Constructed Tub Stand

Bookbinding Tool Adaptors

A fellow artist talked me into attending an estate sale, that had bookbinding tools, one rainy weekday a few years ago. When we arrived early in the morning, the line into the home was an hour wait time. But it was worth it. The inhabitants who had lived there were very craft oriented. As I walked into the living room, set up as a checkout station, I saw a gentleman buying the plough unit to a Dryad Leicester Combination Press. Even though I was disappointed not to score the plough unit, I hopefully scanned the house for the other part of the Dryad Press and found it buried under several other handmade presses in a backyard shed. I immediately snatched it up when I saw it going for a mere $60. I picked up 6 wood carving tools for around $10 and a pair of pressing boards with the metal edge for about $2. The Dryad is a combination Plough and Finishing Press. Made of heavy beech, it is an absolute workhorse for bookbinding as it can be used for so many binding functions.

To extend it’s function, I designed a “tub” stand to use with the Dryad. My husband being fairly handy with woodworking tools constructed the tub stand from my sketch. We had enough leftover oak-veneer plywood from previous project to construct the tub according to the sketch. The tub allows space for the book block to hang straight and square under the press while the binder is working on the top side of the press.

The versatility of the press for the binder is it’s strength. In the above photo, the Dryad press with the finishing (angled) side up holds a pair of backing irons with a text block between them. This setup facilitates the backing of a book’s spine after the sewing the signatures together.

I can also use this side to hold the binding when I am sewing headbands or lining the spine. The tub elevates the book, making the work easier on the binder’s back.

Then flip the Dryad Press to the plough side. This side is flat with a depressed track for the plough unit with a sharp blade to fit into and glide along as it trims the book edges. The Dryad press enables the ploughing of the text block, as well as sanding and painting the edges. Note, because I don’t have the plough unit to the Dryad, I use a very sharp, honed Jeff Peachy knife. By manually gliding the flat side of the knife over the rails of the press, it cuts the text block clean and flat. And gives your hands exercise in the process – good thing I am ambidextrous. The ribbons of cut paper fall to the inside of the tub stand. This is a horizontal plough that can hold larger book blocks than a compact vertical plough. The horizontal plough is also an advantage when working a book block with a sewn-on-cord binding. The binding can be easily aligned square for edge ploughing, which is difficult to achieve on a vertical plough.

Bookbinders extend a tool’s effectiveness with handmade supports whether found and adapted or bought. At one of the Guild’s conferences, Jana Pullman demonstrated her gold tool finishing technique. One of her clever tool supports was a nice holder that held her brass finishing tools on the burner as they heated up. I wanted to create a support for my brass tools and hotplate unit as I was tired of trying to catch rolling, hot brass tools. It started with a sketch for my husband to adapt and construct from scrap wood.

He used velcro to attach metal L-brackets to the holder. This arrangement accommodates either fewer larger or additional smaller handles to be positioned on the holder. As is seen in the photo above, the holders keep the finishing tools steady on the hotplate as they heat up without burning the wooden handles. Once the brass tools are hot enough they are applied to the prepared surface for gilding or foil finishing. In this case, the foil is overlaid on a text block with painted edges and the heated brass tool applied – again using the same Dryad press on the finishing side.

In a small binding studio, having tools with multiple purposes helps maximize the working space and your time on a project. Keeping your eye out for used equipment that can have another life in your studio makes it easy on your budget. A tool doesn’t have to be new to be of service. And tool adaptors can easily be constructed from scrap materials with some forethought and watching other binder’s techniques.

Black Carbon Powder for Ink

Franklin Court

In October 2019 we traveled to to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the Guild of Bookworkers Standards Conference. Such a historical, beautiful city and home to the Philly cheesesteak. We stayed in Philly’s South side apartment behind the Independence Hall and we got there a day early to see the Old City which seemed to be in a state of renovation. I wanted to visit Franklin Court, home and business of Benjamin Franklin, which is located on Market Street. At the Franklin Museum, you find the first U.S. post office he started still in operation next door to his press and bindery.

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Inking the print block

The Steamroller Project

Each year the North Texas Printmakers Group sets up a steamroller event.

Participating printmakers carve a large woodblock and print by driving a actual steamroller over the inked plate in May. Then the print is exhibited at a local venue. It is my first year participating in the event. My first carving of a large 2′ x 3′ woodblock. I had no idea the amount of work involved and I am glad I did not choose a larger block to carve my first go around. If you haven’t done a large print block before be prepared for serious hand cramps.

Then Covid virus hit. The steam roller event was modified and moved to Terri Thoman’s Dallas Artisan Fine Print Studio for everyone’s safety. Terri is an experienced printmaker who provides creative time and expertise in her Studio on Peak street for a moderate fee. Terri even dressed up her “big mama” printing press out of cardboard boxes to look like a big old yellow steam roller. The Studio is such a laid-back, lovely place to work and be with other creative folks.

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The Thames and Hudson Manual of Bookbinding textbook

Fine Art Binding Instruction Sources

Based on a reader’s request, I am sharing favorite bookbinding sources to those who are beginning bookbinders interested in learning about the craft. Some of the instruction sources are books published years ago and some are from modern bookbinders.

The Complete Book of Bookbinding by Josep Cambras

This book was given to me by another bookbinding friend who found a number of them on sale at Half Price Books. Mr. Cambras is a well known Spanish bookbinder from Barcelona, Spain. In this book he explains classical bookbinding techniques and provides inspiring examples. The book starts with a good definition of the book structure, equipment, materials and tools that are helpful in construction stages of bookbinding. There are a lot of color pictures to show how the tools and processes work.

Continue reading Fine Art Binding Instruction Sources

Clamshell Box Part 4: Lining the Clamshell Interior

Once the clamshell basic case is complete, adding a soft interior liner protects the book cover decorative elements such as onlays and dimensional covers. The liner also protects the spine of the fine binding.

  1. Before working on the interior, allow the clamshell case to dry under weight for about 24 hours, depending on the environment humidity.
  2. Open the clamshell case and measure the width of space between the two tray open edges. Measure the length of space between the small base tray’s 2 short sides.
  3. Cut a bookcloth spine strip with the exact length measurement of the smaller base tray and the width measurement + 3/4″ for both sides to overlap the edges of the trays.
  4. Apply PVA glue to the spine strip’s backing. Position the strip inside the smaller base tray by 3/4″ between the short sides at the open edge of the base tray. Lightly lay the strip over the interior spine panel and center between the short sides of the larger cover tray open edge by about 3/4″. Don’t press the strip dow yet.
  5. Start at the small base tray side, smoothing the bookcloth on the tray edge. Use the bone folder to crease into the hinge indention, creating a bond with the hinge cloth underneath.
  6. Smooth the bookcloth over the spine panel and again use the bone folder to crease the second hinge indention. Finally, smooth the spine strip over by 3/4″ on the larger cover tray open edge between the short sides. Notice on the larger cover tray there will be a board thickness gap between the top and bottom edge of the spine strip and the tray sides – that is normal. The tray side turn-ins will cover the gap distance.
  7. Select a wool felt or suede-like material for the interior pad linings, preferably with a paper backing to handle the glue without leaking to the fabric surface. Select a millboard for the pad’s base that is half the thickness of the tray millboard. The pad lining will be wrapped around the thinner millboard. The softer material will prevent the fine binding from sliding in the case.
  8. Cut a millboard panel to fit inside the base of the smaller base tray first. The width and length of pad panel must allow space for the material to wrap around the panel. So cut the pad panel to be an 1/8″ shorter on the length and width. Note: that the pad panels will be positioned in the center of the trays. Be sure the “grain” of the millboard is on the length of all the cut pad panels.
  9. Cut the millboard spine pad panel to be the same length as the smaller base tray. Cut the spine pad panel width to be about 1/2″ less than the clamshell hinge spine panel. It will be centered on the spine piece.
  10. Cut the millboard pad panel for the larger cover tray to the same size as smaller base tray pad panel. It will also be centered on the tray. 

Continue reading Clamshell Box Part 4: Lining the Clamshell Interior