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Gold Tooling

FINISHING: Gold Tooling "Striking" the tool:

If the "blinding-in" has been done carefully, it will be found that the edges of each impression are quite firm and act as a guide for the tools, so that in a very short time the operator works as much by the "feel" of the leather as by his eyesight. After all that part of the pattern to which gold has been applied has been worked over with the tools, the surplus gold should be removed with prepared rubber or with an oiled rag. After this has been done, the pattern should be rubbed over very thoroughly with a pad of fresh, loose, absorbent cotton. This penetrates into the depressions enough to remove all the ragged edges of gold which may still be present. It will then be seen whether the operation has been a success or not. It may ke that some portion of it has been slightly burned, or at least the tool has been somewhat too hot to give a bright impression, which is shown by the frosted appearance which gold has under such circumstances. Other spots may show that the tool was not hot enough, in which case the gold will not stick and may disappear partly or completely when the rubber is used.

The whole surface should be re-glaired and retooled, and this should be repeated until it is satisfactory. If the design here and there is scorched, or if, after several attempts, the work is not satisfactory, it should be washed out entirely with vinegar; sponge it out first and clean out the depressions more carefully, say with the pointed end of a soft wooden match, wet in vinegar. After washing out, it may be glaired again while still moist, but should be left until next day to dry out, and then before tooling glaired again with very thin glaire. If, however, the finishing already done seems to be satisfactory, it should be glaired again carefully. While the glaire is drying another small portion which has already been glaired-in and is dry should be now tooled in the same manner. Tooling a second small portion of the design in this way takes up some time, so that the part first worked (and which has been glaired-in again) is now dry enough to be retooled.

As a rule, it is unnecessary to do the tooling more than twice, but leather is of such different degrees of firmness and quality that it is sometimes necessary to go over the same spot three or four times. In this connection it may be said that the beauty of the work done by the French binders is due not so much to the quality of the materials used as to the fact that almost all their work is gone over time after time, until the tooling is absolutely "solid." I advise the beginner not to cover too great a surface at a time, but to work very slowly in small sections, and to complete each section before beginning a new one.

Tooling a large surface and leaving it in an imperfect and unfinished condition results in one's losing interest in the work and not finishing it in proper manner. "Make haste slowly" is of more importance in this branch of procedure than anywhere else.) When the tooling of any one day is finished it should he thoroughly sponged with a pledget of absorbent cotton soaked in benzine. This is particularly necessary in leathers of delicate shades in order to remove the stains of the oil. This washing with benzine has no effect on the tooling itself (providing it is properly done).


The title and the name of the author are the two things which are the most important and to which the design used on the back should be subordinated. The lettering should stand out plainly and at the same time not be out of proportion to the panel decoration. As books vary much in thickness and as the thinnest hook may have a very voluminous title, it often taxes the worker's ingenuity to make a harmonious arrangement. In very thin books it may be found necessary to have no raised bands at all, the title covering the whole length of the back in a single line. In such cases, handle letters should be used. The size of type used must, of course, depend on the length of title and the thickness of the back. As a rule, type of larger size may be used in this style. For an ordinary back to (3/4 to 1 1/4 inches) it is better to break long words or divide the title in several lines, properly proportioned, thus using a larger size type than would otherwise be the case. It is customary to place the title in the second panel, the author's name in the third. Many binders, however, skip one panel and place the authors name in the fourth panel.

Often both title and name are placed in one panel (second), as one well-filled and well-proportioned panel is more decorative than two rather scantily filled. This should, however, never be done at a sacrifice of legibility. It may be accepted that lettering on backs appears at its best when it is laid out by taking a perpendicular line through the center of the panel as a base line, the lettering being equal in amount on both sides of the line. Some binders begin all words near the left edge of the panel, filling out the vacant spaces on the right by stars or dots corresponding to letters. If well done, it is very effective and appropriate in suitable cases. Experimenting with a given sized panel and a selected type (or handle letters) is the only way in which the beginner will acquire a definite knowledge of the little difficulties which surround this particular branch of work. In experimenting on paper, however, it should be borne in mind that the type should be separated a trifle more when used on leather. Spacing the type is also useful for making a given word cover a slightly longer space.

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