Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Bookbinder's guide to Survival - Casebinding

The posts under these headings, are not intended as detailed instructions, but more as an overview of the work experience at PDB in the the first 4 years of its operation.Thats not to say there won't be detail, just don't look for it.Nor are they intended to be final, as I hope to add as I go on.

One of the first things you learn as a bookbinder is the simple, versatile and ever ubiquitous casebinding.You may learn the full, 1/4, and half cases, if you are lucky enough to work in a trade bindery you may even learn how to make a living at it.You will probably be taught how to sew sections, maybe even a different endpaper to the simple codex, but what you won't how to bind single sheets.
If you can't find a way to deal with single sheets, you will starve!The method we use has not changed since Arthur Johnson detailed it in his manual.You will not always get sections(very rarely),so you have to know when to stab-sew, and when to overcast.The right sewing in combination with the right paper can produce good results.Recent developments in graphic applications have made it easier for pagination in sections, but the limited size of digital printers means this will remain a problem for the foreseeable future.
In making cases it is imperative to remember what I will now refer to as "Arthur Johnson's Golden Rule"..which came in the form of a question he was fond of catching people out on:
"What are endpapers for?"...a simple enough question for the young case binder, who replying with gusto would retort "well, they keep the book in the case", belying his limited understanding.
The answer to this most basic of all questions unlocks a fundamental understanding at the core of bookbinding.
"NO! they are to counteract the warp of the boards"...i guess there was more to binding than cases!
This basic knowledge is seen at work in casebinding.If you want to glue out with a paste/pva mix, giving you time to do the other side and nip in the stack, you must make the cases using the same adhesive, or the resulting warp will demonstrate the lack of balance!
I have learned that at the Wyvern Bindery , and at Blissett's both in london, an experienced casebinder can make 25 cases an hour , and case-in a book every 30 - 60 seconds(thanks Nick!).Multiply that by what you may charge, and ask yourself is there a more cost effective, and profitable item a bookbinder can produce.Now no one here is suggesting you should aspire to make casebindings for the rest of your life, but knowing how to do them, and do them efficiently, could save your life....or at the very least pay a few months rent!

Pictured, is a recent 3-piece, split-board case binding I completed for architect Santiago Calatrava.The size and weight of the paper all lend it self well to stab-sewing, ensuring a strong binding, some throw-up, but pleasant enough due to the landscape format.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Box Challenge - coming attractions

The Third Man......and Killer Angels
yes more half-tone printing, and more civil war
keep watching....

Friday, April 9, 2010

North Bennet Street School

A highlight at work yesterday was a visit from Jeff Altepeter(far left),  and the bookbinding students at the North Bennet Street school.These guys have been all over London, and now New York, visiting Bernard Middleton, my old teacher Mark Cockram, Shepherd's, The Morgan Library, The Butler room at Columbia, and the Academy of Medicine in town.
What a truly varied cross-section of Bookbinding life they have seen in the past year....
Not sure how the humble operations at PDB measured up, but as always I did my best to be both honest and generous, which I think is important.
Knowing that the full time course I attended at LCP in London was taught by 4-5 full time bookbinders, Jeff Altepeter can be truly said to be a one man army, undertaking a task like that pretty much single-handed!!!
You'll find a link to the school and its programs on the right.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

A Bookbinder's Guide to Survival.

Looking back on a particularly tough week of work in the bindery, I was struck by the many different directions I was pulled in, thanks mostly in part to the notable abscence of Enrique Perdomo, AKA in the right circles, as, "The Master Craftsman".
The work load had doubled in quantity, and diversity.There was some repair work, some period binding, some commercial presentation work, some large 3 piece case bindings with boxes and slipcases, all against the constant backdrop of full leather clamshells and their accompanying design work and printing.
With this in mind I will set out to clarify what have been for me over the last 4 years, and what I perceive to be, the fundamental skills required of a bookbinder in order to stay alive in a hostile environment.
I realise that this will be an entirely subjective point of view, but I will offer it anyway, as I know some of the lessons I have learned will be of use if nothing else to many (I hope!)young and aspiring bookbinders.
There will come posts on subjects such as repair, rebinding,boxmaking,and case binding in which I will attempt a frank account of the work completed at PDB, and point to what I believe are the relevant practicalities in trying to survive on your own in the trade.
This account will I hope serve to inform those thinking of making a living as a bookbinder, as to what they can expect.