Archive for April, 2007


This was the last box I made on the last day of class no less. I couldn’t believe how simple it turned out to be. It’s basically just a three-walled tray with a top. I had always wanted to know the secret of how the box was lined inside, and now I do. It was so obvious once Barbara told me. You line the box before you assemble it!

So, the steps to make a slipcase were:

  1. Cut the boards obviously, based upon the size of the book, adding in cloth thicknesses here and there plus board thicknesses here and there
  2. Line the boards with paper – be sure the grain of the paper runs in the same direction as the board, and glue up the paper not the board. The trick with this is to align the paper perfectly in one corner, so be sure its squared. This will leave an overlap of paper on two other edges.
  3. Sand off the overlapping paper. This is done by placing the board on a table and drawing the sander down along the edge. Doing it this way won’t change the shape of the box. The paper comes off very easily, leaving a clean edge.
  4. Glue as normal for a three-walled box.
  5. With the spine facing you, test fit the lid.
  6. Glue edges and place the lid on; fitting it to the spine first.
  7. Let sit with a board and weight on it.
  8. Line the outside of the box to hide the seams and give the box a better appearance. This lining is applied the same way as the lining paper. I’m not sure whether I used museum board or simply a heavy-weight paper to do this. All I can recall is that it was white. Hmmmmm.
  9. The book cloth is cut to fold around the box with the grain running from head to tail. It should have at least a 1/2 inch margin at the head and tail and 1 inch on the length.
  10. Cover the box with the cloth.
  11. Pinch the cloth at the head to create an extension of the corner seam and cut a straight line so that the spine and two sides are separated.
  12. Fold the two sides in on the top and find the middle.  Cut the middle line so that both sides meet equally.
  13. Trimming the head and tailFold the spine tab over the top and cut a triangle that runs from the outside corners of the spine to the middle line. This triangle should go through the two side pieces as well.
  14. Glue it all down and cut a piece of fabric to fit that will be slightly smaller to cover the top. This will hide the seams and give it a neater appearance.
  15. Trimming the cornersCut the corners on the fore-edge, like those on the three-sided box where there is a mirror image cut.
  16. Measure the shorter side to be turned in and trim the other pieces to match. This will give an even edge once it is all glued in. Presumably. I messed this up a bit, but that’s okay. It’s only my first slipcover. 🙂

Finished slipcase

So, I know this post wasn’t quite as descriptive as the others, but it’s meant to build on them and simply show the slight differences that this box requires. I didn’t take many photos because of this.

You might notice that I’m wearing a band-aid in one of these. It seems that I can’t avoid injury. This time I tried to crush my finger in the board cutter. How would that device crush it? Well, there is a pressure clamp that holds the board in place as its being cut, and I was trimming a thin piece that I wanted to keep square and didn’t realize I was going to clamp my finger until I started to. Oooops. The injury actually reminded me a lot of the time I slammed my hand in the car door as a teenager. Ah, such is life.

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Making a Clamshell Box

The main difference with the clamshell is that you create two three-walledtrays, one of which sits inside the other. The process for creating the trays is exactly the same in terms of how to measure and cut and glue together. There are some changes in the measurements where you add cloth thicknesses in and a dust strip in the case of the base, but the basic procedure is the same.

So for this, I began by using the book I was enclosing to measure the base. The base is then used to determine the measurements for the dust strip and the covering tray. The covering tray is used to determine the measurements for the case.

First cutsWhat’s really different is covering the trays. There are additional cuts that need to be made to the cloth because it is a three-walled tray. Like the four-walled tray, I made the angled cut on the longer walls, but in this case, the spine wall is open. So the angled cut is actually made to both sides of the corner, giving a mirror image.

Second cuts The next cuts are made at the top of the head and tail walls. You basically cut a straight line extending the edge of the board in each direction, but leaving about one board thickness. This is then where you make an angled cut.

Glued base tray This tray is then glued starting at the spine edge, then head and tail, and finally the fore-edge. Those extra cuts make sure that all of the corners are properly covered. At this point, we test fit our books to make sure that they fit. If not, it was time to start over. I made this box for one of the books that I completed in Bookbinding II, and I was happy to note it fit!

I’m afraid that I was rather lacking in the photo taking department for this box. But, these should give a basic idea of how it differs from the other boxes.  Anyway, after making the base, it’s used to measure for the cover. Once the cover is covered in cloth, that needs to be test fit over the base. Again, it was a nice fit. Making this box was like a dream. I couldn’t believe it.

Anyway, at this point, the cover is used to measure for the case. The case is cut and covered exactly the same way I did for the previous box. One thing I should point out is that mixture (PVC/methyl cellulose) was used exclusively in gluing the cloth to the boards. The main difference with this box is that scrap cloth is used to fill in the inside of the case as well as the outside baseboard of both trays.

CaseCovered Baseboard

The trays are then glued to the case using straight PVA. The larger tray is glued in first. This is done by centering it on the cover and making sure that the spine edges were flush. The hard part of this was that after the tray is glued in, we needed to have boards that fit the tray exactly and exceeded its depth. This was so that we could put it into the press. After it had pressed for at least 20 minutes, the smaller tray could also be glued in. For me, this meant creating a block from board cut especially to fit my tray. The book I was enclosing was so small that there weren’t any boards that fit the smaller tray/base.

Lining paperThe next step is applying the hinge. This too is done exactly the same as on the last box. Then lining paper is added. After that, it was time to add the dust strip.

The dust strip is a covered board that is added that fits inside the smaller tray creating an enclosed spine. This keeps the dust that always gathers on the top of everything, especially in my house, from getting to the book. Dust stripI found this part to be fun. With the book in the smaller tray, I test fit several boards to figure out which weight board to use that would fit the tray snuggly. For my box, I used 80-pt board for the dust strip.

The strip is cut so that it is slightly shorter than the height of the tray and slightly smaller than the height of the walls. The dust strip is then covered with cloth. The fun part is adhering it to the spine. You can’t simply eyeball it because it has to fit inside the smaller tray. So, you glue the back with straight PVA and lay it cloth side down in the smaller tray. (Yes, I removed the book first. 🙂 ) Then the spine of the case is folded up to meet the walls of the smaller tray and the dust strip is reversed onto the spine very carefully. Holding it in place, the spine is laid back down, so that the strip can be pressed into place. Yes, weights are applied.

Et viola, a finished clamshell. 🙂  I went with a plain cover.  An inset could have been added to the cover and that would actually be the last step.  I am really proud of this box and actually believe that I could make another. I think it fits my book beautifully.

Finished clamshell

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Casing a Tray

Laying out the caseCreating a case for a box is really just the same as you would do it for a book. You need a lid, base, and spine.

I measured a piece of cloth that would give me about a 1-inch margin all around. After test fitting it, I glued out the first board with mixture and applied it to the cloth. Using a spacerThen I placed my triangle along the top to ensure that I would lay all the pieces in a straight line. I had a two-board spacer that I placed next to the first piece before gluing the spine. The spacer ensures that enough space is left between the two boards so that the hinge will bend.

Basically, I glue all the boards first onto the cloth, flip it over carefully, cover with clean newsprint, and then rub each covered board with my bone folder to ensure that there are no bubbles.

Then it’s a matter of trimming the corners, and gluing down the turn-ins. This gluing usually starts with the head and tail. This is because you need to work the cloth into the hinges. Anyway, the corners are trimmed at about a 45° angle leaving a board thickness between the cut and the boards. Gluing inThis board thickness is needed to cover the corner neatly without creating too much thickness at the corners.

As the cloth is folded over the hinges, it’s important to use a bone folder to work it into the hinge. Also, I learned to try and pinch the corner triangle in slightly so that I wouldn’t create a really sharp corner. Pinching it in rounds the corner slightly and looks a lot nicer.

Depending upon the project the next step is either applying the hinge or filling in the case. Filling in the case simply means using additional bookcloth to cover the visible board. I can’t remember why this is important. Hmmmm.

Applying the hingeSo for this project, I applied a hinge. The hinge cloth is cut so that there is about 2 inches of cloth on either side of the spine that will be adhered to the boards. I always mark where to lay the hinge on one of the boards. The height of the hinge is usually slightly shorter than the height of the case. Cloth frays so you don’t want to have it go right to the edge, plus leaving it slightly shorter gives it a neater appearance on the finished product. To glue the hinge, you begin by applying it to one board, cover it with newsprint, and use the bone folder to smooth it on the board and work it towards the first hinge. Then, the bone folder is used to really work the cloth into the hinge and so on. By the time I reach the second board, I usually find that it doesn’t lay quite as evenly as I hope across them. But, as long as there’s about 3/4 inch, I know that it will be okay. 🙂

Adding ribbonsNext is deciding how the box will close. For this, I used bone clasps. This meant putting a ribbon on the top to hold the clasp and shut the box, as well as putting ribbon on the bottom. Adding ribbon means chiseling the board. So, next up was creating a jig to decide where the closure would appear on the cover. This would then dictate where the holes would go on the bottom.

For the top, I had to chisel two holes because I needed to create a loop. For the bottom, only one hole was needed. It’s important to use a chisel that’s the same size as your ribbon so that the holes will be hidden by the ribbon. Gluing the ribbonOnce the ribbon is threaded through and the length needed to close the box and hold the bone clasp in place is verified, the ribbon is trimmed. Then, I created channels in the board to hold the ribbon and glued them down with PVC.

After that I filled in the center of the uncovered board with spare bookcloth and glued the bottom to the box with mixture. This was then pressed. PressingI can’t remember if I left it overnight or for a half-hour or so. Longer is always better with pressing. It’s done to make sure that the boards adhere to each other and don’t warp. Barbara actually placed it in the press for me. She wanted to make sure that press was tight enough to ensure the boards would adhere, but not tight enough to collapse the wall of the tray.

The next step was gluing the spine to the tray and pressing it with a weight. After that was lining the cover and the base of the box. I chose to line the cover with cloth over board to give the top a neater look. The finished product turned out pretty well, I think. 🙂

Finished inside Finished outside

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Basic Steps

All boxmaking begins with the same basic steps:

  1. Knowing the size of the object to be boxed;
  2. Identifying the grain direction on the board;
  3. Rough cutting the board to a slightly larger size then needed;
  4. Squaring the board;
  5. Cutting the pieces for the initial tray;
  6. Gluing the tray;
  7. Sanding the tray where necessary;
  8. Cutting the covering material; and
  9. Covering the tray.

Depending upon the box being made, there may be more than one tray. For example, the clamshell has two. Regardless of this, one of the things that I came to love about making boxes is that all future measurements are based upon the previous steps. Did that make sense?

So, if you begin by measuring the object. The size of the tray is decided by the object. The size of the base/lid of a box is dependent upon the size of the tray, and so on. At each phase, you simply use the previous object to measure with. And, I do mean that literally. The only time I used a ruler for any of these projects was as a straight edge. I loved not making precise measurements, it made it simple.

Gluing upGluing the tray was done using straight PVA, waxpaper, a board, and a C-Clamp. You start by running a bead of glue along the head, positioning it against the board, and attaching the base. It’s important to make sure that the head wall doesn’t rise up during the gluing. So you press it down as you glue it. The board helps to keep everything in place and squared up. Next sideYou then turn the base to glue the next piece, which would be the fore-edge. You keep moving the base as you glue, until all pieces are in place. It’s important to remember to remove the excess glue that spills into the box as the pieces are adjoined. Once the sides are all glued, the tray sits until dry (about 5 minutes). You know it’s dry when the wax paper peels away with no trouble. Then it’s time to sand paper any rough edges and the corners to blend them better.

Measuring the paperOnce that is done, it’s time to measure and cut the paper/cloth to cover the box. I usually followed the same cutting steps as I did for the boards. To cover a box, we used a string to get the overall length of paper needed, and created a jig to measure the outside and inside of the walls plus about 1 1/2 for margins. You can see the string and jig in my box tray.

Adhering the tray cover differs with the type of material you use. With paper, you usually glue out the paper with paste. With cloth, you glue out the box using a mixture of PVA and Methyl Cellulose. Though how you apply the glue differs, the process is still the same.

Glue what you need to and then place the tray head- or tail-side down on the covering material. Be sure that there is at least a 3/4 turn in to be glued onto the base and about an inch to be turned on to the next wall; this can be eyeballed very easily as long as the base is facing you. After this initial placement, it’s a matter of rolling the box and gluing where necessary. It’s important to make sure that corners are tight. So I learned to put a little pressure on the box as I rotated it. Be sure to cut off any excess before gluing the last wall.

Gluing the bottom of the baseOnce the walls were covered, I used my bone folder to crease the bottom turn in on all sides. It can be hard to work with paper and do everything because it has to be entirely glued out before being applied. With cloth, you only glue the board that is currently being worked on.

I then cut the corners on the bottom so that there would be a neat seam. This was done by literally pinching the material together at the corner and then cutting from the bottom out. You should never cut from the corner in because you could actually cut the corner.

Cutting the cornersAfter this, it’s time to turn the paper inside the box. This requires making several special cuts that will allow the covering to turn in neatly and cover the corners fully. The cuts are made on the spine and fore-edge walls or on whatever are the longer walls, but it has to be opposite walls.

The first cut is made from the outside of the board to the end of the covering material. The next cut is made from the inside edge of that same board, but it begins a little further away. This creates a small sliver of material this is then cut away on an angle. This is done on all four corners on the long sides only! The result should look similar to the photo on the left.

Once these cuts are made, it’s time to glue everything down inside the box. Finished trayThe short walls are glued in first, and then the long ones. When it’s done, the corners are covered nicely, and there is about a 3/4 inch margin covering the bottom.

And that’s basically it for cutting and covering the tray. Whew!

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Creating Boxes

Well, this was a great class.  I feel that it really built on the traditional bookbinding skills and gave me much more experience.  I am so glad that I took it.  The instructor for this class was Barbara Mauriello.  She has her own studio in Hoboken that I’m looking forward to visiting some day and wrote a book, Making Memory Boxes, that I’m still waiting to arrive.  It’s no longer in print so you would have to use a used book dealer to find it.  My favorites for used books are Alibris and Powells.  Some of the boxes we made are in this.

One of the nicest things about this class was that Barbara had us do one project together and then worked with us to create different boxes.  So we all ended up making different versions of some of the same boxes, entirely different boxes, and making a different number of boxes based upon the complexity of each type. It was really fascinating.  Even if I didn’t make a particular box, I was able to observe my classmates and get an idea of how I could make that box in the future.

The basic steps for creating a box are the same no matter what type of box it is.  The cutting of the tray/case is exactly the same as if you were cutting the boards to bind a book.  The way a case is covered is also the same, so it’s very complimentary.  Like bookbinding, grain is extremely important.  The grain in the paper or book cloth that is used to cover the boards must run in the same direction as the boards.  Barbara was very good at getting me to learn that it’s easiest if the grain always runs head to tail on the boards.  I feel a lot more confident now about identifying the grain direction.  Yeah!

Anyway, I completed five boxes and have the boards, paper, and cloth to complete a sixth here at home.  I made a clamshell, a basic tray with cover, a cased tray with bone closures, a folding box, and a slipcase.  I was so glad that I got the slipcase in.  I’ve always wanted to know how it was done, and now I know!  I managed to slip that in on the last day.

Soooo, now it’s time to edit the photos and see what notes I can share.  Barbara was wonderful about providing handouts, so my note-taking was rather skimpy this time.  Be warned, future blog entries may not be as detailed as those in the past. 🙂

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Wow!  It has been a week.  I’m exhausted.  🙂 But, I’ve found that I really like making boxes. I’ve managed to complete three so far – a clamshell that I’m really proud of, a regular lidded box, and a box with a hinged lid that closes with bone clasps.  I have one more in progress, the pieces cut for another, and hope to squeeze a slipcase in as well.

I have to admit that I feel rather frenetic in class.  With box making, it seems that you always have to have more than one project going at once, because each can be in a different place.  So, I’ve often found myself at a loss as to what I’m supposed to be doing.

It’s also rather soothing.  There’s a pattern that you can fall into, especially with cutting.  I love cutting the boards.  Barbara has made it so simple for me.  Actually, cutting everything has become more simple.  She’s really taught me how to use the object to measure and be comfortable with it.

I will be posting about each of the boxes, but really, once you know how to create one box, you can figure out how to do others.  I don’t have a lot of photos this time because of that.  The steps are the same, but what you create can be oh so different.

I love my clamshell!!!!!!!

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A World of Boxes

I start my next class on Monday.  It’s another week-long adventure.  This time on making boxes.  Requires some of the same skills as bookbinding, but it can be very different.  I’m sure it’s going to challenge my cutting and folding skills.  I have an awful time cutting a straight line, even using a straight edge or the board cutter.  I don’t know why that is, but it’s true.  And boxes need straight lines, so this should be very interesting.

I’m looking forward to this.  It should meld well with what I learned in the conservation and preservation enclosures class.  I really wish they had offered the book repair class this spring/summer.  I so want to take that one.  I guess I’ll just have to wait and take it at the next opportunity.

Ah well.

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