If the embedded video doesn’t work please view “Tearing Paper” at YouTube.com.
I finally had an opportunity to make a video demonstration of how to tear paper for your handmade journals. Even though we used lights it’s a little bit “orange.” Dick helped me out by hand-holding the camera so that he could zoom in at times. He was remarkably steady given the way I hop about.
Why tear paper to make pages for your journal?
It is important to me that people understand that anyone can make a journal without any special equipment except a needle, an awl, a bone folder, and a brush (for gluing). You don’t need fancy presses or weights (you can use heavy art books or encyclopedias, etc.). You don’t need a punching craddle. And you certainly don’t need a large board shears or guillotine cutter for cutting your paper. (A board shears, even a smaller one, is useful for cutting boards, but it isn’t essential.)
There’s no getting away from the fact that you will need some bookmaking supplies such as PVA, unwaxed Irish Linen thread (which you will lightly coat with beeswax), wax paper, waste paper, mull (or super), binder’s board, bookcloth, and tapes (if your structure calls for you to sew on them).
Don’t worry about seeking out lots of special equipment—this video shows you how to fold and tear even heavyweight art papers like 140 lb. watercolor paper, on any smooth surface in your home.
One additional word of caution which I always mention in my class demos but which I forgot to add to this video—even if the paper you are tearing is lightweight, resist the urge to tear through more than one thickness at a time. A group of 4th graders once double-dog dared me to do this, and I was successful, but I’m a professional (and for that reason shouldn’t have allowed the kids to goad me that way!). Just take it one sheet at a time and you’ll be happy.
Keep the following items in mind:
1. Have a clean workspace; grit on your table can mar your paper surface.
2. Make sure your bone folder is clean. If you have torn painted papers you may have paint on your bone folder and this can rub off on your “text” paper as you tear.
3. Do not tear or fold one sheet on top of anything else. The table should be clear. This includes other pieces of paper. You want nothing below the piece you’re working on because you don’t want to impress it with the shape of something else and you don’t want to mar another sheet below it with pressure from the bone folder or your hand.
4. Set up a work station that suits your flow. This will help you as you tear and stack and then start to tear again.
5. Don’t take a break or answer the phone or even talk to someone else when you start tearing a sheet of paper. It’s easy to lose your place. Yes I routinely tear paper and talk at the same time while I am teaching, but I do NOT recommend this.
7. Make a tear diagram of the sheet of paper that you are working with and have that diagram at your side to refer to if you become confused. (I have a tear diagram for every sheet of paper I have worked with so that I can duplicate journal sizes and know immediately how to divide up a sheet.) You can see a tear diagram for the old and the new Fabriano Artistico here.
8. Decide up front whether or not you will be matching paper surfaces across the spread, and if so read my related post on how to tear paper and keep organized so this happens.
9. Wash your hands. (Do not apply hand lotion.)
10. Remove your jewelry. (I once had a student in class who wore 5 huge rings and a heavy loose chain bracelet with large clunky charms. She couldn’t understand why she couldn’t get the right angle on the bone folder [the rings were in the way] and why she was getting odd dings in her paper surface [the bracelet charms were constantly scuffing and denting the paper surface as she worked with it]. Save yourself the frustration.)
11. Bandage your knuckles as I describe in the video if you are tearing more than 4 sheets of paper. (Trust me you really want to do this. I tore 50 sheets of paper one evening without doing this and it was a difficult next morning.)
Now if you haven’t already watched the video, take 11 minutes to do so. Then gather some of your favorite paper together and start tearing your paper down to make your signatures. Remember your final fold must be parallel with the grain of the paper.
If you don’t know which papers might be good choices for visual journals read my suggestions in my two-part post Paper: What Do Visual Journals Want? which starts at this link. Or you can read my paper-related blog posts (see “Paper” in the category list) for more recent papers with which I’ve been working.
Once you have your signatures folded and collated together you can measure them up. Note: because of the bulk at the spine fold the signature will actually be a little wider than one single page width. Once you have your signature width and height you can start cutting your boards and other materials based on your favorite book construction method.
Soon you’ll have a brand new, handmade journal, that is exactly the size you want, made with the paper you love to work on. Now that’s a great project for any weekend!
Update for February 26, 2012: See my new post “More on Tearing Paper for Bookbinding,” which continues this discussion of paper tearing by walking through examples of customizing the final size of your book page.