Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Shopping spree


I always treat myself to a Christmas present, and this year I decided to splurge on some bookbinding leather. I started by buying a small vegetable tanned goatskin (morocco) in a lovely rich reddish brown colour, that will do for a number of half-bound books. I have already started using it (see image above). I balked at the prices of the fish skins the leather shop had on offer, having recently checked out what they cost from the local manufacturer. Doubling the factory price is a little over the top, in my opinion, especially since I know they get bulk discount.

It just so happens that my parents live not far from the leather factory and I always spend Christmas with them. As I had some vacation time left over from the summer I took a couple of days before Christmas off from work, which enabled me to visit the leather factory before it closed for the holidays. They don’t make leather specifically for bookbinding, but their fish leathers are eminently suited to it. These leathers come in various colours and finishes like matte, distressed, patterned, metallic, pearly, and one that is so smooth and shiny that it looks lacquered.

When I arrived I was welcomed by the export manager who escorted me into the warehouse and left me to browse by myself among piles of lovely fish skins in all the colours of the rainbow, plus a few that would have surprised Mother Nature.

I came away with 10 spotted wolf-fish skins in various colours, one lovely pink salmon skin and one hot red Nile perch skin with a finish that makes it look more like ruffled velvet than something that came off a fish. I also bought a number of the same types of skins from the huge pile of cheap second-quality skins. This will last me for years of amateur bookbinding, or I may just start binding books for resale...

Spotted wolf-fish skins.

Nile perch (top) and salmon.

Wolf-fish seconds.

Salmon seconds. The narrow ones look kind of like snake-skins.

Nile perch seconds. The white ones have a pearly sheen to them, the red ones are matte.

And here is a link to the company: Sjávarleður.

Home-made multi-purpose book

This is a book-making project for beginners who want to experience the pleasure of designing their own book, but don't feel ready for the glue, needle and thread.

A couple of years ago I found myself in need of a book that was sturdy enough to travel well, had plenty of pages but was cheap enough that I could use it for anything without feeling like I was wasting money, be it making notes, writing shopping lists, sketching, etc. All the big notebooks available around here cost from 1200 kronur (about 15 US $) upwards, and some as much as 3300 kr. (more than 40 US $), which is not just daylight robbery, but several other kinds as well.

What I did was to take a stack of about 200 sheets of A4 white acid-free printer paper which I cut it in half to make about 400 sheets of A5 paper. Then I made a simple cover from bookboard that I put Rexine corners on and covered with brown wrapping paper and glued some white paper on what was to be the inside of the covers. Then I took the stack to a print shop and had them spiral bind it, at a cost of about 600 kr. (less than 10 US $), and voilá! I had a cheap multi-purpose book that I don't hesitate to use when making shopping lists, but still has paper good enough to make drawings, sketches, and even watercolour pictures in. I am slowly beginning to decorate the brown paper cover with drawings as well.

You can use any kind of paper for this kind of project, and even mix different kinds of paper together, which is what I am planning to do for an art journal project. To cut the paper down to the size you want you can do a few sheets at a time with a rotary cutter or box cutter and a ruler on a cutting mat, or you can use a paper guillotine to do a bigger stack at once - you will find one at any print shop, some artist supply shops, paper shops and probably at copy centers as well, although they may not allow you to operate it yourself. You can even tear the paper carefully in order to get decoratively uneven edges on the pages.

As to the covers, if you don't have bookboard, you can use cardboard or posterboard or any thick paper or even plastic that will protect the inner pages. Just be careful to use something the machine that punches the holes for the spiral can handle (the first print shop I went to had old equipment that couldn't handle the bookboard, so I took my business elsewhere). I recommend paper, since it is easy to personalize with decorations, such as drawings, collage or stickers or anything you can think of.

Friday, 22 February 2008

Blank book

Another blank book I made recently - quarter bound with leather, my very first attempt at using leather in bookbinding. The leather is Arctic wolf-fish skin, dyed black. It has an interesting grain and shape, and so I did not trim the edges to make them straight, but covered the boards first with this interesting paper and then applied the leather to the spine, overlapping the paper to show off the uneven edge to best advantage.

I will probably use it as a journal on my next holiday, or I may give it to someone deserving, to be used as a diary, travel journal, sketch book (although this is not the best kind of binding or paper for that), or recipe book.

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A woman in my bookbinding group has been covering books with salmon-skin leather, which has an even cooler texture, but when I went to the leather shop to look at skins, the only salmon leather they had didn't have a nice texture, so I didn't buy any.

I did buy some other kinds of leather to use on books: a small pale golden-tan goatskin (morocco), a red-dyed spotted wolffish skin and a lizard skin that I would love to use in one piece to cover the spine of a book. It would have to be a big book, like a photo album or a scrapbook. I also saw some snake skins, but decided not to buy one until I have the right book for it. They also had some cool crocodile skins, but those were unfortunately too lumpy to be used to bind books, but I think a piece of such skin would make a fine embellishment on a book cover (provided the book was not to be stored in a bookcase where it might dent the other books...).

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Reading journal

I made this reading journal for myself in December and have been using it since the beginning of this year. It’s 336 pages long, a traditional hollow-back half-bound book, with Rexine on the spine and corners. The paper covering is gift-wrapping paper with decorated gilt letters copied from old books and manuscripts. That paper was a total horror to work with, and it wasn’t until the second attempt that I managed to get it smoothed onto the boards without tearing it (the trick was to use very thin glue, brush it on very quickly and smooth down the paper onto the boards before the glue weakened it). Since it is so delicate, it should become interestingly worn as time passes and it gets some handling. I have had both good and bad experiences with using gift-wrapping paper in book-making – this was one of the bad ones, but it's so beautiful that it doesn't matter.

I used regular office paper for the pages (weight: 80g per square meter), which is fine for journals as long as they are not intended for heavy ink drawings or watercolour art.

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