Between the Pages

lessons, musing, & wonderings of a book artist

Moving on

The last few months have been crazy! I finished my thesis exhibition and defense (for more on the book), taught a case binding workshop, finished up two jobs, packed up everything into boxes, drove 1800 miles with two dogs, two cars, and a 22ft truck/trailer, took everything out of boxes, and now find myself settling into our new life in North Adams, Massachusetts. Since arriving, I have made all sorts of exciting book related connections in the community.

Last week, I helped out at the first DownStreet Art opening of the summer at PRESS (a local community letterpress space). It was a great event and was so wonderful to be welcomed into a new community of makers. I’m really looking forward to seeing how I can get involved. And then if that wasn’t enough over the weekend, I serendipitously met Peter Hopkins of Crane paper. For the past two years, Peter has been growing hops and has just opened a new tasting bar, which is where we met him. We tried all kinds of wonderful Vermont cheeses and wine. Of note, was the country’s best blue cheese, which was the smoothest, most delicious cheese you can imagine. I’m meeting with him tomorrow at the Crane Museum where he’s going to tell me more about what he does and Crane paper.

In the meantime, I’m working on setting up my studio so I can start working on a few projects. A few days ago I picked up with table at the local Goodwill for $13!?!?! I wish I had had the foresight to take a before shot, because let me tell you, that this table has been transformed from its rusted, cobweb-covered, gray wood laminate saddness into something pretty spiffy.

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The beginning of the end

A few weeks ago, we started our final binding in our elective course. This is a fine binding structure, and so far, it’s been an amazing overview, refresher, and expansion of all the processes I’ve learned over the my time here in the program.

Traditionally, fine binding structures are reserved for books with an overall higher level of quality—lush paper, quality printing, exceptional design, etc. Not having a surplus of handsome unbound text blocks myself, we were fortunate enough to be given a handsome letterpressed text block. Our first step was to unsew the text block and punch new holes for our sewing structure.

Here, the holes have been punched, the linen tapes are stretched on the sewing frame, and I'm working to line up the holes with the tapes.

Here, the holes are punched, the linen tapes are stretched on the sewing frame, and I’m working to line up the holes with the tapes.

Sewing started.

Sewing started.

Sewing complete.

Sewing complete.

With the sewing is complete, a PVA, methyl-cellulous mix is generously applied to a square spine. This is known as consolidation and will hold the structure together. It is necessary to do this prior to plowing for stabilization.

Plowing lines marked.

Plowing lines marked.

Text block is sandwiched between matte board—one board is cut exactly to size, the other is cut to size minus the amount to be trimmed off. In this shot, you can see how the text block is being held in the plow and I'm checking that the line is square and even.

While all three edges will be plowed, we start with the foredge. Here, the text block is sandwiched between matte board—one board is cut exactly to size, the other is cut to size minus the amount to be trimmed off. In this shot, you can see how the text block is being held in the plow, and I’m checking that the line is square and even.

Another shot of confirming the plow line is square and level in the press.

Another shot of confirming the plow line is square and level in the press.

It's also important to check that the press has been tighten evenly on both sides. This is done by marking the width of the gap on a sheet of paper and comparing both sides.

It’s also important to check that the press has been tighten evenly on both sides. This is done by marking the width of the gap on a sheet of paper and comparing both sides.

Once the foredge is plowed, the text block is rounded. Then the head and tail are plowed.

Once the foredge is plowed, the text block is rounded. Ideally, you want to plow the head and tail with the endsheets attached to the text block; however, the endsheet paper I ordered online did not arrive in time. So, I opted to move ahead with plowing, attaching the endsheets after.

My fancy paper finally arrived! A fine binding has a leather hinge. Here is a shot of the end sheet sandwich ready to be sewn to the text block.

My fancy paper finally arrived! Here is a shot of the endsheet sandwich ready to be sewn to the text block. A notable aspect of fine bindings is the use of a thinly pared leather hinge.

Now that the edges are plowed and the endsheets are ready, it’s time to put the two together. Knowing the endsheets would be sewn on later, I left the thread tales at the sewing start and finish long to give me excess thread to sew on the endsheets.

Next comes backing and then lining. The first of many is a japanese paper patch lining adhered with mix between tapes. It is important to adhere the first patch lining soon after rounding to stabilize the round.

Endbands are next! We learned a new sleek, bead-on-the-back endband for this book. Since first seeing this endband last year, I have been so excited to learn it! I love how modern and simple it is. Once they are sewn to satisfaction (I sewed mine twice to get them just right), more linings are added. The first is a linen lining. This is a linen strip cut on the bias, measured from shoulder to shoulder and extending beyond the head and tail. It is the final patch lining, meaning it doesn’t run over the tapes. Then comes a sand-able handmade paper lining, again running from shoulder to shoulder and extending head and tail. Once this is all completely dry and well bone-folded, it is necessary to even out the high points with a level sanding stick.

After sanding, my book required a second western lining…So if you're counting that's four linings!

After sanding, my book required a second western lining…So if you’re counting that’s four linings!

Trimming the endband cores.

Trimming the endband cores.

Cores cut!

Cores cut!

Time to deal with the boards.

For this binding, we were given the cadillac of fine binding board. We laminated two boards with a piece of colored bugra sandwiched between. Then we cut these boards to size on a guillotine and sanded them to a nice billowy shape. Here you can see the channeling marked.

For this binding, we were given the cadillac of fine binding board. We laminated two boards with a piece of colored bugra sandwiched between. Then we cut these boards to size on a guillotine and sanded them to a nice billowy shape.

Here you can see the channeling marked.

Here you can see the channeling marked.

Chisel in place to make channels.

Chisel in place to make channels.

Lacing the boards on.

Lacing the boards on.

Here you can see, the excess linings running beyond the head and tail has been trimmed inline with the endbands.  And the lining has been consolidated with paste and bonefolded to high polish.

With the boards attached, next comes refinement of the spine for the addition of a hollow. Here you can see, the excess linings (running beyond the head and tail) have been trimmed inline with the endbands, and the final spine lining has been consolidated with paste, bonefolded to high polish, and lightly sanded to near smooth perfection.

This is a one-on, two-off hollow. In this shot, you can see the one layer glued on the book. The first "off" layer is folded back and will be glued out.

This is a one-on, two-off hollow. In this shot, you can see the one layer glued on the book. The first “off” layer is folded back and to be glued out.


Second "off" layer has been folded back over itself, bonefolded, and gently trimmed with a fedling knife. Ta-dah! My first hollow.

Second “off” layer has been folded back over itself, bonefolded, and gently trimmed with a fedling knife. Ta-dah! My first hollow.

Lining the boards with a softish, sand-able machine made paper (like Johannot) and back cornering are the final pre-covering steps. More to follow soon!

Byzantine in-process

We finished up our amazing Byzantine bindings a few weeks back, and while I’m super happy with it, I did a really bad job of taking in-process photos. Below are the sequence shots that I can cobble together.

Sanding the wooden boards. Here we are sanding the spine edge of the board to create a soft rounded curve so that the board seamlessly blends with the spine.

Sanding the wooden boards. Here we are sanding the spine edge of the board to create a soft rounded curve so that the board seamlessly blends with the spine.

After the spine sanding, it's time to cut out sewing channels between the sewing holes on the boards. This channel should be between 2-3 thread thicknesses deep so that the thread will sit flush with the face of the board.

After the spine sanding, it’s time to cut out sewing channels between the sewing holes on the boards. This channel should be between 2-3 thread thicknesses deep so that the thread will sit flush with the face of the board.

With the channels complete, it's time to add a shallow zigzag channel (one thread thickness deep) between the sewing channels.

With the channels complete, it’s time to add a shallow zigzag channel (one thread thickness deep) between the sewing channels.

Here, the text block has been trimmed and been put between scrap board in the backing press. For this structure, the sewing stations are sawn-in rather than punched in a jig. This is so the sewing will sit down into a groove rather than sit up off the spine. When sawing into the spine, it is really important that the text block is even and square so the channels are an even depth and straight. Once I've confirmed that the text block is square, I can transfer the sewing station channels to the spine edge with a pencil and square. These marks will be used as sawing guides.

Now that the boards are ready, it’s time to prepare the text block. For this structure, the sewing stations are sawn-in rather than punched in a jig. This is so the sewing will sit down into a groove rather than sit up off the spine. When sawing into the spine, it is really important that the text block is even and square so the channels are an even depth and straight. Once I’ve confirmed that the text block is square, I can transfer the sewing station channels to the spine edge with a pencil and square. These marks will be used as sawing guides.

Sewing success! This structure has a unique sewing feature—The text block is sewn in two halves! In this picture, you can see that there are two loose threads at the spine edge. These are the ends of the two halves of sewing that will be woven around the opposite half to connect to the two sides of the book together.

Sewing success! This structure has a unique sewing feature—The text block is sewn in two halves! In this picture, you can see that there are two loose threads at the spine edge. These are the ends of the two halves of sewing that will be woven around the opposite half to connect to the two sides of the book together.

Once the book is sewn, a slight round and linen spine lining are added. Next comes plowing, which is essentially trimming down the text block to the board edge with a super sharp blade. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of this step.

Once the book is sewn, a slight round and linen spine lining are added. Next comes plowing, which is essentially trimming down the text block to the board edge with a super sharp blade. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of this step.

After plowing, the edge of the text block is silky smooth and begging for gorgeous endbands to be added! Here you can see the start of magic.

After plowing, the edge of the text block is silky smooth and begging for gorgeous endbands to be added! Here you can see the start of magic.

After 6 hours, the endbands are complete! All that's left is to cover this bad boy in leather.

After 6 hours, the endbands are complete! All that’s left is to cover this bad boy in leather.

Leather and book prepped and ready. You can see the special curved tongues cut out at the head and tail edges of the leather. These will allow the leather to open and shape around the endbands.

Leather and book prepped and ready. You can see the special curved tongues cut out at the head and tail edges of the leather. These will allow the leather to open and shape around the endbands.

A huge defining feature of this book, aside from the fancy endbands, is the elaborate cover decoration.  As you can see here, the tools used in Byzantine bindings contain a lot of metal. Unlike modern tools, where the patterns or shapes are positive, in Byzantine tools, the shapes are negative. Because the tools contain so much metal, tooling is done cooler than with more contemporary tools

A huge defining feature of this book, aside from the fancy endbands, is the elaborate cover decoration. Unlike modern tools, where the patterns or shapes are positive, Byzantine tools are negative and thus contain a lot more metal. As a result and to avoid burning the leather, tooling is done cooler than tooling done with modern tools.

Voila, Tooling done! I didn't take any process pictures of the straps and clasps, but for finished pictures, check out my portfolio site.

Voila, Tooling done! I didn’t take any process pictures of the straps and clasps, but for finished pictures, check out my portfolio site.

Late Coptic Structure

This semester I’m taking one elective course, a combined historic structures and fine binding class. Since historic structures are one of my favorite bindings to work on, I’m pretty excited to dive right in. We’ll be covering two models in the first half of the semester, a late coptic model and then a Byzantine model. Here are some in-process photos of my late coptic model.

papyurs

After laminating 8 layers of papyrus and leaving them for days between blotters and under weight, it was time to hand trim these bad boys.

I decided to use handmade paper left over from last summer for my text block. Once the paper was folded, nipped, and trimmed, it was time to punch my sewing holes. The sewing for this book is a link stitch sewn in pairs of holes, so an even number of stations is required. Because the book is small, we opted for two pairs or four holes.

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Because this is a sewn board binding, we started the sewing in the cover folio. Going from inside to outside, we work with four needles.

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Here you can see the first loop inside the cover folio.

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Here the needles are going from the cover folio into the first section.

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Next, the needles of each pair are crossed and exit the opposite hole in its pair.

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In this shot of the inside of the folio, you can see that the crossing creates two threads that pass between the pair of holes.

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Here, I’ve exited the first signature and am ready to go into the second signature.

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After entering the second signature, crossing the threads inside the signature, and exiting the other hole of the pair (….kind of confusing?), you loop under and around the bridge between the previous two sections, and tah-da, you have your first link.

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Moving right along!

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After sewing is complete, it’s time for consolidation.

I forgot to get pictures of the next few steps, but a linen spine lining came next. This was attached with pva/methyl mix and left to dry. After it was completely dry, it was time to sew the endbands. These endbands are much easier than they look….I think they look pretty fancy! They are essential just little loops. Like always, good and consistent tension is the key.

A big part of this structure is the cover design and embellishment. When I first heard that we were doing a late coptic model, I immediately wanted to do something inspired by the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain. I first learned about this amazing architectural wonder in an Islamic Architectural History course during my undergrad at Florida State. At the time, I remember being awe-struck by the patterning and embellishment, and it’s stayed present in my subconscious just waiting to sneak out in a project.
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This one ended up being the inspiration for my final design.

This one ended up being the inspiration for my final design.

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After several drafts, here is a drawing of my final design traced onto Japanese paper. This Japanese paper was then adhered with paste onto the back of the covering leather and will act as a template for my cutouts.

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Starting the cutout process.

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Cutouts and blind tooling on the back cover complete!

The next step is to address the colored leather layer that will sit behind the cut out. The colored sketch above shows how the color design will be broken up. Unfortunately, I didn’t get pictures of the piecing process. But basically, here’s the deal….I cut a piece of thin Japanese paper slightly larger than the area of the cutout and then placed this paper on top of my color coded template. Next, I selected three good sized pieces of colored leather and paired them on the Scharf-fix to an even thinness. Then, I cut and pieced them into shapes based on my color-coded template, pasted them out, and adhered them to the Japanese paper, butting the colors up to each other.

Here's the cover with the pieced layer adhered and the stitching started.

Here’s the cover with the two pieces adhered and the stitching started.

Most of the stitching is done here and I've started to add a metallic decorative stitching.
The color in this photo is really washed out, but you can see that most of the stitching is done after almost a whole Saturday of work!

We’ll be covering this little guy next week and I can hardly wait to see it all come together!

Hurdle One Done!

cut paper

Yesterday marked the first big mile marker of my thesis….I finished making my paper. After six weeks of work (over 90 total hours) I have roughly 400 large sheets of paper. When I crunched the numbers, I figured that each sheet has about 14 minutes of total labor invested, and when you figure that each final book will likely consist of 4 sheets…that’s an hour of time I’ve already invested into each book, and I haven’t even started printing, cutting, and binding!

Cutting them down and printing on them is slightly daunting and exciting considering the upfront investment in paper making, but I decided to jump in. Since I haven’t figured out what I’m doing yet (more to come), I decided to start by cutting the deckle off two of the four sides to make the sheets square. This will allow me to cut the sheets to size more efficiently now that they are starting out square. Having this first cutting step done is a big hurdle. Just these two sides took nearly 5 hours. Cutting is one step of the book making process that never gets much attention but take a significant amount of time. It also happens to be one of my least favorite steps because it’s so permanent…I think they are still working on installing a control z feature on the board sheer.