Archive for March, 2007


Inside cover before end papersBefore adding cover paper, we lined the front of the cover with a piece of paper, attached with PVA, so that the cover paper would meet the leather on an equal plane. The cover paper was added using paste.

Looking at the inside of my cover, you can see that the cords were shredded and glued down. I could have chosen to line the inside cover as well to hide/disguish the bumps made by the cords more, but I chose not to. I used Canson paper as my end paper and that is heavy enough that I don’t really notice the cords at all. You can also see how the leather stained the blotter paper inside – a good reminder to have wrapped the pages in saran wrap.

Adding the end paperAdding the end paper was different than I remembered. What was the same was making sure to fold the paper along the grain. You always want to glue things with the grain running in the same direction, preferrably the length of the spine. This keeps things from buckling. Anyway, for these books, we folded the paper and then figured out what the curve of our spine was. We needed to do this so that we could create the curve (the shoulder) in the fold of our end paper. I basically guessed and used my bone folder to create a small fold. The first step is then gluing just the fold to the paper using PVA to set it quickly. I almost forgot to remove my waste paper (remember the MBM I added to help create spine space) before gluing.

End paper on coverOnce that is dry, the end paper is glued to the cover using paste with a little bit of PVA just at the inside edge. Using my bone folder, I tried to make sure that the paper also entered the fold slightly. Once the paper is glued, I set it with a board and weight for 10 minutes or so to give it time to adhere. It has to adhere before closing the cover to cut the paper to the right width on the other side so that the inside spine won’t become wrinkly. Unfortunately, I rushed to do this in class and didn’t give the one side enough time. Therefore, this poor book has one wrinkly side and one good side.

Finished end papersOnce the cover was dry, I closed it, and flipped the book over to measure and cut the inner paper. You want to keep the cover as closed as possible when doing this so that the inner end paper will match the width of the first sheet of the book. These don’t have to be fully glued together, just halfway or only at the foreedge. I haven’t actually done this yet, and I’m not sure that I will. I like how it looks now.

To finish the book, I have to give the spine a paste wash and then wax it. The spine should then be waxed every couple of years to keep it in good shape.
Finished book - cover shotFinished book - spine shot

I really learned a lot from the class and enjoyed it immensely. I hope to make a couple more books like these before my sabbatical is over. We’ll see. Making the other book was quite similar to this process, so when I blog about that, I’ll most probably focus on the differences.

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Before attaching the boards, we temporarily attached a piece of MBM paper to the first sheet. This helped to create a space for the spine so that the covers would open.Attached boards

Attaching the boards was done very simply for this book. I used my awl to punch holes about 1/2 in from the edge and simply threaded the cord through. Before I threaded the cord, I trimed the inside around the holes to make it slightly flatter. Once the cords were threaded through, I shredded them and pasted them to the inside cover. You may see the wax paper on the inside. This is a cheap way to keep the glue from adhering to the pages. After the cords are glued on the inside, I hammered them to flatten them and the holes I created with the awl.

Next up was attaching the leather to the spine. We used goat leather for this book, and I found it really easy to work with. Pasting leatherBecause we wanted the leather to really mold itself to the cords, we wet it first. After it dried for a few minutes, it was time to paste it out. I learned that you always use paste with leather, never PVA.

For myself, I always mark on the boards where I want the spine cover to go. This makes it easier for me to place it correctly. To cut the leather, I used the width of the spine, plus 2 inches on each side to cover the boards, plus 3/4 inch on the top and bottom. Attaching it is like attaching any other spine cover, except that it’s a lot easier to work with and can be removed much more easily if you make a mistake. The important thing was to attach it just to the spine at first. This makes it easier to fold down the top and bottom margins. These margins have to be attached to the boards and fold over the leather itself in the spine behind the headband. Once the margins were folded in, I continued to attach the leather to the boards by pressing it out over the boards. Once this is done, you kind of roll the end of the spine on the table to fold the spine slightly over the headbands.  It’s important with this step to make sure that the boards are fitted within the curve of the spine before wrapping it.  The leather is going to tighten as it dries and you don’t want the boards moving over the spine.

PressingAfter the spine is glued, I put blotter paper against the wet side with a tin liner underneath it. The tin keeps the shredded cords from becoming embossed on the paper. I didn’t want to emphasize the cords, so I just used my hands to make sure that the leather covered them and attached to them. To really emphasize them, you could wrap a string around the cords when you were ready to press it. To press this book, we wrapped them with ace bandages and put a weight on top. This allows the leather to dry more quickly.

One step that I left out of this process was wrapping the pages of the book with saran wrap. That should be done before the spine goes on. It should actually be done before the cords are attached to the boards. This is done to keep the leather dye from running into the pages.

The book is almost complete.

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Sewing the headbands

PremarkingWe choose two colors of thread to make the headbands and used two #3 darning needles. Headbands need to be sewn either at the kettle stich or below it. For the first band, I chose to prepunch the holes using the same holes used for the kettle stich. I thought this would make my life easier, alas, it did not. 🙂 The little slips of paper you see sticking out mark the center of each signature. To sew the headbands, the book is placed upright in a press and tipped toward you for easier working.
First stichesI found sewing these to be really difficult and ended up with blisters on my thumb and index finger. I think it would get easier with time and after my hands toughen up a bit. Perhaps going back to the guitar will help with that. Anyway, the first thread, in my case, the gold one starts the sewing by going out through the spine from the first signature and wraps over. The second thread then goes out just beneath the lining and wraps around the outside. Pattern emerging
I wish that I could describe this better. The second thread, the green one, is used to anchor the gold. The way they wrap around each other forms a bead on the inside of the band. The second time the gold thread would go over the band, I would hold it taught on the left side. I would then take the green thread over the gold, go out under the band and then over the top again, forming a new loop over the band and tying the gold down. The same pattern was repeated with each color change.
I did much better with my second headband than I did the first. I found that prepunching the holes did not help. I think part of the problem was that I didn’t trim this book after gluing, so my kettle stich was a lot further down in the book than it otherwise would have been. Also, rounding the spine, made it a lot harder to find the holes again.
Finished headbandAnyway, every couple of stiches, it’s important to go through the signature again to anchor the band to the book and to help shape the band to the book.
Once the headbands were sewn on each end, we cut and pasted MBM paper over the spine in the same manner that we had the japanese tissue paper. This helps to even out the spine and cover the new sewing before the leather is attached.Pasting again

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Gluing the spine before roundingRounding the spine was done similarly with both books. Before rounding, we glued the spines with PVA. This strengthend the spine and helped it to hold the bend. In this case, we made sure that the glue did not cover the cords.

After the glue dried slightly (wasn’t tacky), I used a hammer to round the spine initially on the table. Again, I wish I had a photo of this to show. Hammering is done on an angle moving the outside of the spine away from you. It’s important to flip the book periodically to hammer both sides equally. After this initial hammering, the book is placed spine side up in a press. I think it’s called a job press. Hammering continues on the press until you have the bend that you want.

Gluing paper and headbandsThe next step is gluing japanese tissue paper to the spine. This can be done in the press or an a table with a board and block. In this case, it’s important for the paper to not cover the cords. Therefore, we cut the paper to the size we needed, glued the paper, and then placed it on the spine. Cutting the paper to the right size was made easier by having the punching jig on hand. I used my microspatula to ease the paper under the cords. After the tissue paper was applied, we attached the headband lining and let it dry overnight.  Susan had premade the headband linings from the japanese paper and velum.

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As with any book, we started this one by creating the signatures. For this one, we had 20 that we sewed. To make the sewing easier, we created jigs to punch the holes in each signature before doing the actual sewing. This aligns the holes. Sewing the spine To punch the holes, we could either do it using a holder, which keeps the fold centered or just use a board and let the corner of the board guide the punch. Once the holes were punched, we used a #1 darning needle and #18 thread to sew. Sewing this particular book involved “packing the thread.” This meant wraping the thread around the cord, which increased the size of the spine. This also emphasizes the cords when the leather is placed over the spine. Wrapping the cord A regular kettle stich is done to join the signatures together at the top and bottom of each starting at the third one. It was important to alternate which way the wrap went to make sure that the cord would be covered and to keep it centered over the punched holes. I wish it were possible to take photos while sewing, but alas, I could not.Finished sewingAs with any book project, additional thread was added using the weaver’s knot. In this case, the knot was done inside the signatures. This was so that we wouldn’t create additional bumps on the spine that we wouldn’t want the leather to show off.

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Photos in Process

Well the class ended yesterday, and it was a great experience.  I learned a lot, and I love the books we made.  I finished pasting the end-paper into the smaller book last night after I got home.  So, technically, I only managed to finish one book during class time. 😉  In reality, neither book is completely finished.  I have to give the leather spines a “paste wash” and wax them.  I hope to get to that in the next few days.

The bad news is that one of my cats, Charlie – an absolute love, was just diagnosed with cancer today.  He’s so far gone in fact that we’re not sure if he’ll be coming home tomorrow or ever.  So, I’m feeling pretty awful just now and don’t really have the energy to crop and work on my photos right now.

I’ll work on them within this next week and get them posted with explanations of what steps we were doing and which book was which.

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Working with Leather

Well, I cut and pared leather today.  It made me really nervous just to cut it.  Luckily, when I put a huge hole in the leather, it was a piece I was practicing on and not my actual piece.

We used two different kinds of leather – goat and cow.  I only finished putting the spine on one of the books we’ve been working on.  So, tomorrow will be a huge day.

Anyway, I had a lot of trouble paring the cow.  Susan said that it was most probably because of where it came from on the cow — not something I want to think about.  I had no problem with the goat.  It was a dream, but it left my hands stained brown, and no matter how much I wash, I can’t get it out of the creases of my hands.  I even bathed Alessandro, and my hands are still brown.  Note when working with leather – wear grubbies. 🙂

Paring the leather was done using a tool called a Shar-Fix.  It clamps onto the table and holds a blade.  Under the blade, which can be angled as well as raised and lowered, is a roller to feed the leather through.  It was a little tricky to get the hang of it.  You have to keep tension on the leather, but not too much because you don’t want it to stretch too much.  You also have to make sure that you pull the leather downwards on both sides of the roller.  If you raise it, you’re more likely to tear it or put holes in it.

It was actually very easy to attach the leather to the book and was a lot easier to work with than paper or bookcloth.  It can be picked up and replaced without any problem.  The hardest part was folding it into the hollow tube spine.  My mistake in doing that was in attaching the leather to both the boards and the spine before I folded it.  Removing it from the boards made it easier.

This whole experience has caused me to go back and dig out a book I read years ago A Degree of Mastery: A Journey Through Book Arts Apprenticeship.  It’s a wonderful book about one woman’s experience in becoming a bookbinder and conservator.  I was reading it on the train home tonight and came across this passage:

“A spacer strip of cord is glued down on what will become the inner edge of each board. This will be removed after the leather cover of the book has dried and will keep the hinge area from becoming too tight as the leather shrinks and dries on the book.” (Wilcox, p. 34)

Now I really understand what that means, only we used museum board cut to the same width as our board.  And, I understand why we did it.  I didn’t ask when we did it ’cause I was just like – “Working with leather – cooooooool”

I can’t believe tomorrow is the last day of class.  I’ll most probably bring home one finished book and one mostly finished that I’ll be able to complete here at home.  Now, I know why our syllabus changed from three books to two.  🙂

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