Studio Dispatch on Sideshow: Binding

Like the letterpress portion of producing a Small Plates Imprint book, the binding process is multi-step, collaborative, and full of wonderfully detailed tasks.  Let’s start with the cover:

This cover need to wrap around the book and it needs to have a spine to allow for the thickness of the book.  So how does it go from flat to 3-D?  Well, the cover stock is thick  (220 gsm Elle Erre by Fabriano to be precise), and when we fold it we need the folds to be at very precise intervals.  So what do we do?  We score it.

The tool we used to score is a bone folder.  We used sandpaper to make it nice and sharp but rounded the tip so that it doesn’t slice into the paper when we score.

Using a transparent ruler, we made two scores, half an inch apart, to create a half-inch spine on each side, so that the front and back fold over themselves like this:

Eventually, the block of text pages will be affixed to inside of this cover, but first we have to turn flat pages into a block like this:

Step one, of course, is to fold all the pages in half.  It might seem strange to document such a simple step, but there you are.  Precision in all things.  To fold a piece of paper in half, line up the top edge with the bottom edge, and make your crease from the center outward.  You do it from the center because if you do it from one side to the other, you run the risk of creating a small slant to one side or the other.  Then, for this project, we went over all our folds with a super-special Teflon bone folder to make the edges crisp.  This step is called “boning down” (yes, really).

We used a Teflon bone folder because they tend to disturb the ink less than a bone folder made of, well, bone.  They also don’t leave the shiny burnish mark that you sometimes get with a true bone folder.  You could also do this step with a regular bone folder, putting a piece of scrap paper between the folder and the folded page.

The next step also might sound pedantic, but it’s key: now we put all the pages in the correct order.  Again, it sounds simple, but it’s easy to screw up.  Because in addition to the correct order, they have to be in the correct orientation so that you don’t get an upside down gerbil trainer or strongman.

Now, we’re going to be taping these pages together so that they make a kind of accordion, so all the pages need to line up perfectly.  The reasons for a perfectly lined-up (or “well-jogged”) text block are twofold: (1) if the pages are taped together crookedly, the beautiful strip of pages will meander crookedly out of the cover, and nobody likes that (well, except when that IS what you want, but in this case it’s not.  (2) if the pages are crooked, the beautiful straight spine will be less beautiful and straight.

So how do you make sure that your taping efforts are perfectly straight and not at all crooked?  Well, the taping takes both your  hands (when taping, you’ll wish that, like Shiva, you had four hands), so they have to be straight already when the taping begins.  We jogged the text block (to jog: to tap a set of pages on the table while holding them square on either side to make them straight) over and over until we were satisfied, then clipped them together with felt and binder clips so that the taping could commence.

For tape we used this wonderful double-sided tape.

It’s designed to be used with a tape gun, but this project is very small (all Small Plates books are roughly 4″x4″) and the tape gun would not have been functional for our purposes even if we had one (which we don’t), so we used our hands and a pair of scissors, as well as a firm, calm, zen-like patience.

Nota Bene: you can’t actually touch the exposed tape on the roll, because it’s sticky on both sides—very sticky—hang-on-to-your-fingers sticky—and the wax paper’s on the back of the tape, not the outside of the roll.  So you have to hold the roll by the edges, and it’s a good idea to not put it down, because, as it turns out, it’s hard to pick up a roll of tape without touching it.

We lay down the tape, as you can see, very close to the top of each page, so that the joints between the pages would be small and consistent.  We did this without removing the wax paper, so that we could jog it and re-clip it one more time to ensure maximum text-block squareness.

Once the wax paper is removed, each taped joint is smoothed down with a bone folder to ensure maximum adherence.  The final product, all stretched out across a table, looks a little something like this:

Dramatic, isn’t it?  Guess what: it looks even better in person.

This entry was posted in Artist in Residence, Book Arts, Bookbinding, Imprint, Linoleum, Vandercook Press and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.
Annemarie Munn
Annemarie Munn
Annemarie's abiding love of the broadside brought her to printmaking, book arts, and to SFCB, where she has been volunteering for almost two years. She is currently studying for her MFA in Fiction at SFSU, where she also studies printmaking and book arts.

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