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Press All the Things…

So I finally managed to get my hands onto a nipping press. It is a lovely little cast iron baby, with a turn-wheel instead of a handle. It’s in pretty good nick: the paint is peeling in a couple of places and the screw is a bit rusty (luckily it only looks like surface rust).

You may remember that I was planning to make my own nipping press from wood. Well, that’s not going to happen any more is it? It’s probably a blessing in disguise so I’m not that worried about it. I may still build one and sell it. Would you be interested in buying a wooden nipping press? I have a few projects on at the moment, so one less is no worries.

I’ll post some more pictures once I’ve cleaned it up a bit.

Happy bookbinding!

Adhesive Binding is Perfect

It’s Been a While

So this is the post where I apologise to all my readers for not posting for so long: sorry! I have a good excuse—he is 6 months old soon. I have had a busy time at work, and have been engaged in other creative pursuits, bookbinding being just one of many creative things I love to do.

Believe it or not I love writing computer programs. I just love it. I started off at Uni teaching myself C++, I learnt Pascal, HTML, JavaScript, did some Prolog, and a whole lot of Windows API programming and ASP with VBScript. I can get myself into trouble with a bit of ConTeXt, SQLPHP, and CSS. Now I code in C#, and I am learning Objective-C and Cocoa, Regular Expressions, and I am becoming a Bash nerd.

Anyway, I don’t want to freak you out or anything.

Pictures are Worth Heaps of Words

I thought that it would be an excellent idea to not type another word, and just let my pictures do the talking. So here is an image gallery of the steps involved in adhesive binding.

The Craft and Trade of Bookbinding

The Lonely Tree

I have always appreciated the multi-dimensional aspect of bookbinding. It is neither solely a creative outlet of beautiful works of art, nor solely a trade producing an object that must be usable and durable (and saleable): for me it us both of those things at once. I love that as bookbinders, we are creating something that is nice to look at, to touch, and to hold (and listen to: I love the sound when I snap a book closed, or the sound of a finger tapped on a closed book’s cover, dok dok dok), but also serves a definite purpose as an information repository, a place to pour out one’s heart through words or pictures, or as a vehicle transporting one to another world via a great story—books are there to be used.

In days gone by, bookbinding by hand was a big trade, with lots of workers all performing separate tasks in big factories. All this has now been mostly superseded by some amazing machinery (and amazing people who run them), and has now become a niche trade with only a few companies around maintaining the old ways, some of whom also maintain the old books. Mostly, hand bookbinding has become an art-form, a hobby for people like me and perhaps you. Nevertheless, I believe it is still important that we who practice this trade–craft as a hobby learn the skills, techniques, and methods of traditional tradesmen and women.

Since starting my Bookbinding and Restoration course at Sydney Institute of TAFE, this trade aspect of bookbinding has really been made apparent to me, because that’s how bookbinding is taught: as a trade. So we learn all the ‘right’ ways to do things, practices that with practice (!) will become second nature, and will result in a high-quality, well made book. We are not really given much opportunity for creativity (unless you’re a rebel like me and use random bits of waste paper as end-sheets!) but it is only the first semester of the course. I am not complaining. As I mentioned above, I think it is a good thing to know all the rules and the right ways of doing things—after all, doesn’t one need to know the rules to break them?

I yearn for the chance to create a book beautifully bound in leather with a beautiful design tooled into the covers. I also yearn to create books that are well-made and that will last. I look forward to learning the more decorative skills, but I look forward with as much eagerness to learning better bindings, and to bettering my skills.

Opened Upright from Spine

The Making of a Diary for Someone Who Doesn’t Use Diaries

And That Someone is Me

I gave a sneak peek a little while ago on a project I was working on. Well, I completed it, and have used it for about 6 or 7 weeks. It’s a school diary with a difference, and represents my efforts to get more organised and to manage my time better.

So far, it has been a moderate success—I have actually written in it and made notes and to-dos, which is more than I can say for any other diary I’ve owned in the last 10 years. I however need to move from using it more as a record to using it as a planning tool.

The Design

There were a few things that I considered (not specifically) when I was planning my diary. They were:

  • what I wanted the book to look like, inside and out
  • that I wanted something which would be useful and realistically so
  • and that I didn’t want it completely utilitarian, but a little bit fun.

Form

I designed my diary to look funky and colourful, unlike the drab, monochrome, boring diaries that you buy off the shelf. The look is something that is very important to me, being a visual person. When deciding what colours to use, I used the four process colours of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key (black)—the CMYK colour model. Whenever I can’t think of colours to use, or I don’t have anything specific in mind, I end up using CMYK. I used another colour—Orange—for all the writing lines and grid lines etc.

Function

I also kept it functional and focused on its purpose of being a school diary with a difference. I decided early on that I wanted a week-to-an-opening view: being realistic, I knew what I was like with diaries, so I kept it simple. I came up with a layout where the days-of-the-week are on the verso and a space for notes and to-dos is on the recto. The verso is divided into 6 sections: a heading which tells me the term and week-number, and the month, and one for each day of the week. The days-of-the-week are further divided into spaces for each lesson of the day. Also, for a bit of fun, I included some cool ‘days’ like World Migratory Bird Day on the 14th of May (OK it should have been the 12–13th but my diary doesn’t do weekends and the original source I got the date from was wrong!), and Star Wars Day on May the Fourth. I also have a personalised timetable and a larger notes and to-dos section at the front of the book, and an assessment record at the back.

In terms of the binding itself, it is case-bound and quarter covered with Limette Duo book cloth and Kraft paper (I love Kraft). I’m really pleased with the result functionally. The hinges work really well—I was a bit more generous with them this time around, allowing the standard 2-and-a-half thicknesses of board‐and the whole thing is nice and square.

Personality

I just had to express my personality when designing this diary, and make it unique. As mentioned above, I included interesting ‘days’, and I did other things, like put in a photo of me and my wife, and give it a title page: The School Diary of Jacob Degeling. For a bit more fun, I included some grids for when I’m bored during meetings etc.—they are a 2mm square grid and an isometric grid.

Trial by Use

Something that I am very interested in is to see how my binding stands up to everyday use. So far structurally the book is doing well. The only thing I might change next time I bind a book like this is to use a thicker spine hollow (the piece of cardboard that covers the spine) because the thin card I used is deforming at the head and tail, and it shows the lumps and bumps from the sewing and the tapes. The paste I used to attach the Kraft was a bit thin, so some parts of the paper are starting to lift, especially where it overlaps the book-cloth. I’m just going to leave it to see what happens.

There is a little bit of wear and tear on the cover, most notably the Kraft is starting to fray a bit around the edges, there are a few coffee cup rings on it, and the quarter-cloth is getting a bit dirty from me holding the book by the spine. Also, I got some honey from a sandwich I ate one day on it which a mouse has just nibbled off over night taking some of the paper with it.

I’m pretty happy overall with my new diary. And I think I might just get used to having one around.

Thanks for reading, and happy binding!