Friday, December 2, 2016

Coptic with Single Sheets (or Boards) and Paired Needles

A student wanted to know how he could make a book with wood pages, so I got out Keith Smith's Non-Adhesive Binding, Vol. 4: Smith's Sewing Single Sheets to study and see if I could finally figure out the sewing pattern. It took several hours to understand it well enough to teach it. The version I show is a chain across the spine with four needles. I first painted book boards with a dry brush and a small amount of acrylic paint.

One of my earlier binding attempts. You can use different color threads by cutting the lengths in half and tying them together.

Measure two long lengths of thread that are equivalent to the number of boards. Put a needle  on each of the four ends. Center the thread, adjusting the needles, so that you have what looks like a stitch on the underside of the second board. Sew up through the second board with each needle.

Take the threads around the first board and sew down into the corresponding holes with each needle (you will always do the same action with each needle from here on out).

Take the threads out from under the first board and out around the second board. They will begin to look like figure 8s.

Pull the threads to tighten and align the boards.

Sew up into the second board.

From the inside to the outside,  take the needles between the two boards and back out under the stitches.

Pull the threads to tighten and align the boards.

Drop down and sew into the third board.

Pull threads to tighten and align the boards.

Take the needles under the preceding stitches. You will start to see the chains forming.

Repeat for all the stitches.

Drop down into the fourth board and sew into those holes.

Pull threads to tighten and align the boards.

Sew under the preceding stitches.

Tighten the stitches and align the boards.

Continue the pattern of dropping down, sewing under the stitches and tightening and aligning the boards until the last board. Sew in as usual.

Sew under, as usual.

This time, sew back into the last board, same holes.

You'll have  double stitches on the back.

Open to the last page and tie off inside.

You can tie two threads together and make the knot over the holes.

It is kind of surprising to see the variation of the stitching inside. But it can add an element of color, variation, or texture, and work well with certain aesthetic, more painterly styles.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

So, You Have a Question about Letterpress Inks?

I got an email from a book artist who recently bought a press. She had a question about inks.
So, can you let me know what kind of inks your books are printed with?  I'm wondering if oil-based is best for little books.
Someone had recommended rubberbased inks. I dislike rubberbased inks, but they have their purpose: if you are doing a long run of hundreds of something or want to come back the next day and print (!) They do stay open quite a while, and for that reason you cannot stack the prints or they will offset onto each other and sticking together and leaving marks. They are also good if you are teaching a six-hour studio class and need to keep printing. The rubberbased inks don't skin over, so you can use every drop.

I still prefer oil-based inks. Oil-based inks dry very quickly, and I have found I can stack the prints, even immediately after printing (but only if the print area is light or small like business cards or postcards or lines of regular text not bold or wood type). For linoleum reduction cuts, like the ones in my artist's books, She Is the Keeper and Tree, for example, I had to let them dry without stacking. If you are layering inks at all (like reduction cuts), oil based is the way to go. Printing on glassine or Mylar should only be done with oil-based inks. I use a piece of marble tile for my inking/mixing slab.

The only downside to oil-based inks is that the ink dries in the can, forming a skin that must be removed before use. Otherwise, the dried bits get worked into the rollers and leave spots here and there as they stick to the type and are printed. There are various sprays and barrier papers you can try. When I use my inks I just cut around the edge as if I were removing a cake from a pan, then lightly skim off the dried ink skin. It's true this is less economical than using rubberbased inks, but so be it.

Whatever you use, the finished works should be kept out of direct sunlight. I’ve had some fading issues, primarily with gold and silver, which are only available in oil.

Clean up has been going well these days. Much more quickly and less toxic as I’ve been cleaning the press primarily with Crisco: a tablespoon or so loosens up the ink. Just keep working it in and wiping it down with a shop rag or clean diaper rag. Wipe down with odorless mineral spirits at the very end to degrease.

Although Van Son no longer makes small 1 lb. cans (only the 1 kilo/2.2 lb), you can get Victory relief inks from NA Graphics. I've been gradually replacing with these, and they work very well. Keep a screwdriver handy, though, the lids are tight.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Instructions: Interlocking Double Accordion

This fall, in addition to teaching bookmaking and letterpress at my home school of California College of the Arts, I've been teaching the Introduction to Bookmaking class at California State University, East Bay, usually taught by Michael Henninger. We visited the Special Collections department in the library there and looked at books I picked out that were both familiar and unfamiliar to me. One 2005 book, (I Want a) Prenup by Petra Press, utilized a structure I had not seen before: two eight-panel accordions that interlocked, much like Slot & Tab (in Making Handmade Books). The design of the pages makes excellent use of the mix-and-match effect of the structure. Petra Press, on the Vamp and Tramp website, describes it as a "double accordion book." The playfully woven designs on the page clearly took quite a bit of time, thought, and careful planning.

The interlocking double accordion structure turns out to be simple, yet eye-catching. No sewing. No gluing. It invites multiple approaches, colors, texts, and designs. It only takes a few minutes to assemble.

Materials: 2 strips of medium weight paper, such as Canson Mi-Teintes or Strathmore ArtAgain. The following example uses Strathmore Drawing 400, 24" wide and 4.5" high, grained short. (The model above Prenup utilizes two different colors of Strathmore ArtAgain, which shows the structure more clearly.)
Tools: pencil, eraser, bone folder, X-Acto knife and cutting mat, metal ruler

1. Fold each strip into an eight-panel accordion by folding in half; folding the edges in to the center like a cupboard; folding the edges back out like window shutters; flipping the book over like a table; fold in to the center to create the fan folds.

2. Close one accordion fan, face the open edge right. Measure and mark halfway down the left folded edge.

3. Measure and mark 1" on either side of the first mark.

4. Starting at the center mark, measure and mark 1.5" from the folded edge toward the right. (This could be longer.)

5. With the knife against the ruler, cut from the new mark to one of the top or bottom marks along the folded edge. Repeat for the second mark.

6. Use the opening as a guide to make two marks on the second accordion, also along the folded side, open edge to the right.

7. This time, cut from the mark to just below the opposite corner. Top mark to head, bottom mark to tail.

8. Arrange the accordions side by side, wedged-shaped on the left, open triangle on the right. Open edges to the right.

9. Take the first mountain from the wedge-shaped accordion and bend the points slightly so that they will fit through the slot in the triangle-shaped accordion. Pull it through. (Note: you may be able to rotate the accordion so it is perpendicular when you pull it through the diamond-shaped opening to minimize the bending needed.)

 Top view:

10. Repeat for each set of mountain folds. The last will be a single page through the slot.

It works well with two colors of paper. I particularly like how, in this one,  it looks like the beam of a flashlight moving as the page turns. 

I'm looking forward to working with this one, possibly doing some printing over the December-January break.