Wednesday, May 28, 2014

What's New With the Paper Wren? Pocket Journals!

My last post, dated March 31, covered a little bit of what we at Paper Wren Press were just starting to investigate, namely the world of book making.  In that post, I wrote about the changes that had evolved the art and industry of book binding from the 18th century, into and through the19th century, focusing on the Paste Board bound, or should I call it the "Paper-Backed" book.

Writing that post peaqued my curiosity enough to perform a bit of forensics on my 1854 Child's Scripture Question and Answer Book.  The idea was to reverse engineer the construction of that book, to see if we could perhaps create something similar here at the Wren.

One thing led to another, and soon enough I found myself engaged with a lot of Google searching, talking with professional bookbinders that specialise in hard case-binding, and a whole lot of experimentation, running back and forth between here where my shop is, and downtown, sixty mile round trips..

After several stabs at several methods, keeping one eye on the 1850s era Paste-Board bound book that I was using as a model, I finally came upon a process that is authentic, yields authentic results, and is actually do-able from our studio, albeit on a limited scale.

This book (shown above, entitled "The Childs Scripture Question Book", American Sunday School Society, Philadelphia, 1854) served as the model for what has become our first blank Journal.  It has a linen spine covering, with lacquered or waxed paper covered boards.  The inside board covers use the same paper stock as the pages themeselves. The book is sewn through what appears to be four sawn openings at the ends of the signatures.The threading follows the typical in - and - out stitching, with what might be kettle stitched head and foot ends.  The boards themselves seem to be not unlike chip board.  It may be laminated paper boards.  The original 1850s "model" measures about 3-1/2 inches by 5 inches.

Here is how our version turned out.  These books are approximately the size of an iPhone-4, about 2.5 x 4 inches, nominally, thus considerably smaller than the 1854 model.  They contain about 90 pages, sewn in three-sheet signatures.  The backs are linen, the boards are medium mill chipboard, the paper used is Natural White Classic Laid.

I decided not to build a stitching frame, but rather, to entirely kettle, or "ketch" stitch the signatures together.  Smaller books of this size lend themselves to this sort of hand stitching because the stack of signatures, or "text block" can be easily held. Just make sure for clean hands!  In Kettle stitching, the signature above is sewn, or rather, crocheted to the signature beneath using a curved needle. The thread I use is a thinner upholstery thread which I immerse in melted beeswax, "shave" to remove the excess, and re-spool.  This prevents tangling and eases the friction of the threads passing through the punched holes of the signature sheets. Since the signatures are pre-punched with an awl and punching jig, the stitches form straight vertical lines.

This is a good view of the spine stitching. Something I do is "X" the stitch lines together.  I just like the way it looks, but it also provides a bit more "grab" for the mull when applied, and for the signature ends.  More than likely it's just something I think looks cool, and actually has zero effect on anything at all.  But I have a hunch it does add a modicum of support.  Perhaps some of you experienced binders might have a comment to make about this?  What you see above is the text block or "block" resting on it's half finished casing.  I use this photo again further down in this narration.  Notice the number '3' on the block, and the corresponding number on the case's boards?  Each board had to be cut and sized according to the dimensions of the text block that would be pasted into it, which even under the most controlled of conditions, can vary.

Here is the mull covered spine. This cloth, glued over the spine, is called "Mull", and is usually a type of cheese cloth, however I used open weave stiff Muslin.  I don't think it's any different than cheese cloth but it's available.  Lots of PVA glue used, literally painted on the muslin mull.  This will set for a couple hours while I take care of other business, such as finishing the cases. Ever try to find cheese cloth lately?

These are the cases.  Medium mill chipboard with black linen spine lining. I use this, rather than Davey Board, largely to hold down costs, and because I really don't think it's necessary for these types of books.  Time may prove me wrong, but so far on my field "beta" version that I have been carrying with me for a while now, the boards are doing just fine. Later in the process, a heavy paper will be glued over the boards, folded around the edges to the inside, the edges covered with end papers.

The interior of the spine cover is lined with heavy paper, which is glued into the casing, again using PVA glue.  This provides extra support for the spine and hinges.  The paper is rubbed down with a bone folder, then inserted into what is called a "nipping press" to dry. The pressure exerted by the press prevents warping and buckling while the glue is drying.

Here is the whole set-up.  The operation sets atop a very large stack of cheap padded paper.  It makes for a good disposable work surface.  When things get messy, tear off the top sheet!  Shown are the cases (boards), glue, scissors, roller, text block, and cover paper...ready to be pasted in.

Before the text block is glued in, the boards are covered.  This is where "Paste Board Binding" or "Paste Board Covers" get the name.  I use one of two types of paper to cover the boards, both of which are heavier then 25 lb text weight paper, but lighter than 65 lb cover.  One type that I use for cover is white with blue grey fibers woven through the stock, the other is a very nice faux parchment, which actually behaves like a very thin vellum. This "parchment" paper has been discontinued by the manufacture: I purchased it as a close out item years ago.

The cover paper is glued to the front of each board, and wrapped over the edges, folded and glued to the back, as shown above. Glue is then spread over the top sheet of the text block, and the board is folded over and closed on the block, the glue adhering the top page to the back of the board.  This becomes the covering for the inside of the board.  The same process repeats on the other side of the text block and corresponding cover.  The closed book is then placed in the nipping press under slight pressure to dry.  The end sheets on either side of the text block are not part of the sewn signatures.  They are glued into the text block specifically for the purpose of becoming the board covers.  This is why they are called "end sheets".

After drying, the book is examined.  Care must be exercised when closing the boards over the glued end papers, to make sure that the text block is square withing the binding and evenly covers the interior of each board.  The hinge of the book is formed by the space between the spine and the board, a gap usually between 1/8" to 3/16" for this size book.  This book, remember, is only the size of an  iPhone.

I also check the spine.  Since these books do not have headbands (they really don't need headbanding at this size, although a headband can cover a multiple of ills!) I need to ensure the signatures are laying evenly, and the spine is straight, not angled. I do this both before and after the books are placed in the press to dry. First, to make sure they are straight, and afterward to make sure I made sure they are straight. The front pasted paper cover covers the linen spine cover by about 1/4th of an inch, and there is a fair degree of even-ness between the front and back.  Remember, a lot of this is done by eye.  This journal came out very nice!  

One of the things I have been doing is "field testing" these journals for durability.  This is my own personal journal.  I carry it with me, and have been writing in it every day since March.  The idea is to identify any problems that may happen in time, with opening, closing, rugged use, bending the spine, carrying the book in my pocket with car keys and Lord knows what, carrying my book in a back pack or carry pack.  I have a pencil rubber banded to the book.    This particular version has three stitches holding each signature, I have since increased that number to five.  Just be sure that there are no prolapsing of the pages. Prolapsing is when a sheet that composes a signature bulges, or pops away from it's place in the fold because nothing is there to hold it in place.  Stitches set to wide apart can cause this.  This is why I added stitch rows, increasing from three rows to five rows.

It takes typically a two days to make four or five books.  They are time consuming and labour intensive.  But they are nice, especially if what is wanted is something a bit more durable than a Moleskin or Field Notes book, with more pages and a lot more permanency.  These books are also, in my opinion, a bit more convenient for modern pockets, which is why I opted for the "Cell Phone" size, specifically: the iPhone.  In fact, they fit nicely into iPhone cases!  Hmm.....maybe I can interest Apple.....

These books are products of the mid 19th century, and literally thousands of these original books are still with us today.  That tells me something about the durability of this method of casing a book.  The diminutive size is also not novel: miniature books and journals have been popular since the 16th century.  In later years they became known as "Vest Pocket" size books, or Waistcoat size books, fitting in the tail pockets of a waistcoat (pronounced "westcut".  Really.  Ask Jude Law.)

As an aside, just what is a Nipping Press?

Here she is, in all her glory.  This particular press is unique, in that it has multiple pressing layers, two are shown, and locking ratched sliding rails.  The whole press is iron and phenol, which looks like wood, but is actually a woven fabic resin developed during WW2 for indestructible moulded casings.  This press was made around 1945.

These books will be made available on our Etsy Shop soon.  More entries concerning these books, particularly the sewing of the text blocks, will be upcoming.  We also have more card designs to show, and some nice shots from our latest show at the DeLand Indie Market.

Stay tuned!

G. Johanson, Printer.