Doublures and Leather Joints

Doublures & Leather Joints

Traditionally doublures are associated with more elaborate bindings. They are usually leather or silk, but anything – paper, vellum etc. – can be used.

“The French word means ‘lining’ or ‘doubling of material’ . Also called ‘ornamental inside lining’” (from Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books, Matt T. Roberts and Don Etherington)

In the 19th. Century the doublure would normally be set into a rebate on the inside of the board created by the turn-ins from the covering leather and the inner leather joint. On more expensive bindings there would be a lot of gold tooling on the doublure and on the borders.

With more modern bindings the doublure usually covers the entire inside of the board. This, of course, means that the surface of the inside board must be filled in and completely smooth. Also, if leather is being used, it must be pared very thin so as not to prevent the book closing.

Because the doublure leather is edge to edge it is possible to carry the design over from the outside to the inside which can make for a very attractive lead into the book.

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Alternatively a plain piece of beautiful suede can be used. Paper is also an option, although a traditional marbled paper does not sit comfortably with a contemporary design, I feel. If paper is used it is more commonly referred to as a ‘topper’.

They are actually quite easy to do, although I’m probably about to make it sound more complicated.

Bear in mind that you will need to have made a leather jointed endpaper with the extra thickness of paper inserted to create more space in the joint. (See previous entry).

Putting down leather joints. 

Remove the extra spacing paper in the endpaper make-up.

Open the board and rest it on pressing boards. Ideally one would have a piece of felt against the outside of the board.

Remove the waste sheet, and check that the inner joint area is clean.

Bring the leather joint over onto the inside of the board and, holding it in place, make a bevelled cut from the corner of the board and 45degrees from the edge. This bevelled cut should go through the leather joint and also through the area of leather turn- in that will be underneath it. Remove the two little triangles from these pieces – the leather joint should then fit neatly against the turn- in.

Do this at head and tail. If the joint leather is thinner than the turn- in leather a piece of paper can be cut to fit between each turn- in directly under where the joint will go.

To stick the joint down I usually use pva. Initially I will remove the pressing boards so that the book board can open up completely. After no more than a few seconds replace the pressing boards and carefully rub down the joint through paper.

The length of time needed before closing the board will vary, depending on atmospheric conditions. Using pva, I find I can close them after just a few minutes. Test it by closing the book to the board. If bubbles appear, open it again, rub them down and wait a little longer.

If you leave it too long the board will get sucked down and it will look, from the outside, as if the book has been overbacked as the outer joint will be too high. If this happens insert a couple of strips of paper between the inner joint and the endpaper, close the board, gently dampen the outer joint area and carefully rub it through paper.

Leave the book between clean white paper and pressing boards under a weight.

Putting down doublures

When the book is covered and the leather joint is put down, trim each edge and fill in the space with paper that will come up to the leather thickness. I find that acid free 300gsm blotting paper often does the trick.

Sand this area smooth and cut a piece of paper approximately 1mm smaller than the board on each edge. I use an acid free kraft paper about 125gsm. Edge pare all edges of this piece and glue it onto the inside of the board. When dry, this too can be lightly sanded. You now have the prepared surface for the doublure.

Cut your leather slightly larger than required and pare it all over as thin as you can manage.  Either use a spokeshave or paring machine. Smaller books are easier!

Now cut a piece of thin card, again about 1mm smaller on each edge. Place the leather on a cutting mat and place the card on top of that. With a steel rule and sharp knife cut the excess leather down each edge. You can swivel the whole thing to make each cut easier. Just be careful not to move the card on the leather.

Minimally edge pare the leather all round.

It can now be dampened and pasted and applied to the board. With paste there is time to adjust the edges so that they are straight, and aligned with the very edge of the board.

Because there are several layers being placed onto the inside of the board I find it is not usually necessary to pull them first.  I’ll normally use pva for the first infill and the lining, then paste for the leather doublure.

I let it almost dry open. After about an hour I’ll close the board onto clean white paper and silicone which can be changed regularly.

Edge to edge doublures have the added advantage of covering the corners of the turn ins – just in case they haven’t gone exactly as you might have wished.













leather covering

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. 

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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 101_5092               101_5083

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. 

101_5099            101_5094               

This is to allow the paste to work in to the fibres but without drying too much.  Opening it 101_5102out, 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

101_5095              101_5105

downwards. The re-drawn chinagraph pencil lines on the leather will ensure its correctly positioned.   I slide 101_5107the 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

101_5112               101_5119 

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.

101_5125       101_5127

Opening out the boards on the stone with the wrapped textblock held vertically, I mitre 002the 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.  

101_5131           101_5133

 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.

101_5138        101_5139

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. 

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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 101_5156not 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

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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.  

101_5168            101_5175

101_5178          101_5186

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 101_5180foredge.  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.


a few random thoughts on covering

Adhesives….I shall be using a starch paste to put the leather on then book. There are a number of ready-mixed and prepared varieties available from suppliers but I prefer to make up my own flour paste for any decent binding.

I tend to make it up fairly stiff on the basis that it can be thinned down…but not thickened once made.  Its made from just two basic ingredients…plain flour and water and I don’t use any additives to preserve it.  The proportions are fixed in my memory …but they’ve been there a long time….. so are stored as imperial measurements ! ! !……4oz plain flour to 1 pint of water ….oooh, what’s that in metric?…..say 110g  to  1/2 litre…..however half those measurements will provide ample paste to bind the book. 

It’s best cooked in a double boiler….unless you’re a good chef and can make it in a 101_5060saucepan without lumps and without over-heating it.  For  larger jobs in the bindery we have a second-hand porridge pot  to cook it up in, sometimes for smaller quantities  I make it up in a small pudding basin inside a saucepan.    I mix the flour with a little extra water, working it with a wooden spoon into a smooth paste, then add a bit more water, and allow it to stand a while, before mixing again to remove any remaining lumps before  starting.  Adding 3/4 of the measured amount of water, I heat it up stirring occasionally until it begins to thicken. As soon as that happens, I stir continuously while the mixture turns from a white, watery stage to a gelatinous, opaque paste….adding more of the remaining water until I’m happy with the consistency.  I continue stirring for a while ensuring all the flour has converted into paste.  101_5069I then like to cool it quickly, so immerse the pot into cold water….it will thicken a little as it cools…..when ready its scooped into a glass jar which has a lid.  I may be wrong but I seem to think it keeps better in glass.101_5072   I make it up for immediate use but if it needs to be kept it will go in a fridge.   Unless you can be sure there are no lumps its maybe best to sieve it before potting up.

Why a starch paste ?  It works…and has traditionally been used for centuries…as long as books have been made, I guess.  One of its main assets is that it’s not just a surface adhesive …it bonds or knits together both surfaces by permeating into the fibres. Its longer working time allows this to happen and gives you the time to stay calm and carry out the work without too much haste. Wetting the surface and pasting the underside gives you that working time and also makes the leather more compliant …..on the other side of the coin……you have to be aware that when wet, the leather can pick up marks, scratches and impressions all too easily….and having the leather too wet can lead to excessive expansion or stretching resulting in the boards bowing outwards too much on  drying.

Capping up the book….before covering the book block needs to be wrapped to protect it from moisture or glue. The waste sheets are still be in place but I give the book another layer.   101_5061This isn’t going to sound very professional but I like to use wrapping sheets made from the bag inside a corn flakes packet…it just does it for me…its waterproof, thin and handles well…..good as a release paper too.  Wrapped tightly round the book, I tape it onto the waste sheets with masking tape. 

101_5068For anyone who struggles with turning  the leather inside the hollow, try wrapping the book fully in two halves so that the book will open in the middle…..the hollow will then  open automatically,  hopefully enabling you to turn the leather in a bit more easily.  

Turn-ins….I try to make life easier for myself by not 101_5015having excessive turn-ins. I know I’ll be trimming out the turn-ins later but I like to keep them to a reasonable width…in this picture the widest margin of leather allowed for turn-ins was about  20mm…and I reduced even that for the head-caps. Leather can stretch while paring with a spokeshave so be aware that those initial markings on the leather may no longer be accurate. Again, while covering, the turn-ins can stretch still further, some parts of the skin more than others.  I like to bring the leather over the board edges fairly tightly to create a neat, crisp squared-off edge.

Preparation….get everything you will need ready and to hand before pasting out the leather.  Thread for tying up, dish of water and cotton wool, teflon bone folder, clean sheets of paper for rubbing down, paring knives, scalpels……anything that you can think of that will save a mad panic later.

Knowing when to stop….I’ve noticed some less experienced binders spend far too long over the covering process, stroking and rubbing down until the leather looks overworked and sometimes bruised. It would be good if a binding could be hatched from an egg wirhout being touched by human hand.  My aim is to accomplish the covering as well as possible…..but with as little handling as possible. Once the pasted leather is drawn on and good contact made all over……it will stick !   Where possible rub down through a sheet of thickish, clean paper rather than rubbing direct with the hand or bone folder.  As mentioned elsewhere, I’m always aware that a natural rubbing down action could stretch the leather towards the board edges resulting in too much outward ‘pull’ as the leather dries…so if I’m rubbing down directly on the leather, I might try to rub down carefully from the edges towards the centre of the boards.  By the way Teflon bone folders are preferable when working with leather….with traditional ‘bone’ folders the leather must be kept wet to avoid marking.

Slitting the hollow….before pasting up the leather check you’ve slit the hollow. Both sides and both ends of the hollow should be slit about 20mm down the edge.  This allows for the leather at the head-caps to be turned inside.

Paring the leather

Having cut out the leather from the skin and marking it up, I’m now going to pare it. I 101_5022edge pare all round with an English paring knife.  You’ll see the pointed end of the one in the middle of the picture has been taken off to allow me freedom in using a forward motion….the end is less likely to snag into the leather should it ruckle up slightly. Its useful to be able to use the knife with the cutting edge at that angle with either a pushing or a slicing action. Paring actions are a very personal thing…different binders do things in different ways…so whatever works for you …….

The piece of leather I have chosen is in fact generally very even and I wouldn’t expect to have to pare the whole skin anyway. To indicate where I 101_5015shall be paring I have ‘hatched’ the areas that I shall be giving my attention.  I go round all four sides edge paring with the English paring knife. I then start thinning the leather on a gradual bevel, first with the knife but mostly with a spokeshave….working back from the edges where its very thin after edge paring….gradually thickening until that part of the leather which will be turned over the edge of the boards will be sufficiently reduced in thickness to give neat  squared  off finish.  It must all finish up having a really smooth finish with no unevenness whatsoever.  I run fingertips over the pared areas and examine it closely in different lights to ensure a good finish.

The area round the head and tail receive extra attention as here will be a double thickness of leather in the  joints and the ends of the hollow where the leather is turned inside.  The edge of the leather to be turned inside the hollow needs to be very, very thin……zero, in fact… otherwise a ridge may show on the outside of the spine when finished. Where the head-cap will be formed it needs to be thin but still have a little bit of ‘body’ if the head-cap is to be handsome…if over-thinned it will turn out too flat, weedy and insubstantial.  An element of judgement is needed here !  

As mentioned I find it useful to edge-pare in both directions….sometimes moving the knife away from me along the edge but also working back the other way with a slicing  action, for want of a better word.

101_5034              101_5030

   edge paring .. forward action                                  edge paring…’slicing’ action

I use the spokeshave a great deal….its adapted, of course. The blade is used upside down with the corners taken off, the angle of the blade is altered and the aperture widened to avoid parings clogging it up.  I find it an efficient tool for paring but I’m aware that some binders prefer to use the rounded French paring knife.

The leather is best clamped to the stone with a G-clamp with a rigid pad so that it doesn’t move by spreading the grip over a wider area without marking the leather. I’ve shown it being held by a thin backing board in the picture

101_5052             101_5046

        thinning with spokeshave                                           spokeshave

 Vivien Frank mentioned to me that when cutting out her leather she prefers to play safe, marking out the cutting line with a bone folder and using scissors or shears to do the job.  A sensible precaution.  Vivien feels that way there is less chance that the leather might stretch and distort the rectangle of leather.  

There’s always more than one way of doing things. My preference, as mentioned earlier, is to use a craft knife with a sharp blade, clamping the leather securely with the metal straightedge at the point of cutting at all times. You do need to be aware of the fact that if the leather stretches the shape of your piece of leather may have changed.



My binding is going to be a straightforward full leather binding with the design carried out mainly with onlays.  The leather I have chosen is a  Harmatan skin, grade II , colour 27  from the Fine Leather range. I think I’ll describe it as Thames Green.

My first move is to select an area of the skin that I want to use. I cut out a ‘frame’ from a 101_4996 - Copy101_4984

piece of card the size of the book and move it around the surface of the skin to find the part that best suits my purpose. If there are any scratch marks or blemishes these can be avoided. Before cutting this out though,  I turn over the skin and run the tips of my fingers over the selected area just to make sure there are no nasty surprises.  Your fingertips are pretty sensitive really and you can feel if there are any divots in the tannery finish that you might otherwise have missed. 

101_5004Placing the book on the leather with the boards open I can mark round the edges with a chinagraph pencil and allowing for turn-ins, cut out the leather. I use a sturdy craft knife and a metal straightedege. I mark out the spine area too as I shall probably be thinning that down as well as the edges when paring the leather. I’ve ended up choosing a piece which when put on the book will have the spine of the animal running down the spine of the book.


After edge decoration, the next thing I’m doing is sewing on headbands/endbands. The normal sequence used to be that boards were laced on before endbands were attached….but I prefer to do it the other way round. Then the pre-prepared boards can be given a final cut ensuring they are fractionally higher than the endbands.  

I don’t really want to get into describing how to work headbands in all their many forms on these pages but here’s a few random thoughts based on my own working practice. I do like to sew on endbands in the traditional way so they are physically attached to the textblock.

I use a core made from a piece of vellum glued to a piece of leather. I cut off two strips  to the height I want, making certain I get the cut edges at right angles. Generally, I don’t try to be too clever, attempting complicated forms of endband. . . . that way I might have to exercise my brain too severely. My approach is to sew simple, single core endbands but try to ensure they’re as perfectly formed as possible….and make them interesting . . .or at least ‘different’. 

I favour single colour endbands just because, with the absence of different colours, there is no hiding place and the challenge is to make them really neat. Why not have single colour endbands, but a different colour at head and tail ?  I sometimes work in just a couple of threads of contrasting colour usually randomly placed or off-centre. 

Silk threads are regarded as being the best option but I am usually content with Gutterman Top-Stitch thread.  However, take a look around a good haberdasher’s and you’ll find an astonishing array of really interesting and attractive options.  I reckon that its a mistake to be too tasteful and harmonious, especially with a design binding… do want your endbands to be noticed!

I particularly like to form the endband with a prominent bead. This can be accomplished by using only two twists round the core before crossing over, rather than the usual three. If you’re hoping to tie-down through the centre of each section then you may find that the two twists will result in the tie-downs being to close together to achieve this. 

Is it necessary to tie down through the  centre of  each  section? The majority of the antiquarian books that I restore have only three tie-downs, one at the start, one at the middle and one at the end. I’m not suggesting that is a sensible practice but I don’t think it necessary to tie down each time you cross over and you can judge at which point you do. 

Wherever you do tie down though, the needle should pass below the line of the kettle stitches. Also when passing the needle down into the sections, I try to ensure that it exits through the centre of the folds especially at the start and the finish where the sections are bent over in the backing process. At the same time, while doing this I have to be alert to the possibility of damaging any edge decoration.

A common fault is to sew the endbands 003too wide, from the tip of one shoulder to the other. The sewn endband should really start and finish approximately level with the bottom of the joint.  When finished, the excess length of the core is cut off with an angled cut and I like to dab the cut ends of the core with matching acrylic paint.





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.

Rounding and Backing using Gelatine

Here’s my notes about rounding and backing using Gelatine.  Below is a description – I hope some of its useful – there are bits that are arrived at through the “suck and see” method.

We use an electrically heated waterless glue pot in which we put a small amount of water (maybe one or two cup fulls or so) then cut up, into thin strips, leaf Gelatine only a few leaves – maybe 3/4?  It’s all done really by consistency – if you stir in the gelatine until completely dissolved the adhesive should be slightly thicker than water but not so thick it can’t be brushed on – slightly gloopy.  If its too thin add more gelatine – one sheet at a time stirring it in as you go.  If too thick add more water.  I guess if you have an old saucepan you could just cook up in that – but you would need to work fast to avoid the gelatine becoming too thick or setting because of cooling.

With the book knocked up to the spine edge and head between two waste pieces of board that are cut to the same size as the text block – put a heavy weight on.  For relatively standard thickness of board we aim for around 20% swelling – if the fore-edge is 20 mm the spine should be around 24mm.

In order to prevent the glue running in between the gatherings you may want to rub down the backs of the sections at this stage with a folder to close the gaps up a bit.

Glue up the spine – brushing off the ends and ensuring there are no gaps left between the sections. You may wish to avoid glueing over the tapes at this stage to allow the sewing threads to move during the Rounding and backing process.

Leave the book for maybe 10 – 15 mins until the adhesive is touch dry – try not to leave it too long as the book will set too hard and if its too short you may damage the backs of the sections.

Mark the joint height on the waste sheet with a very sharp pencil to the exact thickness of the boards. Round the book as usual then very lightly tip on parallel backing boards to the pencil lines on the waste sheets. Back the book trying to fan the sections out rather than distorting them.  Once you are happy you can either re-glue the spine with gelatine or if there is a reasonable amount on there just soften it with warm very slightly damp cotton wool.  Leave the book to set but with the press backed off slightly (hand tight) for maybe an hour or so at least – If you need the press and backing boards put the book between pressing boards (into the joint) and put a weight on.

As far as spine linings – we put an initial thin cotton lining on with gelatine (normally after attaching the boards and endbanding). The cotton is a natural unbleached Voile or  Scollata.  It’s best to use as little adhesive as you can get away with on the book and work gelatine in with your fingers through the cotton to aid adhesion and add strength.  Let this dry.  Subsequent paper linings can go on with reversible PVA or EVA.  The first paper lining is generally cut to fit between the tapes to help level everything off.

Apologies if a lot of this is obvious – I like to work the whole process through in my mind when typing to avoid missing stuff!

Hope this helps, Good Luck,  Stu.

Preparing to sew the book

pulledAs mentioned in ‘Knocking out the groove’ in the post of 05/11/2013, I managed to ‘pull’ the book with little or no apparent damage. Sometimes there’s a problem where little ‘nubs’ of animal glue have penetrated the sewing holes but with this book I’ve been lucky.

I was able to flatten out the groove on each section fairly successfully just by bending it back in the opposite direction over the edge of a backing board and the sections have been since been kept pressed flat individually in a nipping press. 

I’m going to sew the book on 5 x 6mm Pliester tapes and I want to utilise as many of the existing holes as possible consistent with acceptable spacing between the tapes. The point where the tapes are laced through the boards will hopefully not be visible when the book is covered but there will be those almost imperceptible bumps over the joint signalling proper board attachment….so  I want to make sure these are reasonably well spaced using some existing sewing holes with the minimum number of new holes. 

Taking the outer folio off the first section for closer exaFirst sectionmination I can see that the existing sewing holes are actually larger than they appeared at first sight. Its likely that the sewing on the first section will have suffered more stress than the others as the tipped on endpaper would pull on the first leaf when the book was opened. Some of these holes will not be sewn through so I’m going to guard each section round the fold of the outer folio  to prevent glue permeating into the section. I’ll be using Kozu Shi 23gsm Japanese repair tissue for the guarding as its a good colour match, and a wheat-starch paste.

Its as well to remember that this guarding will add to the ‘swell’ once the textblock is sewn and should be taken into account when deciding which thread to select.      

Taking the outer folio off a section and