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Design & Tooling

FINISHING: Design & Tooling Design:

There is no question but that the design itself is of as much importance as the quality of the work. A striking but simple design, based on sound principles of art, is much more valuable and much more effective than more elaborate work done in a haphazard and in artistic manner.I think it will repay every beginner to acquire some knowledge of the principles of design and to continue the study, especially endeavoring to get reliable information on the special principles which should govern every design made for use in bookbinding. As in the engraving of tools, it is necessary that the maker of designs for bookbinding should know the limitations of tools and their combinations as used in this work. A prominent architect who was formerly much engaged in designing book covers and type lays down these opinions:

Tool forms should be clearly manifest, no matter how intricate their combinations. Richness of design is readily obtainable without over elaboration. The fewer the number of tools used, the better.

Ornament should always be subordinated to use. Modern rather than historical designing should be encouraged. I quote in this connection, also, some remarks made by Mr. Philip Mason, of the Riverside Press, Boston: "I find the 'architectural point of view' -if I may so name it- a valuable one in the application of ornament to leather-bound books.

First of all, I believe that the designer should himself be a practical 'finisher'. In no other way can thorough appreciation be had of the possibilities and limitations of the tools themselves, which are the component parts of the design. The design should be made with the tools. But ability to sketch freehand is of the greatest advantage in making ordinary patterns. Very much the same conditions which make for restraint and orderliness in architectural detail will be found to apply in the decoration of bindings.

Varying 'textures' and contrasting degrees of reflection are desirable and beautiful in gold tooling. The relation between the decorated and the undecorated surfaces should be carefully studied. Not infrequently, in an ineffective design, the unpleasant shape of the undecorated surface asserts itself in a way damaging to the decorated surface considered as a whole. It is a question whether the most pleasing of richly decorated bindings are not those whose elements of design-in other words, the 'tools'are few in number and simple of form. Application of design (blinding-in): One of the principal things to be observed in the application of a design is to have it square on the board-that is, the outside lines should be absolutely parallel with the edges of the cover, which I note is frequently not the case. The slightest deviation from absolute parallelism will be apparent when the work is finished. It is not advisable, therefore, to "blind-in" the outside line or lines through the pattern. This outside line or lines should be marked on the leather itself with compass and folder and should be "blinded-in" separately. The paper pattern should then be cut to fit this line precisely, laid on the cover, and held by a weight at center; several spots at edges and corners should be touched with paste and the edges then pressed into the lines already made.

After it has dried, each portion of the design should be gone over with moderately hot tools-a moderate amount of pressure being used. After this is done one side of the design should be loosened by running the folder under the edge (after the pasted spots have been moistened), so that the worker may assure himself that all parts of the pattern have been impressed on the leather. After the whole pattern has been impressed the design is removed, great care being taken to immediately wash off any paste spots which may be left. The whole pattern has then to be gone over again with tools which are quite hot, being careful to apply them accurately in order not to "double" the pattern. After having gone over them a second time, it will be seen that the pattern is very clearly indicated, and it is now ready for the final "blinding-in". Up to this point you will note that the leather has been worked in its dry condition. Careful inspection will show that the leather just outside the edges of each impression is "pulled down" toward the impression, instead of being at its normal level, and making a clear cut impression for each part of the design. In order to correct this and to render permanent the impression already made, it is necessary to dampen the design with vinegar, allowing from fifteen to twenty minutes to soak in thoroughly; the whole pattern is now worked over again, this time with more care, if possible, than before, and with tools which are not too hot to rest against the hand.

Much care must be taken as to the heat of the tools during this operation, because the slightest excess of heat, combined with pressure, will cut through the leather, or at least burn it, so that the pattern may be spoiled. The principal reason why it is necessary to moisten the leather and go over the pattern again is, that if this is not done, the impression "blinded-in" on the dry leather would almost fade away on the application of any moisture, such as "glaire," or at least become so indistinct that precise tooling would be impossible. It cannot be too forcibly impressed on the worker that careful, precise "blinding-in" is absolutely indispensable. The final results of thorough "blinding-in", over careless work, are very similar to the results attained by the careful as against the careless cultivator. The one cultivates his land thoroughly, going over it again and again, to put it into the very best condition for producing good crops. The other is satisfied with careless preparation of the ground, and the result is that his crops not only are small, as regards quantity, but poor, as regards quality. The same thing applies to thorough and superficial work as regards the operation of blinding-in. Blinding-in of back: All designs for panels of back should be laid out from a central perpendicular line.

Having laid out the pattern, the paper is cut at top and bottom of panel, three and four inches being left at each side. Place the book- a pressing-board on each side-in the finishing press. With a folder make a slight mark on each panel at the exact center of back. The paper strip with panel design is now laid across one panel and the center line of the pattern adjusted accurately to the guide marks just made on the latter. Holding it firmly in place, the ends of the strip are touched with paste and fastened to the sides of the pressing-boards. It is now blinded-in, and the other panels treated the same way. The lettering on the back should also be laid out accurately on a similar strip of paper and blinded-in most carefully; much care should be taken to have it in the exact center of the back. Blind tooling: This is also known as "antique" monastic style. Blind tooling is simply blinding- in the design (as if for gold work), and instead of using gold, changing the color of the leather itself (in the impressions) to a brown or black. This is done by dampening the leather after the design has been impressed and going over the damp design again and again with tools warm, but not hot, the object being to outline the design either in brown or black. This is really done by singeing or scorching the leather under the tools. The color and depth of the pattern or design should be uniform over the whole pattern. When the blind tooling is completed, let the cover dry thoroughly, and then work the design again with tools much hotter than before; this polishes the leather in the impressions.

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