Professional Development

Leather Bookbinding Finale

Saturday, March 28, 2009 12:58 pm

I was able to complete two re-backs from start to finish this week. The two leather spines had dried over night. On the final morning, I still needed to paste down the inside joints or hinge of the books. I had lifted the paper a day earlier. so I tore strips of Japanese paper which I glued underneath the paste down on the covers. I overlapped this paper onto the text block. When both joints were set, we cut a piece of card with a notch in it and used this to hold the boards open while the joints dried.

joints drying

When both joints were repaired with Japanese paper(Okawara), a piece of card held the boards open to dry.

Drying Joints

A finishing touch was to tool the spine. A heated metal tool is rocked across the spine to incise a “blind stamped” line which makes the spine lok more finished.

Blind stamping on the spine

My books are now done! It feels really good to have slogged through all these steps and have a good final result that will last for years to come.

Finished books

Preparing the Leather – Day 4

Thursday, March 26, 2009 7:23 pm

We’re almost home-honest! This stuff takes time folks- I mean it is important, one of a kind, historical material and must be treated like your pet bunny rabbit when you were 6. The first order of business today was to sew the headbands. To do this, two colors of silk thread are sewn around a core of twine. This stabilizes the the text block to which it is sewn, and forms a very attractive counterpoint to the text.

Sewing headbands

When the sewing is completed, the ends of the cord are trimmed and the headband is glued down. A piece of Japanese paper covers the sewing.

Finished headband

I cut pieces of leather to match the tone and the size of each book it will be used to repair. Using leather dye and cotton balls, the leather is dyed to match the existing color of the book boards and allowed to dry.

Leather Dyeing

Using a very sharp “skiving knife”-the edges of the pieces of leather are pared down very thin. This is hard, very hard-no amount of holding you mouth in a certain way will help. Practice, practice, practice!

Paring Leather

The leather spine piece is then put on the book and reinforced by string, which reinforces the raised bands.

Pressed book drying

After a half hour, the ends are turned in and the book is left to dry under a weight.

Leather spine drying under a weight

Leather Bookbinding – Getting Close on Day 3

Wednesday, March 25, 2009 9:58 pm

Fraying the ends of the cords

This morning, we used a small tool to fray the ends of the cords we glued to the spines of our books yesterday. The tool is a small wooden peg with 3 sewing needles attached which separates the strands of the cords. These frayed ends will be glued to the boards of the book later.

Making paste

Then, we mixed paste to use for the days work.

Glued down frayed cords to boards

The ends of the frayed cords were then glued down onto both book boards. I slid a piece of release paper on top of it and pressed the books for about 20 minutes.

Lifting leather from the cover

I used my lifting knife to lift the leather off the cover boards of the book.

Applying Japanese paper and pressing

All the books were then placed in a press. The spaces between the cords were lined with two layers of Japanese paper and allowed to dry.

Attaching a leather lining

A leather lining was made and pasted to the spine. This leather piece was pressed onto the spine and the space around the raised bands on the spine reinforced with string tied to the press.

Tomorrow-rebacking the spine with new leather.

Leather Workshop – Day 2

Tuesday, March 24, 2009 10:43 pm

Glueing out the spine

I’ve lifted the spine of my leather books and cleaned off all the residue. Next, the spine is glued out and either cords or tapes are glued onto the spine as sewing structures. This allows you to re-sew the parts of the book that are weak or broken-and let’s face it, after 300 years, you’d be a little worn too!

Books with sewn cords

Sewing is done inside the signature sof the book, and when you reach each cord or tape, you exit the interior of the book and sew out and around the tape or cord.

Cords sewn onto the spine
Next, paper tears and loose signatures are also re-attached to the text block. Tomorrow, we’ll fray the ends of the cords and attach them to the boards with glue. This will make a very strong bond which will hold the boards onto the book. All of the books I brought to the workshop had loose boards-which means, the were not attached to the book at all. When I’m done, they’ll not only be well bonded to the book, they’ll look good too. Stay tuned!


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