Tag Archives: design

Lesson learned in the bindery today

It had been my intention to post photos of today’s production. But worker No2 was busy playing the cello while worker No1 had her hands full of glue.

In my pleasant workshop I was devising ways in which I could bind the Perfume of Books; the hardest part is coming up with a design. Initially I was going to use the paper stock I had. As the book has grown to 400 pages, and weighs one kilo, I couldn’t make paper bindings. Sides are ok, but a paper spine, for a book I hope will get much used, would not be appropriate.  Besides which, the paper bought in fits and starts from various suppliers doesn’t actually suit the theme of the book.

So I am left to use cloth and some papers for the sides.

This is the most consistent binding time I have had in a long while. And then it hit me that I still needed to add a title to the cover. Too many things to think about at one, and with so little time.

I like horizontal stripes. I do think that less is more. I like plats rapportés, a kind of simplified binding, where the covering material goes over the sandwiched spine.

I like having lines going across one side to the other

I like having lines going across one side to the other

I also like millimeter binding

Type of millimetre binding

Type of millimetre binding

Will I be using leather or paper? Still how do I get the title on.

The type I have is too small for the size of this book, and I will be going to a tooling workshop with Dominic Riley way after the books are due, so I guess it’s up to my printer and me. I can print on japanese paper, and after a bit of swearing I can print on cloth; afterall I wanted to keep the style of the title Susan designed for me.

So the books will be made in 3 pieces, with a hollow. Is that cheating or is that actually making more work for myself?


Lesson 1: This pile of books now has their spine linings and inner boards attached. I found when I was trying a millimetre binding that this was an impediment to adding a piece of leather across the top of the binding. Millimetre binding can occur either as a case binding or with laced-in boards; it is harder to do when it is a strange combination of both. Photos to come….

Lesson 2: When covering a board for simplified binding or plats rapportés, don’t glue down the spine side first as it will create tension in the paper and will result in diagonal lines  along the paper.

Lesson 3: clean your remay so that you don’t have glue left on it. It will transfer onto your paper.

I wish my students could watch me; they would hear me talk to myself as well as get glue all over my fingers. But they would see me learn from previous experience and use patience to case-in my book and leave it open. Photo to come…..

I went to the Code X, the international bookbinders’ exhibition that is part of the Australian Bookbinders’ Conference. There were apparently 25 different binding styles. And at least 4 bindings in New Oriental binding, including mine.  However the bindings inspired me; made me think about my own design issues.

Lesson 4: patience is a virtue. Wit for things to dry before going to the next stage.

After all this talk I still have only bound 3 books….





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What is wrong with this book?


Whats wrong with this?

Whats wrong with this?

At first glance there is nothing particularly wrong with it. It functions as a book should: that is that it opens well and you can read the text and look at the pretty pictures. It has a cover to protect it.

So why don’t I like it? From a binder’s perspective I can see little faults. It is 1mm larger at the head than at the tail. What’s 1 mm, you may well ask? Well it translates in the square, that is the edge that sits beyond the text block, looking off.  I can also see that the endbands are uneven. And lastly I don’t actually like the cover, even though I designed it….I’ll get back to this question of design later.

I am showing you my mistakes as a way of sharing information. I believe that all too often we don’t like to acknowledge mistakes publicly. Makes one appear less competent. But the world is not a perfect place and we are not perfect machines. Sometimes I learn from my mistakes, and sometimes it takes me a long time to do so.

I have a hard time cutting straight. It’s taken me a long time to get used to my guillotine. Things move all on their own, and my book becomes 1 or 2 mm out. I curse and swear, but it comes down to how observant am I when I begin to cut.

How does the glue get onto the front cover? Maybe my work surface is not as clean as it ought to be, or in my haste to paste too much product was used. Maybe my fingers are grubby.

And then I take a look at the text block itself. I used the drum leaf method so that there is no sewing across the margin. If that is so, why then do the pages look like normal text and image pages? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of the drum leaf? If you have answered yes, just as I did, then we have both come to the realisation that this book now has fundamental flaws that can’t really be fixed.

And then we get back to the idea of design.  I have often said to my partner that he should design the covers and I could follow his pattern.  I am not really that artistic. I’m not being hard on myself; I’m being realistic. However I push on. I am nothing if not tenacious.

I designed the cover on the computer, to have a  black spine with red cloth boards. This allows me to have a visual. A bit plain, so I added footprints, which I took off the internet. I do have a note book for ideas, and it is filled with scribbles and basic plans for covers.

So, I print the design onto my cloth; however Max, my son gave me this throw away comment: “It’s crap if you use stock images- you need to make your own.”


While it looked bright and shiny on the screen, the reality was a far cry from that. For one I couldn’t print on the black cloth.  I was disappointed in its dullness; where is the skill if I am just printing off a computer? What was I thinking?

Not a day goes by when I don’t peruse a bookbinding journal or book. Not so much to poach ideas, but to be inspired. If I print the design with the computer, where is my skill? And as I look at designs by others mine seems simplistic at best.

I think I am disappointed in myself; how I perceive my skills and capabilities is a far cry from this current result. I won’t chuck this in through; I will change it around, add some black to the spine. I  will use my small blocking press even if it keeps blowing the fuses and I need to work in the cold. I will add paint to the cover to give it some lift, and in fact this will turn out to be a pop-up project for the real thing.

The real thing being repaginated and printed as we speak. Watch this space, this is definitely a work in progress!



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