My 1000th Post—Some “Housekeeping” Questions: Gluing and Binding and Using a Template

July 6, 2011

See the complete post for details.

I love milestones. I have them in my workday, I have them in the 12-month calendar, I have them within certain projects. They are even a part of my daily morning bike: "there's 13 miles, there's 17 miles, if I do this loop within a loop there's 20 miles." 

Today I was happy to see that on this blog I've reached 1,000 posts. I wasn't aiming for any particular number, but it's fun when you reach such nicely rounded numbers. Since I passed a 1,000 posts on my combined blogs a while back (IFJM is only active a couple months of the year, but when it's active it's very active) I don't have a giveaway or contest planned because this sort of snuck up on me. But I'll put my thinking cap on and think of something with which to celebrate—maybe it's time for another Quiz!

In the meantime I would just like to thank all of you who are stopping by to check out what I'm babbling on about. I appreciate your company and interest. I love hearing from you. Today's post is just one example of that.

Recently a reader (Deborah) wrote in asking questions about how I glue the paper and fabric on my books like the ones shown in the post linked here. I didn't want my response lost in the comments section, since I think there are other folks who might have the same questions. (You can see a sample batch of my books in the link I've given. It is clear from the photo that the paper and fabric meet and overlap in some way, which is what is discussed in today's post.)

1. Do you overlap paper onto cloth or vice versa? And how great is the overlap?

It's pretty standard in binding, when working with fabric and paper to always lap the paper over the edge of the fabric—because this cuts down on any potential for fraying on the part of the fabric. Some people may do it in the reverse order, but I don't know any binder who does. (There are other issues when doing a leather spine and fabric on the boards, but as I said, those are other issues.)

How much you overlap the paper onto the fabric, and whether or not you bevel the edges of the paper  is really up to the individual and how he was trained and what he wants. I was trained to bevel the edges of materials so that when they meet or overlap they will be flush. Having been trained that way I now do not take that step as it is too fussy for my approach to bookbinding. I need to mention this, however, so that people interested in learning traditional methods will know that there is more to the craft than simply overlapping.

All that said, I typically overlap the fabric with about 1/16 to 1/8 inch of paper.

2. How do you prevent glue seepage on the overlap?

Glue seepage at the overlap is controlled by learning the amount of glue to put on the piece you're laying down on top (in this case the paper). It is also controled by the way in which you burnish the item when in place (with a protective waste sheet on top of course). (I burnish pushing away from the exposed edge so that glue doesn't migrate toward the fabric, but you have to angle in such a way as to make sure you press this edge so that there is full contact.)

Ideally this discussion would be accompanied by a video or detailed photos as it is a bit fussy. Watching someone do it correctly or rather successfully (as I'm convinced there are many correct ways to do this, but there will be one way that yields more successful results for the individual), is the best way to learn.

I suggest if there is no help on hand that you practice with waste materials—waste board, fabric, paper. Glue out the item and apply and burnish it, judge the results, and then immediately do another try with more or less glue.

There should only be a light and even covering of glue (if you're using PVA which is what I use). There shouldn't be any dry spots and there shouldn't be any glops of glue anywhere on the surface to which you are applying glue.

Tip 1: After I glue out my decorative paper I pick it up with my right hand. Then with the right side (non-glued) facing me, I run my left index finger down the edge of the paper (the edge that will overlap the cloth) angling my finger so that the middle portion of it skims across the top surface of the paper but pushes any excess of glue down away from that edge and the paper's side edge, i.e., that thin ledge of an edge where you cut. It's a bit difficult to describe, but if you try it you might understand what I mean. I am making sure that there is no glue on the top surface of the paper, and also removing any glue for that paper's cut edge. (Two areas that could cause a "seeping" appearance if the glue they carry is pushed by the burnishing process onto the face of the fabric). I use rather heavyweight papers for my decorative papers so it is a quick and easy step to do, though I do it even on lighterweight papers. But be careful with your sheet, particularly if it is paper that is prone to curl as you only have two hands and if the hand holding the paper has to start dealing with a curling paper…well you get the idea. Work quickly and with a purpose. And it goes without saying that the left hand should be clean of glue, ink, and it should be dry.

Oh, and the advantage of using the middle portion of my index finger is that I can whip the paper down into place without any glue on my finger tips, and then I can get my hand clean ASAP with my apron, shirt (!), or cleaning cloth, before I start burnishing.

Tip 2: Before you glue out your paper, make sure that your fabric, which is already applied to your boards has been marked for placement of the paper. I use a light pencil mark at the head and tail. Then when I am holding the glue-covered paper over the board I know exactly where to put that edge of the paper on top of the fabric.

Tip 3: Once you put your waste sheet down on the overlap area and start to burnish NEVER EVER MOVE that waste sheet. Any glue that seeped out onto it will be moved all over your cover. If you start to move the sheet, or think there is glue on it, remove the waste sheet immediately and continue with a new clean sheet. I have had to remind many students of this, as the urge to peek is irresitible, and when you peek you don't realize you are moving that sheet.

Don't forget that all paper relaxes and stretches when you apply glue—it's the moisture in the glue that does it. So you need to take this into account as you are fiddling with that sheet of paper—another reason to work quickly and with a purpose. The more you handle a paper while you get it into place, the more you may be stretching it out of shape.

3. Do you use a template to cut paper and cloth covering materials?

I'm a time saver—I'm always looking for ways to work more efficiently, so if I'm doing an edition of several books that are the same size then I will cut a template for the decorative paper and one for the fabric. I'll use these templates to quickly cut all the fabric and cover paper needed for all of the books I'm making of that size. But if I'm doing a series of books which are all different sizes then I simply cut each one's materials to the size needed.

Consider These Things if You Want To Use Templates: The link at the top of this post and repeated here is to a photo of a batch of books that were made without templates because each book was a unique size. The batch of books at this link made with Nideggen for pages were all made at the same time, over a couple days, and I did use templates to precut the materials. You can see the precut materials here.

Since I frequently make this size journal I had templates that I have used numerous times. I compared my textblock measurements to the previous batch for which the templates had been made. I also compared the spine width of the new batch of textblocks to the recorded spine width of the previous batch to see if I needed to adjust the spine measurement accommodated by the cover materials. I have written about this before—on any given day we may sew more tightly or loosely than on another day. You will want to verify that all your current batch textblock measurements are the same as any batch you're using the template from—or make a new template.

Often you'll want to make a new template for a new batch anyway because it is quicker than looking up and comparing information or because you want a different proportion of fabric to paper to show on your covers.

I've been making books for so long and have so many favorite papers that I like to use in favorite sizes that I have a selection of templates that I can often reuse for a new batch. However sometimes there are subtle differences and I have to start from scratch and make a new template—again, if I'm just doing one book I simply measure on the cloth and cut. It wouldn't be time saving to make a template to do one book.

Tip 4: If you are going to make a number of books of the same size and you want to make a template, don't cut ALL your materials from the template you make until you have taken one set of materials and made them into a completed book—there might be an error in your templates you didn't catch. If you find it while binding one book you will have saved yourself all the wasted pre-cut material.

If I'm going to teach a structure I make templates when I design the structure because from the time I propose a class until it actually gets taught there is often a delay of 12 months or more. I don't want to have to reinvent and rediscover all my steps, so I take detailed enough notes while making the structure so that I can write a comprehensive handout; and I make and keep templates to refresh my memory and speed up the process for preparing class materials. (I like my students to learn to cut and tear everything in class, however, because of time constraints in classes I typically cut boards and fabric before class for everyone. I demo all the processes and they have some cutting and prep to do, but we can get through things quickly with the limited equipment available when you have 10 people or more and only two board shears!)

Tip 5: I make templates from matboard scraps that I have a lot of in the studio, or from quilting plastic. The latter can be purchased in sheets at any quilting/fabric store. I get the heaviest weight. It has the advantage of being transluscent so if you want to fussy cut the decorative paper you can actually see down through the template to do this. I use a permanent marker to write the template's name, width and height, and final book size (so there is no confusion). I will also name "pairs" of templates so that the fabric and decorative paper templates that work together are immediately recognizable, in case I'm making two different types of book in vast quantities on any given day. I also draw an arrow along the grain direction on the template, to avoid any confusion when cutting. (You want the grain direction of all materials used to make the case of your book to run parallel with the spine, or in other words, you want the grain direction to go in the same direction as the height of your book.)

4. Do you glue the paper and cloth together before adhering them to the case?

I apply my fabric first and complete all the edges before I move on to the paper. I have a particular way of gluing, including the way I handle working on waste paper, that I show all my students. I am trying to show them how to work efficiently and cleanly for the best result.

While one could certainly make a marriage of fabric and paper before applying either to the boards I think it would be less efficient for the following reasons. A. Too large a piece to glue and manipulate now, leading to folds, sticking, and other accidents. B. A need to be precise with a larger piece, so that your join line would still be vertical on the board. C. Issues of turn-ins where the materials overlap because of double layers—more trouble than it's worth.

I recommend that you apply the fabric completely first, then make marks for where your paper will line up as mentioned above, and then work with your paper.

To explore this issue further with photos and examples of how other folks whose work I respect proceed I recommend that you look at my page on the Essential Bookshelf for Bookbinders. Aldrin Watson's book is an excellent book for understanding the traditional approach to putting the book together step-by-step in "layers."

  1. Reply

    Happy 1000th! You blog is amazing — so informative and interesting. You’re really doing a great service to lovers of the many subjects you cover. I hope you reach 5000.

    • Carolyn
    • July 6, 2011

    Super! 1000 posts! Congratulations and thank you! You’re blog is on the top of my bookmarks list. I’ll come back to read the entire post but want to join the celebration first.

    Happy Milestone, and many happy returns!


    • Carolyn
    • July 6, 2011

    Ugh, sorry my rushed post. “Your” blog, not You’re….

  2. Reply

    Congratulations! I really enjoy your blog, and delving into the archives to follow up a theme; I have learned such a lot! Its like having an encyclopedia at ones fingertips. I hope there are many more thousand posts to celebrate and I look forward to each and every one! Distance prevents me from coming to your classes in person, but this blog is the next best thing.
    Thank you for your generosity with your time and knowledge, and for being you!

    • Cate
    • July 6, 2011

    Congratulations, Roz! And this is just one more reason—the 1000th, in fact, why this blog rocks the art blogosphere. What I love is your thoroughness and how you always anticipate the next question, and the one after that. As soon as I go, But but but what about….? you’re there with an answer, in detail and in absolutely practical terms. I can’t tell you how encouraging and reassuring this is. Thank you thank you thank you, Roz!

  3. Reply

    Thank you ALL for the kind notes. I’m so glad that people are enjoying the blog. I don’t know if I’ll get to 5000 as Nancy hopes, but I’ll try to keep on. If I could make the posts shorter, that’s the ticket, or even split them, that’s what I should do, then I could easily get up to 5000 in no time! We’ll see.
    Thanks for reading and thanks for commenting. I love hearing from people.

  4. Reply

    Thank you Cate, for your kind words. I have a stealth helmet that allows me to anticipate. No actually, I have students who are always keeping me on my toes. And I just find it fun to write about this stuff. It seems to me every time I sit down to work something pops into my head and then I start playing with it. So I’m glad you enjoy reading about it. It’s good to know that other people think about the things that matter to us.

    • Miss T
    • July 6, 2011

    Roz, congratulations on 1000 posts! That’s no small feat, particularly when your posts are always so thoughtful and full of great information.

    • Annabel
    • July 6, 2011

    What a wonderful post! Thanks!

    I am of course curious about the stuff not mentioned 🙂 How would you bevel the edges of paper and/or fabric? Do you mean that you actually bevel the board so that the overlap thickness is compensated with the board being thinner there?

  5. Reply

    Annabel, you would bevel by working very, very carefully! You have to shave the thickness of the item from the non-top side. (You’d need to watch someone do it.) And you have to do it at a precise angle. Typically you do it all the time with leather. I have also done it with decorative paper—I make my own decorative paper and use really heavyweight papers.

    Some binders I know do bevel the edges of their boards before putting cloth on, but I don’t do that.

    Dealing with possible lumpiness on the covers is typically handled by digging out channels so that things like cords you might have sewn on, can lay into and lace through the board and the cover material you put on top will be smooth.

    I don’t like to cut channels either EXCEPT when I make ribbon ties on my casebound books. Then I chisel the slot for the ribbon ties on each cover after the fabric is glued and dried and then lace in the ribbon, draw guidelines for position, cut out my channel, glue down the ribbon, add thin Japanese paper crossing the ribbon to help hold it for strength, and then cover with endpapers in the normal course of events.

    All of which could be shown quickly in a video, but sadly it’s more detailed a discussion that I can write up write now. I will try to remember to video tape myself the next time I make ribbon ties (I don’t do it often).

    But that gives you a better idea of what I was talking about.

  6. Reply

    Thank you Miss T!

  7. Reply

    Roz, Congratulations on a blogging milestone!
    I appreciate all that you do for journal and book arts, for your information sharing, and for your genuine enthusiasm for the “sport”. You have helped me to grow as an artist through a more consistent journal habit and I thank you.

    • Karen
    • July 6, 2011

    Congratulations, Roz! That means I’ve read 1000 posts and I’ve learned from each of them. Thank you.

  8. Reply

    Suzanne, thank you for your kind thoughts. I’m very pleased to learn that I’ve helped you with the more consistent journal habit—because it is my life’s goal. I in turn have enjoyed seeing what you are busy creating and observing. (All part of my cunning plan to let others entertain me!) Thank you!

  9. Reply

    Karen, Typepad lets me know which Karen this is, so thank you in turn for letting me vent and rant about life on the phone! I always learn something from you. Maybe more useful things!

    • Annabel
    • July 11, 2011

    Thanks Roz! I learned so much from you 🙂

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