Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Box Invention - Hexagon's Are Not Much Better Than Circles

Odd fact about me -- I don't care much for circles. Don't like drawing circles, don't like cutting circles, don't like dancing in circles. I've learned recently that I may not like Hexagons much better than circles.

This past Tuesday I was feeling adventurous. I needed to make a box. But not just any box, a new kind of box. I drew a picture of a hexagon. It took about an hour to draw a perfect one and yes I am a bit ashamed of that. I had to run a few tests to find the best possible way to adhere the sides of the box. Gluing them straight to the base didn't go over so well. Things were uneven, sides collided. Plan B came into play.

Key Note for Plan B -- When constructing a french tray one must glue the separate sides to the edge of a piece of cloth with ever so specific spaces between them, fold that over onto itself and then glue the extending cloth to the bottom of the base. This permits the sides to wrap around corners without jutting out awkwardly. Gluing the sides straight to the base and then covering with cloth is part of the clamshell formula.

Using the french tray strategy, I glued all six sides to a piece of cloth, prayed and pieced it all together. My theory was a success. Now all I had to do was make three trays identical to one another and make sure I didn't get glue everywhere. This part was mostly a success. As this was my first attempt at a weirdly shaped box (and I haven't even approached the process of assembling the three trays on top of one another yet) I knew there would be some oversized or undersized cuts and spaces. One or two millimeters really make a difference, especially when the items constructed are meant to be stacked.

The Case -- Two sides of each tray would be glued to two walls of a six part case. This would allow the trays to move semi-independently and sit diagonally a step up from each other. After a lot of gluing, clamping and waiting I closed the box. While slightly uneven I thought this was a darn good prototype. In the evaluation process I realized several spacial issues needed to be addressed with the case and then I'd be able to mass produce these boxes. But HOLD ON A MINUTE. Cutting out each hexagon, even with a fresh large olfa blade, is not fun. No more fun than cutting out circles. The six sides are tricksy and finicky. I enjoyed the process and production of something new, but I can honestly say I don't feel very great about hexagons anymore. I'm hoping the Octagon Project will bring better results.

German Lap Component - Ugly but Lovable

I learned a new structure this past week called the German Lap Component. It is an entirely paper covered book. The text block of this binding is traditionally very bulky and the paper is usually ugly. My classmates and I took some time to make our own lovely icky paper. Throw-up browns and dirty green colors are the best. The edges of the book are also painted and/or decorated.

The neat thing about the internal structure is that the spine strip and "bonnet", as we call it in class (extended lining of spine strip), are made of one solid piece of handmade paper. The paper is moistened and shaped onto the book which creates a very sturdy, snug spine.

Below are my two bulky books. Doesn't matter what they look like to me, they are healthy and strong, which is what truly matters.

Numero Uno

Numero Dos

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde - An Adventure of Paper Repair with a Limp Leather Finish

I found a tiny leather copy of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in a used bookstore here in Providence. Gross and rusty green I thought this would look great in a different leather cover.

The paper inside, burned from the acid of the leather, needed a lot of repair. Because the few fragile sections were completely uneven, my first task was to take everything apart. Thread was cut, pages (folios) were separated. The rips and tears through the creases of the folios would need mending and new strength if I was to sew through them again.

I toned some Kizukishi (japanese tissue paper) to match the darkened paper and prepared some wheat paste. The tiny strips of tissue were applied carefully with tweezers onto the missing or cracking pieces of the pages. Everything sat for about twenty minutes or so under weight to ensure proper adhering.

After the paper had been repaired I found thread that matched the original thread used and sewed the sections back together. The story was ready for a limp leather case. If you scroll below you can read about the Limp Leather process.

While the book looked snug and pretty in it's new leather case, strong and true, it lacked something. A title. A gold title.

Hope you've enjoyed!

Friday, May 7, 2010

My Brother's Birthday Present - Don't Worry, He Knows

My brother's birthday was last month and I decided to make him a leather spine book, but not just a blank leather book, a blank leather book with meaning. My big bro is a writer and I wanted him to see what his novel might look like when complete. I used gorgeous black goat skin leather, stoned marbled paper I made myself, and made a maroon leather label with gold stamping.

The Worthy Candidate - The Casing of My First Book with Content

One of my favorite books is William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying. I was introduced to the novel during my senior year of high school and still love it five years later. A classmate of mine recently found an icky copy of it featured in a two in one book. Sound and the Fury was great too so I thought this book deserved some love.

I used the quarter binding structure for this project. After man handling the leather with the Scharfix and my knives, I molded it onto the book's new case. I use a stone marbled paper as the decorative paper,which I received as a present last winter.

While the case dried I used a Kwikprint Stamping machine and stamped the title onto a thin thin thin thin thin piece of leather in gold, which later was applied to the spine.

Below are some before and after shots of the beautification process and my latest Box creation.

I love boxes. I love leather. Latest Assignment - Leather Spine Box. This Faulkner project deserved the best housing so here lies my newest box.

Feisty Shmeisty Leather Books

As I finally had all of my tools in order I was very excited to use my leather for quarter bindings. A quarter of the book is covered in leather. These are blank journals. The first one features my own marbled paper and the second is decorated with one of my favorite papers, which you can find at Talas.

I Am Machine

As you may have read below leather has been introduced and it has officially invaded the bindery. As you should know by this post, leather requires paring. Shaving it down thin thin thin is crucial. It's workability is dependent on how thin and even it is pared down. While the Scharfix can shave a large amount off, knives are needed to get those tiny edges smooth.

Long story short - One cannot pare leather without proper knives. Good knives are very expensive. Mission - I make English and Swiss Style Paring knives on my own.

I spent about week grinding away hack saw blades. Buzzing and covered with metal bits and a bit of my right thumb shaved off, I felt powerful, I felt gross, but I now have and use two 1.25 knives (English and Swiss) and three 1 inch knives (2 English, 1 swiss). I also made three knives for classmates. I fear no belt sander.

Last fall when knife and tool master Jeff Peachey came to North Bennet he taught us how to make Lifting knives, which are useful when repairing books. I made a few of those as well.

I hope you enjoy knives as much as I do.

The Introduction of Leather - A Story of Bravery, Curse Words, and Conquest

A few months ago at school leather was finally introduced. Excited, panicked, and ready to conquer I bought a few skins and faced my first assignment -- The Limp Leather Binding. Adorable, sweet, soft, and flexible, these structures are darn handsome but of course challenging. The obstacle -- thin thin leather. The leather of limps must be pared to about .4 mm. (To pare is to shave down layers of leather by fractions of millimeters at a time.)

Paring can be done with knives and a machine called the Scharfix. You pass leather through a tiny slot and a blade and carefully slice off the layers. This takes finesse, kindness, patience, and practice. This machine and I did not have a lovely introduction. After a few hours of ripping several pieces of leather, attempting to med them, ripping them again, slicing through the leather, and slipping and slicing my fingers, I cursed the machine right back into its box. I looked sadly upon my rugged leather and the naked Shakespeare text block which longed for a cover.

I let two days pass and spoke to my teacher about the positioning and techniques of proper paring and Scharfix etiquette. I finally accepted that I needed to face the blade and take control of this machine.

With confidence that may or may not have been real, standing tall, and a fierce look of power on my face I was ready. The Scharfix box sat bold and fierce. I donned an apron, pulled back my hair, bandaged my left index and middle fingers, took out the machine and sat with a brand new piece of leather. Quickly and carefully, changing the blade often, I pared through the piece of leather in about 20 minutes. It was divine.

The Taming of the Shrew is cozy in navy blue leather. And that Scharfix damn well knows who's boss.