So, when last we left off, I had just finished making a custom designed sigil for the centerpiece of the book out of sculpey. This I later made a silicone mold of and cast it in urethane resin. This has two benefits. One: I can make multiple copies. Two: urethane resin is more durable than baked sculpey. And this particular piece has long thin and easily breakable parts to it. Most of the accent pieces for this tome will be cast in resin. I ended up making more than seven new silicone molds for this project, which is way more custom pieces than I had anticipated doing.
On the fore edge of the book, above, you can see the beginnings of my clasp adornment. This is one of the few pieces that I was actually able to use from molds that I already had. This piece is actually one of the first pieces I ever molded or cast. I just never found a project that was suitable for it. It is too large for most of the book projects I have done. It was originally a long straight piece, but for this book, I heated it and bent it at a 90 degree angle to hang over the fore edge. I actually cut a slit in it while it was warm and pliable, right at the angle, so that it would bend easier. This would work out well for the next step, which was to fabricate a hinge at the bend.
This hinge is only decorative. It does not bend. Early in my design process I conferred with the director, Andrew Jones, and asked him if it would be OK if I made the book so that it can not be opened (not capable of opening), since he had already told me that it would not be opened on screen. I told him that I had some ideas to make chunky hinge and clasp pieces that would look nice, but would be impractical and extremely difficult and time consuming to make functional. He OK'd the idea, so that is why these hinges are non-functioning.
The hinge barrels are made from a wooden dowel that has been covered in a thin sheet of rolled out epoxy putty. I used a generic brand of epoxy putty similar to Milliput. If you try this method, I highly recommend not using your polymer clay rolling machine to flatten epoxy putty. I nearly ruined my machine that way. Maybe if I had pressed the putty between too sheets of waxed paper it would have worked out better. Anyway, Once I covered the dowels in epoxy putty I used a razor knife to indent two circumscribing lines to look like segment joints, and I used a tiny ball peen hammer to add some dents, to make it look more like hammered iron. I made two of these for the clasp and four more to be used later for the spine hinges. After shaping I pressed them into the split at the bend in my clasp pieces. Once dry, they will become solidly attached and will look like they were part of the original sculpt.
The resin pieces I used for the clasp did not have any hammer dents in them originally, so I added some to the finished resin pieces by grinding small divots into them in random places with a round Dremel grinding bit. I used to different designs for the hing pieces, one for the front and another for the back. I'm not really sure why, I just liked it that way. They will join in the middle along the fore edge with some sort of locking mechanism (also non-functional) that I had yet to decide on.
On to the rest of the cover. I laid out several covering materials side by side before deciding on the oxblood leather. I'm usually pretty stingy with my use of leather, as it is very expensive (anywhere from $2 to $5 a square foot when purchased by the side), and this project was already way more involved than I had planned on it being when I gave my quote for the price, but what the hell. I was more concerned with making a piece to be proud of and staying true to my vision than I was about staying on budget. So they got a really good deal on the props. If the project turns out good, and especially if it gets me some more work or recognition, it will have been for a good cause.
Before gluing the leather to the book boards, I scuffed it up a bit. I have rough wooden walls (made form T1-11) in my workshop, so I just massaged the leather against the wall a few times to scuff up the surface. Then I glued it down to the boards with a pva made for leather.
Setting the cover and accent pieces aside for just a moment, lets turn our attention back to the text block. It took a little finessing to get the pages a roughly equal thickness at the spine and fore edge. It took some manipulating of the threads I sewed through the spine, some splitting apart of the signatures, and eventually the insertion of about two dozen one inch wide strips of chipboard placed inside the signatures along the spine to puff out that edge. Eventually I got a nice uniform 4.5" thickness front to back.
I had already gouged up the page edges just a little bit with a Dremel and my fingernails while the text block was waterlogged, but I wanted more texture than that. I had recently seen a great tome created by Ross MacDonald in a post on Propnomicon. It had little bits of paper sticking out from between the pages that had a very authentic feel and gave the book a great visual texture. I decided to try something similar. I stained about two dozen or more sheets of scrap paper to insert between the pages. Then I placed them strategically, looking for the optimal visual impact. Not too much symmetry that it looked fake or forced but enough to satisfy my sense of balance between positive and negative space. I ripped most of the scrap paper into sections before inserting them, so I ended up only using about six or eight sheets. I tacked them in place between the pages where I wanted them with some roll-on dry adhesive. I just glued the scrap piece to the page it was resting on.
Since there was no glue on the spine anymore and the threads were somewhat loose still, the whole thing was a little sloppy. After positioning all the scraps, I glued a mull to the spine in order to give the text block a little more stability. There was still a problem, however, that I hadn't considered. It came to me while I was laying in bed thinking about the project. Since most of the added thickness created by soaking the text block came from the warping of the pages, the whole text block was now kind of spongy, except for along the spine where the thickness had been bolstered with added strips of chipboard between the pages. If you picked it up and squeezed it, the text block would squish like a sponge. This was a problem. Especially since the resin pieces I would be using were going to be ridged with non-functional hinges. There would be very little flex at all. Any squishyness of the text block would not only dispel the illusion of this being a thick and heavy tome, but it may stress the resin pieces or the glue attaching them. My solution was to drive 4" long wood screws down through the text block. They would serve as columns supporting the text block against being squished, and also adding more lateral stability. Any pressure applied to the cover boards now, would press against the screws, instead of squeezing the text block. Also, by adjusting screws, I could fine tune the thickness of the text block.
Here's what the newly modified text block looks like inside the leather bound case before any of the resin attachments are added. ...like a glove.
The resin pieces attached to the cover were the thing that was going to give this tome its character. They are also the part that requires the most work and was the hardest for me to figure out what I was going to do. I had a vague idea, but vague ideas won't cut the mustard when it comes down to fabricating parts.
Right from the beginning I knew I wanted large chunky iron bindings, with hinges, that wrap around the spine. I also knew early on that I wanted these bindings decorated with skulls. I had a small skull sculpture, that was just what I was looking for, that someone had sent to me years ago. I made a mold of it and cast two copies in plaster. I originally intended to use the plaster casts and paint them to look like bone, but I was unsure if the plaster would be strong enough to withstand the stress where it was attached to the resin "ironwork". Also, chipping was a concern. I was also not completely convinced that bone or ivory would look good against the iron (-or bronze. I hadn't decided that yet either). So as a backup, I also cast two in resin. I could decide later which ones looked better.
The painting of the plaster skulls took sealing, painting, sealing again, staining, and then about a million coats of dry brushing, to get right. They look very nice. But I didn't end up using them. Instead, I went with the resin ones and I painted them to match the iron finish of the bindings.
Like I said before, I did a lot of laying things out and visualizing on this project before I knew where the design was going. Much more so than on any other project. During one of those sessions, I got the idea to put a small lock mechanism (non-functional), a key hole basically, in the crux of the "claw" shape of the front cover clasp piece. I was originally going to put the keyhole on the fore edge, but this looked better. I made a quick sketch for scale and then cranked out a simple button with a key hole in it, made out of sculpey. I didn't bother to cast this one out of resin. This would mean that I would have to come up with something else for the hasp on the fore edge, but that could wait. I had bigger fish to fry.
I did a little more roughing up of the leather with some sand paper. I thought it would be easier to do it now than after the resin pieces were attached.
The corner bosses pictured here had just the right blend of organic and angular shape to them. They already had "hammering" dents cast in them, so no need to use the Dremel. These were the only other piece that I used from my "stock" molds. But even those got some work done to them, as I didn't want them to just float on the corner like they usually do, I wanted them to wrap around the corner. So I made some resin strips (which meant another new mold) that I could fuse to the original pieces at right angles at the edges that would hang over the corners. You can't see the modifications very well in the pics, but trust me, it meant extra work.
Deciding on the design for the iron bindings was probably the hardest part of this project. Making my vague idea into an actual detailed design took several days and many failed attempts. I went through probably two or three times the number of design sketches that I did for the centerpiece. I started out just trying to do a quick sketch of the over all book, to get an idea of what I wanted to do, but nothing seemed to look right. I didn't start having any success until I started making full scale drawings with the cover sitting right in front of me, helping me to visualize.
Again, I wanted something that had a nice blend of organic, almost tentacle like, protrusions and hard angles. After finally coming up with a design that I liked, I made a few photo copies (so as not to disturb the original) and cut out paper templates to further help me to visualize. I would later use these templates to help sculpt the prototypes out of plasticine clay, which would then be molded in silicone, and then cast in resin.
I ended up making two versions of the part that would go on the spine. One had symmetrical lower "beards" and the other had asymmetrical ones. I vacillated between the two for quite some time, before deciding on the asymmetrical ones. My reasoning being, I liked them both, but the symmetrical ones would only look good if the points came together perfectly in the final fitting. The asymmetrical ones would look good even if they did not line up perfectly.
Keeping with the motif, I went through more than a dozen designs for the part of the bindings that would lay on the front and rear boards before I finally found one that I liked. I used the same process as on the spine piece, drawing at full scale, and then photocopying and cutting out paper templates. The next step will be sculpting them in plasticine clay.
...But that will have to wait until next time.
Doctor Glamour - Necronomicon (pt. 1)
Doctor Glamour - Necronomicon (pt. 3)
Doctor Glamour - De Vermis Mysteriis
Doctor Glamour (fini)