

I try to pre-form the sheathing so it doesn’t work against the nails to spring back.

A few nails (#19 brass escutcheon pins here) tack the top edge in place.

More nails along the outside edges. I space them every 5/8″.

After nailing I burnish the edges down. I file off the domed nail heads a little and polish everything with an abrasive pad.

This is how it looks from the bottom.

At the front the brass traditionally wraps around each corner a bit. This probably indicated the front of the deckle as well as adding a little strength.

The wood of the back corners is usually carved out more abruptly because excess pulp was ‘tossed off’ the back. Running the brass sheathing straight over the back leaves room for these tight curves.

It looks nice but is it really necessary? Probably not most of the time. With very heavy use wood becomes fuzzy with rubbling against the vat person’s hands. And I have had one report of some amazing callouses developed from that rubbing. Perhaps the brass made it easier on the hands and also ‘washed off’ better, preventing stray fibers being rubbed into ‘knots’, unwelcome flaws in most paper.

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