Bookbinding

Sweet Alphabet Book

It was far too cold to be out in the garage printshop over the Christmas break and so I decided to make some new books. This one is a fairly standard binding but has quite a ‘sweet’ cover, so I’ll focus on that.

Whilst sorting out my odds and ends file, I found a couple of card lettering stencils and decided to make use of them. I considered going for an embossed effect with the stencils beneath a thin cover cloth, but eventually opted for a slightly more experimental approach. Inspired by the effects of sugar on this book cover, I used the stencils to apply a layer of glue to the bare boards and coated them with sugar:

Once dry, I applied a coat of acrylic paint, mixed with a little PVA and water. I used a base of white and kept adding bits of black to create a very uneven grey – I wanted the colours to remain a little unmixed and reveal the brush strokes for a more painterly effect. The paint was very liberally applied!

The result of the volume and consistency of the paint began to dissolve the sugar in places. I had a horrible feeling that by morning it would all be totally dissolved and just be a splodgy mess!

I ought to show you another detail too. I had decided to use a ‘half binding’ style for this cover, and needed to clear away a strip of the sugar letters along the edge near the pine and on the corners to allow the cloth to lay smooth on the board:

The half binding style features a strip of leather or book cloth across the spine to attach the cover boards, along with protective corner pieces. The photo above is slightly out of sequence here, but shows corner style with some of the tools used.

After some careful measuring and lightly marking alignments on the cover, I cut a strip of black buckram that was a bit wider than the triangle it was to cover (three times the thickness of the board if anyone’s interested) and trimmed off the outer parts at a 90° angle:

The edges were then trimmed to run parallel with the boards. This was an arbitrary measurement, but I was consistent all round.

The corner pieces were glued:

Top tightly folded and rubbed down with a bonefolder…

…and nipping in the overlap. I then dab a little more glue over this part.

The side flap is then tightly folded over and rubbed flat. Neat and tidy.

Any uneven parts were trimmed off to make sure that the insides are as neat as the outsides – I’m a bit funny about things like that sometimes.

I put these under light pressure for an hour or so whilst I prepared for the next part.

Always a good idea to check the measurements again – I had already made the book block so there is no excuse for getting this wrong. Everything was assembled and clamped together and all my measurements were checked again. The spine I had originally cut was a bit too wide – the book had been tightly bound – so I made the necessary adjustments, cut the buckram for the spine and drew out some guidelines.

Even though I had checked my measurements, I still offered up the cloth to the boards to visually check before I committed myself. The old carpenters axiom of “measure twice, cut once” should never be forgotten…

The spine strip is then laid glue side up and the boards are positioned to the guidelines I drew earlier. There whole thing is carefully turned over and rubbed flat. The most effective tool I have found for this is clean hands!

Then turned back over to fold in the top and bottom, both of which are cut from the outside edge. This prevents the material inside the spaces from bunching up too much. This is then rubbed down hard with the bonefolder.

I always use the bonefolder to create the creases on either side of the spine at this point – as the glue dries it will retain some of this shape. The cover was left overnight under a pile of big books to dry.

I had already made the book block a few days earlier so was ready the next day to put the cover on. The excess scrim and tapes are neatly trimmed off:

And a piece of newspaper is placed between under the endpaper to catch any overspill from the gluing.

The whole outside endpaper is then given a light but even coat of PVA, over the scrim and tapes:

The newspaper is carefully removed and discarded and I usually leave the endpaper for a few minutes to ‘relax’ as it tends to curl with the absorption of water on one side of the paper:

The book is then placed against the spine making sure that there is equal space top and bottom. The cover is then carefully folded around onto the glued endpaper. This sounds easy, but you also have to hold the book in position and push it tightly towards the spine.

The other side is done in exactly the same way, and two pieces of greaseproof paper are inserted inside each cover. This will prevent any excess glue spreading onto the pages when the book is pressed.

Overnight in the nipping press between several layers of felt and Hey Presto!

I’m really pleased with this. I made this one specifically to explore more book designs in and am looking forward to putting it to good use.

I didn’t mention before, but the pages of the book are made from brown parcel paper…

Sweet.

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