Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Spalted Maple Wood: A Gothic Binding Story

I fell in love with spalted maple last year. Those gorgeous dark segments are caused by fungi. Rotting wood. Delicious. Click here for more on spalting.

I had a special pen made for my dad which featured spalted maple but never thought I would get a chance to work with the splintery substance myself. Wrong. So wrong.

North Bennet Street School is a great school. A great school with many different departments. Two floors up from bookbinding sits the entire Cabinet and Furniture Making department. Did some awesome dude mention he had scraps of spalted maple for yours truly? Not until I asked him. And bam. My adventure began. The magnificent cabinet and furniture maker cut the scraps down to my specific size and to work I went.

First I had to sew my text block. Double-flexible sewing on thick cords. Sweet. After plowing the edges smooth it was back to the spalted maple boards. Time to bevel the edges. Most folks in my class used oak boards, which they shaped and beveled with rasps and files. Not me. The spalted maple split too easily. The wood needed a delicate touch. Sandpaper on a block. So I perspired a bit and after an hour or two (maybe more) my boards were shaped. Enter Dremel. Holes were drilled, cords were threaded and hammered and wedged. More sanding happened. Yada yada.

Leather time. Most classmates used alum tawed pig skin which I thought would be a little thick for my binding. I also wanted the cords to show through the leather quite prominently. I used alum tawed goat skin which was a bit thinner and stretchier than the pig skin we ordered. On the goat skin went and dried.

The braided kangaroo leather headbands are a wild story summed up short -- I made a total of five headbands. Yes the book only has two. Yeah.

This gothic model is not a historical model. The sewing is accurate but the design is more modern and totally rad. Taste is taste.

I know the explanation might be vague and the commentary a little silly but I can't help it. Even discussing the beauty of spalted maple puts me somewhere else. On a different plane. Made of spalted maple. I love it. And that's fine.