Bookbinding 4

Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of taking Bookbinding 4: Focus on Leather at the San Francisco Center for the Book. It was basically a day to practice the basics of paring leather so that when we go on to Bookbinding 5 we aren’t having to learn a bunch of new stuff all at once.

At first, I had a lot of trouble with it. Paring the edges of leather pieces takes precision and care, and I am not good at being patient when learning new stuff! I could see how it worked in principle, but couldn’t get my coordination to actually do what I wanted. By the end of the day, though, I was doing all right.

We learned to do edge paring with our leather knives (and edge pare is where you make the edge of the leather taper instead of just being a squared-off cut) and also how to use a Scharf-fix machine to thin pieces of leather down to the desired thickness. It was all extremely messy, but pretty fun once I got the hang of it.

I’ll tell you, though, by the end of class my hands were killing me. Lots of unfamiliar motions, done over and over, with a fair amount of strength totally pwned me. Yeow. I wasn’t the only one who had that problem, let me tell you!

The other awesome thing we learned was honing and sharpening blades. My knife was new enough it didn’t need sharpening, really, but I practiced anyway. Honing, though, is pretty much a constant — leather is so tough that you have to hone your blade every few cuts or it gets so dull that it’s almost impossible to use. How do you know if it’s sharp enough? You try shaving your arm. I am not even joking. I now have bald spots on my arm from testing my knife.

I managed to go the whole day without cutting myself, my classmates, or anything I didn’t mean to cut, so I consider it a win overall. I didn’t take very many shots, but have put the ones I did get down below. I can’t wait to do Bookbinding 5 now!

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