Guild of Book Workers Newsletter
Tips & Techniques
Tacketing: Jim Dorsey, editor of Binders Guild Newsletter, in its
Vol. XX, #6, Sept. 1996 issue, has expanded on an article by Robert
Espinosa and Pamela Barrios, both conservators at the Harold B. Lee
Library of Brigham Young University, Utah at the time it was written.
In the Introduction, they said: "This is a report on a joint
repair technique which is efficient to execute but produces a very
strong re-attachment of the covers. It is applicable to both
hollow-back and tight-back structures, but is not intended for
case-bound books. This technique restores full movement to the joint
without sacrificing the strength or aesthetics of the original
binding. It is based on a method described and illustrated by Tony
Cains in the publication on the Long Room Project at Trinity College,
Dublin, and has been mentioned at several conferences by Mr. Cains,
although it does not seem to be widely known or used. Having now
employed it with some modifications for hundreds of books with broken
joints, both in rare and circulating collections, we believe it is
important to publicize this technique and illustrate the procedure.
The method has been dubbed 'board reattachment with joint tackets'
because the covers are tacketed directly onto the book at the joints.
In effect, the original binding method is reproduced by simulating
new slips. These slips are tacketed to the shoulder of the textblock
and laced through the boards. They are tied-off on the inner board in
a simple square knot. This restores the original movement of the
boards because the anchoring points are at the apex of the shoulder.
The beauty of this repair lies in the strength of the board
attachment compared to the modest investment of time and materials,
and the ability to reinstate function with a minimum disruption to
the original materials."
Jim Dorsey has given the basic steps of the tacketing procedure,
tried them out, and added his comments and clarifications to the
process. (Web ed. note: The illustrations accompanying this
article are available only in the paper version.)
- Drill a series of holes from the base of shoulder, exiting on
spine (fig. 1)
- Pull a loop of thread through each hole, thread ends through
loops and form knot at apex of shoulder (fig. 2).
- Drill boards from outside spine edge to inside edge, splaying
each pair so loop ends can be tied off (figs. 3 & 4).
- Tie off loop ends in a simple square knot.
There are, of course, a lot of refinements and details that can be
mentioned - and here they are:
- This procedure is designed for hollow- or tight-backed books -
not for case- bound - or not for books with grooved hinges.
- If you want to "hide" the thread where it shows on the spine,
it is best to remove the leather first. Or, make an "L" shaped cut
into the leather and lift up only where the thread and hole will
be. Or, drill through the leather and color the thread with
acrylics when finished.
- Attach a Japanese paper hinge into the shoulder, as shown in
fig. 1. The paper hinge will be used to hide thread inside after
all tacketing is completed.
- Drill holes, using a jeweler's drill (Dremel, hand drill) with
a very small bit ( #57 - #61 size, available at hobby shops - U.S.
numbered drill system uses higher numbers for smaller drills) to
allow drilling at a shallow enough angle (see fig. 1). Holes will
exit on the spine G" to H" from shoulder apex. Outer holes should
be about H" from head and tail, but not interfering with the
kettle stitches. Remaining holes depend on the size of the book,
but away from sewing stations and cords.
- The task now is to get a loop of thread through each hole,
with loops lying inside the shoulders. The thread should be a size
that will "bind" in the drill holes, so it should be relatively
stout. The authors recommend using an "open-ended" wire needle
threader. An open-ended threader is needed because both ends of
the thread loop must remain on the spine. This tool can be made by
stripping the center of a plastic-clad steel-stranded wire and
cutting off all but one or two strands, as shown in fig. 5. The
plastic coated ends will act as handles to help in pulling threads
- Put both ends of thread through loops, as shown in fig. 2.
"Knots" should be just at the shoulder's apex. Be careful with
this step, as shoddy positioning will produce a very
- Treatment of boards is relatively simple (they are already
detached) but to hide the thread for a neater appearance, there
are several steps where care should be taken. In drilling the
holes, drill as close to the outer edge of the board as possible
(i.e., just under the leather) and angle down so the drill exits
about 1/4" (6mm) from the spine edge of the board (see figs. 3
& 4). Note that two holes are required from a common start
point so thread ends can be separated. Before drilling these
holes, lifting the board liner helps hide thread ends. Feed the
thread ends through the holes, using the fig. 5 threader.
- Tie the two ends of one "loop system" in a simple square knot,
but first, angle the board open to about a 120º angle to text
block (fig. 6) because the thread will stretch some and there
should be some initial tension . The boards will not lie flat on
text at first. Before tying the knots, you may wish to remove a
small amount of board so thread and knot can lie flat in a recess.
- The appearance of the book is improved with the addition of
Japanese paper on the shoulder to hide the thread, and, on
important books, you may wish to cover the joint and the thread
area (on the spine) with a thin leather onlay. In all cases,
cosmetic treatments must be weighed against cost (time).