Teaching Scouts

My son goes to the local Scouts group, and I volunteered to teach them how to make some books.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Piano

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.

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Ink test

In the end I have a nice little book.

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Nice little book
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Springy book paper

I have enough material to make a few more out of this batch of scrolls, so I’m sure my technique will improve.

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Pianola scrolls

Japanese account books

I had some paper off cuts from the last batch of books I made, so I experimented with making Japanese account books, as described in the Japanese Bookbinding
book I’ve got.

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These are fun little guys to make.
I don’t imagine these are big enough to use for real account books, but apparently that’s what this style of binding was used for in Japan.

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Testing new finishes

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.

Test book 1
Test book 1
Test book 1
Test book 1
Test book 1
Test book 1
Test book 1
Test book 1
Test book 2
Test book 2
Test book 2
Test book 2
Test book 2
Test book 2

Art Book Fair

I just got back from the Art Book Fair at the National Gallery of Victoria.

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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.

I’d just like to have seen more art books.

 

More books for sale

I finished another batch of books, which are now available on my etsy store.

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.

So without further ado, here’s some pictures.

Book

Book

Book

Book

Book

 

French Link Stitch

For my birthday, my sister gave to me some books on bookbinding:

Making Handmade Books: 100+ Bindings, Structures & Forms

Little Book of Book Making: Timeless Techniques and Fresh Ideas for Beautiful Handmade Books

The later title includes instructions on making several different types of books including sewing up a text block using “French Link Stitch”. (Actually I just checked and both books have instructions for this technique, but I think the “Little Book” is easier to follow, although “Making Handmade Books” has more suggestions for how to add covers.)

I’d seen this technique in photos online and wanted to try it, so I followed the directions and now I have four nice text blocks sewn using the French link stitch. It’s a lovely stitching pattern all by itself.

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I’m quite happy with the results. Thanks sis.

Hardcover

I did a one day short course on “Simple Bookbinding” yesterday through the CAE.

I made what is possibly the ugliest book I’ve ever made, but it’s mine and I’m proud of it.

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I don’t think I’ll post any detail shots. The tension on stitching the text block was bad so it’s all a bit loose, and the cover didn’t go on well so the inside covers crumpled when I closed it the first time.

Having said that, it was a lot easier than I expected to make a hard bound book like this. I’m sure with a little practice, I’ll get the hang of it.

We finished a bit early, so the instructor took us through some variations on Japanese stab binding.

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Maker

And while I’m thinking about making and makers, I just read Makers: The New Industrial Revolution.

I really enjoyed this book. The first part of the book is a call to arms for people who make stuff, and the new technologies enabling makers.

I’m not sure to what extent the book applies to what I do with book making, as it doesn’t scale very well. A desktop CNC milling machine isn’t going to help me make books any faster, although I think a laser cutter might come in useful. But being able to sell books straight from my little shed to an international audience via my Etsy shop, well that it kinda neat.

The rest of the book is an interesting mediation on how new production and sales methods could revolutionise the manufacturing industry.