More on Rounding and Backing and Backing Boards

 Its worth drawing attention again to Vivien Frank’s post headed Better Kettles. If an ordinary reef knot or square knot is used to tie the sewing thread having exited the second section, it can form a small but troublesome bump. When knocking-up the completed textblock prior to glueing up it can cause the first two sections to become mis-aligned which can be difficult to correct so it might be worth following Vivien’s of advice.

Before gluing up I check the amount of swell.  This was mentioned earlier on the post headed Sewing the Book when issues about thread selection were discussed. I reckon its more likely that you could be inconvenienced by too much swell rather than too little. If you’ve mis-calculated and there is obviously too much swell, then its best to re-sew using a thinner thread.…….. otherwise the back of the book will have a tendency to become too rounded and it’ll be too difficult to achieve shoulders the right depth to accommodate the boards.

However if you feel you just need to fine-tune and reduce the swell a little, then pressing the squared-up textblock in a nipping press could be an option. As the platen closes on the swell, it may cause it to twist out of shape so it could be worth temporarily packing out some of the sections with folded sheets of clean waste in the centre so that the whole block becomes a level playing field.  Ensure the tapes are out of the way so as not to be impressed into the text.

Another way can also help reduce a slight excess of swell. Protecting the textblock with pads of greyboard, drop it foredge first into a small bench press and tighten, turn upside down and lower spine area into the jaws of a laying press and tighten that up. The bench press having trapped the foredge will prevent the spine from twisting.

For many years I have used a brass edged set of backing boards which self-align by the outside edges sitting on the top of the press, however at the last SOB Conference, I bought myself to a pair of Brockman Metal Edged backing boards from Louise. These self-level in much the same way but the boards are deep enough to cover the entire book and are tapered off at the bottom…….. so the bottom edge does not impress into the textblock. Another design feature is their being flat and not wedge-shaped like traditional backing boards thus avoiding the joint area being overly compressed.

Louise will have some for sale the SOB Training Seminar in Cirencester in June and they will soon be shown on the Brockman website 

Rounding and backing

Having tipped the endpapers to the loose guards …and the other side of the guards to the front of the next section, I’m ready to glue up the spine.  I’m content to use EVA  as all the sections were guarded with jap tissue.

Ensuring that the textblock is knocked up square to the spine and head, I’ll place it between weighted boards with the spine edge just proud so that I can brush the EVA onto the back and rub it in with fingers, ensuring the tapes are left free.   

As soon as its dry to touch I will guillotine the foredge, round and back, then return to the guillotine and trim head and tail. EVA tends to go off a bit quicker than PVA so there’s not too much hanging about. Needless to say, just the minimum should be taken off ….but you will now have clean, fresh cut edges to work with after rounding and backing so they can be prepared for ready to be coloured or decorated in some way.

Not everyone will have access to a guillotine but will have a plough. The plough is considered by many to be preferable to a guillotine as you are able to achieve a soother finish to the cut edges, however, although I have both, I choose  to use the guillotine but spend a little more time in preparation before edge decoration.

When trimming the foredge, in order to get a cut at right angles and parallel to the spine, I pack out under the textblock whilst its on the deck of the guillotine because as the back is knocked up square, the textblock will be wedge shaped due to the swell……the spine being wider than the foredge.

Having cut the foredge, the EVA will still be relatively supple and the spine can be manipulated by hand into a shallow round ready for backing. Just as Stuart described in his piece on Rounding & Backing, using the thickness of the prepared boards as a guide, line them up accurately with the spine edge, run a pencil line parallel to the edge, set the backing boards to that line and lower into the laying press.  Sometimes it is necessary to re-adjust once lightly held in the press.

When all is well, the backing hammer is used with glancing blows to knock over the backs of the sections, starting at the middle line of the spine and working towards the edges .   If metal edged backing boards are used, beware of hammering the shoulders too hard down onto the metal as this can result in the endpapers being damaged.

I usually start with the hammer but, to finish off, take the textblock out of the press, set the boards in place and encourage the shoulders to become fully defined and sharp by pulling them over with a bone folder against the edge of the boards. I am anxious about nicking my leather jointed endpapers so I’m being extra careful. Once the backing is done to my satisfaction I want to set the back which I will achieve with another application of EVA, this time going over the tapes.

The head and tail will now be guillotined. I should mention again here that it is necessary to pack out the textblock where there is swell or where shoulders are standing proud……… that’s to prevent it being twisted out of alignment resulting in a sloping cut edge….and to avoid the shoulders being crushed by the clamp.