Posted tagged ‘bookbinding’

Sight Lines – A Short Video

October 4, 2013


Grimsby Wayzgoose 2013!

April 24, 2013

“Wayzgoose” is one of those old words of mysterious origin, but what is certain is that it was a time of celebration for printers, and printers are people who particularly enjoy celebrating! Today, the term is applied to  book artists to exhibit and sell their beautiful hand crafted work. And yes,  to celebrate as well.

The Wayzgoose in Grimsby, Ontario is a venerable book arts show, founded by the renown Bill Poole, and one we’ve exhibited at for the past five or six years. Once again, we’ll have a table there offering books and prints. Hope to see you!



Binding Tintern Abbey

June 3, 2012

Part One: Folding, Piercing, Sewing

When printing is finished, the press room converts into a bindery. A custom made table top is fit over the press bed providing more table space. It is difficult to make the conversion smoothly, since a press room and a bindery are very different environments, but one adapts.

The above photo show the aftermath of the first phase of binding. I have used the piercing cradle to stab holes in the signatures, then sewed up the signatures on tapes into book blocks. After this, I’ll glue on the endsheets which pretty much hold the book to the covers. Once that is done, they go under weight for a few hours, as below:

Signatures weighted between boards.

I use almost nothing that would be considered professional bookbinding equipment. Even the needles I use for sewing aren’t “official” bookbinding needles. I do use a bone folder which is a traditional bookbinder’s tool, and I own a nipping press… very handy for nipping the cases after cloth and/or paper has been glued down on them. But most everything else is purloined or conscripted from other purposes. The boards I’m using to press the glued endpages are thin plywood, leftover from a rough shelving unit; they are a far cry from the lovely hardwood boards that professional binderies stock. The weight I’m using is a container of lead spacing material for type.

I suppose my point is that everything in the studio must be prepared to serve in two (or more!) capacities, and this works pretty well for the most part. Sometimes I find it a problem when, after many months or even years between a certain conversion, I forget exactly what esoteric object I used to achieve a certain goal or effect. One begins to feel like McGyver.

What I miss most from a professional bindery are high tables that bring the work to just about chest height. In production binding, after many hours stooped over a regular height table, you begin to feel it. Sometimes I’ll drop a computer chair down to it’s lowest, but usually I set an old wooden tool chest up on the workspace, and set the work I’m doing on that, which helps my back and neck immensely!

The work show above is another ten copies of Tintern Abbey under way. the next step will be to glue up the spines, attach end bands and line the spines with mull (a kind of thin mesh) and paper.


Tintern’s Binding

November 30, 2011

A lot of things go on here in the studio. My partner Holly Dean and I operate a kind of cottage-industry craft-based business, and I still do some freelance writing. Invariably, in the fall, the lines converge and we get totally smoked with work, which takes us away from our more artistic pursuits. So, in the rush of a very busy fall, I had to push Tintern Abbey far ahead. A few blogs ago, when I was about ready to set type on the project, I used the metaphor of a train about to leave the station. It left all right — without me on it! Nevertheless, we still carve out an hour here or there to do a little artwork or at least plan for the future.

Last week, Holly and I had the opportunity to visit bookbinder Natasha Herman of The Redbone Bindery for a tutorial on edition binding, and not a moment too soon. As I write she’s already in Amsterdam, where she’ll reside for a year of two, so time was of the essence. We met in her tiny, partially dismantled basement studio in the evening after she put her young children to bed for the night. So we brought a hastily gathered offering of pizza and wine and chocolate brownies, and by about 9 pm we all went into the bindery where Natasha stepped us through a two part case in binding with French groove. We took in alot — ways to make the binding straight, clean, tidy with a mind to “mass”production, i.e twenty or twenty-five at a go. It was an enlightening session that didn’t finish until after midnight, and gave me an insight into what Tintern Abbey will look like when it is completed. There’s still some question over the cover paper: I think Holly’s hand-painted papers would look ideal; she thinks papers decorated with my linocuts would be better. Well, we’ll sort something out.

The 2-step case binding, with Holly's painted paper for the cover. The top is half finished, with the inside left unglued for future reference. The two below have endpages but not covers, and show the sewing, the tapes and the structure of the spine.


Bookbinder's tools of the trade

Ten (or More) Things I (re)Learned Printing Graven Images

February 21, 2011

1. Settle on a binding design from the outset, and stick to it. The binding of Graven Images has been something of a problem. I didn’t have a set plan from the outset, and that created headaches all through production. Originally it was going to be a handsome envelope or folder with the prints loose inside, and it grew on its own from there. Plans to bind the edition myself evaporated in face of time constraints, so the job was handed off to a commercial binder. The results were adequate, but still full of small disappointments.

2. Set limits. At one point, there was some discussion around the dinner table about creating fictional text to accompany the illustrations. I guess that was my line of death, but it would have been an interesting endeavour. The painted covers are covered below, and the final binding of the edition was a compromise imposed by money and time.

3. Use tried and true papers on big projects. There’s a reason so many private presses use only a certain few commercially available papers; there’s no need for further experimentation. Sigh. Looking forward to St. Armand, Fabriano, Arches Text…. and insolvency trying to pay for them.

4. Smoother paper = better halftones. Better impression generally. Canson Mi Teintes paper proved problematic, with one side being rough, intended for pastels. I lost my nerve, and declined to print a large halftone of the box of wood engraving blocks when I realized it would be printed on the rough side, and the last page after already printing the three other pages. I’m telling ya, this racket takes nerves of steel!

5. I’m happier when I can work on the production of a book beginning to end in a concentrated period of time. Because of much going on in my life, I knew that Graven Images would be spread over a long period of time. Two years, in fact. I planned it that way, breaking all the work into its parts, and it all worked out according to plan. But I didn’t like it as much as working on a book every day, continuously for six or eight weeks.

6. I’ve mastered printing type. Just in time to see the early signs of age and wear on my precious lead type.

7. Think twice, maybe three time before betting on a lot of art work for any book. Holly and I planned to have her paint all the covers for Graven Images. What were we thinking?! Trying to reproduce her painted covers using digital laser printing added another dimension of frustration to the job, for everyone involved.

8. I need storage for unbound sheets. At one point, I had the makings of 75 copies of the edition laid out flat in one box. Very heavy! Very big! Always tripping over it.

9. I need storage for bound copies. Graven Images is a big book, not just in terms of labour, but its actual size. And it is by no means even close to the largest folios done by some presses. Even binding up 25 copies a time requires some place to put them, when I even lack bookshelves for the books in my own collection!

10. I need to better organize my work area. Holly has caught me more than once this winter standing at the foot of my press, arms folded and staring into space. My space works very well indeed, but improvements can and will be made. Additional storage. Moving things further back that I seldom use; moving stuff I use frequently closer. A hanging wall cupboard is in the works. Perhaps some shelving.

11. I can print wood engravings. I can even print 130 year old wood engravings. It’s not as easy as it looks. And for the 130 year old engravings, apply lesson #2.

12. Promotion. Promotion. Promotion. I print books with the attitude that I would be happy to live with the entire edition until I pop off. But really, how sensible is that?

13. Live with the variables. There are far too many variables involved in producing a beautifully printed page to be able to control them all. So get over it, and find creative solutions.

14. I love printing, and there will be more books. Wordsworth’s famous poem Tintern Abbey is up next.

Hand binding postscript

September 28, 2010

Just a couple of bits and pics about my false start at binding Graven Images. In the end, I will bind 20 copies of the book myself, but without the aggravating pressure. I’ll get Smiths Falls Bookbinding to finish off the balance. It doesn’t look like there will be a deluxe edition coming out from the press, but customers who desire a finer binding can purchase unbound copies of the book and secure the services of a fine binder to do the work.

Relating to hand binding, I use a sewing jig and a hole template to perforate the signatures (sections).

After all the sections have been perforated, they are collated and sewing together.

I had begun making the hard cover cases before running out of time, using cover papers hand painted by Holly. (For the editions bound out-of-house, these papers were colour photocopied onto Williamsburg paper).

…Sew Little Time Indeed.

September 28, 2010

So little time, in fact, that I’ve sent 20 copies of Graven Images out to be bound at a professional bindery, namely Smiths Falls Bookbinding. They will be ready for next weekend, the final weekend of the studio tour. I think Allan thought I was a bit touched when I told him I had planned to hand bind the entire edition myself. He was able to accommodate easily some of the peculiarities of this particular structure, and I’m looking forward to seeing the bound edition on Thursday or Friday. Sometime between now and Friday I have to print labels for the cover and the spine.

The first weekend of the studio tour went well, both Holly and I had fair sales, although there isn’t the robust crowds of previous years, probably because there is a great deal more to capture the attention of the populace on any given autumn weekend. The studio looks spiffy, thought; I’ll get shots of it next weekend.

It has become traditional to have a guest artist named Jamie. In previous years, it was Jamie Brick, who has bowed out to do a show in another part of the country. This year, we have Jamie Carter, who has turned our rustic living room into quite a swish little gallery with his mixed media photography, which involves some kind of alchemical process to transfer silver nitrate onto canvas, and that’s just the beginning. (Photos coming, pending permission).

I have five new linocuts for the show, plus one that was used for the CBBAG (bookbinder’s guild) swap (nude at a window), so I printed an edition of that and combined it with a splash of colour in the form of marbled paper. Pictures later.

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