Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Just in Time for Christmas

Call me crazy but I really enjoy fixing study Bibles. This one had lost several front pages, including the title page. Other front pages were--well, as you can see. The paper had swelled over the years and burst the spine. Cover repair was not an option. The client was very happy.

I've ironed pages more often than any article of clothing.

The front pages of this Bible were available online as a PDF. I downloaded and printed them, joined the spine edges with repair tissue, and sewed them in.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Just in time for Thanksgiving

This morning I put the final touches on the 1912 Bird Guide repair and box. Sewing on tapes would have looked too bulky with the soft covers, and the book would not have opened flat. I used a Coptic stitch so the pages would lie flat, then cased in the text block as usual. The owners picked it up a little while ago. It had belonged to their grandmother, who had used it for many years. They are excited to show it to family gathered this Thanksgiving weekend. I told them it would be good for the next hundred years.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Bird Guide paper repair

I completed the rebinding of a Study Bible from my Heritage Day commissions. Now I'm starting the paper repair for the Bird Guide. Here are the page groups and strips of sekishu laid out on my work table.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Springback binding, Moby Dick, Jane Austen and a "broken" Bible


My T-shirt from Wonder Book says on the back, “If there were no books, there would be no Moby Dick.” Melville’s classic makes an appearance in my novel.

   Book artist Karen Hanmer shepherded 10 of us through a challenging two-day springback binding workshop in the Folger Shakespeare Library's conservation lab two weekends ago. This past Saturday, I attended an American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) conference in Virginia. Both of these events confirmed my commitment to meld bookbinding with novel-writing. (See 2014 post: “Bible Repair and Novel Writing Make a Mess.”)
    My novel-in-progress, The Broken Bible, is the first in a series featuring a bookbinder who solves mysteries. A “book-breaker” is a person who takes apart books (of prints, say) in order to sell individual pages. A book-breaker is considered a villain by bibliophiles. (“He breaks books! He’s scum!” is a direct quote from someone I know.) The conflicts unleashed in my novel by the discovery of a page from a “broken” 1526 Tyndale New Testament lead to broken hearts—and broken commandments.
    The restoration of an antique ledger—a Cemetery Book with a springback binding—is a plot point in The Broken Bible, so I was thrilled to take Karen’s class. She is a generous and skillful instructor and binder. The Folger lab is new and modern. What a privilege to work there for two days! We brought our own tools and used their heavy equipment (the board shear and book presses). I enjoyed the weekend fusion of my blue-collar book world (I’m a book wrangler at Wonder Book, a giant used-book store) with the rarefied environment of book conservators who handle Shakespeare First Folios.
    By the way, I recommend the current Folger exhibit, “Will and Jane: Shakespeare, Austen, and the Cult of Celebrity” ( For those who have seen the 1996 A&E “Pride and Prejudice,” Colin Firth’s shirt is on prominent display. Another case contains works that satirize Shakespeare and Austen, including Seth Grahame-Smith’s “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.”
    The ACFW Conference imparted instruction, vision, and motivation for editing my novel and writing a first draft of the next in the series . I am grateful to author Jan Elder, who leads my writer’s group, for the ride, the encouragement, and the fellowship (along with Steve Baer, a member of the group). When I told one of the organizers that the conference gave me more than my money’s worth, she said that was their goal.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Heritage Day Festival 2016

We always set up next to the Middletown Library Book Sale. I managed not to bring so much stuff this year. It was fun explaining the old boot (it's the mate to the one I used for the spine of the book next to it). Darryl's beautiful "New Antiques" tables were perfect for displays. Someone brought their Bible for repair, along with the handwritten estimate I did at last year's festival!

I did an on-the-spot estimate for repairs to this little book. 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Holzer Book Bindery

Our visit to the Holzer Book Bindery was a highlight of our trip! Marianna comes from a family of binders, dating from 1870. I couldn't attend the Guild of Book Workers conference this year, but made an unexpected and wonderful connection in Vermont! The link to the bindery website is:

Ric and Marianne graciously showed us the bindery. Ric is holding the book he wrote that Marianne bound for him.  Marianne holds the photo album that chronicles her family history of bookbinding. We persuaded Dolina to get in the picture also. 

I'm happy to have made this Vermont bookbinding connection!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Hana, a Daughter of Japan

This repair had three parts and several challenges. The silk threads had broken at both ends of the book. Although I have done the Noble Binding sewing pattern when making new books, I didn't want to disturb these 112-year-old pages, bound in 1904. The pages would probably have expanded, so then the brocade fabric headcaps wouldn't have fit... and so on. I tied on silk threads and re-sewed just the head and tail sections, tucking the knots into the holes. The folding case had done its job--protecting the book--but was showing the signs of wear. (Also, the red sun and black ravens seemed harsh compared to the delicate and beautiful silk-screened covers.) I replaced missing ribbons, re-made the loops for the bone clasps, and inserted new Moriki hinge strips under the original paper at the joints. Then I made a new slipcase, with an inset photo of the repaired cover.
Repaired book and folding case, with new slipcase. I lined the interior of the folding case with acid-free tracing paper, which protects the fragile silk covers from further acidic deterioration.

Before repair: Folding case with bone fasteners taped to the cover, missing ribbons, and book with frayed silk threads.

The new slipcase protects the restored folding case and displays the clasps. The silk-screened cover of the book is fragile, so the photo inset into the slipcase displays its beauty without extra handling and wear.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Heritage Book and Bible Repair: Catalog for Life Along the Potomac

Hope I can link my blog to my Facebook page. Heritage Book and Bible Repair: Catalog for Life Along the Potomac

Monday, June 13, 2016

Catalog for Life Along the Potomac

I find the Keith Smith books useful when I feel like playing. The photos and artists' statements from the winter Life Along the Potomac exhibit were online, in single-sheet format. After having them printed at FedEx Office, I made them into a long accordion fold, with a concertina sewn onto the back folds to give them backbone. Then I followed the "Piano-Hinge Collapsible Star" directions, more or less.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Midwest Geographies exhibit at Michigan State University May 2016

To my surprise, they included my "distressed" Mackinac Bridge box and collage of the process. I packed in a lot of stuff for this entry, and really appreciate how they displayed it.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Book of Cards

If you don't know what to do with that box of cards you've saved over the years, here's a way to keep them, re-read them, and enjoy them for years to come: I will bind them into a book for you!
The grizzly bear card roared until the battery wore out. We gave it to Darryl on our trip to Alaska.

For Father's Day 2013 I bound anniversary, Father's Day, and birthday cards given to Darryl over the years into a hardcover book.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Beauty and the Beast

Now I can show the project, safely delivered yesterday!
I didn't realize the margins of the box lid would fade against the tablecloth in a photo. But they're there.

It just looked better to sew in the original dust jacket.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

This is What a Shortcut Looks Like

Lovely mess, isn't it? I used a book's original cover boards for a rebinding in leather. I had assumed the covers were the right size because, after all, they were the originals. But no: they were 1/8" narrower than the pages. The covers had been cut so skimpy that the heavy cotton back liner I used added too much bulk and the pages protruded beyond the covers. By the time I discovered this, I'd already covered the boards in full leather and had no inclination to waste them. So, I pulled off the new sewn endpapers and the extra back liner. I peeled away paper layers from the flex-board spine. I lifted the pasted leather headcaps and back-cornered the spine edges. I swapped out thinner mull. Finally, I trimmed 1/8" from the foredges, which fortunately had wide margins. (I triple-checked the spine width, so that the text block wouldn't gape when everything was cased back in.) I felt guilty about trimming, but it had to be done. This one time. The book looks good and none the worse for wear. I won't show photos of the completed work until after I hand it to the person, because it's a surprise gift.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Connecting Peninsulas

I’ve been laboring over my Guild of Book Workers “Midwest Geographies” entry since December.  I took it to FedEx today! The exhibit will open March 28 at Michigan State University in East Lansing.

The overlaid dust jacket for Above Below features “Starry Night” and “Snow” Cave Paper. For Miracle Bridge, I trimmed and folded a Mackinac Bridge poster. Peninsula[s] uses birchbark covers with the title Coptic-stitched on the spine. The [s] denotes a letter that wasn’t there in the original title (Peninsula). Because: It’s PeninsulaS, youse guys!

Above Below and Miracle Bridge at Mackinac keep their original dustjackets, washed and repaired. 

Wrapped bricks and weights hold the tray tight to the cover as it dries. Waste paper lines the cover.

The coordinating clamshell box, with an image of the Mackinac Bridge, is bookcloth and distressed Tyvek. (I didn't know that Tyvek discolors when wet. Paste soaked through and turned the image a blotchy sepia tone. I tried another layer. Just as awful. I ripped it off, completely frustrated. Darryl said, "It looks great like that!" So that's how the box cover became "distressed.")

The interior of the clamshell box. The multi-section slipcase is made of Cave “Layered Indigo,” which reminds me of deep, mysterious water.

Slipcase, books, and custom clamshell box. At times, I thought I'd  never finish.

Birchbark cover and button closure.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Making a Bible Clasp

During the Middletown Valley Craft Festival, Darryl and I visited The Moonshine Forge. I asked Joe, the owner, if he would be interested in making a clasp for a Family Bible. The catch remained on the front cover, but the back-cover plate and leather strap had disappeared. He took on the challenge and produced a beautiful, custom clasp that matched the catch on the Bible cover. When he came to our home to attach it, I saw that our work is similar in many ways. We must fit, shape, cut, color, and clamp (or press) in order to create a piece, or a mend, that looks smooth and finished. No one sees the detail work that takes up so much time, but they would notice if it were not done. I appreciated being present for part of the process.

The completed Bible.

Worn corners before repair.

Fitting the back cover plate.

Filing the edge.

Clamping the strap and its plate into place.
The corners after repair.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Guild of BookWorkers Newsletter

The Guild of BookWorkers Newsletter arrived in my mail today. It's an interesting experience to imagine a bookbinding project, develop it at home, and then send it out into the world. Now here it is, behind glass and in print.