Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Berenger - Finishing

Finally its here, covered, the books are ready for the really fun part(!?!)...Finishing.
Before I get to the prep.work, the best way to proceed is to work out what tools I'm going to use.
I don`t have an ink pad, so I make mock spines and boards, and use foil to mark-up for tooling.
Now I`m not one to blame my shortcomings on my tools, but succesfull period binding depends on having the correct tools for the job.
My fledgling collection certainly is far from complete(3 sets of corner tools , and 3 center tools!!)but a trip downstairs to the ever accomodating Aaron at Talas, soon puts that right.I love now that if I need anything I can pop downstairs and see the neighbours, and I`m sure they don`t mind either.....the jury is out on what Denise might have to say!
On the upside, I think I've been shrewd in choosing the wheels(the wall is almost there!).A lot of Bindings in the 18thcentury are characterised by fat rolls of gold decoration along the edges of the boards,fillets, with centre designs such as harlequins,ovals,varios seals , with some designs covering the expanse of the binding.I know what I`m not doing, that is, any tree-marbling, or onlay work, and there will no pattern made-up of individual hand tools.On the front and back boards I'm going to do a panelled pattern, minus the corner and side tools.I don't have a really fat wheel, but what i do have are wheels, that I can double-up and reverse tool(Doubling the size of the pattern).
When I've worked all that out, it's time to make the parchment size , to be used instead of the paste wash for goat.You can get the parchment scraps by weight from talas, cut them up into bits of approx. 20x20mm , boil them gradually reducing the liquid to a viscous gelatine size, usefull for some edge decoration too.
The books get two coats of the size and two coats of glaire(shellac based).
*nb only prep.what you can handle completing in a day.I split the work in 2 days between boards and spines.When its done, the turn-ins get a Dentelle of the outside wheel doubled again in blind.The ends put down, the books pressed, and finally the boards polished with a wax emulsion.
*nb, you don't need to polish the spines...... you don't......unless you want all that finishing to crack off !
Just in time for the show........

bibliog:"bookbinding"(arthur w johnson)
"the history of decorated bookbinding in england" (nixon and foot)
"james scott and william scott bookbinders"(j h loudon)

Berenger-tight back lining,leather prep and covering

Any of you out there that have questions about how to make a tight-back binding in the flexible style, should really get hold of a copy of Arthur Johnson`s Thames Hudson manual on bookbinding.He gives an itemised breakdown of procedures and the diagrams are easy to understand.
....following on, having had the boards attached and headbands sewn, the spine is to be lined.
My first lining will be of Fray-knot, which moulds nicely to shape of the cords.When it is set, the second lining I use is of an archival British kraft paper(2, or 1, depending on the shape of the spine).
I sand off the paper when dry to reveal inconsistencies, and when thats done its trimmed at the head and tail.
A third lining of goatskin is layed on,the bands sharpened-up, and when dry it is again sanded until smooth.
After all this is complete we`re ready for covering.
I decided to instead of doing what we all do too much of(that is brown and tan calf bindings with sprinkles!and of course the obligatory red labels!)to do something a bit different.For whatever reason, i was thinking a rich deep red or burgundy.Time to whip out the Hewitts dyes and have some fun!
I give myself a head-start by selecting a light plum coloured hewitts calf skin, and get both covers out of the one skin.
I prepare the dye by boiling water, and mixing a little in containers(red and black-I always use black to take the edge off any colour).I dilute with a little cold, then I set about trying to change a rather ordinary cover, into hopefully something with a bit more character!
I unfortunately do not cultivate my own medievil garden, (sorry purists!), so those of you who don`t even have a window box will find the hewitts dye to work well enough.
Covering is next, and I regret that I do not have another set of hands to document the procedure....back-cornering,working in the spine,turning the head-cap in on itself,cornering,setting the joint,etc..etc...etc..

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Big IS Beautifull

Those of you out there that have had occaision to work on large over-sized books will appreciate the various problems and challenges that the forwarding presents.The boards I got from France two years ago were dissappointing. The rubber biscuits uneccessary and cumbersombe, they were different heights when locked-up, and they were fabricated from poor quality ply-wood. (It is fair to note that this may not indicate the standard of quality offered, and may just have been a one-off slip).
However , I am a fan of the French style, namely boards made with a substantial shelf, gripping the spine approx 1" proud of the cheek of the press , avoiding the undue brutality of pressure, whilst also making it easier to work on the back of the book.
Having been since unable to source large French-style boards fabricated to code, from good quality material, I decided to make my own.
*NB-there are larger boards out there, but made to the english style, and I found that having a more substantial shelf made it easier to position the book in the press.
My freind Josh Harris and I produced many prototypes , and have finally decided on a design , and have produced a couple of finished sets.
The finished board is 20" long by 7" wide , with a shelf 1"x1.5" that sits ontop of the cheeks.The shelf is attached to the main board using biscuits(they`re not just glued on!).The wood used is a beech, 1/4 sawn for strength , and air-dried for the prevention of warping.The boards are also made with a tapered finish, again unlike my french ones. I am unsure if the tapered finish is unique to england(I'm sure it`s not?!), and also whether an un-tapered finish is unique to the French-I suspect that there is no hard and fast rule and there is a lot of overlap.
The boards photographed are made of white oak , this proves an expensive prospect for production.I know Josh is working on using cheaper alternative material such as plain sawn beech, this may prove a winner, and if so I'll sign on, but I will have to wait and see how these would turn out and perform.
The jaws I decided to make in steel , and not brass....Steel is harder to keep clean , but longer lasting, and I guess longevity is more important.
All in all , the boards are a real piece of work , and I'm very happy with the end result.
We decided to offer the boards for sale ourselves, thereby avoiding uneccessary mark-ups from retailers, allowing for a more affordable price.
Again, I must stress that this was not a for profit enterprise, I simply was motivated to produce a good quality tool to the best standard.
We are selling them for $400. Before everyone gasps in disgust, I can confidently state that I am to date unaware of a Backing Board anywhere that comes close to the quality of this one`s fabrication.
Some of you may feel that its uneccessary, and I do agree that they are a luxury for most, especially these days, but I do insist on and attest to the fact that they have made my life easier.
Plus, they're pretty sweet.....

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Berenger board attachment

...The boards .......
I use a thin Mill-board , as I`m going to build it up ,
laminating layers of paper , this will help against
warping .
A technique i learned at LCP , that is specifically
designed for this purpose , involves wrapping the boards over the foredge and spine with paper.
(British archival grey..??)
The folding over the spine area will protect against separation when lacing-in , and I`m guessing the action of stretching the paper across both sides of the board give it and added stability.
*nb.we used hot glue to do this , and they dried a lot stiffer compared to the jade I`m using.
To recap , layer of thick paper , either side , then the archival grey.
When ready to mark -up , having frayed-out the cords , I mark a square on the inside of the boards , and get the boards in position , then mark up the board for punching holes , and cutting wedges.You have all done this before , so , nothing new....the cords come back outside to the front of the , where they are frayed out , pasted down , and hammered-out.One thing to not is that it is important to lace the boards on with some breathing space at the joint , I just make a fence , keep it in , take it out when covering , put it back in when setting the joint.
That`s when having steel , or iron-topped board-chopper comes in handy!
When the inside slips , have been pasted and hammered , you are ready to set the square ,
that is put the boards in the final position that they will remain in , so it`s important to get it right *nb...watch the tail , you want your book to stand-up straight , right??also , you can leave the foredge of the boards uncut , and finish them half way through lacing for extra accuracy , but I did mine before .
Thats it , really , a layer of thick cartridge paper after the boards have set overnight in the press , and we are ready for covering.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Berenger rounding and backing

.........following on , today the spines were glued up in the press.It is wise to use a finger to spread the jade in between the raised cords , taking care not to go over the cords - that way movement in the back is not restricted.
....give it about 10 min , maybe 15 , then we can round them . I started using dowels of different sizes , positioned at the foredge , this will encourage a smooth foredge round when hammering the spine(thanks mark).
Once a sufficient round is acheived , we can drop them into the backing boards .I`m going to do them at the same time in two presses , using a set of Relma boards , and my prototype hybrid (french/english)boards that are made of maple .NB the real ones will be from air dried 1/4 sawn white oak(you know who you are)!
Now , I confess , that yes I use the claw of the hammer.Now before all the conservators get ready to dispatch me ...I roll the flat line from the middle to the end on each side . Trust me , its useful , and helps give you good form , and no it in no way damages the spine of the book .
Then i`m ready for the hammer(the line will also prevent doglegging), from the middle out , both ways , then change sides ...or hands , whichever you are comfortable with.
When i`m done I`ll finish it with a folder , and sharpen up the bands , with my band nippers.
A layer of tissue , in this case , not only helps set the spine , but will also give uniformity and compactness to the bands.
Tomorrow , board attachment and headbands.............

Monday, March 2, 2009

Berenger-pulling, repair work, and resewing

Further to the discussion on the list today , about what you can garauntee about a repair or binding , as promised here is the book I mentioned -"The History and Art of Horsemanship" Richard Berenger , who was infact George III`s stable master . Indeed , the dedication in the front of the first volume is a supreme example of servile snivelling of the utmost nonsense

"Sir , nothing could justify my presumption , in thus approaching your Royal Presence with so unworthy an offering as these volumes..............Animated by these motives , I dared to form the ambitious with of laying my labours at your majesty`s feet.......
most devoted..
and most faithful subject and servant...."

Good god the things some people had to do to get a book published back in the day !
The books were given to me having been rebound by the biggest brass necked blaggard this side of the atlantic .Its bad form to critisize other binder`s practices , but this was a special case , I am sorry I didn`t have the presence of mind to take a picture as evidence , ....because if there were a bookbinder and conservator tribunal(and i believe there may be a secret society) , this person would have been dis-barred , dis-robed , and dissmissed!!!!
The spines were cruelly stripped to reveal the raised cord sewing , thankfully confused , they left the text-block alone , made a case binding out of some fake leather bookcloth , and put a stamped foil label on the spine.(Please note that the spine piece was resting on the raised cords.....so there was considerable daylight!!!)Well after that performance , the only way is up right , how can we lose??!
Upon opening the book falls apart , at each section , revealing the extant of the damage , - all outside folios must be repaired both sides , and some insides too , the sewing is shot , the cords crumbling.The whole thing is pulled , and all damaged sections repaired using the university of Iowa repair tissue , which is a very fortunate blending match.Paste is brushed onto a stone , the tissue dipped , and placed over the spines , inside and out . The process is lengthy , runs over a series of days , and only when dry and flat , are they folded , and pressed between boards.
The book is easily collated using the alphabetical marks the beginning of each section , and if that wasn`t enough , each previous page is printed with the next page`s first word-Genius!
Endpapers are made , using a hemp ruscombe mills paper and stained period paper .Then the book is ready for the frame.
The sewing is on five raised cords, pulled guitar-string tight , (for ease of knocking down swell), but already i can see repairing every section has greatly increased the swell .
No problem , the first few sections are sewn in the usual manner , then I start sewing 2-up....
meaning two sections at a time going in and out of two sections above and below each other , so the thread is not doubled-up all the way along the spine.This will cut the swell in half , although you do want to alternate , and not sew the whole thing that way , otherwise the kettle stiches at the head and tail do not get enough support.
The sewing complete , swell pressed out , the books are ready for more forwarding.......
but thats tomorrow......

How do you get to Carnegie hall ???

....so every now and then Carnegie Hall wants to honour someone , usually a donor with very deep pockets , or commemorate a season , lifetime ......whatever the reason I`m glad of it as it means I get to make some nice bindings , stamp their great plates in leaf , and use my first ever and favourite wheel.
The binding is pretty starightforward....a case with inlaid panels , usually red , but this weekend green ... but then comes the finishing...
It did admitadly take me some time (good tip coming)to figure out that the best way stamp difficult plates in leaf was to not use anything to hold the leaf in place.This may be pretty obvious to some , but I always have to learn the hard way.The red book is a lot larger , and the plates more difficult . The image of the hall is problematic , due to its size(approx6x9) , its very detailed , and it`s top-heavy , meaning its position underneath the blocker is key to getting a good impression.
The text plate has a large wide band of gold , which is not impossible to clean out with butane , if you are sticking down with vaseline , but it takes nerves of steel.......as does removing , cleaning , and replacing underneath the press , and stamping again.....trust me , it does.
No , the key , is to position under the press , lay the leaf ontop , stamp , and brush out easily using a soft-haired brush - quicker , easier , and just an all round better result.Obvious to everyone but me right?
After stamping , the back of the book is put in , headcaps made , tied-up , and left over night to dry . Then next , a hand rolled wheel across the front and back boards , but first as in the photo , gold is laid down .The tool is then rolled across the gold , and butane is used to clean of the excess , hopefully leaving behind the pattern!!
I chose the wheel as the pattern was simple , open , and the raised petals were just about the right size to ensure a good finish pretty easily .
On the more recent green book , I did try a different gold . For the past several years I have been mostly using a French pale 22 carat , on new work . This was originally because i found the shade more appealing , but later it became clear that it is actually easier to use , than the fine stuff.I did try some years ago , the 24carat fine gold that Talas has , but found it incredibly delicate and prone to cracking , and flying around , etc! But , guess what , another 4 day turnaround , and i`m out of pale , ...I`ve got plenty of fine though , so I gave it a shot , and it came out.
Yes , the 24 carat is more delicate(seems lighter , poss.due to not being mixed with alloy) , and it did require some repair work , but it came out just as good.
In the little I have learnt and understand about working with gold in the past five years , it`s all about confidence(positive action) , and confidence can only be gained by experience , and experience is only gained by failure....lots of failure...
But its just like the cliche
How do you get to Carnegie Hall
practise , practise , practise (sorry !!!it was just too easy)