As a total ‘tool magpie’, I can’t easily choose a favourite tool. There are so many! The pointy tweezers and favourite bone folders and hefty squares and little straightedges… But the diamond-tipped engraving tool is what I use most for paper repair. This tool isn’t really my recommendation, as it was recommended to me by a friend, who had it recommended to her, but so it goes with good things.
Despite being predominantly a book conservator, I spend most of my time cleaning and repairing paper. As this tool is like a pen, it is easy to hold, moves fluidly around curves and creates intricate shapes with ease. Along with a lightbox or light sheet, this tool makes near-perfect infills. I use it to shape thin tissues for backing losses and supporting tears, and for shaping infills made from heavier tissues. Therefore, it works for nearly all weights of Japanese tissue. If needed, it can also be used like a needle to pick out a small curve or corner.
To use this tool, I place the paper to be infilled on a light sheet; then I place Melinex over the loss and hold the repair tissue in place. With the aid of light from behind, a lovely fill with neatly feathered edges is created. Depending on the tissue used, these may need to be trimmed back a bit. The result is quick and highly satisfying, as very complex shapes are easily created and slot beautifully into place.
Talitha Wachtelborn is a book and paper conservator at Lambeth Palace Library. She is currently working on the Sion College Collection of books from 1450–1850. Additionally, she is the chair of the London and South Region of the Society of Bookbinders and co-organiser of their International Bookbinding Competition.