Guild of Book Workers Newsletter
Number 111
April 1997

Tips & Techniques

Board Shears

The cost of a Jacques, Kutrimmer or other such shear capable of cutting binding board is beyond the reach of most amateurs, yet we suffer from the great need to cut boards accurately and with a clean edge more easily and expeditiously than with a plough or a razor knife. The following is a less expensive solution that I implemented three years ago, with excellent results.

Foot operated sheet metal shears are available in various widths, to cut mild steel, copper, lead and other sheet metal stock. The foot press lever is connected to the knife blade carrier, leaving the hands free to hold the board up against the gauges and away from the knife or finger guard. The foot lever is not a trip lever, but operates the knife in exact movement as the lever is pressed, giving great control. One looks down upon the blade and board alignment, precluding mistakes and waste. You can easily align the board and knife edge to split a pencil mark at boards edge. They are intended to cut sheet metal, so certainly one rated to cut 16 gauge sheet steel (.062" thick) will easily cut number 14 Davey board (.098" thick) and leave a beautifully clean edge at 90 degrees. They have the ability to cut several boards at the press of a foot, all exactly the same. Such "Foot Shears" are usually equipped with a back gauge to set the board edge against, as well as side gauges to assist in 90 degree cuts.

While most paper/board cutters are available from printing, binding and art supply houses, Foot Shears are available, new and used, from various sources. Try first USED MACHINERY listings in the yellow pages; then watch for auctions of companies that are closing; they usually list the items being offered; you can buy a new one; or, another place to look is in sheet metal shops. They have a small unit (30") they'd often be glad to part with, as most sheet metal comes in 48" width, making the smaller shears more available.

When you're shopping, ask about a "foot operated sheet metal shear". You need to know its width, whether it has back or side gauges, is it sharp? Does it have a finger guard? What is its capability in metal cutting thickness? With #14 Davey board at .098" thick, 27" by 39" you really need a cutter with at least a 29" capability, designed to cut at least 16 gauge mild sheet steel. Always take with you a full sheet of binders board of whatever the greatest thickness you will be using and operate the item being offered. The cut should come clean - no feathering, square to the board at 90 degrees, not tapered or beveled. The blade is the thing; a little cleaning and paint will take care of the iron of the rest of it. And speaking of iron, they are quite heavy, so don't figure on putting it in your trunk. Rent a pickup truck or trailer. See if you can get a guarantee. Don't buy a dull blade; sharpening may be difficult where you live. The seller may perhaps sharpen it as part of the arrangement. If it cuts clean, it will continue to do so on board for quite a while, even years. It must have a finger guard; it is capable of amputation just as any cutter is. SAFETY FIRST!

At auction, figure to pay from $50 to $250, depending on size. From a used machinery dealer, figure to pay $150 to $500, also depending on size. New units can be purchased from various machinery dealers, such as ENCO (offices throughout the U.S., 1 800 873-3626) which has a 37" model often on sale for about $875. While I have not tried the ENCO unit, the specs say it should work fine. I bought my 31" foot shear at auction for $50.00. Despite the lack of a back gauge, it has been serving me well these past three years.

NEVER EVER buy such an item, new or used, without looking it over very well, and you must try it out by cutting boards with it. Good luck; good cutting.

Harold Gross lives and works in Thousand Oaks, CA

LapBack Bookbinding

Philip Smith's new hardback book construction is being introduced for license or sale to manufacturers of bookbinding. This article is for information regarding a new technique. Information on patents and sales, and detailed drawings is available by writing to: C. Philip Smith, The Book House, Yatton Keynell, Chippenham, Wiltshire sn14 7bh, England, or call Kessler Corp, in Ohio at 1 800 537-1133; fax: 419 334-5068.

The new hardback book construction provides for the lap-back structure to be glued or sewn in a way to create an arch, by semi-flexible glueing, when the book-block is opened.

The semi-rigid cover boards project to the rear beyond the spine of the book when it is opened.

The design is felt to be an improvement in several ways over present methods: 1) the spine of the book is protected against abrasion by projecting portions of the cover boards; 2) without a spine cover, the spine is less vulnerable to attack by acid from contact with materials through which acid can migrate; 3) the projecting covers limit the extent to which the boards can be flexed back, thus protecting them from breaking off at the hinge; 4) it allows easy reversibility.

This construction can be used for books subject to a great deal of wear, such as address books, diaries, reference books. It could be easily and inexpensively mass produced.

(U.S. Patent No. 5,499,847; British Patent No. 227 9269.)

Handy Hint

from the Association of Book Crafts in New Zealand:

To save a newspaper clipping, add one tablespoon of Milk of Magnesia to one quart of water and let it set for 24 hours. Pour it on the clipping and soak for two hours. Dry between paper towels. The mixture neutralizes the acids in the paper so it will not turn yellow or disintegrate.

Ed. note: Will the paper disintegrate during those two hours? Would calcium carbonate do the same thing? Or would neither one of these work? Comments?