Pro Bono Work

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I am going to post of few of my Pro bono projects of late, of which the one taking about a week to complete was the recent Furniture Repairs.  Most of the repair down time was waiting on the Titebond Ultimate III glue to dry and being retired, I try not get in too big of a hurry......grin if you must!

Over the decades, I have done a number of projects for others and don't any of them just jump out right off the top of my head.  Back during my archery tournament days, when our eldest Daughter Laura was shooting competition archery, I made numerous overdraws out of aluminum angle and flat bar stock for our own archery equipment and others in our City Lake Archery Club.  About all that was termed Pro bono which is a Latin phrase with the only payback being a Thank You and the self satisfaction of doing and/or inventing something useful.

Last month, I received an email from Paige Myers, Textile Conservator at the North Carolina Museum of History desiring a couple mother of pearl inlays cut that would be fitted to a sewing box that she had commissioned Matt Neal, also in Raleigh, NC to do for her.  Below is a copy and paste of her email:


Hello.  My name is Paige and I work at the NC Museum of History as a textile conservator.  I found your website on the internet and was wondering if you would like to do a small job for me.  Or, if not, point me in the right direction of someone who could.  I volunteer with several different historic sites in NC and give presentations (usually to school children) about textiles and clothing in 18th and 19th century NC.  One of these programs I am developing is "a ladies sewing box", teaching folks what tools a lady would have used to sew clothing and do embroidery.  I have someone who is making me a reproduction of an 18th century sewing box out of cherry with some wood inlay strips and a lock. The keyholes usually had a bone or mother of pearl escutcheon and possibly some other mother of pearl inlay work as well.  The person who is making my box has never worked with mother of pearl and is not comfortable cutting it.  I only need two pieces, one diamond or shield shaped with a keyhole
cut in it and an oval or diamond shape for the top of the box as decoration.  I am including a few pictures of original boxes so that you can see what I am talking about.  Is this something that you are able to do?  I will happily pay what it costs for materials and labor.  You may contact me at the number or email below.  Thanks so much for your time.

I contacted Paige via email and agreed to do the inlays for her.  In the meantime, she contacted Matt Neal who sent me a brass escutcheon to get the key hole size opening I needed to cut into the mother of pearl diamond.


Below is a pix of the top of the lid:

With the mitered pieces and inlay, the lid takes on a serious 3D look for sure.


Matt and Paige requested a large diamond 2.5 inch in length x 1.5 inch in width and had some mother of pearl blanks that would barely get that size diamond.  Cutting even sided pieces such as diamonds, any small discrepancy will quickly manifest itself.  I no longer have a pantograph or lapidary saw to make such precise cuts, but had to free hand cut them with a jewelers saw blade using a stationary Delta model scroll saw.

Above is pix of the layout of the large center diamond and the elongated diamond shape for the escutcheon.  I have the mother of pearl random size blanks glued to a substrate material of balsa wood which is strong enough.  Using the backing material aka substrate, allows you to maneuver the material into the jewelers saw blade to affect the cutting.  I have the entire technique of this procedure in my banjo construction pages.  Back when I did musical instrument inlays in the late 1960s until around 1979, I did not advertise the procedure I used to manufacture reproduction pre-war musical instrument inlays, mainly Gibson Mastertone banjo designs.  Now, most all such inlays are done with CNC machines taking the artist touch from the person.

The above mother of pearl escutcheon with the key hole cut out, ready to remove the paper cutting pattern and the mother of pearl from the balsa wood backing substrate.

There was a good amount of sanding and hand filing with die makers needle files to fine tune the key hole shape in the escutcheon and truing the parallel edges of the diamond shapes.

I sent the two diamond shapes to Matt Neal and he will later send me pixs of the finished sewing box.  I contacted Paige and told her there was no charge for the items.  There was a good hour or more of labor involved, not to mention the cost of the large mother of pearl blank material.  I told her to just mention my name if anyone asked about the inlays and that was payment enough for me. 


While visiting the Lord George Anson Antiques here in Wadesboro, NC, Ralph Henry Coble, proprietor talked me into doing a repair job for him.  He offered to pay, but I declined to accept any payment!

The above antique tea storage box priced as $ 450.00, had a shield pattern ivory inlay covering up the key hole, of which someone added it later, covering up access to the locking device.  We popped the inlay from the box and Ralph wanted me to cut a hole into the ivory piece for the key to fit the locking device. 

This should have been a fairly easy job, but sometimes things are not as easy as they look.  I needed to drill the hole out of the center of the ivory shield which was going to be around .200 inches.  I center punched the ivory which broke into three pieces, therefore that part was no longer useable.

I glued the broken ivory shield back together and placed it on a piece of the mother of pearl board, scribed around it and then headed to the drill press.  I drilled a small pilot hole to begin with and then increased the hole size to around .200 inches in diameter.  I then, drew the lower portion of the key hole slot with a fine point Sharpie and headed to the Delta scroll saw.

The shield pattern was not perfect to begin with and didn't want to bugger up the existing hole that was roughly routed where the original metal escutcheon was located.  I sanded and shaped the shield to fit the existing hole that had filler around the ivory shield and it fitted fairly close.

Above mother of pearl shield escutcheon ready to be glued in place and will be delivered to Ralph Henry Coble, waiting for a new home with someone having "deep pockets" or a long coat tail!

Years ago, maybe decades, I did a similar repair to an antique letter box owned by Ralph, of which I made an oval shaped mother of pearl escutcheon key hole cover.  The letter box had an inlay of some type missing in each corner.  I used tracing paper to match the existing routed cavity and cut and inlaid the four missing corner inlays which were tear drop shaped if my memory is correct.

My "cup of tea" is building things, not doing repairs.  Murphy's Law never sleeps!

Web published by Bill aka Mickey Porter on 04-25-17.


I delivered the above tea and sugar storage box to Ralph on 04-29-17 and he was very pleased.  I promised him I would install a metal escutcheon key cover on a beautiful antique tool chest and carried a few hand tools with me.  Ralph had several brass finish metal escutcheons in the shape of a regular elongated key hole and it wasn't a problem to fit one.  Only had to drill the round hole larger and make the elongated keyway a little larger.  We applied some epoxy glue to the escutcheon, C clamped it and allowing it to cure out before he reinstalls the locking device.  

When I finished with the tool chest, he stuck some money in my shirt pocket and I told him there was no charge for what I did.  If you know Ralph Henry Coble, he doesn't take No for an answer.  He said to take Joyce aka my bride out for a nice dinner and I plan to do so.  I can see those "beautimous" grilled ribeye steaks on our plates as I type.

I plan to go back to Lord George Anson Antiques sometime in the future and do a short story on Ralph and his business.  There is something for everyone in his shop; just be sure and have deep pockets for some of the items, since he has some wonderful "high dollar" antiques for sale.  There are reasonably priced antiques in his shop as well for us shallow pocket folks.....grin if you must!

Ralph and myself sat on the front porch and chatted for a good while going back in time on various subject matter.  He allowed me to pick through a large box of mailing labels, composition notebooks, etc. to bring home with me at no charge.

Web published update by Bill aka Mickey Porter on 04-29-17.


If you do not know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, please take this moment to accept him by Faith into your Life, whereby Salvation will be attained.   

Romans 10:9 “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”

Open this link of Bible Verses About Salvation, King James Version Bible (KJV).

Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;”


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