Wet the skin/hair side of the leather. Spread the leather out skin side up on clean waste and using a pad of cotton wool, wet it out evenly all over. There’s a bit of judgement needed here……….it needs to be wet …but not soaked.
There are a number of good reasons for doing this. Not only does it make the leather more relaxed and compliant, but it makes it less likely that paste will migrate through the leather to the surface resulting in marking or staining. This can be especially noticeable with light coloured leathers. In addition it will keep the paste workable so that it doesn’t grab too quickly. I was reminded of these possibilities when covering my book as the weather has suddenly turned very warm. I get the feeling that leather can become thirsty and more readily absorb the paste.
Working on a fresh sheet of clean waste, I give the flesh side of the leather a generous
pasting with a large brush. Making sure there is an even coating over the entire piece and checking that no bristles have come loose from the brush, I let it rest for a few minutes and fold it in half down the middle where the spine will be.
This is to allow the paste to work in to the fibres but without drying too much. Opening it out, I will probably add a little extra paste with the addition of a little water just to freshen everything up….again a bit of judgement needed. The leather is then moved to a wetted out paring/litho stone where the whole covering process is carried out.
To aid adhesion in those critical areas I often stipple a little EVA/PVA on the hollow and spine edge of the boards before placing the closed book onto the leather with the front board
downwards. The re-drawn chinagraph pencil lines on the leather will ensure its correctly positioned. I slide the book carefully to one side of the stone so that I can get my hand under the loose leather, smooth it round the spine, trying not to stretch it, and lay the it down on the uppermost board.
I then stand the book up on the foredge with the turn-ins splayed out……and with my hands open, pull the leather tight onto the spine and just onto the back edges of the
boards with the ‘heel’ of my hands…difficult to describe…see picture. As soon as this is achieved I lay the book flat down on one side and lift up the leather on the upper side back to the joint. This is then re-laid onto the board to ensure that it’s lying properly and has not been creased or disrupted in that last operation. I rub down gently through a sheet of clean, thickish paper…then turn the book over and repeat on the other side.
Opening out the boards on the stone with the wrapped textblock held vertically, I mitre the corners with an English paring knife. I have a spare one with the pointed end retained which I use for this purpose. The blade is angled away from the tip of the corner of the board so that the cut is made at a distance from the corner….equal to the thickness of the board…plus a bit extra. With the pointed end of the knife I thin a small area at the apex of the corner.
I will probably need to refresh the paste on the turn-ins and work a little onto the cut edges at the mitred corners. Again with the boards open on the stone with one end of the book towards me and the textblock held vertically, I turn the leather inside the hollow then all along the board edges. Going back to the hollow I begin to ease out some of the turn-in to get the forming of the head-cap started. Carefully turning the book around, the same processes are repeated at the other end.
As mentioned earlier, if you struggle with turning into the hollow, having the textblock wrapped in two halves, allows you the freedom to open it, thereby automatically opening the hollow ready to accept the leather.
The turn-ins on the foredge are now moulded over. At the corners the mitred cuts should meet fairly well, the bevelled edge of foredge turn-in just sitting on the other. one. The little bit of leather which was thinned can just be brushed over and down.
In theory this will result in a completely level corner with no unevenness, however, if it’s not a perfect fit, slight alterations can be made. By keeping the leather dampened in that area the leather can be manipulated.
The next step I believe is really important and sometimes overlooked. I make sure I set the joint really well. With all that’s gone on, the boards may now be mis-aligned and not sitting properly against the shoulder of the book. I place an old backing board up to the shoulder and make sure the back edge of the board is pushed up to meet the sloping top edge of the backing board. Because of its angled edge you can be certain that even with shrinkage during drying, the boards will hinge at the right place. When the book is finished and ready for the endpapers or leather joint to be put down the back edge of the board should line up exactly with the top of the joint….. see DIAGRAM
I tie up the book with the cord pulling into the back-cornering of the boards, this assists in forming the head-caps. Making sure there is sufficient leather pulled out from the hollow and while supporting the leather with finger and thumb on either side of the head of the book, I can stretch out the leather both sides of the endband with a pointed bone folder. It is then possible to mould and tap over the projecting fold of leather and shape the head-cap. Obviously this is carried out at both head and tail.
I lightly rub down the leather all over through a clean sheet of paper, paying special attention to the joint areas. Once I’ve checked everything is ok and that the book stands vertically, I wipe over with a pad of wetted cotton wool and stand it on the foredge. When its had a chance to dry a little I put it between weighted pressing boards with clean, thickish paper either side. I will check it from time to time, changing the paper sheets but leave it for at least two days before proceeding. The string or cord can remain where it is until later.