This is to follow on from previous edge trimming and preparation.
Edge decoration is a useful means of enhancing your design binding. It is very important though to have worked out the colour scheme of the entire book right at the beginning. The cover, doublures, endpapers, headbands and edges should all flow harmoniously. You must experiment with techniques, colours and finishes off the book first. Try out on waste paper or even the edge of a spare book. Most of the paperbacks on our shelves now have coloured edges! Take into account the softness/hardness of the paper and also the colour as this can have a dramatic effect on the finished edge – make sure you practice on similar papers. You should take care that your edges do not become too visually heavy – a lightness of touch and subtlety are generally advisable unless, of course, you are aiming for a bold look.
-Once you are happy that your edge is shiny all over, brush off any dust, allow it to settle and gently hoover up any more dust. To size the surface, I use a thin layer of wet paste brushed onto the surface with a wide paintbrush. I use Hewit’s B36 starch paste powder as it is not too sticky. When it has dried I brush it across the edge using a bristle brush until it is shiny again. It is very handy to have a hairdryer to speed up the drying process.
-I like to work around the book starting from the tail. It should mean that by the time you get to the top edge your technique is perfected. (It should already be perfect as you will have practiced it beforehand!)
-Now it is time to decorate and there are a myriad ways of going about it. It is a good idea to mask off the cheeks of your laying press with stiff paper unless you want an historical record of all your various edges.
For a simple colour wash, I use watercolour paints watered down and brushed on with a wide paintbrush, ideally in one application. To build up the colour you must allow each layer to dry first otherwise you will be brushing off the previous still damp layer. The key is not to have too heavy a layer of pigment on the surface. Calligraphy inks can be used if you want a more solid colour but I avoid acrylic paints as they tend to crack off when the book is opened.
An easier way to apply colour is to sponge it on. I use a small natural sponge dipped in the dilute watercolour and apply along the edge turning the sponge as I go. You can layer it up with different colours to great effect and also mist on plain water to blur the effect.
For a spattered/speckled effect, I use the end of an old toothbrush dipped in the colour and scrape it with my thumbnail. It is a good idea to do the initial spattering on a waste sheet as the toothbrush has a tendency to drip the initial colour in great splashes which you do not want on your edge. I have also been known to use aerosol paint for a speckled effect but make sure you hold the can at a distance from the edge.
You can apply one layer of colour, allow it to dry, paint on a pattern using liquid masking fluid, allow it to dry, apply another colour, then peel off the masking fluid to reveal the colour below.
You can apply metallic transfer leaf by delicately sponging on a very watered down PVA and then applying the transfer leaf. Allow to dry and burnish with an agate burnisher.
Any of the above techniques can be combined or elaborated on. You can use airbrush to great effect and of course the more traditional marbling and gilding.
-For the purposes of demonstration I am doing a graphite edge which is embarrassingly easy. I am using Creta graphite powder available from most art shops. Once I have brushed the surface back to shiny I apply a thin layer of wet paste and sprinkle on a small amount of graphite powder. While the paste is still wet I use a muslin cloth to rub the graphite into the paste so that it covers the surface evenly. You can sprinkle on a bit more powder if there are gaps.
-When you are happy with the result you need to polish up the surface. You can use an agate burnisher rubbed across the book edge. Generally I just put on a thin layer of micro-crystalline wax polish with a soft cloth and buff it up.
-Take your book out of the press and knock it on the edge to loosen the pages. Flick through the pages to check that no colour has seeped down into the text block. Ease any stubborn pages apart with a cobbler’s knife.
– If you’re not happy then do it again. Ideally do all three edges in one day or make a record of exactly what you have done so that it can be repeated. Or choose a book with deckle edges then you only have to do the one top edge!