CAITLYN THOMPSON ORIGINAL BOOKBINDING, BOX MAKING, AND PHOTOGRAPHY

Friday, May 7, 2010

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.


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