Back in the dark days before pens carried their ink supply internally, a variety of cleverly designed traveling inkwells served dip pen users on the move. I’m not a dip pen user, but this little inkwell was just too cute to pass up, and once purchased, it cried for some restoration.
Fortunately, all its key components were present and in working order. Many older inkwells are missing their glass ink container and replacing that component is usually impossible. A Google search turned up many pictures of similar inkwells, and a common element seemed to be that their bottom and sides generally were leather covered. Mine was bare, but a metal rim seemed to suggest that it, too, had once had a leather cover.
More pressing was a general cleaning. Unlike most of the internet pictures, my inkwell has a soldered-on figure of a girl holding two large flowers. In addition to trapping much dirt over the years, this decoration had resulted in very uneven wear to the silver colored plating over the brass lid. I was unable to restore the lid and decoration to anything close to original appearance, but it is still quite attractive in my opinion.
Opening the lid, one discovers another lid which, when opened, reveals the glass ink container and the spring-loaded seal housed in the inner lid. That seal had once been covered by something like a coated cloth (oilcloth?), now mostly gone. A thin sheet of rubber, cut to fit, made a good replacement and sits firmly against the lip of the glass container.
Now the inkwell was functional and clean, but still needed its leather covering. I’m no leather worker, so, as an experiment, I selected some leather patterned microsuede cloth. I had on hand several different colors of this leather patterned cloth, and chose a silver/grey over more conventional brown. A circle slightly larger than the diameter of the inkwell was attached that to the bottom, with the edges of the circle wrapped a very short way, perhaps 1/16″, up onto the sides. A strip of the same material, cut to the height of the sides so that it would overlap the edges of the circle, wrapped completely around the cylindrical sides, meeting in the back in a flush seam. As in the pictures on the internet, the material was stretched over the pushbutton which, when pressed, releases the outer lid.
With the completion of the “leather” covering, the inkwell is restored and ready for use – if I ever carry a dip pen, that is…