Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Part 3 - casework



The case/cover starts out with carefully-sized binder board. The width of the spine strip matches the thickness of the book block. The front and back covers are cut to leave a 1/8-inch overhang around the edge finished book. Each piece is glued to heavy craft paper with a 5/16-inch gap between the pieces.


When the glue on the initial assembly has dried, a strip of book cloth is centered on the spine. Here, hinge gaps are clearly visible, having been pressed in with a bone folder. This will be the 3.5" x 5" notebook, seen below. 

Decorative cover paper is added, leaving an inch of extra material to be folded inward, later.


The extra paper is folded in and glued to the inside of the cover panels. Work on the little, green notebook had progressed a too fast, and I forgot to photograph it at this stage. Shown is the case for a 5" x 7" Arthur Conan-Doyle book I've been working on for my personal collection. 

The black book cloth used on the spine and the headbands has no paper backing, making it hard to handle. I decided to use it on a personal project instead of for customer work.


Here is the finished, green 3.5" x 5" notebook with a 5" x 7" one in red. There was a black ribbon added to the larger one for a bookmark.

That's about all there is to it. The whole process takes about two days, and most of that is waiting for glue to dry. With a bit of forethought, I can stagger the steps so that more than one book can be in-process at one time.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Bookbinding, part 2

Three signatures into another 3.5 x 5 notebook,
which will be up for sale, eventually.
I’m not quite sure about what sewing pattern I use, or if it was just a style I modified. Someone described it as a Coptic stitch, but I have recently seen documented examples that don’t look anything like what I do. My suspicion is that it’s a combination of Coptic and French stitches. Whatever the case, the result is a book block that holds itself together. The thread passing through successive signatures loops through the stitch of a previous one. There is even a danger of cupping the spine if it is sewn too tight. (A coworker with a Masters of Library Science was critical of this on an early binding project.)

A small notepad, made from scrap strips of paper,
here is glued up to secure the spine.
When the whole book block has been stitched up, it gets clamped in the vice and the exposed spine is given a couple coats of watered-thinned glue. This gives the block even more strength, as signatures become bonded to their neighbors. The trick is to settle the book block deeply enough in the vise the glue can not penetrate very far. While the glue is drying, I build up the cover assembly.

I'm going to save that step for next time.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

John Lennon wrote a song lyric that went "Life i what happens when you're busy making plans." Well, I certainly planned to follow up on the previous blog post, and respond to the encouraging comments, a whole lot sooner. But, of course, life happened...

The first step in binding a book is acquiring the content. For quite a while, I have been working my way through a particular collection of Sherlock Holmes fan-fictions to which a former coworker had been a contributor. Editing, printing, and binding will eventually amount to a set of ten volumes, at close to three hundred pages, each.

These are a few examples of my work.
The green, scaly one is Arthur Conan-Doyle's
Lost World, which just had to have that cover.
More recently, I have been browsing Project Gutenburg for texts that I couldn't find, elsewhere. Honoring their rules, I could never sell the resulting books. However, these tomes have allowed me to hone the skills which might be lucrative. More on that in an upcoming post. (No, really. I have a backlog of posting topics, now, and hope to update more frequently.)

Once I have a body of text with which to work, the typesetting begins. This always involves hours of formatting, deciding on a font, font size, line spacing, and print margins. Then, I have to go through the entire text, inserting page breaks and setting up chapter titles.

Anybody with a vintage printing press (ahem) might have a good idea of what is involved, although I'm doing it digitally.

Each signature, a set of five folios, is pierced with a stitching
pattern. I am careful to maintain up-and-down orientation,
especially when the pages contain printed text.
When the text is fully formatted, it is broken into “signatures.” Imagine taking a four hundred page document and splitting it into 20-page sub-documents without losing any of the  formatting or altering the page numbers. My software of choice is Corel WordPerfect, because it allows complete control over the hidden formatting. Microsoft Word, to my knowledge, has no provisions for what I do. I've tried; it just back looks at me in confusion.

With a directory of signatures created, they can be printed, one at a time. Errors happen, ink and toner run out, but I never lose more than twenty pages. One set is folded while the next is coming out of the printer. For a large document, quite a stack of folded signatures can accumulate. They have to be punched, then, before they can be stitched together. All this, and I haven’t even gotten to the actual binding part, yet!


End papers are added, sometimes with artwork included. A fold of heavy paper and strips of cloth are glued to the end signatures to reinforce the binding. And then, I wax a length of thread and start sewing.

More, next time.  (Which will be soon. I promise.)

Friday, March 13, 2015

Blank as a page, lined with care.

The last few months have not been spent idly. True, it’s been a lot of toting barges and lifting bales, but there have also been a few moments of creativity.  For instance, a couple of weeks ago, Little Flower Petals posted about her new Renaissance Art notebook cover, also commenting on the odd proportions of the nominally passport-sized pages. It was a good opportunity for me to reach out, lend a hand, and try something new.

Or, perhaps, not so new. Long-time readers may recall that, back in May of 2010, I had started doing a bit of bookbinding. The blank notebooks I initially posted about proved somewhat popular. Within the following year, I produced half a dozen, and got a reasonable price for my effort.

The story does not end, there, however. There has been a lot of experimentation with line weights and line spacing. My department director has recently taken up fountain pens (his wife suggests that I may have been something of a bad influence), and he seems to like the way I set up pages for writing. So, when I seized the opportunity to try out a passport-sized format (3.5" wide by 5" tall), I applied my proprietary lining style. In spite of some aesthetic issues with the first try, I was able to mail out some 48-page refills.

This was the first attempt at a passport-size notebook. The front and back
covers were scarred in the glue-up stage, requiring a decorative add-on,
but the results still didn't meet my quality-control expectations.

The background is what the pages look like, out of the printer.
Little Flower Petals also voiced an interest in learning to bind books. It’s really not hard to do, considering how long it was done without the benefit of modern tools.  However, there are a lot of steps and a certain amount of practiced technique. It’s an arcane skill.  There is no app for it, trust me.

Notebooks are relatively easy, because they are just blank, or nearly blank, sheets. There is no consideration of keeping the pages in any particular order.  Putting together a literary book, one with words and stuff, is more complicated.

If anyone is interested, I am thinking about a series of posts, explaining my process.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

And No, No NaNoWriMo

In the midst of all my literary inactivity, the only intentional dereliction has been to avoid NaNoWriMo for another year. The local support group has lost its most active members, judging by the absence of email updates. (I’m still on their mailing list, in spite of my past non-participation.) But, most of all, I haven’t had the time, energy, resources, or whatever else it takes to crank out the word count.

I was not totally without ambition, however.  Back in October, I considered the impossible amount of dedication required to produce a novelette. Impossible for me, of course; other people can sleep-walk their way through composing a few hundred pages.  A more modest goal might be to write a short story.  A complete tale, word count be damned.

And, yet again, life happened while I was daydreaming about making plans. Stuff always needs to be done. Barges to tote. Bales to lift. Not enough time (or money) to get drunk and to land in jail.  (Shoot, I doubt if I could even get away long enough to take a road trip to see the Old Man River!) There are mornings when that song goes through my head, reminding me that the way I feel is nothing new to human experience.  Other people have had enough free time to set their sentiments to music, though.

A recurring phrase in my journal has become “I don’t have fun; I have responsibilities.”  Even my counselor has pointed out that I need a vacation. But, I have learned a lesson from past time away: for every day I take off, two days worth of work will await my return. Weekends are dangerous enough. Extended holidays are reason for fear.

Never the less, I have no choice, this week.  The college is closing down, starting Wednesday.  Regardless of what paperwork that might befall on the following Monday, the Thanksgiving break consists of a 5-day weekend.  If I was doing NaNoWriMo, and had fallen behind, there might be hope of catching up without the distraction of having to leave the safety of home.

However, since I had not committed to that marathon event, I may still be able to do a little 50-yard dash, if only to prove to myself that I can be more than a literary spectator.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Neglected Show-and-Tell

Had it really been a year since I was able to post anything? Yes, and it’s even worse than that. What I posted about, in early November 2013, was something that happened in late September.  I’ve never been one to do an UJTU post, but that procrastination makes me feel sheepish.

It feels kind of meta to keep writing apologies for why I’ve not been writing. As previously intimated, it’s not been a year without blog-worthy topics. I’ve just either been too distracted to compose or too troubled about sharing my despair with the world.

It has not all been bad, though.  One of my coworkers was putting together a display of “books written on a typewriter” and so my Underwood #3 spent more than a month in a glass case with the likes of Kerouac’s On the Road.  The appropriateness of that was wasted on most people, I suppose.  It’s amusing to watch the reactions of modern students, with all their connectivity addictions, when they encounter pre-internet technology.

Yes, Virginia, there really was a time before computers ruled the world.

Oh, and lest I forget, there was one more proof of my eccentricity, which should have been fodder for a follow-up to the belated post in November of last year.  When I went to Marian Call’s concert, in September, I could have done the obsessive fan-boy thing and had her autograph on of her own albums.  It seemed more outre to reference something else with which she had been involved.


The copy we had bought for the Library has already been stolen, by the way.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

I am Thankful for Something

Indeed, more than a year has past since my last post. Over the last few months, I have debated the good sense of shutting this travesty down and never setting pen to paper, again. The same, constant interruptions which preclude updating have also kept me from taking an extreme measure. Another thing to stay my hand has been that the Typosphere is the only place where the use of proper spelling, syntax, and grammar is nothing of which to be ashamed. 

I work in an institution of higher learning, and daily I am dismayed by the helpless illiteracy of too many of our students. The perceived futility of trying to educate these monkeys feeds my chronic depression, but writing has proven a therapeutic catharsis. Hemingway famously spoke of bleeding on the page, but it is not blood that I spill, but rather vitriol and invective. And, that helps.  It helps a lot.  Many are the blog updates I have composed which, on reflection, would be most inappropriate to post.

Imagine, if you will, a year of overflowing creativity, only to have to stifle it for the sake of social self-preservation. Some of you may recall that I made a remark on the Portable Typewriter Forum which was grossly misinterpreted, resulting in my expulsion from that group. Apologies were made, all around, but I learned a lesson about speaking too freely or using sarcasm during an ongoing flame war.

I have not been offline for a year, though. Some of you have received the benefit of my often-sardonic wit in comments to your own blog posts.  The world has continued to spiral without me, and other bloggers have been able to express themselves without the anxiety attacks to which I feel susceptible.  Even so, I have noticed some falling away of the faithful. More of the informal membership is like me, posting rarely or randomly, rather than the handful who post frequently. To those who do carry on, in spite of modern life’s demands, I extend my gratitude.


Thank You, all of you active Typospherians who keep the rest of us informed, entertained, and reminded that there are still a few people in this post-moral wasteland who have not thrown aside their intelligence and self-respect.