Thursday 24 July 2008

Rat skins, competitions and the Man Booker awards.

As promised, the Rat Skins.

Cute are they not ?

Along with the usual stuff that happens in Studio 5 I have been working on a competition book ( The first comp in ages). The title is 'Water' and is basically a collection of images and words connected with.......wait for it..........water.
I would love to show you the images, but I think I may be breaking the rules if I did. I will show you later.

Other news from the studio.....

I am one of this years Man Booker binders. For those of us who are new to all of this the Man Booker is as follows;

Towards the end of the year there is an award ceremony for the good and the great in the world of literary wonderfulness at some swanky venue in London town. Each one of the six finalists receives a designed binding of their tome. It is sponsored by the Man Group and was started ( I think) by the Booker Group, hence the Man Booker awards. Simple. As things develop I will keep you up to date. The long list is out at the weekend if you are really keen.

Oh yes, I am off to Japan for a few days.... work and family.

Thursday 17 July 2008

A book of Rats.

I must admit that this subject is not one of the most popular and may even raise the odd eyebrow.

It all starts with my Father. He lives in the country in a rambling Strawberry Hill Gothic house. A lovely place. Being in the country he has a shot gun, a Darn (French) 16 bore, a top piece of kit.

One of the reasons for the shot gun, along with providing food for the table is to keep vermin down. I realise that in the right areas rats have their place, often making good companions. I think it would be safe to say that anyone who lives in the country or has had to live with an infestation of rats may offer a different opinion.

After a couple of nights out my father managed to bag a number of the rodents. He skinned them, and tawed them (an ancient method of curing skins- similar to tanning)

All of this and a text about rats was then placed in my lap, with instructions to do something with them. I love a challenge.

Sunday 13 July 2008


For my next book I shall be mainly using Rat Skin.
I will explain more in the next blog.
It is a long and exciting story.

Friday 11 July 2008

Magic Books From Mexico is finished.

Magic Books From mexico is finished.
A full hand dyed leather binding with on-lays and in-lays.

Detail of the back board.

Detail of the front board.

Leather jointed end-papers and doublers.

Tuesday 8 July 2008

Beneath The Skin - One Technique Of Binding Part 2

Part 2.

For those of us who are late joining the demo please start at the previous blog entry.

We begin with board attachment. The trad way of doing this involves the making of holes or slits, much fraying out of tapes, de-lamination of boards and much hammering.
It must also be noted that in the trad context the end bands are worked after the boards have been laced-on, this involves a lot of extra work and in my opinion, can be a waste of time.

Back to the plot.

Boards are cut to the correct size, squares and the like. Tabs of water colour paper, about 0.5mm thick, 2-3cm long and the same depth of the boards are glued to the spine edge of the boards ( 2 per board equally spaced)

The boards are put in to position, equal squares at the head and tail - the fore edge will look after itself. I use a number of different methods of ensuring that the boards are in the correct place, you could find your own !

To ensure a good bond, the Fray not and board is covered with a sheet of water colour paper 200gsm -240gsm using PVA. To counter the pull I always use archival kraft paper to the inner board. Tins are inserted, the whole is then press till dry.

Detail of how the tabs help keep the fore edge square and the all important space between the spine edge of the board and the shoulder.

We now turn our attention to the spine area. A leather skirt is glued to the head and tail of the spine. the skirt goes over the end bands and down the spine for some 3cm, the ears are trimmed in line with the end bands. the leather thickness is determined by the size and weight of the book. the bigger the book the thicker the leather has to be. This is due to the number of folds in the hollow. the larger the book, the more folds are required to offer the correct support eg; 2 on 1 off or 3 on 1 off. I make the hollow off the book and trim to fit between the skirting.

Please excuse the fluff. Detail of the skirting and the hollow, in this case 2 on 1 off. Please note, I have not had to load the spine with layers of paper and then sand it smooth to cover the problems of sewing on tapes or flat cords. This method ensures that the book ... wait for it .... OPENS.

The final spine lining is a laminate of manila and 200gsm water colour paper. this is cut to fit the spine width ways and a few centimeters longer that the full height of the spine.

This spine piece is adhered to the hollow only and worked over with the bone folder. I then secure the book in a finishing press and wrap the whole lot in an elasticated support bandage until dry.

Once dry, the boards can then be sanded to the desired finish. Remember to wear a good face mask for this.

The spine is then sanded. This is important as there may be one or two very small lumps and bumps that may not be required. Please note that the height of the spine piece has been marked up. It is easier to cut the spine piece to the correct height through the sanded spine thickness than the manila - water colour laminate.

The last thing to do before the covering is back cornering. Just cut through the fray not for 3cm at head and tail, insert ruler and make a beveled cut using a straight bladed knife.

Simple stuff eh ?

Experience is a wonderful thing and can only be gained through practise. As I am sure you can realise, I have missed out a lot of the small details and numerous tips and tricks.

This is only one way and it works for me and the Studio 5 members. It may not work for you. If you would like to now more...join one of our work shops.

Failing that, I am to give a class for the Designer Bookbinders/Society of Bookbinders early next year... Check out the S O B web site (see links) for details.

Beneath The Skin - One Technique Of Binding

I have just realised that I have offered lots of images of how I cover books, decorative techniques and the like. However that is only half the story. What happens beneath the skin is as important, one could argue more so as the structure of the book must be sound. By that I mean that if the structure is defective, it does not matter what the finished look of the book is like as it will either not function correctly and in some cases fall apart.

I would like to offer an introduction in one of the methods of making a book employed in studio 5. I apologise if some of the terminology is unfamiliar and that I take for granted that you will have some existing knowledge. You could always go to my web site to find out about the work shops I run.

The binding we shall be looking at is in 1/4 leather with leather jointed made end papers. Other areas we shall be looking at will be end banding, Manhattaning, 3/4 hollow and secondary sewing.
Here we go..........

We will take it that we have made our hooked on end papers, trimmed to size with waste sheet. Good sewing is the key to book binding, as this book is to be rounded and backed the correct thread must be chosen to achieve the correct swell. I use a micrometer to measure the section and thread thickness (to explain this aspect would take some time and space, perhaps I will do a separate blog on it later) The marking of the sewing positions is done with a Gabarit de Grecquage. I always mark up the text block with a point line...never a pencil as the graphite will make the thread, hands and the text block dirty.
I tend to use an unsupported link stitch as apposed to tapes or cords as this reduces the amount of lumps and bumps on the spine area.

Once sewn, the text block is knocked up to head and spine and placed in a finishing press with working boards. The working boards are beveled to wards the spine edge to accommodate the swell. The spine is glued up with a mixture of PVA and paste.

Once the adhesive is dry, we move on to rounding and backing.

The text block is released from the press and the working boards and the spine dampended. This is to make the adhesive pliable whilst still bonding the sections together. The spine is gentle moulded with a hammer to produce a round. This has to be done with care as the sections can be damaged with careless blow with the hammer. I must add that I only use this technique with a text block that has a deckle edge, otherwise I would use a roller.
The depth of joint is marked on the shoulder, the text block is then ready for backing.

The text block is placed in the laying press between backing boards. I use a French press with French backing boards as I find it easier than the two screw press and trad backing boards. The depth of joint marks made earlier should only serve as a guide as the text block has a natural swell. The sections are gently manipulated with a hammer, again great care must be taken to achieve the correct shape.

When the spine is correct it is allowed to dry in the backing press.

On removal from the backing press the text block is placed between the working boards and the shoulders worked over with a bone folder. This important as it crisps up the shoulder shape. Next comes the first of the spine linings.

The first of the linings is Fray Not, glued to the spine With PVA. This is a light weight but very strong fabric. It is important to remember that the choice of the fabric is crucial to the size, the end use of the book and weight of the text block. For larger books I would use Aero Linen, I have even used old linen hospital sheets ! Experience is the only answer.

Next is secondary sewing, we use this technique a lot in Studio 5, it is a top thing. I am sorry, this aspect of the structure is difficult to explain. The fabric is sewn on to the text block, in this case, the first two and last two sections. If the book is larger then the first and last three sections along with some in the middle. The thread used for the secondary sewing should be either the same as the initial sewing or thinner. Coloured thread can be used to match the end banding.

The Fray Not is pinked in to a semi circle.

End banding, enough said. There are so many ways, so many cores just so much. This particular example is a single round core, sewn with a Japanese silk in a single colour. Once the end band has been set with PVA, I tape it in place with a low tack craft tape (masking tape) to let it dry following the shape of the spine. The ends of the core are then trimmed and set with PVA.

Board attachment. In the trad context this involves lots of holes or slits, lots of lacing on, delaminating. The lecture will continue tomorrow.

Sunday 6 July 2008

More of Magic Books From Mexico

At last the outer of Magic Books From Mexico is complete ( I think )

There may be a few tweaks before the book is put to bed but in the main I am happy. is it bad form to like ones own work ? I do not think so.

Detail of the back board.

Detail of the front board.

Wednesday 2 July 2008

Magic Books From Mexico

Having put in the leather joints and in-filled the boards I can set about tooling.

The lines are first 'blinded in' with a hot brass tool, with the colour being added with a technical pen. Once the water proof ink has dried I re-apply the heated tool to set everything in place.

I tend to make my own tools as I can alter them to suit the individual book I am working on. In total, only three tools have been used, one being as small as 1 1/2mm (to go around tight corners) through to 7mm for the straight line work.

The sightly uneven line is important as it produces a less mechanical line. All to often I see tooling that is well done but somehow lacks grace and individuality. One can not help think that the crafts person is just using technique to show off with, the regimented lines, dots and centre tools being placed with anal attention, producing nothing more than gold wall paper with little or no relevance to the text block.

Detail showing the number of tool marks, thickness of line - tension etc