Friday, January 3, 2014

DMG repair and recover

It seems like the only time I get to post anything is when I am off of work for some reason, which isn't often. This time I am home sick with bronchitis. So that makes it a wonderful opportunity to post about one of my projects I recently finished.

This project took a LONG time to complete. Way longer than it should have. I experimented with a few new techniques, a few new materials, and I was never really sure where the design was going. All in all I'd say I have mixed feelings about the outcome. It started when a friend of mine, we'll call him "Eric" (because that's his name, -duh), left his Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 edition Dungeon Master's Guide at my house after a game session. Before I could return it to him, the book got dropped and the spine cracked. I promised to fix it for him, though he didn't really care. He would have just replaced it. That's the kind of guy he is. It took me almost a year to make good on that promise!


For those of you who are not familiar with it, here is what the D&D 3.5 DMG looks like. The cover image evokes the feeling of a 3D sculpture, and that's what I wanted to do with this re-cover. I envisioned a multi-layered design with ridges, baubles, and thin strips of riveted metal trim. That is not quite what I ended up with.

To begin, I started sketching out some designs on butcher paper at 1:1 scale. I had no idea where I was going with it. I just sketched as the spirit moved me. One thing I knew I would need for sure were titles. So I started with those, figuring I could design the rest around them.
 Then I sketched a framework around the title elements. What I ended up with was a sort of art deco style applique.
 I glued the original sketch to some chipboard and cut it out with a hobby knife.
 Then I got around to fixing the broken spine with some tyvek. As with many modern RPG books, there was no mull in this book. It relied entirely on the strength of the end paper and the varnished paper covering material to hold the boards to the spine. As pretty as varnished paper can be, I think it makes a lousy covering material, and even more lousy text block pages. It is brittle and cracks and tears easily. It was the varnished  paper covering material that cracked and split when the book was dropped.
 I used the cut out chipboard as a template to draw the same framework design for the back cover, and also to make an archive copy of the design, in case I ever want to use it again. Since the back cover didn't need the titles on it, I put cut outs in the areas where those were.
Then I cut out the back cover applique and glued both to the original cover boards, after roughing the original covers up with some sand paper. Another drawback to varnished paper covers. Glue doesn't want to stick to them.
 I wanted the titles to be 3D too, so I re-drew them on some thinner chipboard (a shirt box) and cut them out, gluing them directly over top where they were originally drawn on the cover sketch. As you can tell, I'm not really good at drawing custom fonts.
 For covering material I was trying a new product that I had purchased a few months earlier and was dying to try out, bonded leather. The look and feel of leather at a fraction of the cost. When I first got it I thought it looked great. But now that I have worked with it a little, the honeymoon is definitely over. The surface looks and feels more like vinyl than leather, and it has much different handling properties than working with leather. It doesn't absorb glue the same; it doesn't stretch the same. I don't like it. I don't like the look of it, and I don't like working with it. But I have a bunch of it, so I guess I'm stuck with it.

After gluing down the bonded leather covering material, I filled some large zip-lock bags with sand to use as weights that would conform to the intricate curves of the appliques and hopefully give me a nice contour to the leather.
 Then I added more weight to make sure I got the best possible compression. A lot more weight.
 Sadly, the results were unimpressive. I have successfully used the sand bag trick before on a smaller scale, so I had high hopes. But after the weights were removed, the leather showed poor definition around the appliques. Time for plan B.
 I went down to the local pharmacy and asked for some medium sized syringes. After explaining what I wanted them for, and convincing the pharmacist that I was not a junky, he agreed to sell me some. I needed a needle that was big enough to let watered down glue flow through it, but that was small enough not to damage the leather with a noticeable hole. I think the ones I got were 25 gauge. I injected the cover with some more glue at all the edges of the appliques, working it around by massaging the leather with my fingers. Then I took the cut out pieces from the original appliques (thank goodness I hadn't thrown them away yet) and taped them down in their respective places. Then I reapplied the weight and let it dry. I only did one half at a time, because I had no idea if this would work.
 Success! You can see in the picture below, the difference in definition that the chipboard pieces made compared to the sand bags. Not all of the areas were as crisp as I would have liked, but it was a vast improvement.
 I repeated the process to the other half of the cover and finally I got something that I thought was passable, though I wasn't thrilled with it.
The cover of this book was going to be busy and bright with lots going on (or at least that's what I wanted), so the subtle raised letters of the titles would simply not do without more embellishment. I decided to try another experimental technique, gold leafing. I had tried it once before on a small leather journal, but the results were unimpressive. I don't know why I though it would be different this time, but I was hoping for something akin to a miracle.
 I applied the sizing agent (glue) to the cover as carefully as my artistic skills would permit. Then I covered the affected area with a thin delicate sheet of fake gold foil. Then I covered that with a sheet of waxed paper and used a rolling pin on it to ensure good adhesion. Then I carefully flicked away all the unstuck foil with a paint brush.
 The results were, once again, not particularly impressive, but at least it did make the titles pop. I probably could have gotten at least as good of an effect with a gold paint marker. Maybe it's because I can't draw for crap.
Moving on, It was no use crying over amateurish gold leafing. Time to bring the rest of this design marvel to life, starting with some brass studs. These were brass upholstery tacks. The holes were all pre-drilled. A drop of super glue was applied to the shaft of the tack. The tacks were hammered through the cover. Then the protruding shafts were cut off from the underside with wire cutters and ground down flush with a Dremel tool.
My grandiose plans were being whittled down to much more simple designs. Instead of the complicated multi-layered metal trim pieces I had sort-of envisioned, I opted for some much more feasible metal appliques to fit into the recesses of the art deco framework. These were all hand cut from a sheet of thin copper sheet (I think it was something like 30 gague). They were glued on with Barge brand contact cement, the best contact cement I know of.
And then I added brass brad heads in the same fashion as the brass upholstery tacks. This was the first time I had used sheet metal in this fashion. In the future I would stay away from acute angles. They tend to get pokey, even if glued down well.
The text block was cased in with a proper mull and grey end papers. I had a little trouble with the spine as the original text block was a "perfect bound" glue binding, but I sorted it out in the end. The pva glue from my new mull didn't want to stick to the glue from the perfect binding, and ended up with the new mull pulling away from the spine, but glued to the end papers. I solved this by cutting up some tiny floral glue beads into thin slivers to fit down the gap at the spine, then applying a hot iron to melt them. This affixed the old perfect bound spine to the new mull nicely.
I don't think the book turned out terribly, but I wasn't really happy with it. And of course Eric could care less about a custom cover. He just wanted a functional book. Some of the new techniques and materials didn't turn out as well as I would have hoped.


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Doctor Who - River Song's Diary

Merry Christmas everyone! 
I have the day off so I thought I'd clean the house and write a post for my most recent project. I'm very happy to say that my daughter has become a big Doctor Who fan. I personally have been a big fan of the show since I was very young, maybe 6yrs. old or so. Some day I will have to show you my home-made knitted Doctor Who scarf that I made for myself in Junior High!

While flipping through the ThinkGeek.com website, looking at rubber d20 molds, I stumbled across two officially licensed versions of the River Song TARDIS diary. The standard version, and the limited edition deluxe version. Both look very nice, and I was trying to choose which one to buy my daughter for Christmas, but then I started looking at them closely and decided that I thought I could do at least as good of a job, if not better, making one myself. Let's see what you think.

I started with a Google image search for some screen grabs of the actual prop. It appears to me is that there are several versions of the prop in various states of age and deterioration, which is to be expected, but more than that, the surface details seem to be slightly different.

In this image of the book, as it is new, the cover is clearly embossed, or rather in relief. And the covering material appears to my eye to be paper; probably painted kraft paper, judging from the way it wrinkles on the spine reliefs.

But in these pictures, at first glance the cover details look the same, but under close inspection, the  rectangles and squares look, to my eye, to be painted on. The spine relief is much less pronounced. The cover material looks to be cloth. The top and bottom horizontal lines of the outer rectangles extend past the vertical lines, which they clearly do not on the "new" version above. The Standard version from ThinkGeek also looks to be painted on (with the extended lines), while the deluxe edition is in relief, without extended lines (but it's in faux leather, and the color looks off).

So first step was to decide on which screen grab version to use as my model. Since painted on surface details were just not going to do it for me, I opted for the "newer" version, with a relief surface, non-extended lines, but with a cloth cover.

A quick look around the shop and I quickly spied a very serviceable blank book to use as the base. Rather than make the TARDIS door design out of piecemeal strips of chipboard, I decided to cut out the whole pattern from one piece of chipboard. I measured my book and made a full scale mock up of the surface details in CorelDraw and printed it out to use as a cutting guide.
I made a little bit of a mess of the French groove while removing the book block. This particular brand of sketch book is bound very tight and has a good mull, but the covering material is very thin and it ripped along the spine while I was cutting through the mull. No problem. Easily fixable.
I just turned to my old pall, Tyvek. This stuff is very lightweight, thin and flexible, it glues well, and is super strong. Seriously, I can't even rip this stuff with my bare hands. And it's cheap too! You can recycle mailing envelopes to get a free supply. I love Tyvek for strengthening the spine joint of books I make or repair. I usually use a brush or a sponge roller to apply the glue, but this time I tried using a car body putty spreader. It works very well. Faster and easier than a brush, and less wasteful and cleaner than a roller.
And so with a little smoothing, voilà, the spine is stronger than ever.
To create the surface relief, I used my standard 0.057in. thickness chipboard. I glued the printed cutting guide directly to the chipboard and used a hobby knife and a metal ruler to cut out the blackened outline. This took a while. There are a lot of cuts in that design. Then I spread glue on the cover boards and pasted down the cut chipboard pieces. I just eye-balled the spacing.
Front and back, of course, and then some more chipboard for the spine reliefs.
Fearing that the cloth I had selected as the covering material was a little too thin and might reveal some of the underlying framing and color differences, I decided to first cover the boards with kraft paper and glue, working the paper into the crevices with a bone folder. Then I gave it a very light and quick spray of flat black spray paint to make the underlying surface a little darker, which would slightly darken the color of the cloth cover (or so I figured). My blue cotton cloth was light weight and might soak up too much glue as I worked it into the crevices, wetting it out and creating a mottled surface, so I decided to use a strong spray on adhesive, 3M 77, to attach the cloth to the kraft paper. Again, I worked the cloth into the cover's crevices with a bone folder.
Then flip it over and tuck in the edges...
And there you have the finished cover.
Case in the book block using the double end sheet method (using a blue end paper)...
and voilà, a TARDIS book fit for a Time Lord!
Sorry if the texture of the cloth made the pictures come out a little weird. They look better at full scale.
I made this book pretty quickly. It took a few hours, 20 minutes here and there spread out over about five days, because my daughter was also working on a project for a Christmas present and I could only work on this when she wasn't in the workshop with me. I hope you (and she) enjoy it. I think it turned out pretty well and, with the exception of the tedious cutting out of the panels, it was pretty easy. I may make a few more and sell them in my shop. I wonder how many Doctor Who fans are in my area?

 Merry Christmas, Isis!





Sunday, November 17, 2013

Book Binding with Double End Papers

It's been a long time since I posted anything about bookbinding. Quite some time ago, I made a post where I described a double end paper technique that I designed to combat the problem of wrinkled end papers when gluing down the mull. I didn't have any pictures of that technique at the time, and several commenters said they would like to see/hear more about that technique. Well, you are in luck! I've been cleaning out my camera folders and I came across some pics of the process, so I decided to do an updated tutorial on building a hard case for a paperback book. I'll skip the creation of the hard cover and adding the covering material, as that technique has not changed from my earlier posts. I'll jump straight to the double end papers and attaching the mull and the case to the text block.

Assume you have your hard case finished and the soft cover has been removed from your paperback book. Now you are ready to case in. Start by selecting two pieces of paper that, when folded, will be slightly larger than you text bock (or at least as large). One should be white (assuming your text block uses white paper) and the other should be whatever you want to use as your end paper. I'm using black for this example. Fold each in half, width-wise.
Now take your black paper (or whatever color you are using for your end paper), keeping it folded, and apply a narrow strip of glue along one side of the folded edge. I used to use a dry roll-on adhesive for this step, as it did not require any drying time. But I no longer advocate its use, as I have discovered that it has poor archival qualities. Over time the adhesive can break down. Now I recommend using a very thin coat of pva (white glue). Just take a piece of scrap paper to use as a glue shield and line it up along the folded edge, about a quarter inch from the fold. Use a brush to apply a light even coat of glue along the edge of the end paper. This is one of those instances where a very light coat of glue is best. As tempting as it is, don't use your finger to apply the glue. you will almost certainly apply too much. Take the time to use a brush or a foam roller (which you'll be using more of later).
Place your folded end paper into the crease of the white paper, like you were making a two page signature. Fold over the white paper to envelope the end paper and smooth down along the fold with a bone folder to ensure good contact with the glue.
When you are done, you should have a two page signature glued together at the fold with your end paper being on the inside and the white paper on the outside.
 Next, you are going to apply glue to the folded edge of the white paper in just the same way as you did to the end paper. You'll get a nicer finish if you apply your glue along the same side as where the two pages are glued together.
 Now you are ready to apply your end paper signature to your prepared text block. Line up the folded edge of the signature with the spine edge of the text block. You can let the open edges of the signature overhang the text block if your paper is larger than your text block (which I recommend). It will be trimmed later.
Again, use a bone folder to press down on the folded edge to ensure good adhesion. Using your fingers for this can cause smudge marks and wrinkling. I always thought using a bone folder seemed unnecessary whenever I read tutorials that called for it, but I have to say that whenever I use it, I get a nicer finish. 
 You're going to have to make a second end paper signature, just like the first, by repeating the above steps. The second one should be adhered to the back side of the text block in the same way. Then, when both front and back have their signatures glued in place, you should put it under weight to dry. You can even add a page of blotter paper to soak up any excess moisture from the glue (in case you put it on too heavy) to ensure you don't get any wrinkling along the spine edge. I use encyclopedias, or other large books, as weights.
Once it is dry, you will need to trim off that overhang. I use a snap-off razor knife for this. I extend the blade out all the way and use the side of the blade to help keep my cut straight. Let the side of the blade ride along the edge of the text block. The edge of the text block will serve as a guide to ensure that you cut straight and as close to the text block as possible. Lift up the top signature (which is also overhanging) to get it out of your way, and keep the pages of the text block as straight as possible.
 Do this on all the overhanging sides. I get much better results when I make the end signatures overhang and then trim them to match the text block, than I do if I try to cut them to size first and then glue them on.
 Now we are ready to work on the new mull for your paperback book. This step hasn't changed much either since my earlier tutorials, but I have pics, to lets roll with it. I like to use stacked books set on either side of the text block to hold it with the spine facing up. Make sure your spine is clean and as smooth as it can be.
Next, prepare your mull. I'm using brown kraft paper (from recycled paper bags) and cheese cloth (the kind that looks like gauze). The pic below is from an experiment I did that works, but that I don't prefer. I had made some large sheets of prepped mull by gluing a sheet of cheese cloth to a large sheet of kraft paper, and then I would just cut it to size later as I needed it and then glue it on. It is very convenient, but I don't think it makes for as good a quality mull, as the pva used to glue down the cheese cloth does not completely soften up when the fresh glue is applied. Now I just make it as I need it. But I do like to starch my cheese cloth before hand so it is stiffer and easier to work with.
 Apply a good quality pva to one side of your kraft paper and lay a piece of cheese cloth over it. I use a foam roller to apply the glue, as it gives me a nice thin and very even coat and it applies much faster and easier than with a brush. Roll some more pva on top of the cheese cloth. Put a medium coat of glue on it. Then trim your paper/cheesecloth so that it is just slightly shorter than the height of the text block and is wide enough to span the spine and come down at least an inch, maybe two, over the end paper. I also like to cut the corners on a taper. You'll see why in a moment.
 Center your mull over the spine and use your finger and your bone folder to rub the spine, through the kraft paper, to ensure good contact. Wipe up any excess glue that may seep out. Then use your (clean) hands or bone folder to smooth down the side flaps onto the end papers, adhering it to the white paper of the end paper signatures on both front and back.
 Next, take the text block out of the upright holder and insert blotter pages between the white paper and the end paper of your end paper signatures, front and back. For this, I like to use news print as blotter paper, as it absorbs better than regular copy paper. I also like to use some waxed paper as a moisture barrier. Put your blotter paper near the side with the glue, and your waxed paper behind the blotter to keep any moisture from passing through the blotter on to the end paper.
 My favorite kind of waxed paper for this purpose is to recycle the backing paper that adhesive labels come on. It has a plastic coating that makes a very good moisture barrier and they are reusable.
 Insert your blotters front and back and then put the text block under weight to dry. I sometimes use a second page of blotter on top of the glued mull, between it and the weight, to help soak up moisture. The most important part of this process is that you remove as much of the moisture from the drying glue before it can warp your end papers or text block. So use a good blotter next to the glue to absorb moisture, and dry under weight to prevent warping.
When dry, your text block should look something like this.
 Now we are ready to add the finished hard cover.
 Tear off the edges of your white paper about an inch or so from the edge. By making the white paper smaller than the back paper, you ensure that you will not be able to see any white peaking around the edge of the black end paper when it is pasted down. By tearing it rather than cutting it, you deckle the edge, making for a much smoother transition that will not be seen from under the end paper. This is where cutting those corners of the mull on a taper comes in handy. It allows you to get closer to the corner when you tear the white paper.
 Put a few sheets of scrap paper under the white paper to protect the end paper from getting glue on it, just yet. Use a piece of scrap paper on top as a glue shield with at least one sheet of blotter under it, and the waxed paper under that. Line up your text block on the cover boards for the proper fit. Ensure that your square is even all the way around. Use the foam roller to apply pva glue to the white paper and attached mull. Use a medium coating on the mull and a lighter coating on the white paper. Do not apply glue to the spine, just the side.
 Carefully slide the top sheet of scrap paper out from under the glued white paper. This will leave your blotter as the next sheet, and your waxed paper underneath it. Double check your positioning, then close the case over the text block and press down on it to ensure good adhesion to the glued white paper underneath. Do not try to lift the white paper to smooth it onto the case. Close the case onto the text block.
Press down for a few seconds, then lift the cover carefully. Don't open it all the way. Just open it about half way (pointing straight up), enough that you can use your clean hand to smooth out the white paper against the cover, working from spine to edge. If you didn't over load the white paper, there shouldn't be any excess glue. But if there is, clean it off before closing the cover again. Keep that side of the cover closed. Flip the book over, careful not to move the text block around, and repeat the process on the back cover. Then let dry under weight. Once it is dry, you can remove the blotter and waxed pages and it should look like the picture below.
 Now comes the final step. Pasting down the end paper. Again, make your stack of scrap paper, blotter and then waxed paper, and place it under the end paper. Apply a very thin and even coat of pva glue, to the end paper, with a foam roller. You can use a brush, but I like the roller. Slide the scrap paper off the top of the stack, leaving the blotter and waxed paper. Again, gently close the cover over the text block; Do not lift the end paper up to the cover. Press down to get good adhesion.
 Then, just like before, lift the cover half way and smooth the end paper down with your hand, ensuring good adhesion to the cover. Re-close the cover, flip the book over and repeat on the other side. Allow to dry under weight. If you are using a thin coat of glue your drying times should not be more than an hour or so.

In previous posts I advocated using a spray on adhesive to paste down the end papers, as it was instantly dry (contact cement) and added little moisture. However, I have found that it too has poor archival qualities and can break down. Now I use a roller to apply a thin even coat of pva to past down my end papers.
 Once it is dry, you are finished. You should have a nice smooth and wrinkle free end paper and one extra white leaf added to the front (and back) of the text block.
 So there it is, my double end paper technique to avoid wrinkles. I hope you liked it. If you are using this technique and are still having trouble with wrinkling, try using two sheets of news print as blotter and try putting your glue on thinner (or switching to a glue with less water in it). Now go make some books!