Stonehenge Kraft Paper Cracking when Folded with the Grain: A Close Look

November 4, 2011

See the complete post for details.


Above: Looking at the folded and sewn portion of a signature (tail end of the book is at the left) made with Stonehenge Kraft brown paper. You can see how the paper has fractured even when folded with the grain. Additionally, though this 6-signature book was minimally handled the sewing holes are tearing out and the pages could use reinforcement. Read this post for details.

I have written several posts about my adventures with the new color of Stonehenge: Kraft brown.  I love the surface for painting on with gouache, but the paper is not suitable for bookbinding. It cracks horribly when folded with the grain. 

Above you’ll see a close up of the final page spread in the journal I made with Stonehenge Kraft brown. You’ll see how it is essentially breaking down into layers—fracturing—where it was folded.

When binding you fold your paper so that the grain direction runs parallel with the spine. That way the opening and closing and turning of the pages doesn’t constantly crack the fibers. Unfortunately with some papers, even when you fold with the grain there is still some cracking. Sometimes this cracking can be mild (and not a deal breaker).

The cracking I experienced with Stonehenge Kraft, however, was major. I am actually pretty respectful of my books, i.e., I treat them kindly and somewhat protectively when I am using them. It’s one of the reasons I have other artists who are a little more hard on their books test books when I use new papers. Then I can see how much abuse a paper can take.

There was no need to do that in this case. The cracking of this paper, folded with the grain, was so severe that after only working in-studio on 3 pages it was clear there was a problem. As explained in another post, this journal became an in-studio journal, and was treated very kindly indeed. Even so, by the time I finished it (30 days) the book was showing signs of stress as you can see from this final page, which was hardly turned at all.

I will continue to use Stonehenge Kraft brown for painting with gouache

However, I won’t bind with this paper. (I will check on it in the future, because I don’t want to give up the hope of the lovely color. If future batches of the paper improve and I find out about it I will be sure to let you know.)

The other 35 sheets worth of this paper which I had torn down and bound into text blocks for casing in will be trimmed down into single pieces which I’ll use for small paintings and possibly for journal cards at the 2012 Minnesota State Fair. I’ll keep you posted about all that too. 

Note: I have used the original Stonehenge paper colors for binding for my own books and when teaching journal making. I have experienced anything from mild to little cracking when folding the paper with the grain. I will put up with anything up to mild cracking if I enjoy working on a paper’s surface. The only other NEW color of this line I have tried is the light icy blue. I experienced excessive cracking when folding it into signatures as well. I would rate the cracking as greater than mild cracking, but less than the severe cracking of the Kraft brown. I will not be using the icy blue color for binding either. I have not tried either of the other two new colors: a cool white and a gray. I have no intentions of trying either of those as I have enough white papers I love and can use, and I don’t tend to work on gray paper. (Apologies for repeating these details, but people keep writing in and asking me about this, so it’s best to get it all out of the way.)

When creating a structure for a class sample if I think it would be suitable to use one of the original Stonehenge colors I will test a sheet first for suitability, before committing. This paper is priced so reasonably that it’s difficult to ignore if you want to keep class supply costs down for your students. But it is also important for me as an instructor to give the students a frustration-free experience with papers that they can return to without hesitation. 

If you teach binding, or simply bind your own journals, I encourage to you test a sheet of the original Stonehenge before you commit to a big batch that might not be suitable for your project.

    • Miss T
    • November 4, 2011

    Wow. That’s even worse than I imagined when you first described the cracking! Thanks for posting that photo, Roz.

  1. Reply

    Miss T, even Arches Watercolor paper with all its sizing doesn’t crack this badly when folded with the grain! This is the worst cracking I’ve ever seen on a paper. Bad enough when first folded, but even in the sewing I knew I had a problem! It’s just so sad because the paper is so fun to paint on with gouache. It will just have to be a flat-use paper for me.

    Happily I still have several other tan papers that I can bind into journals.

  2. Reply

    Darn, that’s too bad. Kraft paper is my favorite for journaling on, and you almost never find it in a commercial journal. Heck, I can barely find it in handmade journals. (I don’t make my own, but occasionally buy a handmade one off Etsy.)

  3. Reply

    Does it otherwise hold up well? I wonder if it would be worth binding with short strips of another, better paper, and then tipping in the Stonehenge kraft brown, if you love it so much. Just a thought. I don’t really know what binding structure you use, so maybe it’s not possible or worth it for you.

  4. Reply

    Arika, I suggest you keep trying other options and use your bookbinding time with papers that will hold together for you.

  5. Reply

    Lisa, I’m not interested in creating journals that require tipping in.
    I make a casebound structure that I have developed that allows me to create journals that have the characteristics I need (strength, durability, ease of making). Tipping in papers would require too much time. I want to get to the painting. So “nope” there isn’t any way to salvage this paper in a binding project that requires folding that would be worth it to me.

    I’d rather spend my time working, make additional funds, and only buy Twin Rocker Simon’s green for the rest of my life— it folds well, is a lovely greenish tan color and beautiful to paint on.

    It would be more cost effective and time effective to do that. And better for my sanity as well.

    Happily, I have lots of other papers I love working on. This paper is just a huge disappointment for binding, when I had such high hopes when I was first told it was going to be available.

    I’ll use the paper as flat sheets for painting whenever I need brown paper to paint on, but that’s it.

    I was heartbroken at first, but just working through these six signatures has allowed me to say good bye and move on.

  6. Reply

    Hi Roz,
    Thanks for the good info about the paper. I posted about my somewhat more positive experience binding with it today on my blog here:

    Like you I have many sheets left from my perhaps overly enthusiastic Wet Canvas purchase. I’m going to follow your suggestion to try using it with gouache, on unbound sheets or cards.

  7. Reply

    Jana, thanks for letting me know how you are faring with it. I look forward to hearing what you do with it and gouache.

    • Jan
    • February 19, 2012

    Roz — You say here that the Twinrocker “Simon’s Green” is your tinted paper of choice for binding into sketchbooks. Have you tried Twinrocker’s “Prarie”? From the Twinrocker website’s pix, it appears to be a nice warm brown color. Does “Prairie” hold up as well as the “Simon’s Green” paper to the folding and sewing required for book arts?

    Jan (desperate for a Stonehenge Kraft substitute!)

  8. Reply

    Jan, I can’t say for sure if I have tried “Prairie” from Twin Rocker. I know I didn’t make it into a book or it would be on my shelves from 2002 or so. (Files from then relating to tests aren’t accessible right now.)

    I was testing only the papers that were available locally at the time and I did also test Twin Rocker’s Delphi which I made into a book—but Delphi is totally unsuitable for the type of work I do. (It would be fine for someone working in pen and ink who didn’t mind a thinner paper.)

    So I would suggest that you order a sheet of Prairie or if they have swatch samples order those and test it. I also recommend that you send an email to the paper maker (I think her name is Catherine), because I know they are used to dealing with watercolor painters who use their papers and if you ask her very specific questions and provide details of how you work she can perhaps suggest papers from her line that would work for you.

    At the same time I would suggest that you try the Simon’s green because that is a sort of green/khaki-esque color that might suit you just fine. If you are painting in gouache (which I’m assuming you are because you want a toned paper) then it will be a great paper for you.

    For toned papers I’ve written about before you can read

    And you can see a close up of that lovely paper here

    I also wrote about Magnani’s Annigoni Designo in one of my posts about the Stonehenge Kraft—because Annigoni Designo is a great tan paper. I don’t know where I mentioned it there, but you can see work on it in my Weirdo journal
    gives you links to those pages.

    Here it is I found that post about Annigoni and Nideggen

    You can also search my blog (with the little search engine in the left column) for Annigoni Designo to come up with other journals that use that paper (as I use it quite a lot).

    All the toned papers I’m mentioning have little negatives, there isn’t a completely positive among them—and my posts deal with the differences so you can pick which one you’ll most like for you.

    But all of the tan papers I use (which includes Rives BFK Heavyweight, which is readily available everywhere and comes in a lovely buff color), fold well and don’t have the fatal flaw (for bookbinding) that Stonehenge Kraft has.

    If you’re just going to paint in gouache on FLAT paper, then Stonehenge Kraft is a fabulous surface, rivaling (though different from in many respects) Simon’s Green.


  9. Reply

    Jan, I should make one addition to my just sent response to your question. In the last paragraph I compare Stonehenge Kraft and Simon’s Green SURFACES for painting, and it goes as understood that they work for the way I paint. I tend to use more water on Simon’s Green as it is built to handle that. On Stonehenge Kraft while I can paint with a little bit of dilution mostly I’m using the paint heavily
    shows a mix.
    shows a much drier approach to paint use on Stonehenge Kraft, though some initial washes were a little more wet.

    I point this out because I don’t want people to think that the papers are interchangeable. If one has only one way of working and specific requirements for working that way then they will not be interchangeable as surfaces.

    I thought it might not be clear from my last comment’s last paragraph.

    • Jan
    • February 21, 2012

    Roz, thank you for the round-up on tinted papers for binding into art journals. That was EXACTLY the summary I was looking for. And I appreciate your caveats about interchangeability and about suitability for my work. I have ordered a sample pack from Twinrocker (including both Prairie and Simon’s Green) and am on the prowl for samples of Nideggen Sand and Magnani Annigoni Designo. I am going to test and compare them all.

    Again, thank you!


  10. Reply

    Jan, I’m excited for you that you have so much fun experimentation ahead of you. Let me know how you find Prairie! Have great fun!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Close Cookmode

Pin It on Pinterest