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.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Venus and Adonis

This binding is done on a 1931 printing of Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis by The Printing House of Leo Hart, with illustrations by Rockwell Kent.  I used one of these illustrations for the cover design.  I felt the image of Venus would look better for the front cover of the book so I reversed the image. To have the drawing fit the cover, I drew more leaves above the figures and completed Adonis's head.

I  chose a terracotta goatskin for the cover to accent the orange in the illustration. The top edge had been painted originally with a bright yellow gold, but I did not like the look with the leather so I airbrushed a darker orange gold over it. The other edges were left uncolored.

I began with the larger shapes and cut the onlays out of black and two shades of green. I decided to do the lines of the drawing with black line onlays.

I drew out the image on a 3 ply Bristol board and began cutting out the drawing. As I cut along a line, I then taped the pieces back together with a low tack blue masking tape. I first focused around the large onlay pieces.  

The drawing was placed over the trimmed and pared cover leather. Only then I could remove the piece of the bristol board where an onlay would go.  When the onlay was trimmed and edge pared to fit, I scraped the cover leather and used a paste and PVA mixture to adhere the piece in place.

When the onlays were all adhered to the leather, I back pared the piece and pasted it on the book. 

I continued cutting and taping the the drawing but left some lines uncut so the Bristol Board was not completely cut apart. I need to lift out sections so sometimes a line extended past the drawn line to join another so a piece could be lifted. To guide the tooling later, I used a red pencil to tell me were I stopped and started the line again.

I wrapped a strip of paper around the top and another strip at the bottom of the book so I could tape down the cut drawing at the top. That way the drawing could be lifted up to see the  tooling.  At the bottom, I used two pieces of tape to keep the drawing in place during the tooling.

All of the tooling was done with a single stylus.  I lifted out a section and with a warm tool, outlined the open shape. I lifted the drawing, and used a small brush to put water over the line. Then I tooled it again with the warm tool, creating a blind tooled line. This stylus is available from Talas; it is called the Ascona tool

After more cutting and more tooling, this is what the two cover drawings looked like once the blind tooling was finished.
For the line onlays, I took very thin paired leather, pasted it out and stuck it to a piece of mylar. After it dried, the paste gave the leather some stiffness so I could cut strips thin enough to fit into the tooled lines.

 I began to glue the strip of leather by dragging it through PVA and then dragging it across the waste paper, leaving a small amount of glue on the leather strip. It was then placed in the tooled line and rubbed down with a piece of Japanese tissue to absorb any extra glue that might ooze out. 

Then to continue gluing the strip in place, I folded the strip back and brushed on more glue over an inch or two wide area. I rubbed it down in place and repeated that until the line was finished. With this image, you can see that I have the lines end away from the edge of the boards so they will not be easy rubbed out of place when the book is held.