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Passing in Boards


THE next operation after backing the book is cutting the boards. These have, of course, been brought to an approximate size by the shears or the cutting-machine (illustrated in our last chapter), and also approximately square, but in neither respect are sufficiently accurate. They have now to be cut to exact squareness, arid the precise size requisite for each book, by the agency of the cutting-press and plough. For cloth boarded books and case work this operation is frequently omitted.

For cutting the boards, they are placed in the press between two cutting-boards, one behind the board called a " cut-against," because against this the plough-knife cuts, and one in front, to guide the knife, termed the " runner." It is usual to place a strip of millboard in front of the " cut-against," to receive the first impact of the knife, and preserve the board in some measure. The first step in cutting the boards is to place a pair (or more) destined for a certain sized book with their edges level, and remove as small a portion of the edges with the plough as will leave them perfectly smooth.

cutting board

Fig 70 is a sketch of boards between the cutting-boards, ready to be lowered into the press. A is the " cut-against," B the millboards, and C the runner. One edge of the board being thus cut, the opposite one is operated on. For this it is necessary to ascertain the exact width that the board must be when affixed to the book, including the square of the fore edge. (The " squares " of a board are those portions of the boards which project beyond the edges of the book when cut.) For this purpose, the book is laid down upon its side on the cutting-press, and, taking the compasses in his right hand, the workman rests the point of one leg in the groove made in backing, and, opening out the other leg, searches for the narrowest leaf in the book (Fig. 71).


When this is found, he has to consider that in cutting the edges he will have to cut down to this, and hence the millboard must be ihe amount of the "square" wider than this; COMPASSING consequently, he opens out the compasses the amount of the " square" beyond this narrowest leaf which he has found, and fixes them in this position by screwing them tight. He now places the point of one leg of the compasses to the cut edge of the millboard, and presses the other on to the other side of the millboard; the operation is then repeated at the other end of the board (Fig. 72).

marking board

This part of the millboard is then placed on the cut-against, the runner adjusted to the two dots, and the superfluous millboard ploughed off. It is now necessary to cut the heud and tail. The wooden stock of the square is adjusted to one of the cut edges, the steel blade being a little below the end of the millboard, and a bodkin is drawn along the blade (Fig. 73), or a couple of dots made, either mark to serve as a guide for the edge of the runner.

marking board

The superfluous board being ploughed off, the book is placed upon the center of the cutting-press with the head to the operator, and looked through for the shortest leaf. When this is found, one point of the compasses is placed to the head and the other to the bottom (tail) of the shortest leaf, and the compasses fixed. This distance is then set off on the millboards from the head just cut, and the point at the other end, where the other leg of the compasses reaches, is squared, as at Fig. 74, and the surplus ploughed off.


A millboard is now adjusted to each side of the book (if made boards or lined boards, with the right side inwards), and strokes made with the bodkin along them for each cord, as at Fig. 75. It is now necessary to pierce the boards so that the bands may be passed through them. This consists in making a hole from the outside of the board inwards at each bodkin mark, about 1/2 in. from the end. This hole is shown by an o in Fig. 75.


Similar holes are now made from the inside, shown at Fig. 75 by black dots. These holes are made either by forcing the bodkin through the boards, or, preferably, by laying the millboard on a piece of smooth hard wood, and driving the " piercer " (Fig. 76) through by a blow from a hammer.


The bands (or cords in which the book is sewed), already unravelled, as before described, are now saturated with paste, and their ends then twisted up, by the finger and thumb, to a point. Each cord is then put inwards through one of the holes nearest to the edge of the board, and outwards through one of those farthest from the back. The cords are then drawn tolerably tight, and all the projecting part, except about  1/2in., is cut off, the piece remaining smoothed down on the board and secured by being struck with the hammer. Each band now forms a kind of hinge, serving to hold the board to the book. The board is now extended flat upon the knocking-down iron, and all the cords knocked down (or riveted, as some term it) with the backing-hammer, as at Fig. 77.

knocking down

Then the book is reversed, so that the cords can be beaten down on the inside of the board also, until they are smooth and level. Great care must be taken, during this operation, that the bands do not get cut. If it chance that the part of the band between the back and the board, which forms the hinge, gets drawn tightly over the sharp edge of the knocking-down iron, and struck by the hammer, it will be severed immediately. The batch of books thus got " into boards " should now be placed between pressing-boards, with the backs projecting, in the standing-press (largest at bottom), and pulled down tightly. In this position their backs are smeared over with the thin paste brush.

back and scratcher

The operator then takes the scratoher-up (Fig. 78, A) in his right hand, and draws it down the back of the books from heads to tails, in such a manner that the teeth of the tool penetrate between the sections. The brush is then drawn along them again, so as to work the paste into these channels, and tlien the scratcher-up is drawn forcibly across the back in every direction. Next, the paste is partially cleaned off, and the scratches rubbed out by rubbing each back in the direction of its length with the end of a cutting or backing board.

Finally, the backs are rubbed clean and dry with a handful of paper shavings, and most binders then apply a coating of thin glue thereto. Some binders, especially in the country, prefer to screw the books up in the laying-press, three or four together, with backing or cutting boards between each, and then scratch them up, subsequently glueing the back of each, and blocking up in the standing-press, where they should be left all night.

It is well to put a piece of waste paper inside the millboard, to prevent the pasted bands sticking to the end-papers. Before concluding this chapter, we think it well to specify the different kinds of millboard which the amateur would require for the boards of his book. The quality of these will depend in a material degree upon the kind of binding he is desirous of adopting. If for leather work, it will be well for him to buy the best quality millboards, which will cost him from 32s. to 40s. per cwt., according to his market. These are made of the best old ropes and sacking, and, from having much tar in them, are very dark brown, mottled with black. They are also so well rolled at the mills that they are extremely hard, and the labour of cutting them is considerable. The inferior kind will do very well for cloth or half roan books. They are much lighter in colour, being a kind of dull grey, and very much softer. These are about 20s. per cwt., or even less, Lastly come the strawboards, which are made of straw instead of hemp. These are much used now for common bindings, and are hard and smooth, but so brittle that they cannot be recommended. If a volume bound in strawboard fall to the ground, the corners are mostly so bruised that the book is irretrievably spoiled; but a good millboard will stand this casualty. Strawboards cost about 10s. per cwt. All boards can be obtained of Messrs. Eadie and Messrs. Corfield, whom we previously mentioned, and of other dealers. Boards are divided, according to their thickness, into what are called " tenpenny" (the thickest), " X" and " XX," " eightpenny," " sevenpenny," and " tip" (the thinnest). The tyro should ask the dealer of whom he buys to show him the different denominations, and remember them, as it may be useful to him in ordering. He had better give his first order for a icwt. or Jcwt. " assorted." " Tip " is excellent for lining board. Thus, instead of using a millboard of the proper thickness for a certain book, it is far better to use one rather thinner, and paste a thickness of tip on. This causes the board to have an inclination to concavity, which keeps the book compact. It must be carefully remembered that the lined side of a lined board, or the side on which the thinnest board is pasted in a " made " board, must always be put next the book, otherwise the boards, instead of curving inwards, will have a tendency to turn outwards at the corners.

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