Sunday, 28 April 2013

Bookbinding Week 2 (Or How Not to Use a Scalpel)

Last week we had got to the point where we had nearly finished the central block of pages. We started this week by adding the small, decorative headers to the each end of the page block at the spine. You don't get these headers on all books but they provide a nice finish and look decorative. This is done by sticking them to the spine so that they just overlap the edge, standing very sightly proud. At this point the spine is also reinforced with a folder piece of brown paper glued on the inside. 

Once this is done you can trim the mesh and tape so that they are equal, angling the edges to ensure that they don’t show on the finished book. This is your pages block complete.

Next you need to cut your boards and spine. On a board lightly larger than your block find, or create a true corner. Use this to measure out your cover. The cover edge should be located 3-4mm in from the spine and there should be an over lap of 3-4mm round the other three edges. It can be smaller depending on how much bigger you want your cover to be than the block of pages. Cut out one cover and then use it as a template to cut an identical one. Your spine should be the same height and the width of your page block plus the thickness of 1 board. 

You need to make a template so that you know how the spine will sit. This allows you to accurately cut out the cover. Sandwich your block with your two boards and then position on a table with the spine slightly off. Position the spine and then wrap a length of paper around it. Mark on this the position of the spine and the edges of the covers. Use these marks to make a spine template on some stiff scrap paper. 

Next cut out your cover on buckram or book cloth. It was at this point that, despite years of working with scalpels, I managed to slice my thumb. However a quick bit of first aid and a few illegally acquired plasters (because of course first aid kits don't have plasters in them anymore) and I was ready to go again.

After clearing up any blood splatters, position the two boards with your template in between and cut out the cover with a 3-4cm border. PVA one side and position the 1st board. PVA the other side and lay out the spine template and other board. Use a ruler to make sure everything is aligned and then remove the template and stick the spine in its place.

Cut of the corners at 45 degrees of your buckram leaving a 2mm gap from the board. This is to ensure the board is not visible.  Now foldin the borders starting at the top and bottom, make sure you stretch it equally. Use a bone folder to smooth the edges and then still using the bone folder create a pleat at the corder, tucking in the loose triangle. It's a bit like an inverted origami fold. Do this at all four corners and then fold in the end borders. 

Put under something flat to dry. 

Now you need to attach everything. Position your block in the cover as you want it to appear finally. Sandwich scrap paper between the end papers to protect them. Starting at the mesh and tapes PVA one of the end papers. Holding the block in position, otherwise it’ll shift out, fold over the cover and press lightly. Open and check that the block is still aligned and then starting at the spine smooth out the end papers with a clean rag. Flip over and repeat with the other side, again making sure everything is still aligned before finishing off with the rag. 

Use a bone folder to define the spine and if you have one use a nipping press to give it a quick press. You now have a finished book!

Monday, 22 April 2013

Rubber Stamping at the Arnolfini

Looking back over this blog it’s been a while since I did what I would call a professional post. That’s not to say I haven’t been active. In the last two months I have started a new job, sent off my Chartership portfolio to be checked for a second time and written a number of applications for bursaries.  In fact I recently found out that I will be able to attend the ARLG members day at Regent’s University thanks to ARLG South West and that, come June, I’ll also be attending Interlend 2013 on a sponsored place. I’m currently finishing off a biggie, an application for the traveling librarian bursary, and I’ll post that once the selection process is finished.

However one of the things I’ve loved since moving to Bath is the opportunity it has provided to do the things I love, especially when it comes to visiting and making art. Therefore I was incredibly pleased when I found out through a colleague that Bristol’s Arnolfini would be hosting the Bristol Artist Book Event.
I was lucky enough to get a place on Stephen Fowler’s Stamp Roller workshop which was being held as part of the event. While it was lovely visiting the different artists at the event and learning about the concepts and ideas behind the many books, prints and pamphlets on display the workshop was a real highlight.

 I wasn’t sure what to expect from the workshop. It turned out we would be learning how to make printing stamps from erasers. This is surprisingly easy to do and all you need is a decent eraser, a sharp blade, preferably a scalpel and an ink pad. The important thing to remember is not to undercut your design and make your initial incisions using a V shaped cut to keep the stamp edges stable and sharp.

The lovely thing about these rubber stamps is that they are reusable, have a lovely primitive quality, can be combined with other stamps and prints and can be used to create varying density of ink. They are also very quick and easy to make and I’m thinking that I can make them in response to individual books, pamphlets and maps that I find.

The second part of the workshop focused on creating carved rollers made out of pipe lagging. These can be slotted onto a regular decorating roller and used to create a repeating pattern. The lagging is even easier to carve than the rubbers and although any fine detail is difficult the resulting prints also have a lovely primitive quality to them. Below is the roller stamp I made (it took about five minutes) and a collection of the results from the group.

Finally, once I got home, armed with various tools I had bought from the ever useful Wilkinson's, I made a couple more stamps and rollers and produced this. So I reckon, should my library career ever fail I'm all set for a new job designing wallpaper and wrapping paper! (Or maybe not!)

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Book Binding - Week 1

Even before I'd moved to Bath, in fact even before I had a roof over my head I had plans to do the bookbinding course at City of Bath College. It's something I dabbled with briefly while studying my first degree and an area that is intrinsically linked with my work, both in terms of my employment and the art I have created.

I'd had very little information on the course so I wasn't sure what it would entail. I certainly didn't expect for everyone else present to have their own projects they wanted to work on. I'm on the course to create books, to make something new. It seems that the majority, with one other exception, are there to learn how to repair existing books.
Maybe it was this discovery that made me give my employment as the reason I was on the course. The some reason I felt uncomfortable explaining that I worked with books as art, probably destroying books they would seek to repair, and that I wanted to learn new skills that would help me create with books. Saying I was a librarian just seemed a simpler explanation.
That aside the first week was interesting, with us diving straight into creating a simple notebook.
  •  First we learnt about grain and the importance of folding with it so that both pages and the end plates would turn and lie well. This means that the grain has to run vertically though out the book. The same also applies to the board used for the book ends. It's amazing that in all the time I have worked with books I had never considered this simple issue.
  •  Next we learnt about some basic tools. A bone folder to ensure a sharp, even crease on the folds. Linen sewing tape, to strengthen the blocks, needle and thick, waxed thread to sew the blocks together and finally scrim to cover the spine and again strengthen the final set of blocks. A block incidentally is a set of folded paper making up one section within the book.
  • To make your blocks fold and crease 2-5 pages of paper (number depends on thickness) and insert inside each other. We were using thick cartridge paper, almost card, so we ended up with 5 sets of pairs. This was enough for about a 1cm book.
  • Next you need to mark them up for the tape and sewing. Line up the folded edges and sandwich between your board to protect it then clamp everything together.
  •  Make your first guide lines 2-3cm in from the ends. Then, depending on the size of the book you will need 2-3 further pairs of holes. (Pairs because they will sit either side of the strips of linen tape) Measure these out and use a hack saw of very sharp knife to mark their position. Unclamp and finish holes with needle, making sure you put your blocks back together the right way round so that all the holes line up.
  •  Stick you linen tape to a board using the hacksaw marks as guides, line up your first block with the tape and then starting at one end sew the book. After the second block remember to knot it to the first and then after the third block make a kettle stitch under the stitch on the block below. Ensure you pull the thread tight and when stitching over the tape loop the thread under the block before. This will ensure the blocks are firmly fixed together.
  •  Once all our blocks are all sewed together make a double kettle stitch and reclamp the block between the boards. Ensure the tape is not trapped, it should be loose. PVA the spine, smoothing in any loose threads and then apply the scrim to THE END only. Leave to dry.
  •  While drying prepare your end papers. Remember the grain must still run vertically. Cut two pieces, slightly higher than your blocks and twice as long as they are wide. Then fold each and glue to the blocks using a narrow strip of glue at the spine. Ensure you glue the end papers under the scrim and tape, these should remain free.
  •  Using the spine as the straight edge use a set square to mark the 'true' edges of your book. Then either using a professional cutter, electronic guillotine, or for very small books, clamps and a very sharp knife, trim the edge. A professional printers should be able to do this for a for a small charge.
And that's as far as we got. Next week we are going to add the board 'ends' and cover them with decorative paper. I can tell that nearly everyone else is itching to start on their own projects, one person had already brought in a bible he wanted to repair and another person, who attended the course previously, was already working on a book he was repairing for a friend. I on the other hand can't wait to start experimenting with different types of covers and binding techniques which hopefully won't be too much at odds with what everyone else wants to do.

I also hope that the aren't going to be be too horrified when I start working with recycled books as I plan to do. I'm thinking that maps, music and vintage covers will make excellent book ends and covers for small notebooks. Not very original but  a good use of my time while I practice my skills. In fact I already have a map which I think can be transformed into a lovely notebook for someone as well as a few other ideas involving specific books and titles.
This course for me is about learning skills, skills I will probably rework and adapt to create things as far from a 19th Century bible as you can imagine. I probably shouldn't tell the owner of that bible that I'd be as likely to turn it into an origami flower as try and repair the missing pages. But then they are probably going to find that out for themselves eventually.