As most of you don't know, I'm a Norwegian student, currently living in London, England and studying Graphic Design in year three at London Metropolitan University. For our final project here, we were largely free to do a self-directed project, allowing us to focus on an area of our own interest.
While many of my fellow students chose conceptual exploration, I find that rather vague and figured that I'd just do a larger project that would allow me to incorporate a wide range of the skills I have, as well as have me learn a few new ones along the way.
So, I'm currently making a book, a short biography on my grandfather, telling the story of his life and career. Currently it is 90 pages long... in case you were wondering how that works, since it is not dividable with four, it has a fold-out in the appendices for a large timeline graphic, the book's dimensions are 21 x 26 cm. Designwise it isn't terribly exciting, with rather conventional typography and layout, which I found fitting for a biography of an 82 year old man that has a target audience of a non-design-concious group of close family. Still, it has allowed me to work on a project that has involved a bit of everything, firsthand research, writing, lay-out, designing for print, photography, information design, the list goes on.
For the finished product I am planning on two editions, six books in Norwegian and a one-off in English which will be the primary piece of work assesed by my tutors and will include an extra chapter devoted to the design process and rationale behind my choices.
These books will, if all goes according to plan, be hand-bound and feature screenprinted dust-jacket, endpapers and cover.
This is where my problems start, as my university has health and safety regulations that require that all students using the screenprinting facilities have done an induction, but they don't have anyone available to do said inductions, so, I'm still waiting for a date to go in and get everything sorted that needs to be screened.
My second problem relates to the binding, I have never bound a book in my life... So, I figured I would just get to it, and I bought a book on various techniques called "Bookbinding for book-artists - Requiring no tools or equipment" by Keith A. Smith and Fred A. Jordan. While the book does a great job of explaining the processes, it is a 500 page tome.
So, after reading up on technique, I got a test print of the book and got started.
First, I got my materials together:
(left to right) blade, teflon bone folder, spare thread, linen thread for use as cords across the spine and finally, needle with thread.
The reason for using a thicker linen thread instead of woven bands across the spine of the book was that I had planned on doing what is referred to as a tight-back binding. For this binding, there is no bookboard on the spine of the book and the spine is instead glued right onto the book-block, it is a more advanced binding than the flat-back and allows more pages. The tightback is sewn "recessed cords" which mean that instead of bands across the spine, like most people use for basic handbound books, a thicker thread is used, the sewing stations are sawed and not pierced, the larger hole allows the thread to slip inside the spine when the thread is tightened during sewing, leaving the spine flat and uniform and not have the bands sticking out. This allows you to glue the spine onto the book-block without the bands/cords showing through as raised.
However, since this was my first time trying to bind anything, I was very cautious when sawing the stations, I also miscalculated and did twice as many as i had needed. My stations were too shallow to allow the cord to sink fully into and I ended up with cords that were halfway sticking out of the spine. Since this was merely an exercise in sewing to get some mistakes out of the way before I started the actual books, it didn't really matter to me.
This is the end result of my first attempt at sewing together a book-block:
As I expected, I made quite a few mistakes, these resulted both from a lack of experience and a bit of haste
1: I first did ten sewing stations since I thought that the cords would be sewn the same way as bands. However, for cords, you thread back through the same hole and pull the cord in, instead of moving onto the next station like you would with bands.
2: due to a lack of a carpenters saw I used a saw that had a narrow blade, and I also cut the stations too shallow for the cord to fit all the way inside.
3: I forgot to do kettle stitches on the head and tail for the first four signatures.
4: when I realized my mistake, I ended up doing what is called false kettle stitches for the remaining signatures
Having read up a bit on the differences between bindings I realized that the tight-back is a bit too complex for me to risk screwing up on a project that has the primary deadline in two weeks (that is when I had aimed to have the first copy bound and finished), therefore I am going for the flat-back instead. It leaves a lot more room for error with regards to the spine being even, is simpler and less labour intensive.
I'll be back with more next week...
BTW: for any type of binding, using a saw to make sewing stations is a good idea, it saves time and ensures that you get all your stations aligned 100%, something that is hard to do when perforating from the inside of the signature with a needle. Just put your bookblock in a vice with a board on each side and let the spine extend beyond the vice by about 5mm, then saw gently until you've just breached the inside of your signature, there, you just saved yourself 15-20 minutes of piercing holes in every signature. =)