A New Old Toy


A friend recently purchased this from a local auction and I was given ‘first refusal!’ Like many things bought at local auctions, this worked but needed a good clean and a bit of TLC. After a settling on a very reasonable price, I am now the owner of an old perforating machine. Yes, a perforating machine. For perforating paper and the like.


It still bears its nameplate too, so I did a little research and found a catalogue and pricelist of theirs from 1902. Apart from that, there doesn’t appear to be much else on Frederick Ullmer Ltd of Farringdon Road, which surprised me as they were manufacturers of Albion presses and were highly regarded.


In the catalogue there is an engraving of a  remarkably similar (and much more decorative) perforating machine, which was strangely satisfying!


If anyone knows anything about these machines or the Ullmer Company in general, please get in touch…

A close inspection showed that it was very rarely taken apart to clean or service it. In fact, many of the screws were properly gummed down with a layer of grease and grime, so it was liberally coated with penetrating oil and left to stand for a day or two.


I began to strip it down and found that the majority of the screws were quite happy to remain where they were, but plenty more ‘loose juice’ and some gently applied brute force eventually got things moving.


I was intending to take lots of detail photos of each stage to help me put it all back together, but only managed a few because it was such a mucky job. This was the top of the perforating guide plate just after removal:


It was only when I turned it over that I realised it was made of brass! This part then got a good de-greasing and a polish with the trusty old ‘Brasso’ and it now it even shines a little!


Underneath, the screws holding the lower perforating guide were proving equally as stubborn and needed plenty of lubricant and even more force. These were really tough to remove…


Eventually I got everything apart and gave it a good cleaning. Although the screws were reluctant to come out, they all did – except one which completely disintegrated! Note the seven small screws at the bottom right! Not bad going I reckon.


I’m not sure whether I am going to give this a fresh coat of paint, but I am going to replace the two boards which were very badly worn and probably not original anyway. Thats my next job…


Oh? The perforating? You’ll have to wait for that.

Artists Books, Projects, Uncategorized

Xylotheque #8


Making a spine compartment means that I need to cut some more wood. This is 3mm thick stuff from the craft shop that can be cut with a knife and just needs a little sanding to bring it to life…


The side pieces were glued into place using spacers made from paper laminate in order to allow the covers to close properly. Had I thought about this earlier on I probably would wave designed something a little more elegant, but I’m liking the general aesthetic of the ‘cobbled together’ approach…


Meanwhile, I set about making some sort of knob using the same paper laminating technique used for the closure peg, but this time wrapping it tightly around a leather thong.


and cutting it down to size when dry. Again, a little sanding brings it to a more satisfying shape.


I also cut a couple of top pieces to frame the lid and got on with shaping and dressing the knob.


In order to secure the leather thong I cut a groove on the back so that I could glue it into a recess…


Whilst the glue was drying on the thong I mixed up another batch of black goo and gave all the new pieces a good slop. I did the same to the lid shortly afterwards, and sanded everything back to match the overall ‘patina.’


And there it is. I’m still deciding on the contents and still need to finish the runes on the front, so there will be more to come…

Artists Books, Projects

Xylotheque #7

My last comment on this project was ‘now for some fun on the outside’ so I had better make good on this…


I had already thought about adding an inscription to the front and originally was going with an asemic theme, but after thinking about the overall aesthetics of the piece, I decided to go with a runic message. After researching a number of runic forms on the web, I translated a suitable passage, sketched it out in pencil and then roughly carved it out:


The idea was to create a less polished object, something perhaps made during moments of enforced calm like a warrior on route to combat.


In order to pick out the characters further I mixed up some more paint and powder filler to make a sloppy paste:


This was then carefully slathered over each cut and left to dry…

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Next came a vigorous sanding to remove all the surface pigment…


and a good clean with a damp cloth to reveal the now crimson runes…


They have got much lighter now that everything has dried, so I may need to come back to this, but I’m hoping I can restore this level of colour (not too bright and apparently pale with age?) with some waxing later.


Now to go back inside. If you recall the first post about xylotheques, you may have noticed the compartment built into the spine:


That’s my next step…

Artists Books, Projects

Xylotheque #6


Now that the three parts are bound together, my thoughts have turned to keeping it closed. I had toyed with a variety of wooden latches, some simple and others quite elaborate, but never settled upon any of them as ‘the one.’ I think that some other materials might add something that the wooden solutions were lacking.

I decided to fashion a peg and loop closure using leather and a laminated paper block. Having made my measurements I trimmed some thickish black leather I had in my ‘this stuff might be useful one day’ box and measured out my fitting stations on the outer edges. Using a variety of knives and gouges, I carved out two recesses about 5mm deep (apologies for the crap photo!):


I glued together several pages from an old book that I have been recycling for some years and left them under pressure overnight. This stack was the thickness of the leather so that I could slice it and use it to sandwich the leather strip – the image below shows one strip on the top and bottom, and another split to fill in the gaps above and below. Again, this was compressed and left to dry:


Once dry, I set upon it with a scalpel and some sandpaper…


and again, after some final measuring, I glued in the peg and a loop of leather on the other side, just lower than the peg:


Box closed. now for some fun on the outside…

Artists Books, Projects

Xylotheque #5

Its time to make this a little more functional. Up until now the covers parts have only been connected to the spine through friction. So now I’m going to secure the cords with glue and cover them:


A quick marking out helps me to create some infill pieces from corrugated card:


The cords are then trimmed and glued down, compressing them as flat as possible using a bonefolder. (I first made sure that they were the right length!)


And then covered with another layer of card to neatly hide the cords. The spine section will also be covered, but not in the same way… Now they must dry.


Artists Books, Projects

Xylotheque #4

Not much to say at this stage, except that now that it is sanded it’s beginning to look a little more distressed and weathered…LESTARET-xylotheque-20 LESTARET-xylotheque-21 LESTARET-xylotheque-22 LESTARET-xylotheque-23 LESTARET-xylotheque-24 LESTARET-xylotheque-25 LESTARET-xylotheque-26
I am still thinking about the next stage, but as always I will keep you informed…

Artists Books, Projects

Xylotheque #3

This is where I left off last time. I do not have a clear idea of what direction I want to take this in yet, but I am inclined towards distressing it in some way. Also, the Jenga blocks are all round edged and leave these grooves:LESTARET-xylotheque-14
I decided to put some ordinary filler into the grooves, and then had the idea to begin the distressing process at this stage too, so I mixed my filler with black poster paint…LESTARET-xylotheque-15
and slathered it on. Great word, slathered.LESTARET-xylotheque-16 LESTARET-xylotheque-17LESTARET-xylotheque-18
I covered the entire outside surfaces and filled in all the grooves too. Once this is dry I will do a little sanding…

Artists Books, Projects

Xylotheque #2

I got a little carried away and got this far without photographing it in progress! All made from odds and ends; bits of plywood offcuts and discarded Jenga blocks!LESTARET-xylotheque-2
Three sections simply glued together for now, but then subjected to a fair bit of sanding, measuring and drilling…

I decided to secure the sections using cords sewn through the spine. in order to settle everything down I cut grooves for the cords to sit in…LESTARET-xylotheque-5LESTARET-xylotheque-7
And whilst this looks quite elegant, the insides are much less so for now…LESTARET-xylotheque-8 LESTARET-xylotheque-9
Now I just need to think a little more about what I want to do next.

Artists Books, Projects

Xylotheque #1

I have recently become fascinated by the concept of the xylotheque; essentially a library of wood. More exactly, a collection of wooden boxes, in the style of books, each made from an individual  species.

LESTARET-xylotheque-10Fashionable during 18th century, the xylotheque was a collection of boxes that catalogued and illustrated different species of tree. With a spine covered in the bark, complete with lichens and mosses, inside were samples of leaves in various states of life cycle, root samples, blossoms, seeds, fruits or nuts. Some even had pages made of leaves! Tucked away in the spine was a small lidded niche containing a document with more detailed information.

Not content with detailed illustrations in prestigious, leather-bound academic tomes, these great botanical explorers decided to use the trees themselves to present their findings, creating a sort of cabinet of curiosities for each each tree, each carefully presented to show as much information in a visually stimulating recepticle. They also had to chop down a fair few trees as well, which kind of misses the point a bit.

The first image shows how a collection can be an impressive and useful resource but with a little more poking around on the internetogramme, more comprehensive and sophisticated examples can be found:

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These images are of the Schildbach Xylotheque in Kassel, Germany, which consists of 530 books of 441 trees, collected between 1771 – 1799, now presented in purpose built cabinetry.

So now I’m going to explore this concept, using repurposed and salvaged materials. Watch this space…



Hello. I have not been blogging here so much lately. I have been busy, but not ‘blogging’ busy – you know how it is – you are working on a number of things, but paying jobs come first and personal projects get done in-between everything else, which is never a great situation in which to document stuff to show online.

You’ll just have to trust me, but there are things to come.

Meanwhile, I’ve been overwhelmed with the response to the Raymond Queneau chapbook. This is a new collaboration between myself and general asemic guru Tim Gaze, under the imprint name of Secret Books. Since it went on sale at the beginning of March, half of the edition has already been sold!

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I am currently making the second batch of this edition of 100 and already have orders waiting. We have had some great comments on Twitter from those who have received theirs, and a great review on an Italian Literary Review website – Google translate does a pretty decent job if you don’t read Italian. Head over to the Secret Books site and take a look – if you are interested in the asemic experiments of one of France’s great literary icons, place your order quickly as they are selling fast.

I have also been busy with my friends over in Soddenham. There always seems to be something going on over there, and they are eager to share their village life with the world at large. You can also get involved – the Soddenham Poetry Festival is calling for poems inspired by Soddenham for a book to commemorate the event. soddenham-poetry-fest

If you have ever been to Soddenham, or perhaps feel like you never left, put pen to paper and celebrate in rhyme!