After last year’s Bible repair project, I was a little less nervous taking on a second one. Sophia was very encouraging, and I finished in about half the time, which is great – mostly because I had fewer questions and was a lot less anxious (anxiety = procrastination). I’m really happy with how it turned out, take a look:
I think my favorite detail is the top of the spine where some brave soul attempted to mend the splitting shoulder by spiral-binding a tear back together (you can see it in the last row of photos). Sadly, the spiral binding didn’t hold and made a big mess of the leather on that shoulder. Thankfully, most of it was removed when I trimmed the shoulders for the new spine, and you can barely see where it was.
There’s something incredibly satisfying in repairing these huge old Bibles. Sophia taught me to do multiple layers of reinforcement on the spine, including a hollow (basically a flattened tube of heavy paper that is glued to the spine of the text block and to the spine of the cover. The inside of the flattened tube is not glued, so the spine has flexibility but also a lot of support), so the finished version is much, much stronger than the original and should last a very long time with a bit of care.
If you have a big old family Bible (or other book!) that needs repair, check out my Bible Repair page and get in touch!
In the summer of 2018, I sat in for a day with fellow Guild of Bookworkers member Sophia Bogle, of Save Your Books at the Rose City Book & Paper Fair. A customer brought Sophia a massive Bible to repair – he didn’t want picture perfect restoration, he wanted it to be functional again. Sophia proposed that rather than her doing it (which would cost quite a bit, as she’s a restoration expert), I would do the repairs with her coaching me (for a lower fee).
So began a digital apprenticeship! She wrote instructions in a shared Google Drive document, we had video calls, and periodically I’d text photos or a video with a question or update. It took almost a whole year (I started a new dayjob, among other things), but we did it! Sophia was really supportive and patient, and I learned a ton.
Here’s what the Bible looked like when we got it:
I did the corners like so:
Here are some pix of cleaning the spine of the text block. This involves applying paste to moisten the old glue, then scraping the paste and glue off – very carefully so as not to damage the paper or sewing. It takes for everrrr but is very gratifying to finish.
Here are a few in-progress shots from when I was working on the new spine. Once it was on, I attached the original spine over it.
And eventually it was all done!
It was amazing to actually finish the whole thing! I really appreciate all of Sophia’s guidance and help, and am excited to report that this year’s RCB&PF also brought us a new Bible to restore. Hopefully I’ll have learned so much from this project that the new one will take less time.
As an aside, if you look at the first image in the Done set, you’ll see why we nicknamed this project the Moly Bible – that H sure looks like an M at the right angle! 🙂
I was recently commissioned to rebind a beautiful copy of the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh scriptures. (For more information about Sikhism and modern Sikhs in America, check out SALDEF.org) Its owner is very attached to it, and with good reason: it contains the entire text in three versions, side-by-side! The original, a transliteration of the original, and an English translation. This isn’t an easy book to replace, so he sought me out to repair it. I took one look at it and said yes. It’s beautiful!
As you can see in the images below, the book had basically split apart into two halves, with only the bookcloth at the spine holding them together. Pages on either side of the split had been damaged with continued use and were starting to come apart as well.
Click any of the photos on this page to enlarge them.
After a careful examination to make sure I knew exactly what needed doing, I cautiously disassembled the book, separating the cover from the text block (and the cover boards from the badly damaged spine). I then disassembled the text block and meticulously examined each individual signature (more than 80!) to see which ones needed repair. Here are a couple closeup before-and-after shots of this process:
Once that was finished (this was the most laborious part of the whole process, and took me several days), I resewed the text block. Since I don’t have a proper sewing frame on hand, I improvised one, as you can see below. Once done with the sewing, I moved the book into my laying press to be re-consolidated.
As a side note: You can just barely see in the right-hand photo that the press is not on my workbench. In fact, the book is so wide, it was wider than my press is tall! I worked around this by cleaning out a recycling can and carefully putting the press on top. It was tall enough that the pages were able to hang freely like normal. It did mean, however, that I couldn’t work with it on my workbench. I meant to take a photo of the setup, but appear not to have done so.
While waiting for layers of paste on the spine to dry, I worked on the cover. Here you can see a quick before/after of an edge of one of the cover boards.
Once the cover boards were ready to go, I reinforced the spine (I used two layers of Japanese kozo, a layer of unbleached linen, made-from-scratch endbands, and finally a one-on-and-two-off cardstock tube, which allows the book to open with less stress to the spine), then covered it with painted-to-match fabric. As you can just barely see in the photos below, the fabric is tucked under the cloth of the cover. In addition, I gently split the bookboard a little, so the fabric is actually inside the cardboard of the cover. This allows for much better holding strength than if I just tucked it under the fabric.
And finally, it was done!
All together, the hinges where the cover meets the spine are held together by two layers of linen and a layer of paper, and the thorough spine reinforcement will reduce stress on the hinges significantly. As a result, the book is much stronger than it was before.
In closing, a quick before/after comparison!
If you have a book that needs rebinding, or even just some basic repair, please get in touch! I really love repairing books.
I posted a tutorial on making your own bookcloth on Instagram a while back, and thought it’d be fun to offer it here, as well! (I’ve also edited it and added more commentary than I felt like typing on my phone.)
To make your own bookcloth using this method, you will need:
A large, clean work surface
An iron and ironing surface
Waste paper to cover your work surface
The measurements for how much bookcloth your project needs
A ruler or yardstick
A large, clean pane of glass (windows work great for this!)
A utility knife, x-acto knife, or similar
Clean your work surface (in this case, my flat file downstairs).
Figure out how much you need. In the picture you can just barely see my book map, which is what let me know how much bookcloth I needed.
Cut out the amount you need (with some extra just in case).
Also: thanks to the fabulous Xcentricities (corset.net) for the fabric! It’s unique to them and they very kindly sold me some.
Iron the fabric.
Cut Japanese paper to size. I did this by laying the fabric out on the paper and cutting around it. You’ll need about a 1″ margin on all sides. Don’t forget to line up the grain! (note: fabric grain runs parallel to the selvage, the rough edge on either side of full yards of fabric)
Paste time! Put the fabric face down, smooth it flat (you can spray it with water if it’s being troublesome), and paste up the paper.
Carefully lower paper, paste side down, onto the fabric. This is definitely the hardest part.
Use the pasted up margin affix to a piece of glass. A clean window works well. (Bonus: the pasted margin will keep your bookcloth from shrinking as it dries!)
Repeat as desired, allow to dry overnight.
Optional: relax outside with cute person and refreshing beverage.
Cut around the fabric with a sharp knife and carefully peel away. Ta-daa! Book cloth (cleaning is easiest with a sharp blade like a razor or utility knife blade – just scrape the remaining paper off the window.)
And bam! Your very own custom bookcloth.
One of my favorite sources for fabric when I want an unusual pattern is Spoonflower, which is sort of like Cafepress but for fabric. They have SO MANY PATTERNS WHOA.
I was able to take a pretty long vacation from my day job for the holidays this year, and I decided to keep roughly the same schedule but do bookbinding instead! I had a great time, and bound a ton of books. Check it out:
BOOKS COMPLETED: 19
BOOKS READY TO CASE IN: 13
BOOKS IN PROGRESS: 24
For the curious, the reason I separated “ready to case in” and “in progress” is that once a book is ready to case in, it’s almost done. The actual casing-in gets done all at once, so it’s basically a single, longish step that ends with the book in the press overnight. The steps leading up to that are many, so the in-progress books are a lot further from being done than the ready-to-case-in ones.
I’m back at my day job as of today, but I’m hoping to keep up the momentum as much as possible in the six weeks I have before I vend at Pantheacon. Wish me luck!
Since I was accepted to vend at Pantheacon next year (see the Events page) I’ve been trying to up my productivity. Sometimes, though, the dayjob just takes too much out of me.
“Ealasaid, what do you do when you’re too braindead and your tremor is too bad for you to do complicated bookbinding tasks?”
So, first I grabbed one of the precut chunks of paper from when I ordered a custom-cut carton a while back. Cartons hold 1,000 parent sheets, so that’s how many are in that stack. The paper is too long, however, so I used my guillotine to cut it into two stacks of 5″x8″ sheets (bringing the total to 2,000 sheets).
After that, I started separating the pile into groups of four and folding them in half. You can see a small stack of already-folded signatures under that cast iron iron (yes, it literally used to be used to iron clothes. I have no idea how old it is, but it weighs a ton and that’s what I was looking for). Basically, I’d fold batches of four until I ran out, then take those signatures, stack them, put them under the iron, and divvy up another batch of sheets. Lather, rinse, repeat.
In the end, I had 25 books worth of signatures (2,000 sheets into groups of four = 250 signatures, ten signatures per book makes that = 25 books).
One of my favorite things is taking books out of the press the morning after I case them in. Once I remove the various protective pieces of waxed paper and the brass rods to shape the shoulders, they are all finished and look sweet!
These will be listed on my Etsy soon, and will also be available at the New Girl in Town Mini-Expo this weekend in Portland, Oregon!
That’s right, folks! I just dropped off some of my pocket-sized blank notebooks at Wanderlust here in Portland, OR.
Wanderlust is a vintage and handmade goods shop, and they have a ton of interesting stuff to check out for holiday shopping. They’re also my first wholesale customer!
If you want one of my pocket notebooks, you don’t have to wait for my next craft fair or for me to list more on Etsy, you can drop by Wanderlust at 2804 SE Ankeny St. — but they only have a few, so get hopping if you want to have the best selection of colors!
Mostly you can find me on Twitter and Facebook. I’m also working – I have several custom orders in my queue and made my first sale to a local shop! I will definitely be posting when the order for them is filled and you can go to the shop and buy my stuff. 🙂
For now, I leave you with a quick photo of one of my custom books in process:
So, this weekend was my first ever time vending at a craft fair! Check out my lil’ table there.
The venue was the Lusardi Building at San Pedro Square Market, and the Native Revival Nursery folks organized and ran things. Things were a little chaotic as we were getting set up, but once the fair got rolling, it was great. Lots of people came through in spite of the rain, including a bunch of my friends! Yay! Thanks again for coming, y’all!
I got a ton of compliments on my books, and sold almost a dozen! This was way better than I expected to do, and enabled me to not only cover the cost of the table and materials/labor for the books I sold, but also the cost of the materials I got to prepare for the fair as well! And have a little left over! WAHOO!
This was also the debut of the amazing poster I got from Calyx Design about how I make my books! Very exciting! Richard even did a post about it explaining the process a little. Very cool! He was amazing to work with, and I cannot recommend him highly enough. Seriously, if you need a designer, work with this dude. He is AH MAY ZING.
Anyway. Here’s the poster in action:
Above it are three demo books showing different stages in the process, so I could give a more detailed, hands-on explanation for the curious.
Let’s continue the tour of my table, left-to right! Here are some of the books on display:
I got a little basket for the pocket notebooks:
And of course there were even MORE books on display around it:
Then there was my mailing list sign up (you can sign up too, just use the little form in the right-hand column of the blog!). I also, thanks to a suggestion from a friend, set up a book people could write in if they felt like it.
This turned out to be genius — people loved the feel of the paper, had fun thinking of things to write, and in one case it literally made a sale — a very nice lady who only uses fountain pens was skeptical that the paper was thick enough for the ink to not go through it, so I invited her to try writing in the test book. When the ink did not, in fact, go all the way through the paper, her whole face lit up and she spent quite some time choosing a book. She also signed up for my mailing list and took a card. I think I’ll be hearing from her again!
Plus, people wrote some really nice things in the book:
It was a great experience overall. I also brought lots of materials (you can see my punching cradle and laying press on either side of me, as well as some in-progress text blocks), and got a fair bit of work done. Win all around.
I had a lot more fun than I expected — the day flew by (helped in part by a couple friends who came and helped me so I could do things like eat and run to the bathroom!). I’m still tired two days later, though — I had a very busy Saturday and wasn’t rested going into the fair, and then the fair itself took a lot out of me. I have to remember to do more self-care before and after next time I vend!
Speaking of which, it’s looking like I might be doing a mid-week craft fair next week at a local school — sign up for my mailing list and you’ll be the first to get the full info.