My original design didn’t work with the wood I was using. I used the same cypress I use for my books. It’s the same stuff I buy from the hardware store, and it splits a lot. My design called for two big dove tail joints to connect the main cross beam at the top to the uprights at the side. Appart from my joinery being sloppy, the wood split and the join just won’t hold.
There are some great pictures online of old book presses. But mine isn’t going to be like that. For a start, I’m making it out of wood, not cast metal.
There’s plenty of instructions online for making simple book presses, but I’ve decided to design my own. I’ve taken inspiration from a number of presses I’ve seen online, but in the end, it’s my own design.
The pressure will be generated by a small bottle jack I bought off ebay. It’s rated as a 4 ton jack, so I think it’s will be sufficient for books. In fact I think I need to be careful that it doesn’t rip the whole press apart from too much pressure.
I’m not an engineer, but I think I’ve come up with a design that will hold up to a bit of pressure and not break or distort. It needs to be able to stay flat under pressure so that it doesn’t bend the books.
Today I cut up some bits of wood and squared them off (they had twisted a lot when they dried). Tomorrow I’ll hopefully get the first part of the frame done.
I’m experimenting with some new leather bound journals.
I sewed up the text blocks ages ago and didn’t know what to do with them after that, but we recently got a new couch and somebody suggest I use the leather from the old couch for book binding, so I decided to experiment with these ones.
After cutting all the leather off the couch, I glued it onto the text blocks. My technique could use some improvement, but I’m pretty happy with the final result. The four in the picture here all have a leather strap to wrap around and tie them closed.
There was one more that I tried using some rare earth magnets for a closing mechanism. I think it was a moderate success, but I need to come up with a better way of aligning the magnets, and use slightly larger magnets too. I’d bought some 10mm * 1mm magnets and they were just not quite strong enough.
My son goes to the local Scouts group, and I volunteered to teach them how to make some books.
We started with a simple folded book, then did a 3, and a 5 hole saddle stitch. The Scouts agreed that “3 hole saddle stitch” was a very boring name.
Then finished off with a 4 hole stab binding. The Scouts liked the sound of stab binding much better because it has the word “stab” in it.
I think the kids enjoyed themselves. I know I did.
In two weeks, I go back again to teach them how to make a long stitch book. I need to buy some more craft knives before then. And maybe some bandaids too.
I had put together a bunch of bookbinding packs, one for each kid. Each pack contains enough paper to make the 4 books, an instruction booklet (which I illustrated, printed, and bound myself). They also get a little block of bees wax, linen thread, and a needle.
I over catered with the bookbinding packs, so I’m thinking of putting the spare packs up on the Etsy site. I’ll update this post once they are available.
My father used to restore old player pianos, or pianolas, when I was a kid. He’d buy them at action and fix them up so they could play and then sell them. I don’t know if he ever made much money at it, but he seemed to enjoy it. He also acquired a huge supply for the scrolls needed to play on the pianos. We had mountains of them.
My dad died nearly 17 years ago and my mum sold the last of the pianos and all the scrolls when she sold the house not long after.
I was walking past a second hand store today and they had a stack of the old scrolls in the window and I couldn’t help buy a few. In a little homage to my father, I’ve tried making a little book out of one. I cut down the slip cover it came in to make the covers of the book, and I cut up the scroll itself for the paper. The paper was harder to work with than I thought it would be. It’s quite tough paper and has a real spring to it, and having been rolled up tight for years, it just won’t lie flat. I wasn’t sure how the paper would take ink, but I did a little test and was pleasantly surprised at how well it performed.
In the end I have a nice little book.
I have enough material to make a few more out of this batch of scrolls, so I’m sure my technique will improve.
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.