Monday, 20 February 2012

5. Lacing on the Boards

Whether you are using pre-prepared or made boards now is the time to measure up and trim to size.
Before we do this we have to trim the protruding edge of excess endpaper along the fore edge. This excess is due to the rounding and backing process, but it gives us a false edge to measure to, so it must be trimmed.

To do this, place a piece of waste board into the joint of the book to protect the backed spine. Then slide a metal ruler underneath the pages at the fore edge on top of the endpaper, lining the ruler up with last page. Using a sharp scalpel trim the excess endpaper, then repeat the process for the other edge.

Now take your oversized boards and trim the spine and tail edges to 90°. Now place the board fully up against the spine joint and then mark the lip around the tail, fore edge and head. This lip measurement is up to you, but I personally feel anything more than 3 or 4mm is a little excessive. 

Trim the back board first then using this as a template trim the front board.
We now need to mark where we are going to punch the holes for the tapes.
Along the spine edge of each board mark a line 6 or 7mm in. place the board up against the joint and pull the tape tight over the marked line. Now with a needle or awl mark the centre of the tape on the line. Then place the boards aside for now.

Our next stage is to glue a ‘fence’ to the joint. This serves a couple of purposes. Firstly, it creates a space for the tapes to occupy when the book is opened. Also it stops the leather pulling the boards too tight against the joint when drying. It needs to be double the thickness of the tape and the length of the book and the width of the boards. You may need to laminate different papers to get the thickness right. The fence will be removed along with the waste sheet at the very end. Glue the fence to the Joint with a little PVA and leave to dry.

When the fences are dry our next stage is to fray out the tapes. This is where the use of pliester tapes makes life that little bit easier. Most cotton tapes are woven with a bead along either one or both edges, making fraying out agony. You can lace on your boards without fraying but there’s a lot of cutting into the board and that could get messy.
Using a needle or awl open the weave and fray out each tape right down to the sewing. 

Next with a little paste taper the ends and let them dry to harden off.

Now take your boards and punch the holes for the tapes where we marked them earlier. The holes don’t want to be more than 2 or 3mm in diameter. 

When the tape ends are dry push them through the corresponding holes. 

To position the boards properly have some pressing boards up against the spine so that the board is supported when open. Hold the board at 90° to the book and right into the joint. Pull the tapes through the holes tightly and close up the holes on the inside with the point of a bone folder to grip the tapes.

Now, whilst holding the board in the joint, lower it gently closed. The tapes will now have the appearance of being tight, but still allow board to open freely.
When you are satisfied that boards are correct open gently so as not to disturb the tapes and rest the board on the pressing boards pushed up against the spine. Snip the excess tape off leaving around 2cm. 

Paste the board under the tape, fan it out and stick it down. Do each tape one at a time, you may find a needle helps when fanning out. Repeat the process for the other side.

You now need to let the tapes dry thoroughly. I use thin acetate as a buffer between board and book to prevent the tape sticking to the book. Then leave under weighted boards until dry.
Our final stage is to knock down the tapes to give them a flatter profile. For this I use my backing hammer and the heavy duty steel stone I have for leather paring, but any strong surface would do I think.

The boards are now laced on and the book is ready for our next stage, the Headbands.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

4. Rounding and Backing

Rounding and Backing are two stages of the binding process that can baffle people, myself included. Many of the texts available tell you only part of the process or assume you know a little of it. What they don’t tell you is that it’s actually quite simple if you have the right equipment.
I’m afraid there is no way around the fact that you need a good press and backing boards. There are many places that sell these and unless you know what to look for you could be spending a lot of your hard earned money on something that just doesn’t work.
I’ve tried a few presses and a lot of different backing boards from various suppliers. The best I have found are from Bookbinding-Supplies. Robert makes the best wooden bindery equipment I have used. It’s great to work with, not too costly and a pleasure to look at too.
Your backing boards have to be in good condition, so always check them before use. If you notice any irregularity in the edge you will need to plane them back. I have tried brass edged ones and frankly they’re not a patch on Roberts wooden ones.

As for backing hammers, you can find a bargain on the various auction sites online. I picked up mine for less than £10 as opposed to £20-£30 from binding suppliers. If you type into your search engine ‘cobblers hammer’ you may find a cheaper option, and they’re both the same thing.

Before you begin the process we have to mark along the spine edge the thickness of the board we are using for the covers.
There are various choices of board you can use. Mill Board is a very good board but unless you have a strong guillotine or bench shear you are going to have trouble cutting it. Grey board is fine for a lot of the binding that you will do but with a fine leather binding I like to push the boat out a little. The boards I’ll be using are paste boards; boards that I’ve made myself, so I know exactly what they are made of and which way the grain runs.
This may sound like a pain but there is something a little special about them. If you don’t want to bother don’t worry I won’t take it personally.
My boards consist of a lamination of 190gsm Bockingford handmade paper and a 120gsm Archival Kraft paper. The brand of the handmade paper isn’t important, any quality 190gsm paper will do. Cut eight of each paper larger than the book making sure the grain runs head to tail.
Using a starch paste, make up pasted pairings of the white handmade paper and the grey kraft paper and then press them until dry. Once dry paste the pairs together to make quads and press until dry again. Finally paste two quads together and press for the last time. This should make a strong laminate of about 2.5mm thick. 

This can be a lengthy process and you may feel the need to make these early on so they are ready and dry. When you are not using them always leave them between pressing boards.
So, mark the boards thickness on the spine edge of the endpapers. This is so we can line up the backing boards easily.

Square the book up, place waste board either side and pop it in a press.
With a needle or awl fray out the ends of the knots where we tied on new thread. This makes them less noticeable when gluing. 

Then with the point of your bone folder close up the sewing holes so excess glue doesn’t seep in. 

We are now going to give the spine it’s first gluing. Using a flat stiff brush thinly glue the portions between the tapes but not over them. Use just enough glue to seal the joins between the sections. I use PVA for this, it has a quicker drying time than paste and has good elasticity which is needed for the spine of a book.

When the glue is almost dry but not completely, (touch the surface, if it’s tacky but doesn’t mark your fingertips) you are ready to start the rounding.
Take the book out of the press and place it on to the bench with the fore edge facing you. Place the thumb of the hand holding the book into the fore edge and gently tap the spine to coax the sections forward. As you tap the spine with the hammer in one hand, gently push with the thumb and pull with the fingers with the other hand. Turn the book over and repeat the process. 

This is Rounding, and the book can be left at this stage, which many feel is more sympathetic to the paper. We are going to take it a little further and Back the book.

Place the backing boards either side of the book on the marks that we made earlier and lift the whole lot and place it in the press.
Now with the hammer tackle one side at a time. We’re not going to touch the middle sections at all just the outer ones. You don’t want to hit the spine with all your strength; you’re mainly using the weight of the hammer. Your job is simply to control it. Think of each side as two runs. Using sweeping motions away from the centre towards the endpaper edge, coax the sections with the hammer along the full length, head to tail. Now do the same but slightly closer to the endpaper edge. Repeat this until you get a noticeable mushroom effect. Do the same for the other edge. 

With a bone folder, crisp up the edge.

Once you have a nice shape, take the book out of the press and remove the backing boards. Place the waist boards right up into the little lip or ‘joint’ you have created by backing and place it back in the press.
All we have to do now is give it a good layer of PVA, this time over the tapes as well.
When dry we will be ready for our next stage, board preparation and lacing on.



Tuesday, 7 February 2012

3. Sewing the Book

We now need to mark up the book block for sewing.
In the previous post I mentioned Guarding. This is the placing of a piece of folded paper over the fold of the first and last sections. These are sewn into the book and then the endpapers are pasted on to them. Pieces from the spare gilt sections can be used for this.
This is mainly done to stop the first section being dragged open when you open the book.
I personally don’t have a problem with this and find the excess material on these sections can cause resistance when rounding and backing. The book I am making here will not be using them but if you are interested in doing so I can discuss them in another post.

Place some waste board cut to the same size as the book either side and secure it all in a press. Using a carpenters or engineers square mark across the sections between a 5/10mm from the head, and 15mm from the tail. We are going to use three tapes on this book so measure the distance between these two marks and divide it by 4. Mark the waste board at these points.

There are different types of tape. For most case bound books I tend to use a 13mm starched cotton tape. For a Fine Binding, however, I use a 7mm Pliester linen tape. These are easy fray to out for the lacing-in process later.
Place a piece of tape for reference on the three positions marked on the waste board and mark either side. Using the square again mark across the sections at these points. I've also marked a diagonal line near the head. This is just in case the sections were to be mixed up, I can keep track of them during the sewing process.

Take the book from the press and remove the endpapers. Square up the book by knocking down to the head and spine and pop it back in the press along with the waste board.  
Using a fine toothed saw, such as a dovetail saw or a gentleman’s saw, saw across these marks at a depth of roughly 2mm. Just enough to nick the inner folio of each section. 

Make a template matching these saw marks and with a needle punch the holes through the double white folio of each endpaper. We do these separate from the rest of the book, as we don’t want to saw through the coloured folio of the endpaper.

We now need to set up the sewing frame.  If you don’t have a sewing frame, don’t worry. I’ve managed without one for the past twenty odd years simply sticking the tapes to the edge of a bench with masking tape.  The use of a frame though does give a stronger structure to the sewing and in the case of Pliester tapes not being starched; it just makes life that little bit easier.
Cut three tapes at least three times the thickness of the book. Wrap one end around the centre of an ‘H’ key and place it through the slot in the frame base.

Pull the other end of the tape taught over the crossbeam and pin it on. To save on tape I have loops already attached to my beam that I can pin the tape to.

Place the book on the frame base and line up the tapes with the sawn marks and then tighten the crossbeam. 

For this binding I’m using a slightly heavier thread than I would normally use. I tend to use a 25/3 Linen thread, which is a good all rounder. The heavier thread is purely so it shows up a little better on the photographs for you. The weight of thread used is important as it aids the swell at the spine when rounding and backing.
Take a piece of thread that’s not overly long. Try and cut enough for three to four sections. Any more than this will just make sewing awkward and just start to get a little worn and dirty. Thread your needle and tie a not at the other end but leave a tail of thread roughly 7cm or so.
Place one or two pressing boards onto the frame base. It will make sewing a lot easier.
Sewing starts on the last section, in this case the back endpaper. Start at the tail hole and enter from the spine. Pull through and exit from the next hole. Sew around the tape and re-enter through the next hole. Sewing continues in this fashion, through the holes and around the tape. Always pull taught but not too tight in the direction of the sewing. 

When you exit from the last hole in that section pull taught and place the next section on top. Sew up to the corresponding hole and continue to sew in the opposite direction until the last hole. When exiting the last hole pull taught in that direction and tie this thread to 7cm tail beneath it. These two sections are now sealed at both ends.

Place the third section on top. Sew up to the corresponding hole; sew along until the last hole is reached. This time there won’t be a tail to tie off onto. From now on we need to tie off with a Kettle Stitch.

To perform a kettle stitch place your needle underneath the section directly beneath the one you have exited from.  

Push the needle behind the last stitch and out of the head/tail. Pull until you are left with a loop and push the needle up through this loop. 

Finally pull up, and then you are ready to proceed to the next section. 

When the thread is about to run out you need to lay in a new thread using a Weavers Knot. It’s best to do this near a tape and not at the ends as it might interfere with backing later.  
Cut a new piece of thread and tie a slipknot in one end. A slipknot is made by performing the beginning of a standard knot, but instead of pulling the end of a thread through the loop, you need to grab the beginning of another loop and pull that through. Hopefully the photos make it a little clearer for you. 

Once the slipknot is made, slip it over the remaining thread in the book and tighten the loop. Finally pull the two ends of the slipknot until you hear a slight click and you will have achieved a Weavers Knot.

Sewing now continues in this fashion, remembering to kettle stitch at each end. When the final section (the front endpaper) is stitched, finish with a double kettle stitch. Sew a kettle stitch as normal, then do another, but this time go down through the loop created. This will give you a strong knot. 

The sewing is now complete.

Unpin the tapes from the crossbeam and remove the boards from beneath the book. This allows the H keys to drop and makes them easier to remove.
Our final stage is to ‘tip’ on the endpaper to the first and last sections. Place the book on the workbench fore edge facing you. Lift the endpaper off the book. Place some waste paper over the main body of the first section leaving 3-4mm of the spine edge exposed and paste. Remove the waste and bring the endpaper back over and position carefully. Do the same for the remaining endpaper. I like to use a starch paste for this so you have time to reposition your endpapers precisely. 

Place the whole lot between weighted boards. 

The book is now ready for our next stage, Rounding and Backing.