Saturday, 4 May 2013

Book Binding Week 3 - Hammer Time!

Last week we had finished our first books - in my case a cloth bound A4 book, very similar to an artist's sketchpad. This week were going to repeat the process again in order to embed the skills, but this time with a twist. We were going to make rounded spine books, a process which gives the spine edge a convex curve and the opposite, loose page side, a concave finish. 

Rounded spine books work best when the book is thicker, in fact mainy antique books will have a rounded spice. To this end we needed to sew more paper to make our blocks, in my case 7 blocks of 4 pages, using fairly thick paper. 

One trick I learnt at this point was that you could take a piece of A3, fold it twice to form a A5 block and then sew it as normal. The folded edges don’t matter because they will be trimmed off later in the process. 

Once the blocks were sewn and trimmed on the lay you need to glue the spine as before but this time without the scrim. Before the glue is totally dry you then need to attack your book with a hammer, literally. 

Holding the open side hit the spine on the top edge repeatedly up and down it’s length. You are aiming to force the spine into a curve shape. Once your curve has started to form use your fingers to maintain the shape on the open end, flip over and continue hitting the spine on the other side. Repeat this process until you have built up a decent curve. You will find this more difficult if, as was the case with mine, your sewing has pulled the spine too tight and it is uneven. Therefore while I had a decent ‘concave’ side, my spine curve was fairly poor. 

Once you are happy with your curve place the book in the ‘book backers’ These are two wooden boards with brass top edges, similar but smoother to the metal strips used to hold down carpet in doorways, that are clamped in a press.  The idea is that the book is placed  between them so the spine stands a couple of mm clear. You then attack it with your hammer again, aiming to create a mushroom shape with two lips that your book covers will sit into, create a smooth round finish at the spine. 

The final verdict on mine was ‘more practice needed’ but I at last ended up with two, fairly equal lips that my covers would sit against. However I was so engrossed with this, and my other books that I forgot to take any pictures and the end of the session came round very quickly. 

One of the reasons why I was so busy was because I was also trying to fit in trimming a couple of finished blocks I had sewn over the weekend. Trimming with the proper tools gives you a really professional finish and not one easily achieved by hand, so while I can improvise for other functions, for example using a charity shop flower press to clamp the blocks, the trimming is something I have to do at the college. 

The blocks were sewn for practice and I forgot the ribbon on one. Even though it is very small (the green A6) I learnt a lesson that the ribbon makes a big difference to the stability of the book and its absence can be seen in the finish product. 

Once trimmed I was able to take these blocks home and finish them off. On both I experimented on the end papers, One, in which I recycled a 1950s map, worked really well, the exisiting folds on the map fitted nicely with the A5 size notebook and thickness of the old style ‘linen’ paper provided a good base for the glue. This one I finished with some black buckram and the end product, while not perfect looks pretty smart. 

The second one, in which I was using a photocopy of a montage of images from a 1960s football association rule book, didn’t work quite as well. The paper, which was very smooth didn’t glue well and was probably too thin. This was also the book without the ribbons and as a consequence the whole thing didn’t seem very secure. I did like the little ‘pocket’ I put at the back although again the paper is too thin for it to stand much wear and tear. As I knew by this point that I wouldn’t be able to do anything with this book I covered it in a green buckram (I have several colours of ‘offcuts’ I got off ebay) that I was least keen on. 

Later in the week I had another practice and learnt an important lesson about using lined paper. If the finished product is to look good you have to make sure the lines are absolutely horizontal and lie straight with your end papers. This is really difficult if you are trimming the book. I made two different books from some lined paper and neither are perfect. The pink I finished with some flock wallpaper and the smaller one I used some leaves pressed under tissue for the end papers. The pink one has a simple pocket at the back - mainly to hide a tear in the end paper. The leaves had been found in the flower press I mentioned previously and  I quite liked the serendipity of using them in a book. 


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