I haven’t been very happy with the finish process I’ve been using for the wooden covered books. It’s too slow, and I’m not satisfied with the results.
Considering that I want people to handle the books, I feel that they should withstand a reasonable amount of wear and tear. I don’t think that shellac is suitable since it doesn’t handle moisture very well and wet or sweaty hands could adversely affect it.
So I was using a commercial varnish, but it had a very gloss finish which felt plasticy. I would then spend a while burning the surface with wax and steel wool to knock back the shine. It was just too time consuming and fiddly.
Somebody recommended Osmo finishes and it was love at first application. This stuff can be rubbed on like an oil. A few thin coats (I’ve been using 4 coats on the books) and it builds up a beautiful matt finish which should be hard wearing. After all, this stuff is sold for use on flooring, and if there’s a harder wearing surface than a floor with all it’s foot traffic, I’d like to know about it.
I’ve actually resurfaced our dining table with the stuff and it no only looks great, but seems to be holding up really well too.
I made two test books using the Osmo finish. I got two different Osmo oil to try, one being a clear matt finish, and the other has a slight milky look. I mucked up my test books and mixed up the batches, putting one coat of each product on each book, but they still came out looking great. I’ve since done another batch of books with just the clear matt and they look great.
While I enjoyed the show (and the lemon filled donuts 🙂 ), I was disappointed there weren’t more art books there, and I mean books as art, not books about art. Since starting down this road of discovering book binding, I’ve gone from seeing book binding as just a craft, to discovering that bookbinding can also be a form of art. I don’t really consider the binding I do as art (although I’d love to get to that point), but I have seen online, and at the San Francisco Centre of the Book, some amazing examples of where books are the medium of expression.
The NGV Art Book Fair I went to today was mainly about books whose subject was art or artists. There were also local publishers and printers who are producing books for artists, and I was happy to see there were so many. In fact it was great to see so much enthusiasm for books and physical printing on paper (as opposed to the web) in general.
The wood I split way back when, has finished drying and I made some books from it. This is still cypress, but it’s a lighter coloured version (more sap wood perhaps?). It doesn’t feel as dense either. It’s still nice to work with though.
I also played around a little with the surface texture of the books. I mainly used a fairly flat gouge for the previous covers, perhaps using a smaller gouge for some highlight or detail work. But with this batch, I did a couple completely with the narrow gouge and it leaves a great textured finish. The texture of the books is always important to me. They don’t just have to look good, but they have to feel good in the hand. If I close my eyes and just use my hands, I want to still enjoy what I’m holding, and I think I achieve that with this batch of books.