Saturday, October 20, 2012


Today's post is about frustration, I've been making more books, and getting interested in how to make my binding process a little more polished. I love the way coptic binding lets a book open flat, but not so much the way that the spine moves of its own accord when the hard-cover is glued on. That often results in this sort of messy spine. See how the pages Inside the spine are all over the place instead of nicely lined up? I've been playing with journals bound with softer covers, and spines, more moleskein like than a hard bound book, semi soft maybe? The blue one is a bit of a dud, but I'm learning and making each one taught me something on how to make my bound books better. The paper is a lovely Japanese wrapping paper I picked up in Napier, I have one sheet left.

As part of wanting to do-better I turned to the wide world of online content and found some nice tutorials online that involved preparing a book block for casing in. Did you notice, I'm picking up all sorts of new terms, the innards of a book, the pages all stitched together are called a book block. Casing in is the action of inserting the book block into the case, which is another name for a cover. Then there are other terms, like mull, which is a gauze fabric glued over the sewn edge of the bookblock to stabilize and strengthen the spine. Some people use paper, or gauze, or even special Japanese tissue. I decided that this was worth investigation if there was a potential of making a tidier book. I also needed to investigate just how less flexible book made this way would be compared to a Coptic bound book.

Finishing the spine with mull or mull like stuff requires clamping the book block with the spine exposed. I could do this with stiff cardboard and clamps, but saw a neat idea on you tube, I've linked to it here. Why do things the simple way when one can build a jig seems to be our family motto.

Then I saw another neat idea on you tube, for a combination sewing frame and book press. It wasn't the combination frame and press I thought was neat, but the springs to hold the boards apart. I decided to combine the two ideas, seemed like a sensible thing to do.

So Bear and I went shopping, eventually after visiting two big box hardware stores, one engineering place and a closed wood work specialist we found all we were looking for in the sizes we needed. Most places stocked a weird variety of coach bolts, in metric sizes and wing nuts in American non-metric sizes. It matters, it really does, you cant see the difference by looking but if I was to screw a non metric threaded wing nut onto a metric threaded coach bolt ... there would be a promising start and a sudden tightening and locking of everything as the slightly different threads jammed and stuck.

We ended up with this, two bamboo laminated chopping boards, four coach bolts of 8mm diameter, (3 shown), four springs, a set of bumpers, and five wing nuts. Five because I knew if I bought four I would drop one, be unable to find it and end up back buying another one. And washers, the largest we could find to fit the coach bolts, to distribute the pressure as much as possible.

Bear and I marked drill hole positions, using measurements rather than the laminated pattern of the chopping boards. we discovered the boards are not square or symmetrical .... which really annoyed engineer Bear. We fired up the big red drill press, and drilled holes, just like in the tutorial but four not two. I like my big red drill press, it runs smooth and quiet, and was a gift from my dad. I think all middle aged daughters deserve their own drill press don't you? The project looked good, then holes were neat, we stuck on the bumpers, and set about assembling my DIY bookpress.
Right up until the moment of failure it looked like this, very promising, so we inserted a large old dictionary and set about tightening the coach bolts up so the 'coach' part of the head would seat into the wood and fix permanently in place. We tightened, and tightened .....
And the heard a loud crack, the board had cracked. Now if I had followed the instructions this probably wouldn't have happened, but I had to 'Improve' on the instructions, and introduce more stress with four coach bolts than two coach bolts would create. So I headed out to the better of the two big box stores to look for plywood. Plywood is stronger than laminated chopping boards, or so we thought. They had a cut-shop where I was able to have my 600mm x 900mm 17mm thick ply cut to size, but the sign said no cuts under 300mm. So I opted for just over 400mm squarish. I figured a book press made from two sheets of 600mm by 900mm ply was a tad larger than convienient.

This time Bear and I are thinking we might not set the coach bolts so near the corners, but maybe set in a third of the distance from the ends, we can reuse the hardwear, the drill press is set up. The ply is not as nicely finished on both sides as the chopping boards, but I am thinking I might finish the top with a piece of thick wallpaper ....and I have to buy another set of bumpers.

Today my plan was to take the bookblock I had prepared earlier and explore mulling the spine ...but it is 3:30 and this is as far as I have got. Two sheets of ply and hardware to make a diy book-press. seems just like where we were this morning, Maybe tomorrow i can explore mull, maybe not.

I am knitting, my Tempest cardigan grows slowly as only a cardigan knit on 3mm needles can, and I'm still working my way through washcloth textures. Here is variation four so far, seed stitch edges and a kind of modified garter rib centre. I need to look for a few more textures to knit, details next post.

Take care, oh and I haven't dropped a wing nut, I still have all five.

Na Stella

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