Saturday, December 27, 2014

Gold tooling with jigs

This post shows tooling on a full leather binding using gold foil. I used my tooling box that I made based on a box used by Michael Wilcox when he did a gold tooling demonstration at the Bookbinding 2000 Conference. The box gives you a flat and firm surface to support the cover while you are tooling and holds the rest of the book inside.


My box is made from 1/2 inch birch plywood and is lined inside with felt to protect the book when it is placed inside. 

The top panel of the box is beveled back so that you can slide the cover over to the joint. I filed down the edge about an inch and a half along the length of the opening.

Here is the book placed in the box with the cover on top.To begin tooling I used a second jig to start the the design which I then put on three books.  Using a piece of 3-ply Bristol Board, I cut out the curve at the corner of the design base with the curve of one of my gouges. 

 I used a small weight to hold the jig in place and slipped a piece of foil under it, then began tooling. After you're done, you can remove the foil and if you leave the jig in place, you can slip another piece of foil in and retool if there are any breaks in the line.

Here are the four corners tooled.

Next I used a line jig made from two pieces of book board that I taped together. One piece is about an inch and a half wide and the second piece is about five to six inches wide and both pieces are 11 inches tall.
I used a clear plastic ruler so I can line up the jig using the edge of the the cover.
To make the jig, I laid the thinner piece on top of the other larger piece and wrapped the packing tape around the edge of the two pieces. Then I folded the thinner piece back over and put a piece of tape on the other side. This allowed the thinner piece to fold up so I could slip a piece of foil under it while the larger piece was held in place with a weight. 

I used pieces of low tack masking tape to show me where the line should start and end because once the foil is placed under the jig I cannot see when to start and end without  those markers. I used a line pallet to make the line because it glides across the foil. I have also used fillet and patterned wheels with this jig. When I am doing tooling with gold leaf, this jig helps with the blind tooling.

 In this photo, I am lining up for the second tooled line.

I do occasionally have to remove the jig and touch up the corners where the lines meet but by using the jigs I can have the lines and curves or other small decorative tools in the same place on both covers.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Thomas Jefferson's Paris Walks

This book was bound for the Designer Bookbinders traveling exhibition "InsideOUT  Exhibition of contemporary bindings of private press books."  Details of the exhibit and its touring schedule can be found at

The pages were printed by Arion Press and describe the time that Thomas Jefferson spent in Paris. They also feature the work of photographer Michael Kenna, who created forty-six images to accompany the story of Jefferson’s five years in Paris.

The book focuses on the architecture of Paris and its influence on Jefferson. I found this drawing that Jefferson made and decided to use it for the design of the book.

For the back of the book, I chose a building that was featured in the book.  I drew both the L'Insiitut de France building and Jefferson's drawing on 3 ply Bristol board.

Since the photography was printed in black and white, I chose a gray goatskin and decided  to tool the drawings in gold. To help the image stand out on the dark grey I decided to airbrushed the background with a white acrylic paint. Using the drawing, I cut out the shape of the buildings as my stencil.

Afterward spray both sides I put a strip of paper around the top to hold the stencil in place for tooling

I continued cutting the stencils for the tooling and used a 23 kt. gold foil. As with some of  my previous bindings, I first blind tooled the line and then dampened the impression with water using a fine tip brush. I then retooled to line. A third tooling was done with the gold foil. Then, some sections of the lines needed additional gold tooling to fill in breaks in the gold.

For the straight line, I used my jig with the hinged edge. I described this tool in a previous blog post, Threads That Bind. I lined up the edge  of the board where I wanted the line and blind tooled it and then I lifted up the hinged section to put the foil in place. After that, I tooled the gold. If it needs it, the line can then be retooled before the jig is moved to the next line.

After I finished with the tooling, I felt that the buildings did not feel grounded so I decided to darken the lower area.

I covered the rest of the image and airbrushed the bottom area with a dark gray.

After that, it still need a bit more so I repeated the process, this time with black.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


This copy of the Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam was illustrated by Willy Pogany. The illustrations were all printed in black on a white paper so I decided to do the binding in black goatskin with silver tooling. This binding was also my first attempt  to add jewels to a binding.

This is one of the illustrations by Pogany. After reading the poem I realized that a peacock, which is often used in the designs for this book,  is not part of the poem; instead it mentions a nightingale and a rose.

I started with a rough sketch  and then redrew it many times, with the last drawing done in silver on black paper. To add something new, I used hematite cabochons in silver bezel cups. In this photo I was trying to decide where they would go in relation to the drawing

I did some test runs to decide how I would mount the hematites. I started cutting out recesses in the book boards and pasting on the leather, working it down into the recesses with a bone tool.
Here you can see how the tool helped to push the leather tight into the recesses. It took several attempts to figure out how large the three different sizes of recesses had to be for the bezel cups to fit with the added thickness of the leather.

I sewed the book on tapes and added a hollow spine. Both sides of the board were lined, then I cut out the recesses.

I decided to use a stylus for the tooling and cut out Bristol board templates. Because the lines overlapped a lot where the bird and the rose were, I cut a separate template for them and split the other one at the spine. I cut and taped the lines like I did in the Venus and Adonis binding. After the lines had been blind tooled, I slid a piece of the foil under the template and tooled on the silver.

I tooled over the shapes several times to get a even foiled lines.

This shows the cover after the first template was completed and the next one is ready to use.

For the spine area, I cut strip of the Bristol board to match up the lines from both covers.
I  placed the book in a lying press between some book boards and taped pieces of the Bristol board across the spine to tool.

To mount the hematites, I drilled two holes into the bezel cups and used a wire to tie down the cups. The tool in this photo is used to push over the edge of the cup to hold the stone in the cup. I also used glue in the cup to hold the stone in place.

 For some of the larger mounts, I needed to remove the leather so that the stone would set down into the cover. I then made corresponding holes in the board and laced the wires in place.

On the back cover, I made a small recess so after the wire was twisted together and the extra wire cut off, the ends would lie down below the surface.  I then filled the area with putty and sanded it smooth, then did the infills and pasted the endpapers down over them.