Video: Casing In with Rhonda Miller

Very good demonstration of how to case in a book. When she does the first side and then opens it, I almost fell off my chair! But it seems to work for her. It has been drummed into me that you never open a book that has just been cased in and is still wet. We’ve all done it though, if only once!

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Blocking a Title and Stabbing a Spine

A Tantalising Taste of Foil Blocking

As I may have said before, one of the great things about having a different teacher is that they have different ways of doing things, and it’s great to have one’s eyes and mind opened by them. One of the things we’ve been working on was an adhesive binding of the free ebook Bookbinding and the Care of Books. It’s taken three lessons to bind it, make the case, block the title, and finally case the book in.

Foil Blocking is where the title of the book is impressed into the cover and spine. It is a similar process to letterpress printing but instead of ink, we use foil of various colours and types. In times past actual gold foil was used, but today a plasticky type of foil is the medium of choice.

For this project, the instructor set the type into the chase, using furniture to space the lines, and a quoin to tighten it all together. Don’t you just love the language? A chase is a kind of tray that fits into a blocking press and is used as the carrier for the type. Furniture are spacers of certain thicknesses that are used to evenly set spaces between lines. Finally, a quoin is an ingenious little device that expands and contracts as an inset screw is turned one way or t’other.

I was naïvely hoping to be able to set my own title, but this of course is not practical in a class of 8 novices. After the type was properly set, the instructor set up the blocking press, which had been left to heat up, so that it was all very easy for us novices to put our cases and foil in and pull the lever to leave behind a lovely title in gold or silver foil. The next thing we did was a little surprising: we got some oil from our skin—around the nose or forehead—and rubbed it over the title to get rid of any little bits that were out of place. Who said bookbinders weren’t a weird bunch?

So during the demonstrations and construction, I learnt a few new ways of doing things, and some better practices. One was that when the you’ve made the case, put the text block into it in its proper position, close the case then rub along the hinges with your bone-folder to help set the joint. Once the case dries, it will be easier to case in the text. Another was that it’s OK to use PVA to case the book in. I had always stuck to paste (no pun intended!), just because that’s how I was first taught. One of the main advantages of PVA is that it dries much faster than paste, so once the book has been nipped in the press, it can be opened and inspected. No more waiting overnight for a book to dry, no more getting up in the morning and hurrying into my bindery first thing to see if the book turned out OK. I like that paste is reversible, but I think that it is a bit over-the-top for what I do, at least for the moment.

A Colourful Stab Binding

My first experience of this type of binding was a few years ago now when I made a 10-page A5 journal with A5 card covers and decorative endpapers. A couple of things were different this time around: the cover is a wraparound instead of single sheets of card, the pages are A4 folded in half with the folded edge at the foredge instead of single A5 sheets, and because of its thickness, the holes were drilled on the paper drill, not punched with an awl.

Folding, Bundling, Sewing, Smashing

We were given 10 pages each of 5 different colours, and commenced folding. Once we had folded everything, with all the colours together in separate bundles, we stacked them with pressing boards between each colour, then gave them a half-hour-long squeeze in the nipping press.

Our instructor told us that the process above was referred to as folding and bundling. If the book were to be sewn in sections, it would include the steps of sewing and smashing—smashing referring to knocking out the swell caused by sewing with a hammer. Once again, bookbinding terminology is simply wonderful.

Once we had folded and bundled our pages, we gathered them together into the right order—in this case the order is arbitrary as the pages are blank. After folding the cover, we drilled the holes, and sewed the book together. I enjoyed making this book because it was a bit different to what I had done before.

Madame Guillotine

Last time I posted about my TAFE course, I promised that I would wax lyrical about my experience using TAFE’s electric guillotines. Let me just say that it is amazingly fun, and that my fascination with sharp stuff has reached another high. The mechanical noise that emanates from the machine when you operate the foot pedal to lower the clamp and then when you strike the knife…ah! such unstoppable power. It is also about the accuracy of the machines—down to 1⁄100th of a millimeter. Accuracy is my other vice, although its pursuit does not always result in it! When working with wood—especially when I made my chicken coop—I have learnt to try to not be too accurate, but to lower the standard from 100% to 95%, which still provides an excellent result, but not at the expense of the whole project itself. Often I would try to be so accurate that my inevitable failure would result in me being completely downhearted and not even finishing the project.

…And On

That’s it for another post. This one took me 10 or 11 days to complete. Hopefully my next one will be a bit sooner, but two weeks is fairly OK I think between posts. At TAFE, I continue binding a really thick (23mm) slab of paper in the Japanese style, but this time with a hinged hard cover. Photos to come.

The Best Way to Read an eBook

A Bit of Inspiration

So I read this post the other day about binding a copy of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars, and I thought to myself, “Sounds like an interesting novel, and it looks like that movie John Carter is based on it. I might head over to Project Gutenberg to see if I can download it and bind it”. I got inspired by the trailer I had seen of the movie so I did. And I finished binding it the other night and am just finished reading it. Getting it print-ready was another story though.

I decided to retry TeX (after previously attempting to produce a printable PDF of Pride and Prejudice), and spent an inordinate amount of time prodding and poking among its many vagaries and eventually came up with the PDF document I used to print the text. There are some errors it, such as some American to Australian English spelling left overs, some errors in the TeX markup (typographic quote markup mistakes), and some things which I should have removed, but didn’t. I am working on them, and hope to release an updated PDF in the future. If you want to try TeX for yourself (specifically ConTeXt), you can email me for the TeX file. Unfortunately I cannot upload the file itself as WordPress.com only allows certain file types—among which are Microsoft Office documents, go figure.

After printing the book and realising that I had those few mistakes and that the grain is in the wrong direction, I decided to press on with binding it, but rather than doing a nice case binding, I chose a quick and simple method: the Japanese Stab Stitch book. I drilled the holes after clamping the book tightly between a block of wood and a bit of board with my trusty hand-drill and a 3mm twist bit. It worked rather well, and left some nice and neat holes for me to sew up using some nice cord I bought ages ago.

So I present to you the newest e-reader: the book.

My E-Reader’s Pros

  1. It won’t run out of battery, and it doesn’t need charging.
  2. It won’t get stolen, and other people won’t look at it and judge me for not having the latest bit of technology.
  3. If I drop it, it doesn’t shatter into a googolplex of small pieces.
  4. It looks and feels like a book, because it’s a real book.
  5. It can be written and scribbled on with ease.
  6. It teaches me about patience because I need to wait to get the book ready before I can read it.

And Its Cons

  1. I can only ever read one book with my book; it can’t become another book with the touch of a button.
  2. It won’t magically repaginate itself after I turn it on its side.
  3. It takes ages to get it set up satisfactorily into the format I want it.
  4. Holding open a book that is stab-stitched (and where the grain is in the wrong direction) for any length of time is tough work on the thumbs.

I am sure there are more, and even more funny slash witty ones.

What Did I Think of the Book?

I really enjoyed the book. I loved the contrast of the almost archaic language and the contemporary themes of science fiction and exploring other planets. I have just read—reread in some cases—a lot of the Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, so I was used to the language. In some parts, I cringed at the now sci-fi slash fantasy language clichés, but when you think that this book is the grand daddy of most modern sci-fi, it is forgivable. I can’t wait to see the movie—it has gotten pretty bad reviews, I’ve heard, but one of my colleagues who has seen it thought it was very good, but said you had to go into it with the understanding that not much will be new, because it is such an old story and has been the inspiration (indirectly) for much of the sci-fi of today.

What’s Next?

Well, I am in the middle of preparing the next book in the Barsoom series, The Gods of Mars, into a printable PDF. I thought I’d go for something a bit different, and print it as A4s 2-up on A3 (so each A3 would contain four pages), and arrange the text into two columns. I am planning on this book to do a case binding, because the stab stitch binding makes the book too hard to keep open. It is an experiment, and I hope that the columns will make the text more readable. I am also planning to set up the page margins according to the Canons of Page Construction, and in particular, this guide, which helps a book designer construct a page so that the margins and text areas are pleasing to the eye.

Why Are My Headings All Questions?

I don’t know, but I’ll keep you posted. Incidentally, I took all the photos for this post with my iPhone 4S—not too shabby, huh?

Book Binding and Restoration Class

Geometrically Compartmentalised

I ♥ Learning

I am 5 weeks into a Book Binding and Restoration class at Sydney Institute of TAFE. The instructor is Carolyn Kenney, a binder with a long history in the trade. She is the second instructor I have had, having first started with Rosemarie Jeffers-Palmer at Amazing Paper in Enmore. One of the wonderful things about learning from multiple people is seeing different ways of doing things. Already I have learnt a few different, more efficient methods for things such as a method of tipping end papers that work for many at a time.

We’ve started off pretty simply, and are getting into sewing soon with a Japanese-style stab-bound book (first introduced to me as an Oriental Side Stitch). If you want some inspiration with your Oriental Side Stitching (or stab binding), check this out on Becca Making Faces’ blog. It is amazing.

Last class, we finished rebinding a paperback, and continued to create a case for an adhesive-bound printout of the free e-book Bookbinding and the Care of Books by Douglas Cockerell. An ePub format—among others—e-book is available from Project Gutenberg. Project Gutenberg is an awesome resource, and if you want to bind something instead of blank paper, print an e-book from PG and bind that. You will probably find a PDF version set up for printing on commonly sized paper—for example, Pride and Prejudice is available as a PDF imposed 2-up on A4, so that you can just print it and fold it and there you have it!

I’m not sure what legal issues—if any—stand in the way of using the PG stuff in your own work. I think you are free to use any e-books as you like. Can anyone shed any light on this?

A Lovely Gift

One of my compatriots of the course gave me a surprise the other day when at the end of the lesson she presented me with a beautifully crocheted cardigan vest with a hood for my little boy. It is so cool. As I told her, I love handmade things, and the knowledge that she took time out to create something for my little son personally is really special. It’s a little big, so I can’t wait for him to grow into it. Thanks Eleni!

TeX, or Tech, or Whatever It’s Called

A little while ago, I hit on this excellent page, outlining the process of printing a text and binding it. This was my introduction to the arcane and mysterious world of TeX. TeX is a system that allows the user to typeset a document into a high quality book. It is a cross-platform, free, and open source bundle of software. It is not as easy as plugging a Pages publication (or something from the other word processor) into it and, ‘Hey, presto!’, you have a book. It is pretty much a programming language all in itself, so there is a pretty steep learning curve: only the most intrepid computer savvy nerd will want to go there. I generally use it for imposing pages for creating booklets where that option is not available on the printer itself.

I started on converting Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice into a TeX document a little while ago, with the idea of binding and giving it as a gift for my Mum, but never actually got to the printing and binding stage. If you want, you can email me and I’ll send you a copy. You’ll need a working install of TeX, and a bit of knowhow and a certain amount of bull-at-a-gate-ishness.

Anyhow, I got bogged down with technical TeX stuff, in particular: getting a nice typeface to use (in this case Minion) which was not at all easy, and the way the pages were imposed, and how laser printers’ duplexing units (that allow printing on both sides of a sheet of paper) often are hopelessly inaccurate at getting both sides of the page to line up correctly (the registration). If anyone know how to improve this, please let me know!

I really want to give this a better go, because I can think of so many gifts I could make by printing classic novels. Imagine a set of hand-bound Charles Dickens or Jane Austen novels! The mind boggles.

A Random Post

So this was a not-so-directed post; or, a little bit random. I’ve been wanting to post about TAFE for a while, so I’m glad I finally got to do it. The impetus for that of course was the excellent cardy Eleni crocheted. Next time I post about TAFE I will wax lyrical about the wonderful experience of using an electric guillotine.

Pamphlet Stitching For People Who Want To Try It

OMG My 2nd Tutorial

OK so this is my second tutorial, and it comes straight after my last post which was also a tutorial. Freaky. I like sharing my knowledge, so expect to see more. And, please comment and help me improve in any way—if it needs it. I love getting comments anyway so comment away!

Pamphlet Stitching is Easy

As you may know, this stitch is intended for thin, single-section pamphlets, and can be used in a few simple binding structures. I have used it in the past for other things as well, like birthday cards for my wife and our wedding invitations, both of which consisted of a heavy (200gsm+) cover and a lighter sheet of paper as the single section. It is very easy to learn and adapt to your own needs.

All Pamphlet Stitched Up

Above is an illustration I created to enable the visual among us (like me) to see what to do instead of interpreting a confusing list of in-this-hole, out-that-hole instructions. I started to type out a list of instructions, but it started to get long-winded and probably not very easy to follow. However, if you want me to I’ll include them.

On thing I didn’t include in the diagram is the final knot. You should use a reef or square knot. My colleague gave me this little ditty to remember how to tie it: right over left and under, left over right and under. Right and left in this case refer to the right an left ends of the twine or thread. Make sure that you start the knot with the thread ends on either side of the long stitch so that the knot ends up holding onto it.

To do a 3-hole stitch, simply cut out the last loop to the left and right in the above diagram; to do more holes, just add more in-and-out loops. It is possible to sew an even number of holes—you’ll just end up with an uneven number of stitches either side of the knot. In either case, don’t try starting sewing at the last hole.

What You Need for a Very Simple Book or Card

You will need the following tools and materials:

  • Text paper—1 if you’re making a card, more if you are making a book.
  • Cover-weight card. For the cover. About 200–300gsm is good.
  • Thread, twine, or string—about 3 or 4 times the length of your spine.
  • Bookbinding needle (you don’t even have to use a needle, just make the holes bigger each time you pass thread through).
  • Bodkin or Awl, or something else spiky. The sharper the better.
  • Scissors or knife.

You do not have to have shiny new expensive bookbinding tools—use whatever you have that will get the job done. In the past, I have used bamboo skewers to pierce the holes for little pamphlets, and some plasticky type of string instead of linen thread or whatever. Also, you do not have to be too exact with your sewing-hole placement—random can be quite cool.

With the paper and cover stock, make sure that your grain is in the right direction. I mostly cut A4 in half parallel to the short edge to give me 2 A5 sheets, which I fold in half again to give me an A6 notebook. Because A4 office paper is usually long-grain, this means that I end up with short-grain A5 sheets which are perfect in the grain direction department.

Steps to Success

  1. Gather your tools and materials

  2. Fold your text pages and cover in half

  3. Pierce your holes (freehand it or measure-and-mark it)

  4. Sew the pages together using the instructions above

  5. Et Voila! You now have a little notebook, created in four (4) steps.

The End

I hope you liked this little tutorial. It actually turned out to be a two-in-one: how to do a pamphlet stitch, and one idea about using it.

I’m trying to keep the posts up, in an effort to keep my readers interested. More to come soon, including a proper look at what I gave a sneak peek of a little while ago. I am also planning a bookbinding phrasebook section of my website. Stay tuned.

Little Sacks of Weight

Heavyweights II

Weighing in at 750g…

I made these heavy little guys soon after I started bookbinding. My first bookbinding teacher Rosemarie inspired me to create them one lesson. They are great for holding things down (duh), especially when I am sewing sections together. I also use them when something has to dry under weight. I prefer them to a heavy block of metal or a brick because they are soft and supple, they feel nice, and because the make a cool sound when I toss them from hand to hand; they also double as stress balls. They will not dent your boards or whatever when you drop them either. They are dead easy to make; one just has to find a gun shop that will sell one some lead shot. I forget the size I got. Make sure when you do get some that you put them into a strong container—or several—because man it is heavy for its size.

Heavyweights I

How to Make a Heavy Leather Bag of Lead Shot

This is pretty easy so I won’t even explain each step, you’ll be able to figure it out.

  1. Get some lead shot and put about 750g into a separate container.
  2. Cut yourself a template from some breakfast-cereal-box card according to your desired size. Remember to allow for your seam.
  3. If you’re using leather and hand sewing, I recommend pre-punching holes. I marked the holes’ positions on the template so I’d get an evenly spaced blanket stitch.
  4. Cut two pieces of leather, old jeans, or some other heavy fabric according to your template.
  5. If you’re using leather, use your awl if you have one to pierce holes for sewing. Remember to protect your work surface.
  6. Start sewing around the outside of the paper weight with some strong thread. In the picture above, the red and the white stitching is linen bookbinding thread, while the blue is a couple of strands of embroidery floss.
  7. Once you have only about 2–3cm remaining, make a funnel from some heavyish paper (roll it into a cone, then cut a hole at the bottom, and cut the top down so it’s manageable), and pour your shot in. If it all won’t fit, or you need more, that’s cool, just play it by ear.
  8. Complete the sewing
  9. Et voila! You have a heavy bag of lead. Use it for peaceful purposes only.

If you want to make it more secure, you can either use a sewing machine, or make an inner bag out of some thin strong fabric—preferably sewn using a machine—and cover that in the leather or your covering material of choice. Also, I wrote this with blanket-stitching in mind. If you wanted to use another stitch you’ll have to mark and pierce holes according to whatever stitch you’re using.

My First Tutorial

That was just it. Please let me know if it needs editing or a bit of clarification. Just let me know.

PS: I wonder how many Higg’s Bosons a little ball of lead-shot has…