The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 13, Number 4
Jul 1989

Construction of Brass-Edged Press Boards

by Marie Kelzer
Conservation Department, University of California, Berkeley

When repairing circulating materials in the Conservation Department, it seems that we never have enough brass-edged boards. Many of our repairs involve tightening hinges or recasing, which in our production facility requires numerous press boards. After much consideration we decided to construct the press boards ourselves instead of purchasing them from commercial sources. This enabled us to keep our costs down and ensured a high quality product.

In addition, we prepared plain boards of different sizes. These boards are useful as weights for flattening materials and for supporting textblocks while doing page repair.

Making our own press boards gives us the opportunity to decide on any size board that fits our needs. The sizes were chosen to fit both the dimensions of books we mend and our Vagelli press, which has a platen 19½" x 15½". The two most important considerations are 1) choosing a good quality wood that does not splinter or warp and 2) making sure the brass is centered on the edge of the board, resulting in an even pressure when pressing books. We chose to leave the boards unfinished to reduce the risk of varnish blocking and to keep costs down. Any dirt can be sanded off.

What follows are instructions for construction of press boards in these sizes and quantities:

14" x 11" 8 plain boards
13" x 10" 20 brass-edged boards
28 plain boards
10" x 8¼" 16 plain boards


Cutting diagram


Wood: 2 sheets 5/8" hardwood veneer plywood, top grade (4' x 8'), e.g. birch veneer. Purchase precut from lumberyard per diagram, allowing ¼" for the cuts, as indicated by grey area.
Brass stripping: 3/4" x 1/16". Purchase precut if possible.
Brass wood screws: Flathead #6, 3/4", 4 per board
Sandpaper: 120 grade, several sheets



Electric sander - Radial saw - Electric drill - Bench vise
Drill bits: #6 Flathead screwdriver
#6 Combination drill bit/countersink. Have 2 or 3 drill bits on hand.
Bar clamps: 10" capacity, 2 clamps


Cost Of Materials Time
$200, depending upon local costs 5 hours planning
20 hours construction



  1. Mark the edge of the board where the brass will be attached.
  2. Except for the marked edges, sand all the edges and surfaces of the boards. (NOTE: For plain boards sand all the edges.)
  3. If precut brass strips are not available, cut the brass strips to the exact length of the boards with a radial saw.
  4. Measure and mark with a pencil the brass strip where the holes are to be drilled. The holes at the ends should be no more than ¼" from each end so that the brass is held securely in place. The remaining holes should be equidistant.
  5. Clamp a board in the bench vise with the marked edge up and position a brass strip so it is flush on the ends and projects equally on each side. Clamp the brass securely to the board with the bar clamps. (See diagram below.)
  6. Drill through the holes with the countersink/drill bit. Be careful not to drill too deep, or the countersink hole will be too large.
  7. Leaving the board clamped, screw in the wood screws. This goes faster using a screwdriver bit in the electric drill.
  8. Dull any sharp edges of the brass with the sander.
  9. Wipe the boards with a damp cloth to remove the sawdust


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