Tuesday, 25 May 2010

On the edge

(Jesus, I stole that title from some ancient bookbinding article)
I spent the whole day today trimming book blocks:

The tools of the trade:

This great basic plough, along with the beechwood cutting/laying press, is manufactured by J. Hewit & Sons - who by the way have the most oustanding service, remember them if you ever need to mail order any bookbinding tools or machinery. I got these both a couple of years ago and they're brilliant.

When I was studying bookbinding I never had the chance to use a plough, so I taught myself. The basics are very simple - Decide how much you need to cut off the edge, cover the book with a couple of loose mill boards, fasten with masking tape, put the book in the press. Stand or sit with the press leaning to your stomach. Don't try to plough too fast: Only cut a couple of papers at one time, turn the handle a bit tighter every time you pull the plough up ie. towards yourself. You can always rush it through like crazy if you want, but you'll usually end up with a ruined, torn edge. With some time and patience you'll get edges that are smooth enough to gild - to me bookbinding is about slow pleasure, anyway.

The best thing is, it doesn't even matter what kind of shit edge you have. This book was bound of nice drawing paper I repurposed from a big, ugly guestbook I never used for anything. I'm not the most pedant bookbinder so if I already know I'm about to trim the edges I just cobble something together and then trim it nicely afterwards. Here are some random wonky blocks from today:


  1. Very neat! What a cool process...

  2. That plough certainly seems to do the job, but boy, is it expensive! Forty-odd quid just for a replacement blade? I mean, come on!