Friday, 22 February 2013

Restoring a Warped Wisden's Shove Ha'penny

The Wisden's Board, fully restored (other than the warping)

Buying old Shove Ha'penny boards like the one shown here will often lead to a certain amount of careful restoration, which is of course part of the appeal. Usually this involves nothing more than a light rub down with wire wool to remove staining and smooth the surface, followed by a modest polish-up with something wax based. This Mahogany Wisden's board was bought online as part of a job lot, and coming as it did with a few unforeseen problems, needed a little more attention to bring it back to a playable condition.

Prior to restoration, showing the bracing baton fixed where it shouldn't be at the top end of the board.

The first major issue with the board was a quite serious warp on the diagonal, such that it was on the verge of being unplayable. Straightening a piece of old Mahogany like this can be a difficult task. Once the fibres of the wood have expanded, usually due to exposure to damp, they can't be made to contract again so your only hope is to try and expand the fibres on the opposite side. After several attempts involving a good soak on one side and the application of weights, I managed to straighten the board to some degree, but it's never going to be an entirely flat Shove Ha'penny.

At some point, this board appears to have been modified, though for what purpose I don't know. The crescent of the stop bar, which contains the carved recesses for chalk and coins, would have originally been located flush with the end of the board. For reasons unknown this had been moved down by a couple of inches, and the wooden baton used to brace the board against the edge of a table had been removed from underneath and fixed in the gap which resulted.

The rear of the board has had a wide hole drilled towards the top, presumably so the board could be hung on a wall. Perhaps this provides the answer to the other modifications. Removing the bracing baton would enable the board to sit flush with the wall, so perhaps this board had become a purely decorative item, possibly as a result of the warping.

Moving the stop crescent back to its original position would have left a number of unsightly holes at the top end of the playing surface, so I decided to leave it there, re-fit the bracing baton in its original position underneath the front of the board, and fabricate a new Cribbage style scoring board to fit in the gap at the top of the board. A score board like this wouldn't usually be needed for a game of Shove Ha'penny, but there are one or two scoring games which can be played on the board by numbering the beds from 1-9 with chalk.

In common with my other (flatter) Wisden's Shove Ha'penny, the playing surface has polished up to be exceptionally smooth, and the remaining warp doesn't seriously affect play.

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