Guild of Book Workers Newsletter
Number 109
December 1996

Tips & Techniques

[Editor's Note: We welcome articles on methods members have found work for them. Send your tips to the Editor. We'll include all we can.]

Morocco Bound, the journal of the Australian Guild of Craft Bookbinders, has kindly given permission for us to reprint items from their publication. June McNicol, of the Queensland Bookbinders' Guild, often has tips and techniques in the journal which we will from time to time reprint. Herewith:

A Coward's Way with Spines

This method applies to half and quarter bound books and to old books which require new spines. I haven't tried it on full bindings but it should work, though it would be a bit more fiddly.

The secret is to tool the spine before you put it on the book. I prepare the book as for a traditional spine with headband and a good firm tube spine and pare the leather as usual, making sure it will be a good fit. I then cut a piece of paper exactly the same size as the tube spine and then glue it well in the correct position to the flesh side of the leather, using PVA/paste mix.

I put the spine leather on a larger sheet of paper and mark the head, tail and joint edges by lifting the leather to see the edges of the paper. I then tape the leather firmly to the paper, making sure the tape is only on the areas of leather which will later be hidden, in case it "picks" the leather.

With the construction lines now available, it is easy to measure up for bands, panels, center tools, etc. and also put the title in with a blocking press. It is much easier working on the flat then on a rounded spine and, if you do make a horrible mistake like blocking the title 20 mm too high, just start again with another piece of leather.

To put the leather on the book, prepare the flaps only as for traditional binding, with water and paste, and when they are ready, give both the paper lining and the outside of the tube spine a good coat of PVA/paste mix. Superimpose the paper lined leather exactly over the spine and rub down well under paper. Do not proceed until you are satisfied that the leather is stuck to the spine, then put down the sides and turn in the head and tail as usual.

I haven't tried this method for false raised bands which would have to be glued to the paper before gluing the leather on, as I can foresee problems with a neat finish over the bands.

Charles Schermerhorn has sent an up-date, or refinement, on the technique for the spine-sewing tool he described in the October Newsletter: When it was suggested to him that the inflation-needle he used left too large a hole in the hinge, he visited a local "feed & seed" store (Charles lives in a small town, not in the middle of a large city - a possible problem) and bought a veterinary syringe with two different size needles: a 20 x 1 (20 ga. by 1" length) and an 18 x 1.5 (18 ga. by 1 1/2" length).

These, with the syringe itself, which supplies the handle to do the piercing operation, cost less than a dollar. He had, however, to sign a registry certifying the non-medical use of the equipment. A standard stitching needle fits in the needle-hole quite well.