This is the Forum for the art of Bookbinding, post your questions and answers about bookbinding here.
Tue Aug 10, 2010 2:56 pm
Hello, everyone. I'm new to the forum, and expect to be here for a while. I'm new to bookbinding, though I've had an interest in it for many years. Only recently did I decide to make a serious effort to learn and build my skills.
I recently finished my first book and am hoping for some feedback, no matter how critical -- every bit helps as I'm very serious about bookbinding. Below is a picture of Number One. The pages are blank, to be used as a journal. I've found that no matter how long and hard I search, I can't find "just the right" book to use as a journal. So I figured I'd start making my own.
The above represents about a week's worth of work. I didn't tally up the number of hours, but I'd estimate about 8-10. I used cowhide mainly because it was economical, but I don't (yet) have any paring knives, so there's obvious areas of improvement. Overall I'm dissatisfied with the leather -- it's very thick and doesn't highlight edges well, and I find it a bit difficult to work with. Still, it's good for practice, and I have my eyes on some goatskin. I think the cowhide would be suitable for a larger book and also for practicing other things.
Overall, I'm happy with what I was able to do after only a month of studying bookbinding, especially learning how to sew headbands. I used leftover twine (from the cords) for this one, but I quickly realized that I was apprehensive in trimming them down too much -- I was afraid that the silk would come off and I'd have to fight to get it back on. Lesson learned, sort of -- I'll apply a dab of paste to the ends of a practice headband and see how far down I can trim the end. If anyone has any suggestions in this area, I'd be grateful to receive them.
I ended up with some discoloration on the spine here... probably because I had wet it some while working the sections between the bands. Does anyone recognize this effect?
Alas, no band nippers, but they're on my wish list. So I tied this one up in the press.
Not a bad job for a first-timer, but I think I can do much better with patience, information and experience.
A few notes on questions I anticipate:
I've received no formal training whatsoever -- everything pictured above is the result of self-teaching, and some things learned by videos across the net... few though they may be.
Everything I did to bind the book pictured was done from memory. I absorbed knowledge for a month until it became almost second nature -- no notes or manuals were consulted in binding this book, but now I have notes of my own, especially "do's" and "don't" for book number two.
Looking forward to learning more, binding more.
Tue Aug 10, 2010 3:33 pm
I'm afraid I can't offer much advice since I'm fairly new to bookbinding myself. However, I do think that looks pretty good for a first attempt! I've worked with cowhide too and had similar problems. Paring the edges down can help but you'll find a world of difference between using that and goatskin.
I was wondering what books or other resources you used to teach yourself? (no real reason for asking other than curiosity)
Welcome and best of luck!
Tue Aug 10, 2010 4:28 pm
I'm glad to know about the similar difficulties you've had with cowhide. When it came to covering, I wasn't sure if what I encountered had more to do with the leather, or how I was working it. (Though I'm sure it's a combination of both.)
So far in the way of textual instruction, I've found these to be most helpful: http://www.aboutbookbinding.com/Main.html
(along with everything else at aboutbookbinding.com), and http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/26672
These videos also gave me insight in the very beginning: http://www.abacusfirenze.it/Videofilmati-legatoria.htm
Now that I've gotten some exposure to the process, some of the things I see in those videos seem a bit crude, but the point is well received.
I still want to find a good demonstration of how to use a backing hammer. Information on that seems to be scarce in the absence of personal instruction.
Other than those specific sources, whatever I could find via Google searches I tried to absorb. Usually what I would do was look up specific terms, like "bookbinding backing," or "bookbinding headbands," or I would look up "bookbinding" via Google Image and click on what looked most interesting. I looked for consistencies across all the pages I found, and reading and looking at photos of restoration jobs helped me to understand book anatomy and considerations to take into account. I'm afraid I didn't bookmark any other specific resources... but if I come across one again I'll be sure to post it for you.
Thanks for your compliment, too!
Thu Aug 12, 2010 2:45 am
Well done! It's very nice for a first attempt at a full leather binding. Cow hide is not a bad material to use; it's just a little harder to work with than goat or calf - knives have to be kept much sharper. Get a good paring knife, learn how to keep it razor sharp and you'll find that you can work with cow hide quite effectively. I prefer calf and goat but I have a few clients who prefer the thick soft feel of the thick cow hide so I use it full thickness for some books.
You're right, the issue with your spine discoloration is from rewetting the leather. Leather doesn't mind being wet (and it should be wetted for binding) but the entire piece needs to be wetted and not just one area. Damp leather allows you to stretch it and to tool it (both blind and gilt). You probably weren't trying to get the spine so glossy either. That comes from overworking the leather with a bone folder or other tool directly in contact with the leather. Next time cover the spine with a piece of release paper or waxed paper and work through the paper.
You tied up the bands well - I never bought nippers (doing this since 1987) and tie every book. I think your bands do look a little too thick for this book - just a little too pronounced. I also see you did the top and bottom bands the same distance from the caps leaving the same amount of clear leather at each end. When it sits upright on a bookshelf you may notice that they don't look equal. The lower clear leather area will look smaller than the top. It's am optical illusion and binders usually take it into consideration and make the bottom clear space about 5mm (1/4 inch) larger. Learning the paring wil also help you get those fore corners to fold down nicely too.
You're well on your way. The old addage is that after you've fixed your first thousand bookbinding mistakes, it all gets easier. Practice, practice, practice. Keep up the excellent work.
Thu Aug 12, 2010 8:21 am
Well Done! Before going on to formal training I taught myself the same way. Its harder to get your foot in the door without showing some initiative. Certainly I'll agree with Bookbum on a few issues... But overall I think your job was well executed, and extra points for sharing it perfect or not. A funny thing I notice among colleagues is that we all started with massive "drawers of shame," where all our first attempts quickly went after realizing we could not recover from some silly mistake here or there. In fact, my first bookbinding instructor always said "The measure of a bookbinders skill is in their ability to fix their own mistakes." Something Ive always held onto...
Dont worry too much about the backing hammer thing. My first few books were backed with the broad side of a bottle. You do what you can with what you have. http://www.amazon.com/Bookbinding-Conse ... 1884718116
- This book has a great description of backing and using a hammer. I did what was described here my first go around, but like I said, I used a bottle. All that said, many binders dont even use hammers... Their are a number of ways to achieve the goal without the risk of using a hammer unskillfully.
Also... band-nippers can be expensive, and tying up can sometimes leave undesired marks on the leather. Six in one, half a dozen in the other. Before I had the money, I bought a higher quality pair of potato chip bag clips from Williams Sonoma, $12 or $13 dollars I think. Softened the edges a bit, and used those. The same effect as a pair of $80 nippers can be achieved. In this case though, with thick leather, you almost have to tie-up.
Also, sometimes you can call bookbinding leather providers and ask for seconds and thirds. These can be cheap ways to get your hands on good leather that is perfect for practice. These can be had in both goat and calf.
Keep at it.
Thu Aug 12, 2010 3:51 pm
That looks like an excellent first attempt Shea.
If you can lay your hands on some goatskin, you'll almost certainly find you achieve a better effect, not least because it's so much thinner.
Paring the turn ins is important if you want to achieve really neat corners and headcaps. For years I just used a very sharp cobbler's knife and still swear by it (and sometimes at it!) for edge paring.
To answer one of your questions, it's only the space underneath the last raised band that needs to be a little longer than the other spaces.
Loved bookbum's comment about the 1,000 mistakes. I often feel that it's not my bookbinding that improves, just my ability to salvage my mistakes!
Thu Aug 12, 2010 5:55 pm
Thanks, Ann. I'll be looking into different knives over the weekend. There's much to be done, but practicing paring is a priority for me at this point.
About the space underneath the last band -- that's what I gathered after reading up on it more. I'm glad to see it affirmed in your post.
As an aside, I came across your site late last week and thoroughly enjoyed pictures of your work. Good show
Fri Aug 13, 2010 11:37 am
To clarify a little more on the off-set issue, and only because reading some of the follow-ups even I got a little confused. It is true that the space under the bottom-most band need be longer, but you must accommodate this by off-setting all the bands. Otherwise you'll end up with the space above the bottom-most band being way off and looking funny. If you imagine all the bands as a single element of the spine aesthetic, just push the whole thing up a little. This is also the same strategy employed by framers, who often set the spacing of matte larger at the bottom than the rest of the four sides.
Also... Just cause I cannot resist. Historically speaking, tying up your cords and centering them on the spine as you have done is an accurate combination. Many books from before the 15th and into the 17th century were bound in this way, and had unusually pronounced cords. Refinements such as off-setting, band nippers and so forth only became usual practice up entering the mid to late 17th/18th centuries. Strictly speaking, tying-up would only be employed correctly if one were attempting a binding structure from these periods. That is not to say tying-up is incorrect only that some puritans would say that tying-up would be a inappropriate approach to certain styles... But there are always variations, and no way is really and truly correct when regarding general practice of bookbinding. I often employ various techniques in my personal binding practice, but conservation/restoration work requires one to be more mindful of the appropriate use of these techniques on certain structures.
I hope your interest grows, as many of us can attest it is a very rewarding thing and can often lead to spirited discussions particularly on the "appropriateness" of technique... I love it. I hope you do to.
Fri Aug 13, 2010 5:44 pm
Thanks for that historical piece of info. It's that information that got me to gravitate toward learning bookbinding in the first place. I have a copy of Thesaurus Precum et Exercitiorum Spiritualium by Thomas Saillio, and I notice that the space at the head and tail are equal, and now that I know some about binding, I positive that this particular book was tied up.
My interest in binding is consuming, to say the least. I'm a supervisor in the composition division at a local printing company that is trying to go all digital (Allen Press, Inc.) I spend the vast majority of my time operating as a workflow engineer / process developer on top of normal supervisory duties. The more I see our operations advance with technology, the more my heart secretly breaks.
To be sure, I love this stuff. And it will only continue to grow, I think.
Sat Aug 14, 2010 2:59 pm
Im only a long term beginner , so my opinion doesnt count for much , but if that was my first bind or 2nd or 6th id be very happy
Fri Aug 20, 2010 11:22 am
I thought I'd share a pic of Number Two in progress. I took everyone's advice and applied it as best I could, and read up some more on various things.
Really liking how the caps came out on this one.
Brokenbooks -- you'll be happy to know I backed this sucker with a bottle.
Sat Aug 21, 2010 12:45 pm
looks very nice again.
I'd say the bottle should suit you well in the stead of a backing hammer. Appears that you can wait until you find a hammer at a price you like. I got lucky and found mine years ago in an "antique" shop. It's the English style which is what I learn with originally. They had it labeled as a cobbler's hammer. Sometimes you just get lucky.
Wed Aug 25, 2010 2:08 pm
That's looking really good.
Powered by phpBB © phpBB Group.
phpBB Mobile / SEO by Artodia.