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Scrub Oak Bindery

January 19, 2009

(Also posted in my bookbinding blog)

A couple months ago (a month after returning from West Dean), I started working for Ethan Ensign at Scrub Oak Bindery. He called me up because he had more work than he and Annette could finish on time for the Christmas rush. (Annette and I used to work together at the Conservation Lab at BYU and now she’s also working for Ethan). Scrub Oak mostly does book conservation and restoration projects, but Ethan also will take occasional binding projects.

I started the job thinking of it as a temporary thing–I could keep my hands busy while I look for work in an institution–but it’s turning out to be good work experience and a friendly environment. So while I figure out what I want to do next, I’ll be at Scrub Oak.

The following photographs are from the first project I was asked to work on.

The client wanted four sets of LDS scriptures to be bound with stiff boards and leather. So new scriptures were purchased and promptly removed from their bindings. most of the outer folds then had to be guarded (mended with strips of Japanese repair tissue). That alone took a couple weeks. Then the books were ready to be sewn on double raised cords (as pictured above and below). A concertina (fan-folded paper or cloth) was sewn around the first and last several sections to add strength to the sewing/structure, as well as to protect the pages from the glue.

the books were then glued, rounded and backed. Then the spine was lined with several layers of handmade paper:

Headbands were sewn by hand (using silk thread which is woven around a stiffened hemp or linen cord)

Next the boards were attached to the book, and the leather was cut to a template of the book and prepared (pared).

The books were then covered in leather and tied up in a press to ensure that the leather adhered to the spine and was nice and tight around the raised bands. (While most modern books have hollow spines where the leather is not adhered to the spine, this structure, which is more traditional to older bindings is called a tightback).

Once the leather had dried, the books were polished and tooled. These bindings should last several hundred years. Below are the final books:

I did most of the preparatory work, then two were sewn and covered by me, another by Ethan, and another by Annette–so it was a pretty satisfying group effort.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. January 19, 2009 10:26 pm

    I’m pretty sure that your job is one of my favorites. I love it when you post your binding exploits.

  2. January 20, 2009 12:55 am

    I’m so incredibly impressed at how beautiful your work is!! So, so beautiful.

  3. January 20, 2009 7:56 am

    What an amazing process. Thanks for sharing, Laura

  4. zstitches permalink
    January 20, 2009 10:51 am

    Beautiful! Thanks for showing the whole process.

    Part of me wants to ask about pricing, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be sticking with what’s available through Distribution Services. :)

  5. January 20, 2009 1:53 pm

    Gorgeous. I envy you being able to make money doing something like that.

  6. February 26, 2009 2:30 pm

    You are so talented!! I still have this tiny little book you made and gave to me prior to leaving for Ireland.

    I cherish it because I know you’re going to go down in book-binding history!!

  7. June 12, 2009 1:39 pm

    So, that is pretty much super-cali-fragi-listic-expiali-doe-tious! (please don’t check my spelling on that)

    Can I just be you? ‘Cause you are incredibly inspiring. Where did you get the textblocks from? I have always wanted to make a mini set for myself, but the size I like best is perfect bound, thus not the very thing.

    Anyways, You should be way chuffed about your tight-backs. :)

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