The beginning of the end

by katekbarber

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!

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