Sunday, April 24, 2016

A Special Book for the Bride and Groom, Part Two.

This is the second installment in a two part series.  The book itself is covered in the first part, this part will concern itself with the cases.  

Since the book itself is used to determine fit and size of "clamshell" tray, I was concerned about exposing it to excess glue in the process, which invariably happens.  Glue gets squeezed out, rolled out, bone-folded out, there is always some excess popping up somewhere. Not wanting to mess up a nice cover, I made a temporary slip cover for the book.  

It's a simple cover, really, sporting the same cover print as the book itself.  In fact we liked the slip cover enough to keep it on the book up to the actual delivery of this project.

Making the Clam Shell Case.
This will not be necessarily a step by step installment.  It will be, however, a show and tell showing some aspects as I went through the building process. I will attempt to describe the process best I can.  

The first thing I did was to cut two sections of  the same board I used for the book itself, in my case 2.5mm pulp board.  Davey Board, which is binding board, might be used instead.  Binding board is a bit more condensed and somewhat less hydrogesic, which means it acts less as an atmospheric sponge. Remember that the cut pieces of this board will be literally smothered with glue, and as glue dries, tensions on the boards will vary, which is why a book, or nipping press is essential, or at least some nice, heavy books to serve in the absence of such a press.  In fact, some binders use only book weights!  But a press makes things so convenient. <grin>

 Ok, binding board cut, using the book to size with.  I measured the sides of the book and left room equal the that measure, in my case about an inch, on three sides.  One side is trimmed right to the book edge because it will be the open side when the "clam shell" trays are closed.  For the top part of the clam shell I also added twice the thickness of the binding board, or 5mm.

Can you see the pencil lines?  I score these lines half way through, and cut off the squares in the corners.  These will be folded to form the sides, top and bottom.

 Here you can see the sides folded and the corners cut.  I use that caliper to measure thicknesses.  That cutting mat is amazing!  Got it at Hobby Lobby.  Super investment, because not only does it somehow resist the blade without dulling it, but also provides squaring angles which helps for straight hand score cuts!

I use the box halves to determine the cutting sizes on the book cloth directly.  Right now I am going to wrap the sides, so I left one inch on either side of the one inch folded side, a total of three inches.  Keep your bone folder handy.

Glue pot and brushes are handy too.  I am about to brush the glue on the folded board sides. I want to make sure I have even coverage.  I will be gluing one side at a time.

Here we go!  Starting at the right side, I glue and roll in a counter clockwise rotation, spreading the glue on each side as I go.

I leave not only an inch top and bottom, but also on the ends as well.  I need enough to do a good wrap. A good wrap is a wrap that gives me enough material to pull the cloth nice and taught (not too taught) and even over the edges.

Glue, spread rotate, press, rub the excess glue, repeat.  I did this on all three sides. It takes a bit of carefulness to make sure the box is rotating such that the one inch margin top and bottom is maintained.

And . . . I complete the wrap.  Now, I had to use both hands, so taking pictures of each step was impossible but I can describe what I did after this: I cut the corners of the margins such that I could fold them over evenly.  The open side (the edge with no side) required two cuts, one at an angle so that when I folded the cloth over, there wasn't a bunch of already-folded-over cloth layers to glue over. At the ends, the bottom cut folds up and around the bottom of the tray, the side folds around.  In that order. (the top has already been folded.)

After the sides are folded and dried, a piece of cloth is cut to fit into inside, with about two inches of cloth going beyond the open edge, so it can wrap and be glued to the bottom side, which will, in turn, be covered by the case itself.  At this point, I close the top tray over the bottom to make sure it covers well.  And . . . it does!

Here is shown the boards in gluing position, laid out on the bookcloth itself.  I need to leave about an inch and a half  for margins all the way around.  The space between the spine and cover boards are two board thicknesses, or about 5mm.  After this, the cut book cloth is glued.

All pasted up and ready to go!

Here is where I did not take photos because I didn't want to get glue on the camera (it pays to have a damp rag nearby to quickly wipe glue off hands and fingers!)  The boards are glued to the book cloth, the edges are folded over just as it is with a case bound book.  Then another piece of book cloth is cut square, almost the size of the open case, coming within about one sixteenth of an inch of the edge.  This means that both sides of the case, front and back, are thoroughly covered.  The trays are then glued to the inside of the case, open sides to the hinges as shown in the picture above.  The bone folder is used to crease down the spaces between boards and spine to form the creased hinge.

And here she is, the presentation book case complete with book.  The case was dried under the nipping press, under pressure, in a closed position with the book inside. Needless to say, the case covering dried well to the trays, and a Clam-shell Case is born!

Now, what to do with the original letters?  I made a simple "cache" to hold them all together.  That cache would be larger than the clam shell case because the letters were all written on 8.5 by 11 inch letter stock. 

Here is the book, slip cover removed to show off the quarter linen spining and awesome faux vellum, hand printed cover . . .

. . . and here is the book and cache, one atop the other. Pretty vintage looking, no?  Being iridescent, no two angles of the camera or the books render the same colour!  It's an amazing type of book cloth.  As mentioned in the prior post, it's vintage stock, the book cloth may go back to the 1940s or so.  Possibly earlier.

And so, that's the project right there.  The process took altogether about three months with about 40 hours involved in the making of the actual book and covers.

The bride and groom were thrilled.  So were we.  I wish I could record the thank you message I got from Jason, who did the presentation of the book during the couple's rehearsal dinner.  That message made the whole project worthwhile!

-gary, printer
Paper Wren Press.

PS: those who wish a more detailed, step by step instruction on how to make a clam shell presentation book cover like this, click here!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A Special Book for the Bride and Groom.

I was approached by friends of mine, Jason and Sheli, to see if I might be available to assist them in a project they wished to embark upon.  As I listened to Jason on our initial phone call, I was more than intrigued.  What he proposed was contacting friends and family of a couple which had their wedding date set for mid April.  These friends and family members were scattered all over the country.  The idea was for them to send the bride and groom advice and / or suggestions, along with some personal testimony, which would encourage them in their new lives together.  These letters would then be bound . . . somehow . . . into a volume which would be presented to them at the time of their marriage ceremony or rehearsal dinner.

What an awesome idea!

Up to this point my bookbinding experience was limited to smaller case bound journals and the restoration of one 17th century text book, coupled with repairs and a presentation binder for an original Harry Potter volume, aside from my current restoration of an Otterbein Hymnal which is locked 'in irons' because other revenue projects have eclipsed progress on that project for over a year.  Needless to say, while I had materials and some experience, I was a bit nervous in taking this project on.  But in the end, the idea so appealed to me, I swallowed hard and replied

"Ok.  Let's do this! "

Phase One: The Letters.
The first challenge would be getting the letters collected to begin with.  Since my nipping press is of limited size, doing a "coffee table folio" was out of the question.  I was limited to a finished size of approximately nine inches by eight inches.  A standard to slightly larger than standard size book would be possible.  Thus, our size was determined by my nipping press.

Now the correspondences themselves needed to have some metrics.  We needed the letters to be submitted to us on 8.5" x 11" pages, with a minimum of a one inch margin all around.  We did want more than a few responses in order to make an actual "book", so we did not want to place too many strictures on the writers who would be kind enough to participate with us.  Since we wanted to retain the look of hand-written letters in this book, it was determined that we would laser copy the letters, sizing them appropriately for the book.  Having the letters originally written basically following the above metrics would help in resizing the pages. And indeed, it did.

Phase Two: Determining the Ingredients.
We decided to use Neenah Classic Laid for the pages.  This is the same paper that I use for my 18th century letterpress restoration work.  It is off-white, and contains what are called "lay lines", which was a pattern left on the paper by the deckles of two hundred years ago and earlier.  Lay lines are very thin ribs which hold the paper fibres in place when pulled from the vats at the mills.  You can see their "water marks"  when you hold the paper to the light.  This is part of how I date a book, btw.  Ever date a book?   A great meal at a fine restaurant and late-nite coffee afterwards usually does the trick.

Jason wanted a large capital "F", the first letter of the groom's last name, to be the prominent theme for the cover design.  We wanted to have an Artisan look.  Jason also wanted a specific title to grace the cover.  Since the Paper Wren is a letterpress shop, I suggested we create a "pasteboard" cover, not unlike the printed paper covers of the early to mid 19th century.  This would facilitate the letterpress printing of the cover.  I would do the design itself from carved linoleum, a "linocut".  The title would be typeset using a century old titling font that I happened to have on hand, which was commonly used in the 15th - 18th century.  This book would definitely have an 18th - early 19th century look and feel.

I happened to have two inventory items which would come in handy: a roll of vintage butternut book cloth which might be as old as seventy-five years, and a vintage package of imitation vellum paper.  I do not know how old this paper is, it might be thirty years old or more.  It is the best imitation of flesh-side vellum I have ever seen, or handled.  It actually has the touch and feel of pounced vellum.  Now, how handy is that?  These sheets were about nine by twelve inches square, just a bit larger than standard office copy paper.

I decided that to serve as a sort of divider between the individual letter pages, which I knew would vary from one to perhaps several pages per response, I would insert a high quality onion skin paper.

The text block itself would need to be "Perfect Bound", because there was no way to execute a hand sown block which would require paper that was twice the size, folded to create signatures.  

Since this book would be case bound, I chose a 2.5mm board for the covers, and decided to attach the book cloth spining to the spine of the text block itself.  While this would be unconventional, it would serve to further re-enforce the spine.  To explain:  a sewn and hammered spine arches outward, in a convex manner. as the text block is flexed, or opened.  A perfect bound edge is concave, and flexes inward, like a pad of paper. Thus normally the spine covering is not glued to the actual text block spine with perfect bound volumes, but float free (sometimes far enough to drop a pencil through!).  Sewn volumes have the spine casing or cloth or leather, whatever material is used, actually glued to the spine of the text block, because here, very little flexing is occurring.

The binding on this book would be what is called "Quarter Bound" using the butternut cloth, and further, would be packaged with a matching clam-shell presentation case.

Phase Three: the letters arrive.
Jason met me at a coffee shop in Orlando (where I always love to meet clients: Panera Bread!) and delivered the letters.  We touched base on a few points, and soon I was gathering materials.  It took about three weeks for the responses to trickle in, so while we were not behind schedule, neither were we ahead.  We had to get things going!

The respondents were amazingly compliant with what we asked for (thanks, guys!!).  This really made sizing the text area for the book pages proper quite easy.  We decided also at this point, to include a special cache for the original letters that would match the clam-shell presentation case.  It would needs be a bit larger owing to the letter sizes.

Jason did a lot of foot work for me by doing the scans of the letters, and delivering to me, along with the actual letters, a flash drive with the .pdf files.  All further sizing would be at the printer itself.

Phase Four: the creation of the text block.
The letters themselves were arranged according to the look of the actual letters themselves.  For instance, on letter was a single page using large hand-drawn capital letters.  This became the "title page".  It was perfect!  Reading the letters were very touching, I really felt like I was getting to know the family.  Wow.  I tried as best as I could to keep immediate family members close to the front, especially parents. As mentioned, the letters had onion skin serving as separator-dividers.  This all had to be cut together.  I did cut the onion skin separately.

I decided to make one trim only.  Normally, an assembled block is trimmed, glued, mulled, liner covered, and then final trimmed.  I don't like to expose text blocks to a lot of trimming.  As a perfect bind, one trim would be adequate, I thought.  So I trimmed the pages directly to the finish size, ensuring a good margin around the text on each page.  Then, modifying my sewing frame, I began the text gluing process.

I used the steel cutting jacket to jog the pages against, with two wooden hornbook paddles to jog the text block sides. The pages were then held into place by the top and bottom braces. After clamping, the steel jacket was removed, and the evenness of the spine edge was checked.  The block was then turned spine-side up and glued with pva glue, dried, then covered with muslin mull, then glued again.

 The spine was left to dry in this manner for a few hours.  I might add that I had wax paper between the clamps and pages, to protect the pages from any glue overflow.

Phase Five: printing the book cover.
I chose a Goudy inspired capital "F" to dominate the cover design. The cover text was typeset in a 36 point blackletter font that dates back to the early 20th century ATF days.

As you can see, I left the linoleum block's edge as part of the design frame.  I left a cleared space below the "F" to make room to include the book's title, which was printed when the linocut image dried.  I printed several covers, actually, because I needed to do several positional "takes", in light of doing different "tests" of placement when the paper is actually glued to the board.  I thought I could calculate the image position, and indeed I could, but I thought safety in numbers and having choices would be best.  Besides, you never know when extra cover prints may come in handy!

This was taken during the actual printing.  I might add that I hand "rolled" the flywheel when making these imprints.  This control of the dwell time for the actual print surface contact, simulating the action of a hand press more or less.  When you are only doing a few images, hand rolling the press is practical.

These photos were taken during the printing of the typeset title. The linocut was printed the day before, and dried.  Notice that I have not mentioned the name of the font?  That's because I forgot.  At the end of this blog entry I'll run out to the shop and look it up and post it.  Hey, it's been a long day, colour me tired! <grin>

Phase Six: tipping in the end-sheets
I chose a charcoal Canson hand-made semi calendered paper for the end sheets.  This colour is a darker neutral that provides excellent contrast with the text block.  I just plain looks classy!  The text block is beginning to look very "healthy"!

Elmer's Glue is not the most commonly used of bookbinding adhesive. I use Elmer's Glue for several aspects of  case and block gluing.  It is an excellent PVA glue, a little denser than glue applied by brush, but for glueing-in end-sheets, it's hard to beat the squeeze-top cap.  I still use a separate sheet of paper to serve as a boundary to keep the glue confined to one-eighth inch from the spine, facilitating a fine glue edge.  The photo above shows the block at this point in the process, with the mull and end-sheets glued in.  Next will be applied a re-enforcement sheet which will be glued over the mull, extending about an inch over the mull edges.

Phase Seven: Casing In!
The 2.5mm boards are cut, leaving room for the board ends to "hinge". The hinge is that part of the book between the spine and the spine-end of the board.  The boards are laid out with the book cloth carefully measured and placed between the boards to cover the spine and about an inch and a half (or a bit more) overlap on the face of the front and back boards.

 The cover, with text block inserted but not yet attached, are then placed in the nipping press to dry.  The "nipping press" is the familiar Book Press, sometimes called a "Copy Press", and is used to keep everything flat while things are drying so warps do not show up.

Another view of the spine drying.  The paste paper cover has yet to be applied to the boards.  That will be the next step, after which the block and boards are once again placed into the press to dry evenly and flat,  then removed.  At that time the rear of each board is painted with glue, along with the inside of the book cloth spine lining, and the whole is enclosed over the block and end-sheets and again, placed into the press to dry.  This is where the end-sheets cover over the rear of the boards and the cover wrap-over.  The spine is dried with pressure applied to it against the text block spine.  This is not normally done with perfect bound blocks because of the direction of flex as described earlier: it is left unglued and allowed to fold, or protrude outwardly away from the spine as the book flexes open.  Since I wanted the extra support afforded by the linen book cloth spine lining, I broke with convention in the name of re-enforcement.

This is a shot of the paste paper sizing stage.  Notice the linen spine is already set, attached to the boards.  I am positioning the faux vellum printed cover to just cover the edge of the book cloth on the board.  The paper is always glued over the cloth, not vice versa.  This was something I observed in all my 1820s - 70s volumes so bound.  In fact, I learnt the process by reverse engineering one of the actual books.  The only thing I am not doing is waxing the cover, which I do not believe is necessary on this particular book.  This is not a mass produced book that's going to be beat to death.  Also, wax will stain over the years.

And here she is, fresh off the nipping press.  Covers, paste paper, and quarter linen edging is equal on both the front and rear boards.  Yes!!  That's something that really requires attention.  Presentation is everything, and symmetry is paramount because it's so noticeable.

I always get butterflies in the stomach when I open one of my books for the first time!  You don't see the sheets when the book is closed and placed under the press. You hope everything you did, all your positioning and placement was accurate.  You are a bit nervous that you didn't tip the sheets wrong.  Or,  that somehow you missed a spot with the glue, or that bubbles formed.  A lot can go wrong!  Some can be corrected later, but not everything.  As it is, this one came out . . . perfect.  ( whew!! )  Don'cha love that charcoal colouring?   I still just sit and stare at this photo.  Colour me geeky.

There is also nervousness going through the pages.  Is on upside down?  Heh, you might laugh.  Trust me, it's been done by the best of binders.  As it is, everything turned out great.  Nothing beats riffling the pages of a book you just built.  Like running your fingers through your sweetheart's hair.  

You can't tell I love books, can you?

Stay tuned for the next installment: the Clam Shell Cover!

(P.S.: the font is called "Cloister")

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Hornbook Publication Part 2: The "Latten Frame".

This is a continuation from my last entry.  In this installment, we deal with the brass batten, or what was called the "Latten" frame.  It is essentially four strips of brass which are nailed over the horn covering which was intended to protect the "slip sheet", or printed paper sheet upon which was printed the Alphabet, Vowel Phonetic listings, the "Exorcism" ("in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost..."), and the Lord's Prayer.  This was what was used to teach kids how to read, and to an extent, to write.

The Latten Frame held the horn covering in place over the slip sheet.  For better or for worse, it provided at least some immediate protection for the paper slip sheet, enough to see it's owner through the first couple years of school.  However, nice as horn is, and yes, these days a bit costy,  they have not seemed to endure the test of time well.  In all fairness, the horn used was a boiled and delaminated piece, probably not from the best horn stock.  They were very thin, which I believe was relatively weak and prone, as the organic substances of animal horn changes with age, to both warp and discolour.  I have seen 250 year old specimens with remnant horn still attached, which looked like it had cigarette burns and large areas of amber discolouration.  The sheet beneath was unidentifiable. In all cases, the wood was untreated, and suffered accordingly.  But then, these were never intended to last more than a couple seasons, certainly not centuries!!

I wanted mine to last several generations, intact. I have been impressed with the longevity and general survival of 18th century lacquer decoupage techniques with furniture, and opted to use this technique on my Hornbooks, seeing as this method of sealing is at least about as old as the latter era Hornbooks themselves.  I would not expect that the time and attention needed for decoupaging would ever have been invested in a Hornbook . . . but it should have.  I don't believe that the kids, parents, and makers of Hornbooks in the 1690s would have ever had a clue that we would be reproducing them, examining them, commenting or critiquing them.  If they would have, you best be sure, we would have excellent examples today!  The craftsmen of the 18th century were brilliant, and very precise.  And they would be amused at us, with our obsession with antiques and early Americana.

Ahh, but enough with the waxing historic: on this day we cut, size, and install our frame.  We also apply and cure what will serve as our "horn": layers of finely sanded lacquer.  

In this process, I use several layers of masking tape to build up a "pour area" over the slip sheet once it's glued and dried to the finished Battledore Paddle.  Now, the paddle itself has several layers of finely sanded Shellac.  After it's final sanding, the slip sheet is glued in place.  Then tape is applied around the slip sheet, and one layer of lacquer is applied.  It dries, bounded by the tape surrounding it.  It dries, is sanded, then another coating is applied.  This process occurs over again, each layer wet-sanded.  Soon, sufficient layers are built up, and the sheet begins to look like Isinglass, which was an alternative to Horn in the 18th century.

The tape is removed, with a remarkably authentic covering over the slip-sheet, as seen in the photo below:

The layer of my "horn" cover is about 0.25 mm.  Layering lacquer within a custom confinement area, waiting for each layer to be dry enough to wet sand, takes better part of a day.

Another close-up, this time at the top of the board.

This part is done, or is at least in the latter phases of being done as we prepare to cut the brass lattens.

This is the device used to cut the 3/8 inch strips of brass to size.  Letterpress Printers will immediately recognise this as a table-top slug cutter.  Mine is from the 1870s or 1880s, manufactured by Golding, who made the Pearl presses.

There is an adjustable back stop on the slug cutter.  Set once for each side of the frame, and run the brass through.  When the lattens are sized, it may be found that they need to be filed for a precision corner fitting.

Here is the guillotine-like cutting blade.

The frame lattens are being sized and Cut.

The lattens are laid out atop the "horn" cover and checked for size and balance.  Inevitably a small portion of edge margin of the slip sheet comes near, or touches the brass frame.  Looks like a pretty good fit.  Let's run with it.'

A top-left and bottom right view.  Not a bad fitting, but the cut side edges need a bit of treatment to make them smoother.  

These are the tools of the trade for hammering brass lattens.  

Once sized, each latten is marked for position and drilled using a hand drill.  These will be the brass nail holes.  After drilling, the burs are removed.  Notice that each latten has a marking.  "B" means "Bottom".

Now the right and left side lattens are nailed into place.  The top and bottom lattens must be trimmed a bit on the ceramic stone.

The top and bottom lattens are finely trimmed to a precision fit.

The top and bottom lattens are installed, and there you have it: the completed Hornbook!

A close-up of the finished Latten Frame Hornbook.

The wood used for this particular Hornbook is Poplar.  I opted not to stain this one, so it would retain the natural "honey" look.  I also have two walnut and one cherry wood stained.  These will be featured in future blog installments.  

That's it for now, folks!  Prices for these Latten Frame hornbooks TBA.  Look for both the Latten Framed and Non Framed Hornbooks appearing on our Etsy Shop.

And as always, Good Providence in all your Endeavors!


*** Addendum ***

Wow, here we are, October of 2015, just about a year after this blog entry was first written!  I thought it was high time to post the price these "Latten" brass framed Hornbooks are being sold for: $75.00 plus $6.00 shipping, or $81.00.  So far these colonial relics are being used by re-enactors and educators, the latest being used in a lecture environment.  I have been making these per order, one at a time, taking about three weeks to make each order. Up to this point I have been using clear pine and poplar, all in their natural honey finish.

I have not as yet placed Hornbooks on the Paper Wren Press Etsy Shop, but orders can be placed via e-mail.  Post to:  Orders via PayPal, please add $3.00.



Sunday, October 26, 2014

Another Publication of Hornbooks!

Making Hornbooks is a sideline for Paper Wren Press.  We make them  because we love History, and we love and appreciate historical processes.

I have already posted several articles about the Hornbook on the "G. Johanson, Printer" blog, it's background, how ours are made, why we choose the materials we do, &c., and as you read this, if you wish to delve into these articles, click here

What I am doing here is sharing photos of our latest "publication".  These are real books in every sense of the word.  They are just, well, one page books.  They are bound a little differently than multiple page books.  And I guess by strict definition, they are not multipage sewn and bound books - but "Book" is what they are called, and "Books" is how we treat them at the Paper Wren.  Thus, when we make them, we "publish" them.

The above Hornbook is our most recent, going out to Mr. Blewster.  It's our most recent, and one of the very few we have ever done as an individual order.  It has about eight sanded coats of Shellac, the wood is stained Walnut, and the page sports real copper nails.  It has taken about two weeks for the coatings to cure.  

Following some photos I posted on Instagram (you are following us on Instagram, right?), I began to receive an above normal number of inquires regarding these items, and as such, I decided it's time to release another publication of our Hornbooks.  Perhaps we will make these available via our Etsy shop.  We'll know come Thanksgiving.

James Moore, 18th Century Bookbinder Extraordinaire, has asked me to share some of my most recent Instagram photos with his FB group "18th Century Bibles".  I wanted to share better quality shots of the process as we undergo this most recent publication, hence this blog entry.  I have not been successful doing direct share with the 18th Century Bibles FB group from the Paper Wren page, and have been unable to create an album on that group's page, so I am providing there a link to this article instead.  James, let me know if there is anything I need to know or do regarding sharing with your group.  I am not the brightest bulb in the bunch when it comes to FaceBook, I'm afraid.

So, here are some shots of the beginning phases of the making, or "publishing" of our latest round of HBs.

Hornbooks start life as a board : I try to use Hardwoods as I can, or at very least, clear pine.  Sometimes I can get great vintage salvage, but this set of books will come from a finish cut length of Tulip Poplar, a standard "inside" furniture wood used for drawer boxes.  Poplar is an interesting wood. You really never know quite what the finished product will look because it never takes stain or sealant quite the same way twice.  It is a dense wood.  

I use a Chop Saw at first to make the individual squares that will be cut, in turn, into the traditional "Battledore" paddle shaped blanks.

Squares are cut by hand.  At this part of the process, I use power tools just to speed things along.  The handle cut-outs are marked in pencil, and cut with a hand held jig saw.  An old one.  I would prefer to use a glider saw, but I seem not to be able to locate a new blade for mine.  So my old jig saw will have to do.  It's only a rough cut, anyway.

Next comes the sanding of the faces, sides, top, bottom, and cut outs around the handles.  For this I use my hand crank rotary sander which I normally use to true up miters on picture frames. (yes, I make frame moulding and finish frames as well.  Forgot to mention that.)  I prefer whenever possible to use hand tools for two reasons: FAR more control, and MUCH less sawdust.  Power tools are a noisy mess.  Long Live the Yankee Woodshop.  I'd have one, but I already have a Dixie Letterpress Shop!

Here's a little bit closer look at a blank on the sander.  Not much really to say that you cannot see by the photo.  I will have to change out that sandpaper, however.  It's 110 grit, and must be cut with scissors and adhered to the heavy iron wheel with either rubber cement or two-way framing tape.  I use the latter.  Takes about half an hour to change the paper.  Takes about twenty minutes to sand each blank properly, plus another ten to fifteen minutes to fine sand by hand after this "rough" sanding by the wheel.

Poplar sands to an almost white colour.  What is amazing is that if you use 220 grit on it, you can actually fine a polish on this wood.  I take advantage of this phenom later in the process.

Another shot of the finish "rough" sand.  The end-grain is pretty unpredictable as to how it will take stain when staining process begins.  Some parts of the grain will totally resist, some parts of grain suck stain like pine.

And here we go with what we were able to sand up to this point.  There are still five more blanks awaiting sanding.  I have the letterpress printed "slip sheet" laying atop the uppermost paddle as you can see.  I wanted to get an idea of proportions at this point because for the first time since we started making Hornbooks some nineteen years ago, we are going to use a brass latten frame on two of these, and there will be a faux-horn covering . . . we hope.  It will be an experiment.  If successful, we will re-set type and print a new series using a different Printer's Cross for the "cross-row", and a different 18th century border.  It is the border type which we use to distinguish one series from another.  We are on our second series, the "Scottish Thistle" series.  We have been running the Thistle for about seven years.  Prior to that, we were on our first series, the English Rose.

This photo is from day two.  We have eight sanded blanks, two more awaiting sanding, and we have started the finishing of the paddle blanks.  From left to right: Honey, Cherry, Walnut, Dark Walnut.  When set side by side, it's amazing the colour differences.  This all gets modified during the shellac process, owing to the tendency for shellac to add a bit of an amber cast.

As the stained wood dries, the short fibres on the surface will raise.  We call this the "hackle".  The Hackle is sanded and the wood re-stained.  Then re-sanded until no more Hackle is raised.  After this, the layering of shellac.  We may try spar-varnish on  two of these books in this publication.

This is the "Honey" blank, which in actually, does not receive stain at all.  This one goes direct to shellac, which in itself creates an amber colour against the natural white of the Poplar, creating a pleasingly soft amber tone.  Some folks like the look of the paper on this colour wood.  Others like the higher contrast provided by the darker stains, which is why we make a variety of colours.  Just a bit of trivia: we began using only Honey and Cherry.  Walnut was introduced by a client who needed to match his American Colonial room decor. We liked it so much we decided to keep it in our line-up.  I myself happen to like blonde woods, so now we have four colours, and we may add more, like Jacobean.

For the last photo, I thought I might include a close-up of the Blewster Hornbook.  This one is going to Arkansas.  It is "frame-less", using copper nails to hold the page (the slip sheets are also glued on to the wood using PVA bookbinder's glue before the sealing process.)  The copper nail-heads are sanded bare, and level to the layered coatings of shellac.  This is a form of the 18th century "Decoupage" process.  Decoupage was not used on the original Hornbooks, I wish it was.  More would be alive today.  As it is, the originals were totally untreated, and the slip sheets were covered with transparent horn, which warps and rots with the years, unless you take care of it. These were dispensable "children's'; books", and were not meant to last a life-time.  And they sure didn't.   One day, I may make one with real horn, just to say I have one.

A brief word about the slip-sheets we print: the type used is a latter-era variety although still authentic: Caslon.  It is the original face, with tall "s" and "below the rule" figures.  Our founders also supply Colonial Williamsburg with this very same font.  Indeed, Caslon O.S. 337 is the house-"fount" of the Colonial Williamsburg Printery.  Each letter is handset, and printed in as close to the authentic black ink as I can find.  It is linseed oil based, and I am informed that the pigments are very close to it's 18th century counterparts.  That would be Lampblack.  Paper is a vintage faux vellum, chosen for it's authentic tinge.  Originals used Book sheet, a "laid" paper.  I have used it as well.  Under sealant, you cannot tell the difference, and honestly, my vintage supply of Vellum behaves much better. We have no idea how old this paper is: it was vintage when I lucked into the unopened ream over ten years ago.  Having worked with calf skin vellum as a calligrapher, I can attest to it's impressive replication of the weight and feel of the real thing.  Oh, and it's "flesh-side" . . . on both sides!

Prices are listed in detail on former blog entries, but I can say here that the unframed versions such as the Blewster Hornbook sells for $50.00, plus $6.00 for boxing and shipping.  We do not know at this time how much the brass latten framed versions will sell for.  That would be "TBA". If you find that you cannot live without an Early American Hornbook, or at least, our interpretation of one (which we think are pretty nice!), you can order one by contacting the Paper Wren at:   You can also contact me through our website listed below.

Thanks for reading, y'all!   Comments invited, and don't forget to visit our site at, and also our educational blog at As the process continues, there will be more blog entries.  Stay Tuned!