Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Part II, Bookbinding Workshop in Santa, Idaho

Days 2-5 or so: After arising and making my way down the spooky steps from my sleeping nest in the loft of the Croft's guest cabin, I had an excellent breakfast, prepared by Melodie Croft (Jim's wife), and laboured away on my Gothic book.
After sewing the pages to pieces of thick flax cord, I "fluffed" the ends, then soaked them in wheat paste and twisted them into points. After they dried, the points were seriously hard, and thus I could lace the paper to the covers by poking the cords through holes I had drilled in the wood board covers.

Next, I worked on the boards for the covers. I had to saw a piece of board (in this case, sycamore wood) to get covers the proper size. I don't have a photo of me using a hand saw, but lets just say it wasn't pretty. I did get better (eventually), especially after I realized I was holding the saw at the wrong angle.

After cutting the boards, I had to file them until they were smooth, and shape the edges of the boards so they would fit properly when I laced them to the paper. It was interesting that each board had to be shaped a little differently, and I continually had to go back and make little adjustments as I was going along, in order to get the paper and boards to fit together properly so I wouldn't end up with a hideous, misshapen thing that could only come out in the dead of night.
Here are covers for both of my books (the one I made, and the one I haven't finished yet).

Hurray, lunch time! A short jaunt past Rusty, the Crofts' dog, ......

....taking the path through Melodie's beautiful garden..... the outdoor kitchen for a lunch I didn't have to cook myself. What could be better?!

Then back to work. After much shaping and swearing under my breath, I got the boards to properly fit into the "shoulders" of the sewn paper, laced them together (note my pointy, glued cords) and the thing actually starts to look like a book.

Jim uses hand tools to make his books. Here are some that I used. This is a photo of some hand planes, which gave the wood a beautiful, smooth surface.

And here is one of my book covers, clamped into a workmate thingie. Lying next to it is a farrier's rasp (a rasp used to file horse's hooves). It works great to smooth off edges of the covers and file them down (now you know what horses have to do with books).

Finally, supper, a little swig of Jim's homemade mead, then off to bed in my little loft nest, listening to the pygmy owls hooting outside, dreaming of book covers...

Next time: wrestling leather, beating up on brass.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Bookbinding Workshop in Santa, Idaho, Part I

In an earlier post, I told you I was going to Santa, Idaho, to learn to make gothic books from bookbinder extraordinaire Jim Croft. Well, I had a most excellent experience down in Santa, and I have the photos to prove it. In this and following posts, I'll give you a guided tour of my time there.
Everything at the Crofts is very basic, but comfortable. Here is the little cabin I stayed in:

If you like comfort camping (sort of like real camping, only with lots of amenities), this might not be your thing, but I grew up doing basic camping (a sleeping bag, possibly, but not always a tent, a stick to roast a weenie on, lots of dirt, and more stars at night than you could ever imagine), so I totally loved my time at the Crofts.

Here is the path I took in the mornings to the Croft's kitchen for breakfast...

...past the Japanese-style outhouse. I think you can work out for yourself how it is used (ok, confession time--I had very little confidence in my aim, so I just kept on walking until I got to the outhouse with a seat):
After a fine breakfast, prepared by Jim's wife, Melodie, it's off to the open-air workshop to spend the first of nine days making books (well, in my case, making book, as I'm incredibly slow and only got one finished). Here is a front view of the workshop (the left side of the building--Jim and Melodie live on the right side):

And here is my book, in it's embryonic stages. I'm using a sewing frame to stitch the pages to flax cords:

We also learned to select straight-grained wood, and split it into pieces for wooden book covers. Here is a selection of wood that Jim split. It is almost entirely reclaimed wood:

I will spend the next week or so using hand tools in an attempt to create something that looks more or less like these books, made by Jim.

Coming in the next post: how to use a hand saw very badly, what horses have to do with books, and so forth....

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

ILSSA Festival for Practicing Skills

Yesterday I took part in the ILSSA (Impractical Labor in Service of the Speculative Arts) First Annual Festival to Plead for Skills, only in this case, ILSSA members practiced skills instead of pleading for them. I decided to practice making paper.

I rooted around in my big bag of handmade paper scraps, leftovers from various projects, then sorted and cut them into small pieces:

Then I descended into the scary basement and set up my papermaking operation. I soaked the paper bits in water overnight, and here I am making a sort of paper daiquiri:

The paper cooperated better than I expected. I used pieces of abaca, mulberry and cotton papers, and they blended up nicely. There was water EVERYWHERE, but I managed to make quite a lot of pulp in the food processor without any electrocutions, smoke or random explosions, although some disturbing-looking brown stuff did leak out the bottom of the f.p. Fortunately, it wasn't anywhere near the paper.

Here is some paper pulp, ready to be transformed into some lovely paper sheets (I hope).

And finally, some finished sheets, rollered onto boards, a wooden box, and a glass window that was left over from when we replaced some window in our elderly house. The paper is still drying as I write this, so it will be interesting to see how it looks when dry. I really like how the colours turned out. I started with brown pulp, then as the pulp thinned (after I pulled several sheets of paper) added the green to the vat, then gradually added the blue pulp. I ended up with sheets of brown, greenish-brown, bluish-green, and finally dark blue papers.

As I was sloshing away in my vat, it was good to think of all the other ILSSA members, sawing, punching, gnawing (who knows?), and just generally practicing their own crafts at the same time.