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Tools And Appliances


LET us now consider the tools necessary for a small bookbinding plant. The bookbinder's workshop may be fitted up in any spare room or weather-tight outbuilding. It should always, if possible, be on the ground floor, because the operations of beating, pulling down the standing-press, and even cutting, cause considerable concussion to the walls and joists of the place. The first fixed tool is the common screw " standing-press," which is similar to that used by packers, and in the making of cheese and cider. It usually consists of two heavy cheeks of wood, and a head and bed of the same, the whole forming a kind of parallelogram when put together. Through the head passes a brass box, in which revolves a long iron screw, with a tolerably fine thread, and from this screw depends a stout piece of wood called the " platen," or sometimes the " follower." The books are piled up between smooth beech boards, in the centre of the bed of the press, and the platen screwed down upon them, at first by the hands, then by the short iron press-pin, and lastly by the long one, to which a couple (or more) men lend their force, one pulling and the other pushing.

Sometimes a " purchase " is used; this is a strong post, planted in the ground at some distance from the left side of the press. Fixed on this are a cogged wheel, pinion, and handle, which turn a wooden cylinder, around which a chain can coil. The free end of the chain is provided with a hook, and, this being fixed to the end of the long press-pin, when at the right cheek of the press, the windlass handle is worked by one or two men, and as the chain is wound upon the barrel, the pin is necessarily brought over with more power than by muscular effort exerted directly. Standing-presses are also made wholly or partly of iron. The screw of the press should always be kept well oiled, and, to preserve it from dust, it is well to make a paper cylindrical case a little bigger than the screw, and put over it.

large standing wood book press

The iron ring shown above the press (Fig. 1) is intended to support this standing press pasteboard cap. The press should be firmly fixed by strong timbers braced to the walls and ceiling, in order to hold it quite firm, and resist the shocks of the pulling down. Each press should be supplied with a round piece of wood, about 18in. long, with which to screw it up and down when empty, and a short (4ft.) and a long (6ft.) iron press-pin, fitting the screw socket.

large standing standing iron book press

There are several modifications of the screw press, amongst which the " Athol" press (Fig. 2) possesses much merit, as, from the position of the lever, this press does not jar the premises when fixed so much as the ordinary one, and, moreover, requires no separate press-pin--the Isle of Man legs, Been on the right cheek, being used to pull it down. Another novel and excellent press is the American "Boomer" (Fig. 3).

mechanical standing iron book press

This press consists essentially of screw pressure applied by a wheel until it is too great, when a lever working a rachet wheel is brought into operation, and a very intense pressure is obtained,  stated by the maker to be greater than that of the hydraulic press. With this press also there is but little jar or shock. Of the hydraulic press it is not needful to speak, as that is seldom used except in large establishments, and certainly never by amateurs. The price of a standing-press ranges from £8 for a small wooden press, and from £14 to £26 for an iron one; small Athol, £35; small Boomer, £28. In most cases (unless, indeed, the purpose is to do a great deal of work) it will not be necessary for the amateur to purchase a standing-press. If he beat his books effectually, he can make shift without one. They can be screwed up in the laying-press sufficiently tightly to get much smoothness. A large iron copying-press, or even a good wooden napkin-press, are not to be despised as auxiliaries.

small bench iron book press

Mr. F. Ullmer, Cross-street, Farringdon-road, and Mr. Powell, 33A, Ludgate Hill, E. 0., keep small iron screw bench-presses (Fig. 4), which would prove very useful, and cost about  £5 each.

With every standing-press it is necessary to have a good supply of pressing-boards. These are rectangular pieces of beech, from 1/2in. to 1in. thick, planed perfectly smooth and square, and varying in size, from those capable of receiving a folio to those only large enough for a 12mo (these sizes will be explained in due course). Next in importance come's the lying (or " laying," as it is invariably called by the professional bookbinders, which form we shall follow) press (Fig. 5). This consists of two large square cheeks of oak or beech connected by two large wood screws and two guide bars. On one side, which is kept uppermost for general purposes, the cheeks are simply planed smooth.

components of lying press and plough

On the other side, however, which is used for cutting purposes, the left-hand cheek has two small pieces, screwed on in such a way as to leave a channel between them, in which the left-hand cheek of the " plough " slides in the operation of cutting. When this side is uppermost, the press is termed a " cutting press" (it is in this position at Fig. 5). This press can be tightly screwed up by the short iron "press-pin" shown at B. When in use, the screws and guide bars should be treated with soft soap and blacklead, or some similar lubricating composition, to allow of their working freely. If the two small square pins or keys (A, A, Fig. 5) be driven out (which can easily be done with a hammer and a square pin of hard wood), the grooves in the screws, in which they work, can also be lubricated. With this press is used the "plough," a small apparatus of beechwood, shown at Fig. 5. This consists of two flat cheeks, which can be brought together by turning the screw. The right cheek of the plough is furnished with a sharp pointed knife, secured by a screw. When the book is tightly screwed up in the cutting-press, with one of its edges slightly protruding, the binder places the plough with its left cheek in the groove, takes the plough by the handle in the right hand, resting, meanwhile, is left on the other end of the screw, screws up the right cheek, until the point of the knife just touches the book, then begins to push the plough along the groove backwards and forwards, turning the screw a little every time the plough travels from him. The knife, by this method, gradually passes over and through the entire edge of the book, removing, in a series of shavings, the surplus portion of it that projects above the level of the press. There are various minutise which will be described particularly when we come to the section accorded to " cutting edges," the foregoing brief description being only intended to elucidate the uses of the press and plough. Plough-knives must be kept very sharp, and require some care in grinding. They are kept in two principal forms, the common knife, shown at Fig. 5 (C), and the Scotch, or sliding, at Fig. 5 (D). The first has a square hole in its butt, through which the plough screw passes, as shown at E (Fig. S), while the Scotch knife has beveled edges, and the end of the plough screw has a channel, G (Fig. 5), formed in it, in which the knife slides, as shown at F (Fig. 5). Either knife is good, but our personal option is for the ordinary form, which, moreover, takes less grinding than the sliding one. The press can be had in various sizes, at different prices. The amateur will not require the largest size, and may get one to suit him, with plough and pin complete, at from 30s. to £2 2s. These two tools the amateur must have.


The " tub " (Fig. 6) is a rectangular wooden frame, upon which the laying-press rests, whichever side is in use. The ancient bookbinders used a veritable tub for the purpose, hence the present name. This should be strongly morticed and tenoned together, and can be made by any local joiner,or by the amateur himself, if handy with carpenter's tools. It is best to put a bottom to it and board up the sides for 1ft. 6in. or 2ft., to keep THE TUB. the shavings in. The stuff of an egg-box or two is very suitable for this purpose. We must here mention that in a large establishment the cutting of edges, "out of boards," is seldom done with the plough, but is accomplished by the " guillotine cutting-machine," in which, by lever power, a horizontal knife is brought forcibly down, and will pass through a pile of books at one stroke. As the machine is expensive, and not at all in the amateur's line, we merely allude to it to render our list of tools complete.

beating stone and hammer

A "beating-stone" and hammer (Fig. 7) are indispensable. The hammer may be either of wrought or cast iron, something in the form shown at A (Fig. 7), with edges well rounded off and provided with a short wooden handle. It may weigh from 10lb. to 14lb. Any smith can make one. The "beating-stone" (Fig. 7) is a piece of York or Portland stone, or any stone capable of taking a smooth surface, about 2ft. by 2ft. or 1ft. 6in., and 2in. thick, ground upon its upper surface quite level. It should be firmly fixed on an upright support of wood, which should be a stout square log, firmly secured to the floor, or let into the ground, and covered on the top with saddle-cloth, felt, or several sheets of brown paper, to hinder, as far as possible, shocks or jars through the impact of the heavy beating-hammer.

machine for pessing signatures

Beating-hammers vary in price from about 5s. The stone can be bought for a few pence; but the fitting of it up will depend upon the local charges for carpenters' work. In all extensive bookbinding establishments the " beating " is now superseded by passing the books between the heavy rollers of the rolling-machine (Fig. 8), which was invented about fifty years since. If the amateur resides in a town, he can generally discover some binder who " rolls for the trade," and will pass his books through the machine at about an average of 1in. per vol., unless very large or thick; in this case he will not need the beating-hammer or stone. The rolling-machine costs about £30, and is consequently out of the question as an amateur's tool.

sewing press set up and keys

A small but important implement is the sewing-press (Fig. 9), which consists of a flat wooden bottom, provided with a vertical wooden screw at each end. On each of these screws revolves a wooden nut, and these sustain the crossbar, from which depend the cords upon which the books are sewn. These cords are secured beneath the bottom of the press by brass keys of the form shown at A (Fig. 9), of which five form a set. Middle-sized press and keys can be purchased for about 10s. 6d. A pair of medium-sized millboard-shears are necessary. These cost about 25s., and consist of a large pair of iron shears, precisely similar to those used by the whitesmith to cut up tin plate and zinc. They are screwed up in the laying-press or fixed, in a hole in the work-bench, and are used for cutting up the millboard covers for the books; though they are now almost superseded in establishments of any pretensions by the millboard-cutting machine, which consists essentially of a single large blade, worked by the right hand, and sundry arrangements by which any number of boards can be cut to one gauge (when fixed) without marking off.

There are various other machines used in large establishments, to which we need do no more than allude, as in small places,, where great speed is a secondary condition, their work is accomplished manually. Amongst these are Starr's backing-machine, or some modification of the original patent. This consists of two iron vice jaws, between which the back of the book can be ked, when a small iron roller is worked across it to produce the proper curvature. The bookbinder's saw-bench, worked either by foot or steam, consists of several small saws arranged on a spindle, and is used for sawing the grooves to admit the cords in the back of a book instead of cutting them individually by the tenon saw. The bookbinder's trimming-machine consists of a thin plate of steel something like a small circular saw, but quite sharp instead of toothed, usually driven by steam, and used to trim off rough edges and overplus of monthly magazines, &c., while still not removing sufficient to leave a smooth surface, as is done by the guillotine. A small grindstone for grinding plough-knives, &c. will be required.

grinding stone for plough knives

The form shown at Fig. 10 is a good one, and can be driven by the foot. A 2ft. stone, costing about 30s., will answer. We will now enumerate the minor forwarding tools. Two folding sticks (one pointed). These are pieces of flat bone, like small paper knives but without handles, 4d. and 6d. each; pair large scissors, long blades, for squaring plates, 4s. 6d.; small tenon-saw, 3s. 6d.; small wooden tub to hold thick paste, Is.; glazed earthenware pan to hold thin paste, 1s.; a glue-pot, 2s.; several small "sash tools," as brushes for paste and glue, 6d. and 8d.; backing-hammer, 2s. 6d.; pair Lancashire wing compasses, 3s. 6d.; 9in. carpenter's square, 3s. 6d.; knocking-down iron, 2s. 6d.; bookbinder's rule, 4s. 6d.; scratcher-up, 1s.; oilstone hone, 2s.; shoemaker's knife for cutting out, 8d.; French knife for paring leather, 2s.; pair band-nippers for setting bands nicely square, 3s. 6d.; pair trindles, 2s. 6d.; steel scraper for edges, 1s.; beech " backing-boards," per pair, according to size, from 4d. for 18mo to 2s. for imperial folio; beech "cutting-boards," per pair, according to size, from 2d. for 18mo to Is. 2d. for folio; agate or bloodstone burnisher, from 4s. Gd.; pressing-tins, from 9d. each; pallet knife, 1s. 3d.; packet bookbinder's needles, Is. The foregoing tools and machines can be obtained of the undernamed firms in London: Mr. Ullmer, Cross-street, Farringdon-road; Messrs. Harrild, Farringdon st.; Messrs. J. M. Powell & Son, 33A, Ludgate Hill; Messrs. Hughes and Kimber, West Harding-street, Fetter-lane, E.G.; and most printers' brokers. Having briefly enumerated the tools requisite for " forwarding " a book, let us now advert to those which appertain to the " finishing " department. In trade technical parlance, "forwarding" comprehends all the operations up to and including getting the book covered with leather or cloth; and " finishing " is the affixing the gilt or other ornaments, and lettering the title on the back or sides. When space can be spared, the finishing is best carried on, not in the forwarding shop, but in a separate room, which should be well lighted. Here everything should be kept as clean and free from dust as possible, in order that the work in hand shall stand no chance of getting soiled. The necessary tools and appliances for finishing are neither numerous nor expensive, and the amateur would do wall to obtain those named in the following pages.

stone for tooling irons

A small gas stove for healing the tools and letters,  as illustrated at Figs. 11 or 12. The tall one, which stands on the floor on tripod legs (Fig. 11), costs about £2 10s.; the small one,  shown at Fig. 12, which stands on the bench, costs 16s.

stove for tooling irons

Both stoves are connected with the gas by an elastic tube. A stout bench, for finishing-press, &c., to stand on, is useful Some bookbinders do all their finishing at the ordinary laying, press; but the use of a finishing-press, which can be moved about on a shop bench, is much more convenient. The cost of bench would depend upon carpenter's charges in vicinity; but a strong large kitchen table without leaves makes a very good substitute. A useful sized finishing-press, such as is illustrated at Fig. 13, costs about 12s. 6d.

finishing press with clamped book

It consists of a couple of small but solid beech cheeks, connected by a wooden screw at each end; the right end of each screw is turned up to a handle for the right hand, for in screwing up the book about to be finished in this press the hands only are used, a press-pin not being required. Larger sizes can be had. The screws should be occasionally lubricated with blacklead and soft soap.

type holder for titling

A single line, a two line, and a three line fillet are also required by the bookbinder. These tools are small brass wheels, the peripheries of which have been turned up to one, two, or three fine lines. Their use will be explained when we come to the department of " Finishing." It is sufficient here to say that when heated, rolled on gold leaf, and applied to the back or sides of the book, they leave a gilded impression of one, two, or three lines respectively. Other kinds, either of plain line patterns or those which have their periphery, or rim, engraved with floral and other patterns, can be had, and the purchaser can consult his wants and means in adding to the three described above. The line fillets cost about 5s. each. More elaborate patterns run up to 10s. and 12s., or even more, according to intricacy of pattern. Pallets are very useful, and a few should be obtained. These are small brass tools, about 4in. or 5in. long, and have line and ornamental patterns cut on their curved edge. They are worked across the back of the book, either with gold or without. (The latter process is termed "blind tooling.") The binder should also have several alphabets of letters and figures and a brass case. Formerly the letters used in bookbinding were cut individually on the end of a small piece of brass, which was provided with a wooden handle, as shown in Fig. 15. Great dexterity was needed to properly "letter" the title of a book with these separate letters, and this undoubtedly led the bookbinder to use brass type, which he " sets up," as a printer might do, in the case shown in Fig. 14. These brass types are now sold in complete " founts," or sets of sufficient alphabets and figures for any ordinary works. The amateur can get price lists and specimens of the cast brass type of Messrs. Ullmer, Harrild, Powell, or any other dealer. The price runs from 12s. per 100 letters upwards for types. Separate handled letters run from about 10s. to 30s. per set of one alphabet and ten figures. In the specimens given  the smallest size is suitable for 12mo and crown 8vo (these terms will be duly explained) volumes; the next size larger, for demy 8vo; and the largest for folio.


These three alphabets should be nearly sufficient for an amateur. Some binders employ ordinary printing type (of type metal, which is principally composed of lead); but this, although cheap, is so easily melted that we cannot recommend it to the amateur. The "cases" or "type holders" (Fig. 14) are 10s. 6d. or 12s. 6d. each. We may mention that many of the best binders, both in London and the provinces, do not adopt this plan, although decidedly the easier, but prefer to use the separate handled letters, under the impression that this expedites the work. An alphabet of these, suitable in size for the work in hand, is ranged round the top of the gas stove (Fig. 12), the handles resting in the recesses; and the finisher catches up each letter from its place as he requires it, brightens its face, presses it on its place on the back of the book, and replaces it on the stove. It need scarcely be said that it requires a very keen eye and steady hand to " work" a line of small separate letters straight across the curved back of a large volume. In order to do this more certainly, some binders lay a small piece of sewing silk across the gold in a straight line, as a guide in working the separate letters. A selection of various separate " tools," of small pieces of brass (handled), on the ends of which are cut different ornamental devices--as Maltese and other crosses, acorns, anchors, &c. --used in finishing, will also be found useful. The price ranges from 2s. upwards, according to size and intricacy of design (Fig. 15).

maltese cross, polisher

Amongst the minor but necessary tools and appliances are the following: A polishing-iron (Fig. 16). Used to give increased smoothness or gloss to calf books. Price 10s. Pressing-tins and boards for the final pressing. Gold-cushion. A piece of fin. board, covered first with a couple of thicknesses of flannel or cloth, and then with calf leather, with the "flesh" (rough inside) side uppermost, and with a piece of vellum sticking up from one end and part of one side as a guard (Fig. 17).

cushion for gold leaf

This can be made by the binder. If purchased it will cost 2s. 6d. Gold-knife. A small, straight-edged knife, used for cutting and lifting the gold leaf. Price Is. 6d. or 2s. Gilder's tip. A few fibres of sable, fixed between a couple of cards. Used for lifting gold leaf. Costs 6d. Three small sponges, about the size of a peach, or rather larger. Small piece of flannel to oil books with. Small glazed pipkin in which to boil size, Is. Two or three gallipots. " Devil," or " frother."


This is a slight piece of tough wood, about 10in. long. At one end four or more pieces of a quill,cut about 3in. long and split, are tied tightly to the wood at right angles, as shown at Fig. 18. This is used to froth up the " glaire," as will be explained in a subsequent section. The little wire " egg-whiskers," sold at American Novelty Stores in London, answer excellently. Gold-rag. A piece of coarse canvas, well greased, for clearing off the gold first.

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