Wednesday, February 10, 2010

For a Friend

The past several weeks have been spent making a special order for (which is finally finished and will be shipped this week, with a blog post to follow). So obviously, I haven't been doing much posting recently. However, during that time, I did manage to sneak in a few side projects.

My sales clerk, Toni, brought a collection of short stories to the shop with her. She said it was one of her favorite books. When I first saw it the cover was almost completely off the text block, the spine was broken causing the text block to be split into four sections, and there was some damage to a few of the pages. It was old, and it was poorly made. The paper is cheap and acidic, the signatures were not sewn but pierced with large gashes and glued, and the glue was brittle. I needed a little side project as a distraction from my main project (I have a short attention span), so I decided I would repair and recover it for her.

I tore off the old cover and cleaned up the old glue from the spine of the book block. Then I used some rice starch glue and tissue paper to repair some pages that had tares in them near the spine. Then I glued the separate sections of the text block (fyi: book block and text block means the same thing) back together by running a thin stripe of a roll-on dry adhesive along the fold edge. Then I put the text block in a make shift press and sawed four shallow diagonal cuts across the spine with a mini-hacksaw. I filled the grooves made by the hacksaw with PVA glue and a piece of hemp cord (the kind hippies use to make macrame bracelets). This would give the spine strength and keep it from cracking again. Then I added new end papers and glued a cheesecloth and kraft paper mull to the spine. I used the old hardback book boards and re-covered them with a nice bomber-jacket brown leather. Then I paseted in the text block with the new end papers and mull. The last step was to add a black satin ribbon bookmark and apply some stick-on gold lettering I picked up from the craft store. I have never used these letters before, and I am anxious to see how they hold up to use.

Toni is ecstatic about her newly re-covered book. She kept it in the store for several days and showed it to everyone who came in. I must say it turned out rather well. I'm very confident that the new spine work and cover will outlast the acidic pages. The only thing I would change is, I would have given a little extra room for the French groove. It disappeared due to the fact that the new leather covering is much thicker than the old cloth and paper and needed more of a gap between the boards and spine to compensate. Oh, and I would have taken some "before" and "during" pics too. Sorry about that.


  1. Nice work. I'm interested in how to repair pages with starch glue and tissue paper. So many things to learn and life is so short.

  2. Wow, lovely piece of work! I love repairing old books :D The French groove can be a major pain in the butt, though, as you have discovered yourself.