Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Binding on a Budget- Found Tools

In a perfect world I would bind books full time. I would make lavishly beautiful books for the most discerning customers, archival cases and re-bindings for museums and archives. I would dedicate myself to the science of bookbinding, pouring a fair amount of my ample income back into high-end supplies and tools. In a perfect world I'd be showing you a picture of my fancy standing press rather than the stack of art history books I use as an actual "book press."

In a perfect word, but also a more boring world. In truth most of us are making books for a little bit of income, and a lot of creative release. And even if it is your full time gig, saving a few bucks or finding inspiration from outside the norm is always a good thing. When making books my credo is- I may not have a lot of money to spare, but I can still have a lot of fun. That’s what I want to talk about on my new Wednesday blogging stint here- what I call budget bookginding, or hackbooking. “Hacking” tools & supplies from other aisles of the craft store, or things already around the house, or even things saved from the trash to create new and interesting structures and save a buck.

So let’s get started! There are a lot of beautiful tools out there, but sometimes you have to make do with what you've got on hand. Below are some of my favorite easy substitutions- bookbinding "tools" you probably already have laying around the house.

Glue papers: Free newspapers, catalogs and magazines. Every Thursday our local free paper comes out, so every Wednesday night I take a few left from the stack outside my office and use them to protect my table from glue when working on my covers. Just open the paper to the front page and start gluing, and when the page is all gluey turn the page for a fresh surface. Do be careful when using lightweight or light colored paper as the ink from the pages can transfer with the glue- in those cases it's best to use the blank backside of a printed page from your recycle bin or a spare scrap of wax paper as your glue paper.

Cutting/ scoring mat: Cardboard from the back of sketchpads. I use sketchpad paper for a fair number of books, and instead of recycling the backs right away I've found that the thick backing makes an excellent "pad" to protect my table when scoring pages with a bone folder. In a pinch they also work as a quick cutting mat. Bonus- you can write down your measurements on the board for quick reference.

Punching Cradle: Telephone book. I started using the phone book in a pinch when my cradle bit the dust and I needed a quick replacement in the middle of a project. You do need to be extra careful that the signatures don't slide once you've squared them up, but otherwise this works great- just tap your signature on the table to square up the pages, open your book to near the center, and place your signature in the valley to punch. And don't forget to put your slip of sketchpad cardboard underneath to protect your table from awl holes. One warning- I've yet to run into a problem, but you may want to "test" the ink in your phone book first by rubbing a piece of scrap paper against the page you plan to set your signature on- if the ink rubs off place a clean sheet of paper between your phone book and signature for extra protection before punching.

Bookpress: Stack of books. The classic book press (no pun intended). Just sandwich up your glued boards (wrapped in wax paper) between heavy books large enough to cover the board surface for a good, even pressing. Our Time Life art history books get lots of love this way.

Hinge spacers: Skewers. At just over 1/8" wide wooden skewers have become my favorite way to get even, easy hinge spacing in my books. Just place down a skewer on either side of your spine, snug up the cove beside it and lift the skewer away. Voila! Perfect, even hinge spaces- from a cheap and reusable little tool. The pointy end is also good for poking ribbon ends down into hole to finish off a stab-binding.

So what am I missing? I'm sure there's a ton of great "household material tool hacks" out there, please share your favorites in the comments below!


The.Paper.Chimera said...

I've tried newspapers, but with the problem you warned about; ink from the newspaper (and some newspaper itself!) came off onto what I was gluing. I'll have to try the skewers! I use bits of cut bookboard now, but skewers would last a whole lot longer.

Lizzie said...

Yeah, we got shown the skewers on the bookbinding course I went to.
I also use my telephone book for a book cradle - it's ideal!
And the various huge non-fiction books my son owns are very useful as a makeshift "book press"!
I was lucky to find a really good letter-opener in some stuff from my dad. It's pretty good for tearing paper.
One of my favourite creasing tools is the lovely round handles of my tiny paper-cutting scissors. They are really smooth and just the right shape to give sharp creases in most types of paper.

SCB said...

Hi there, I love your ideas - I really hadn't thought about the phone book/sewing cradle but I'll try that out. I wonder if you'll like my use of household bricks as book weights: I have a variety of old bricks and half bricks wrapped in a couple of layers of newspaper and a final layer of clean scrap paper. The only criteria for selection is nice square corners on at least one end of the brick! They make fantastic weights, especially for things like clamshell boxes because I can push the end of the brick right into the corners, or stack them on top of an art book to make a press. I even have some smaller cement pavers wrapped up in the same way, which are great because they have a larger flat surface! I keep them all under my bench in a big basket. Love the blog, Sara

Pauline Paulette said...

My father recycled some old kitchen knives, breaking the blades to make it shorter then giving it the right shape and use them as a sort of metal bonefolder or spatula... better than the storeboghut ones...

Monica said...

For coptic stitching I get beeswax that you can find in the quilting section of the craft store and wax my own thread for binding, it's cheaper than buying already waxed thread and it's a good stress reliever to wax thread.

PrairiePeasant said...

Great tips!

When teaching a class of teenagers to make accordion books, we used popsicle sticks as bone folders--they worked really well! The backside of a hard plastic toothbrush works too.

I use a telephone book for gluing pages. I have a set of bricks wrapped in plastic shopping bags that I use to press.

Bev / lapaperie said...

What a great post showing fun and innovative ways to keep costs down! :)

Instead of a phone book for a punching cradle, I use our make-shift coffee table, which is comprised of 2 end tables pushed together. I separate the tables slightly and punch the holes in my signatures through the space in the tables. It goes nice and quick. :) When I'm done, I just push the tables together again. Voila...handy as heck! lol!

Antico Valore said...

this is a wonderful post! i love it!

Anonymous said...

I've just started out bookbinding as a hobby (not that I need another one, hehe) and these tips have been really helpful! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Great idea! Love seeing a creative mind work and gain success!!!!!! Hope it continues to grow!


Rozi said...

I never had a cradle and I'm looking forward to using a phone book for that, but does the thickness of phone book matters as ours are only about an inch thick.

I had one student whom I taught book making, made her own bonefolder by using her dentist husband's tongue depresser.

I use the removable weight plates on my dumbbells and barbells for a book press.

My awl comes from a hardware store, it's cheaper, light weight and easier to handle/control like a screw driver.

Thank you so much for sharing all this wonderful post, as I live in an area where book binding is non existant and ordering online kills me because of shipping cost