Machines, Tools & Supplies
Covering pad: When leather is well moistened it is easily marred by rough handling or contact with any hard object. Putting in leather should be done on a soft surface. It is well, therefore, to cover a full-sized sheet of mill-board with a thick piece of skiver. Place this on the bench and rest the book on it when putting on the leather. A hole cut through one edge allows it to be hung on the wall when not in use.
Burnishers: The sizes most useful are 9 by 12 inch, 12 by 24 , but one can get along with one only. (See illustration.) Another (see cut), covered with skiver, is most useful in laying out and blinding in the straight lines along the sides of the panels. With the back at the upper part, the cover is raised two inches or so to a level, a paperweight or similar object slipped under it. Having marked at head and tail where the outside lines of the panels are to come, a straight-edge is laid on the cover, and with a sharp folder the lines are marked on all the panels at once, so they are exactly inline. The ruler may also be used by the beginner for the preliminary blinding-in of these lines.
Two or three small but heavy weights are needed at all times. They may be small steel blocks such as are used in blocking presses, or of lead. The latter may be had at any large printers, being run out of old type metal. A very convenient size is 3 by 6 inches by 1 inch thick. They should be covered with skiver or stout paper. This is the technical name under which the various kinds of cardboard and pasteboard are known in the trade. There is a great difference in quality. The ordinary domestic board is not worth using for good work. The very best quality of domestic board may be used from time to time, but for really first-class work it is best to use the best grade of English or French board. Mill board is found in the market in bundles of 100 pounds, the number of sheets depending on the thickness of same. The size of the board is about the same (average 20 by 28 inches) in all cases, but the thickness varies very much and is known by numbers. These boards, both the domestic and the foreign qualities, can be purchased at various dealers in supplies of this nature in less than whole bundles, so that it is advisable for the beginner to get a few sheets each, say of numbers 63, ,30 and 21. As all boards should be lined before using, it is advisable for the amateur to do this at one time and line the whole stock in hand (if not too great a quantity) in order that they may be ready, and that this operation need not be done from time to time, as it is just as easy to line a number as it is to line one.
Sheets of plain white paper either an ordinary quality of writing paper or other good quality of light paperof the same size as the hoards should he spread on the table and the top one thoroughly pasted with a fairly thin paste. The board to be lined is stood up slanting in front of the operator, the sheet of pasted paper taken by two corners and laid against it. It may now be laid on the bench and smoothed out thoroughly with a brush or a soft pad. Should there be any wrinkles, the nearest corner may be lifted and then let fall back again, smoothing the wrinkles out at the same time. Each board as it is lined is stood up to dry. It will he found that after they have dried they are drawn towards the side lined and this lined side is the one which makes the inside of the cover. Some binders are in the habit of lining both sides of the hoard and in this case one side receives two thickness of paper the side which is covered with two thickness is the one which forms the inside of the cover. A double lining of this kind is also useful when the board is slightly too thin for the purpose intended, and this strengthens it and also increases its thickness somewhat. This is a very important item in this work, it is necessary that it be of good quality and kept in good condition. The amateur worker will do well to purchase it or make it in small quantities only, so as to have it fresh at all times. Ordinarily paste is made by mixing flour and water and boiling it to a somewhat stiff consistency. The following methods are an improvement, however.
Paste for ordinary use: Take one-quarter pound white flour, one-half teaspoonful powdered alum; mix and stir in enough cold water to make a thin gruel. With a spoon or flat wooden spatula rub it up till all lumps have disappeared. Add cold water to make about a pint, and heat it i ly in an enameled saucepan. It should be brought slowly to the boiling point, stirring from time to time. Let it boil a few minutes, stirring briskly the while.
Paste for mending (Cockerell): One teaspoonful ordinary flour, two of corn meal, one-half teaspoonful of alum, cold water three ounces. Stir thoroughly with a wooden or bone spoon. Let it come to a boil slowly; it should be kept at the boiling point a few moments, stirring well at the same time; if too much heat is used it tends to turn it a dark color, so this should be avoided. A few grains of salicylic acid stirred in will aid in preventing it from turning sour.
Rice paste: Mix a few spoonfuls of rice flour with cold water and boil slowly. A little alum or a few grains of salicylic acid stirred in will keep it fresh a long time. Commercial paste: In all large centers paste is found on sale; this is made commercially for hinders use and may be had in small quantities. It is usually well prepared and is of good quality. In using paste the following points will he found useful to the beginner. Paste should always be kept in wooden, glass or enameled ware containers never in any vessel composed wholly or partly of metal. When thinning paste use water in small quantities and be sure to rub it up thoroughly, so that all lumps disappear and it is smooth. There is nothing more irritating than to be bothered (in the midst, perhaps, of a troublesome piece of work) with lumps, or loose hairs from your brush. Use a large brush for paste. Accustom yourself to take up paste on the second or third finger of right hand, and not on the index finger. It is often necessary to use the latter for other purposes at the same time. When pasting a narrow edge always place a clean straight edge of paper on the page, so as to expose only the part to be pasted. This makes a straight edge and protects the balance from soiling.
When pasting a number of edges at the same time, place them on each other and fan them out so that just enough of each edge is exposed; then place a strip of paper on the upper one (as explained above) and paste the lot. Paste should be used quite thick on leather and when pasting narrow margins, such as end-papers. For lining boards and pasting large surface of paper it should be thinner to run easily.
The majority of fine bindings are made of Levant morocco. Other kinds, such as seal, pigskin, etc., are used from time to time, but comparatively infrequently. There are many qualities of each kind of leather, but nothing but the first grade should be purchased. Although almost all of the better grades of Levant morocco are imported, we find that the American market does not as a rule receive the very finest grades of leather, these being used up in the country of their origin, and a comparatively small proportion is ever exported. At the same time leathers of a good quality can be purchased here. Some few years ago general complaint was made by librarians and others that the leather used of recent years deteriorated much more rapidly than that which was used in earlier times. An investigation was set on foot by the Society of Arts, and its report (for details see Bookbinding by Douglas Cockerell) showed that this was probably due to the introduction of chemical tanning processes instead of tanning by the use of vegetable products as in former times. Several leather manufacturers in England decided to change their methods and to produce leather which was tanned entirely by vegetable processes and this leather is known as acid-free leather, each skin being stamped to guarantee its quality. This leather does not cost materially more than a first class article of the ordinary type, so that it is advisable to use it wherever possible. This acid-free leather may be had now in New York, one of the members of the recently formed Guild of Book-Workers having it on sale. *As a matter of fact, the quality of materials used in fine bookbinding should always be of the first class, because the item of extra expense for each individual book, for materials alone, is so small, and the labor devoted to each hook so large a proportion of its ultimate value, that it is not worth while risking a good product by using anything but materials of the very best quality. Of recent years it has become quite customary to use leather which has been split; that is, a certain thickness (known as skiver ) is split off the inner surface of the skin by a very ingenious piece of machinery. The objections to split leathers are many; only a few need be mentioned: Much of the strength of the skin is sacrificed, and only the outer part of the skin, which has been hardened by the tanning process, is left. This is not so tough as the inner layers, which are also quite necessary to make a firm resisting medium for tooling. Again, even when split, the skin may still be too thick for a very small book and too thin for a heavy volume. The amateur is tempted to have his skins split, as he usually dislikes the drudgery of paring a thick cover. By selecting skins of varying natural thickness much unnecessary work of this kind may he avoided. When I began binding I had my skins split, as I liked the thinner leathernot appreciating the damage I was doing and the difficulties I might have later on, in the way of unsatisfactory tooling, etc. I strongly advise the beginner to use leather of the natural thickness, providing himself with plenty of paring knives (of the very best quality), and to learn immediately how to pare a cover rapidly and properlyit is not difficult under favorable conditions. Again, however thick the cover may seem when handling it, much of this thickness is lost when the book is squeezed (damp) in the press before tooling, to consolidate it and make a firm, smooth surface. I have seen leather lose from one-third to one-half its original thickness.