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So enough background. Let's get binding.
First binding is going to be a classic "fine binding" in the style of the golden age of bookbinding: the end of the 18th century. Raised cords, flexible spine, tight boards, full leather binding. (All of these words will be explained.)
Last night I cut some paper to size, folded it (PARALLEL WITH THE GRAIN) into signatures (stacks of paper folded in half), and pressed it overnight in my nipping press.
Six signatures of six sheets each (eight is traditional, for Reasons), plus two at the ends with two sheets each (these will become endpapers).
Sorry for the delay. Had to bake the bread (which did not rise very well, because it's sulking that I've spent the day on Other Things.)
Marking up the punching template. The kind of binding I’m doing traditionally has five cords, which means seven stations (why will become clear). But this is a dinky book, so I’ll just do four.
Using the template in the punching cradle.
Holes punched.
Time to set up the sewing frame. I have a lovely antique one, but for a small book it’s excessive. I made this one from a couple of picture frames and some hardware.
Frame set up. Now I’ll string it.
Frame strung and ready to sew. You can see that the cords line up with the inner holes, but the ones on the end don’t have cords.
Linen thread, waxed with beeswax. In, out and around each cord, back in...
Out the end of one signature, into the next one up. Back around the cords.
Started linking the sewn signatures together with linking stitches (kettingstitches).
Sewn and tied off!
Off of the sewing frame. Just *look* at its little cords.
OK, I'm going to pause this binding and start another. Each binding will have its own thread, so you won't get confused.
So as with the tape-sewn book, it was time for this book to be rounded (spine shaped into a C-shape) and backed (shoulders formed).
Before doing that, this time I trimmed the front edge. But because of the lateness of the hour, I’m afraid I did a kind of half-assed job of it, using a knife and ruler rather than the more complex tool I have for the task.
Then I glued up the spine and laid it down on a cutting mat. Using a hammer, I forced the outer signatures forward. This distributes the swell added by the sewing thread so the book isn’t basically a trapezoid.
I moved the book to my big lying press with its backing boards and created the shoulders, bending the outer signatures over.
Curved front edge. It would have been smoother if I’d done it less hastily. But I had to stop hitting things with a hammer at 10, because my attic workplace is right above the teens’ bedrooms.
About those lying presses...the big one is, well, really big. Professional-quality equipment.
The other one is much smaller. It’s actually an IKEA spice rack tightened with strapping and buckles.
Time to prep the covers.
I’m using 4mm cardboard, which is a bit chunky for the book size. But I’m going for cute and a little blocky. The book block is 13cm tall, so the covers have to be bigger. About 14cm.
The book, from shoulder (the bent over bit) to front edge, is about 10cm. Again, we want the covers bigger (this excess is called the squares).
My pretty book with its cover boards (the technical term for covers is “boards”). Grain parallel to the spine, of course (also important for the boards).
But...remember when we were talking about things stretching and contracting as they get wet and dry? Including leather?
I want to cover this book in leather. If I put wet leather on the outside of the cover, it’s going to contract as it dries and warp the covers.
So the solution is to line both sides of the cover board with paper. The paper on both sides stretches when I paste it up, then will contract on the cover boards as it dries. If the boards are already in tension, leather can’t do anything to them.
Wrapping the boards in waxed paper before I tuck them up in the nipping press.
So here we are back in the thread of the book sewn on cords (which I am now going to start calling Cordelia because you can’t stop me.)
And here’s Cordelia in the lying press.
I’ve cut a couple of pieces of leather cord somewhat larger than the rounded and backed spine. Round headbands are a little old-fashioned; the current style is tall narrow ones, but I like these.
I’ve also cut some (don’t ask me how much) silk thread in my two headband colors: red and dark gold. And a red bookmark, because I love bookmarks.
So now I sew the leather core to the book, using the two colors to anchor each other.
After a couple of stripes, I sew back through the spine to anchor the headband.
When I reach the middle of the spine, I need to anchor the bookmark. I use the periodic tie-down through the spine to do this.
Then it’s just a case of sewing the rest of the way across the spine, anchoring the headband periodically. Tie it off at the end, and there you go. Note how the process of anchoring the thread creates a contrasting stripe at the base.
And here’s the other one sewn! Twitter tells me it took 17 minutes, but I did take a small break partway through.
Headbands are kind of notorious among people learning bookbinding, by the way. At first it feels like you need to be an octopus—so many slippery threads to keep tense at once! Then suddenly it becomes easy; you can even take pictures while you do it!
(And everyone who reaches that stage says this, and everyone who hasn’t yet reached it finds the assertion completely unbelievable.)
Good evening again, crafty tweeps! I’ve been lining spines. Want to see?
So here is Cordelia in the lying press. Her spine is rounded and backed, but it won’t keep that shape without some reinforcement.
There’s a fine balance here...too many layers and the book becomes hard to open. Too few and it won’t hold its shape.
First layer of kraft paper. Note the cutout for the ribbon.
I’m using PVA (glue) on the spine, mostly because it’s dry and not too penetrative. Even though I’m binding straight-grained, I still would rather not let the spine get too wet.
I lay the paper on the spine, giving it space to cling to the top and sides of the raised cords. I’m going to want those lumps to show...unlike the ribbon lump, which is why the cutout.
Then I bone the paper down (rub it into firm contact with a bone folder). Not just on the spine, but also defining the contours of the raised cords.
Added a second layer and boned it down as well.
(If you ever read about people finding pages of lost books in the structure of other old books, spine linings are where they find them.)
But the edges of those cords are bugging me. They’re pulling away from the book, and the spine lining is following them. So I protect the book bock from cord dents with some metal flashing, then put the book in the lying press, bone down the sides of the spine, leave it to dry.
Time to pop over to Bede’s thread and do his back.
Aaand we’re back! Time to attach Cordelia’s covers.
This is going to be the oldest style of cover attachment: lacing in. Basically, the plan is to “sew” the covers with the cords from the spine. Takes a lot of cover prep. Here goes!
I marked a line 1cm from the spine side of the covers on the outside, and 2cm in on the inside.
I then marked the vertical positions of the cords on the cover, and transferred them to the line on the outside of the boards.
Then I punched holes along that line, at the vertical positions of the cords.
I then transferred the cord positions to the further-in line. But I don’t want to weave the cords in right there, because that introduces a line of weakness. So I mark a 1cm offset for each cord.
Then I trimmed down the raised cardboard from the punching process. I also nicked the outer spine-side corners of the covers, because there’s going to be a lot going on up there when I put the leather on and I need a little less bulk.
Next, I dig some little trenches in the covers where the cords will lie. On the outer side, the path from the edge of the cover to the first hole. On the inside, the path from one hole to the other.
I threaded the cords through the holes, from the outside though the first holes, then inside to outside through the second ones, and drew the cords tight.
Note that the covers were right up against the shoulders of the book. This is what I meant when I said, at the start of this thread, that this book would have “tight boards”...no gap between the spine of of the book and its covers.
I trimmed the cords, pasted them down on the inside and the outside, and flared out the threads so they’d lie flat.
After adding a couple of protective layers so the book block wouldn’t be dented or damp, put it in a lying press, and tightened it right down. The intention is to press the cords as far as possible into the grooves I carved.
Time to build a case for Bede.
It’s late and whyyyy am I now trimming leather for Cordelia?
(Answer: drying times)
Step one: sharpen the paring knife.
This is a French-style paring knife. Most binders I know use Englis-style ones, which have an angled blade end rather than a curved one. But I bought the French and now it’s my thing.
Paring the leather is thinning it in the right places: around the edges, at the corners, up the spine and along the edges of the spine.
The next step is to get the leather well-pasted up and let the paste sink in.
OK, time to wrestle the leather (step one: rings off...they dent damp leather). I’ll take photos and get back to you...wish me luck!
Ok, Cordelia is wrapped up and in the press. So what did I do? Here we go.
First, I draped the leather over the back of the book and ran my hands down the sides to smooth it into place.
I turned the leather over the tops and bottoms of the covers. The leather above the top and bottom of the spine is folded and tucked in (no photo of showing the tucking, sorry...) Then I folded the front edges over, making a subtle mess of the corners as I went...
Then I set the joints...that’s a process where you open the cover, then kind of shove the spine side of the cover over a bit. Here I am doing it one-handed, which is not effective, but maybe illustrative.
Now comes setting the headcaps. It’s basically a way to fit all the leather into the top and bottom of the book.
Wrap some thread over the top of the book, just behind the corners of the covers, then use a small bone folder to stretch the corners and kind of bash things down.
The last step was to give the cords on the spine some definition, first using a bone folder, then some thread. One has to be careful...leather that’s dented or marked won’t recover.
Note I also defined the points where the cord is laced into the cover.
And now it’s 2am and all the books are snug in their presses. Time for me to clean this place up a little and go to bed.
I can't believe I only have one more day to play on this account. Tomorrow should be fun!
Night, crafty Tweeps.
The morning after the night before...one of my favorite things in bookbinding is taking a full leather binding out of its wrappers and seeing how it turned out. Shall we?
Here’s Cordelia, peering sleepily from her bed in the press.
(The waxed paper was to keep things from sticking to the leather and reduce moisture transmission; the green felt was to pad the cover to reduce denting.)
Spine looks good. The leather is lying nice and flat on the turn-ins, and the cords are properly buried in their little grooves.
Looking at the spine with the book open, and it’s not perfect.
See, with this kind of book (flexible spine), the leather should adhere to the back of the book block. It does, mostly, but I see some bubbles.
Let’s compare a flexible spine (also known as a tight back) to a hollow-back book (which is what you’re familiar with. See that gap above the headband on Bede? The back of the cover is separated from the back of the book block. But that gap isn’t there on Cordelia.
We’ll talk more about hollow backs in a minute or two, on Bede’s thread. Meanwhile, just look at this absolute unit.
Alas, you can’t *smell* this absolute unit. One thing I’ve learned over the years of binding is that there is not one smell of leather, but many. And they’re all gorgeous.
Back to Cordelia! Sorry for the jagged updates, but I’m doing things based on lead times. It’s like cooking a meal...prep steps in weird order.
Before I do Cordelia’s endpapers, I want to make her cover a little less dull.
I’m going to use a characteristic of leather that is both bug and feature...damp leather darkens with friction.
So I dampened the leather with paste and water, and rubbed it fiercely with a cloth. I also deepened and darkened the lines around the cords.
Not completely dry, so it will lighten up and even out a little.
Now I need to trim the leather to square and fill the gap with card to level things off.
And filled.
Time to do the endpapers. With tight joints (no gap between the cover boards and the book), the endpapers have to dry open.
Yes that is the Coptic book between them. You use what comes to hand.
And it’s done!
Full leather binding, 14cm x 10.5 cm x 2.6 cm.
Full leather binding (bookcalf), sewn on raised cords, with a flexible spine and tight joints. Hand-sewn headband, hand-marbled endpapers.
Take a bow, Cordelia.
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