My daughters asked for journals for Christmas this year. I thought about just how rabidly they’d taken to Dr. Who, after I introduced them, and thought I’d surprise them with a matching set, having seen the ones in the “The Impossible Astronaut”. I fell in love with them and thought them a perfect pair for the girls.
So, it begins!
The picture you see below is the practice of skiving, or paring leather. I had a limited selection of leather, and so had to go with the closest to TARDIS blue I could find, and had some troubles with the choice I made.
It’s a rough-tanned, uneven tough/softness leather. I chose the most easily controlled knife of the two I own, the “French” paring knife to do the work. Boy was I glad I did.
Each side needed a large amount of tapering from “color” layer only at the edges to about 1/2 the thickness of the leather itself, just past the black lines drawn to outline the edges of the boards.
I found out in the earlier bindings I did, the empty binders, that the leather needed to be thinned down as far back as the bottom most corner of the book boards (cardboard or wood) for the smoothest, neatest, easiest wrap work.
The leather varied in its ease of working inch by inch, not in varying areas. I’ll save you the pictures of the process, as I didn’t take any except the start, and certainly none of the boo-boos. The boo-boos (cuts and chunks missing) were repaired by gluing (PVA) them back in by backing with a thin, drawing “vellum” made of light, yet tough, paper I had for drafting.
Next you’ll see the re-verifying the placement of the boards with the lines, just feeding my paranoia bug (also known as OCD).
This picture is of the visual check making sure the book block (book block sewn earlier, I’ll post on a book block later, but not in this project, there are many more, many better posts on book blocks out there. An inspirational sewing of a block can be found on James Downey’s Legacy Bookbindery pages)
Follows is the picture of the book block glued and set into the binding, with the outermost page in use as hinge and anchor for the book block in the binder. This is prior to the end papers being glued down.
Follows is the journal with the end papers. The end papers I chose for this project are hand-printed in Italy. They are exciting to hold, and simply wonderful to work with. Pasting details to follow towards the end of the post.
Finally, you’ll see the tooling. I chose to use simple embossing on the leather, while it was still wet from pasting onto the book boards. Because of the higher moisture content in the wheat paste and PVA mix I created for this particular set of projects, it made the embossing, without heat (aka blind tooling) much, much easier.
This was, truly, a labor of love, re-creating Dr. River Song’s journal for my youngest.
Okay, details for the labor, for both, on the leather. Each leather piece for each book took about 3 hours of skiving (paring) with the french paring knife. That knife is the one with which I have the most control. The english knife, while holding the sharpest edge, is much more difficult to use with “difficult” leather. I learned that the first inch of difficulty with the tooling-belly type leather here. The knife needed stropped, every 2-3 inches along the edge, truly tasking work. Every 3rd strop, I actually needed to take it to the ultra-fine honing stone to remind the knife of its edge, usually only 2 passes were needed on the stone, and then 2-3 passes on the strop at every strop session.
Each leather piece needed thinning at the edges to the tune of about 3 full cm wide, so the wrap up and around the book board was much thinner and much more pliable than the original thickness would allow. Lessons learned from the prior leather binding sessions.
The glue I chose for this project is 6-7 parts wheat paste to 1-2 parts PVA. Almost, but not quite 25% PVA to 75% Wheat Paste. This was a godsend. My mentor gave me the recipe for microwave wheat paste, and I added PVA to it for a more waterproof final product, and to speed adhesion. This allowed me at least 30-60 seconds of maneuvering and adjustment prior to final placement. This could be viewed as a good or bad thing with the leather, given that it means a quick nip requires utmost care to ensure that the board does not twist while in the press and end up skewed on the leather. (Testing the process showed that this could happen and care was called for to remedy the problem, simple care and a little slower action on the wheel). The wheat paste mix also greatly enhanced the ability to emboss the designs in the leather, without wetting the surface, this exposing the surface to the risk of water stains!
Now for the first pictures of the second binder, the Dr. Who journal for my oldest!
Here you’ll see some rather large boo-boos on the right hand side of the leather. This was caused by 1. being tired and 2. working a knife past its due for a good stropping. I lopped off the pieces so cleanly that I could not, would not, paste them back together. I was going to cover the edges with the end paper, anyhow (it does cover myriad sins) and there was still 2 cm overlap on the boards, so I don’t worry about losing grip on the board at that point.
This binder is a wrap for a commercial calendar organizer. She prefers a simple calendar to organize her time for work, school, and family, so this was made to fit the largest “pocket-size” and several smaller sizes of calendars, and still be cool.
The pockets, into which the plastic covers of the calendar are inserted, are secured by gluing the edges of the pockets down, along with being held down by the leather itself. This, hopefully, ensure a tougher pocket for many years of use. Hopefully. The pocket paper is made of a thick card-stock for strength, without adding much weight. (one of these days, I’ll be experimenting with using Tyvec to line the pockets/strengthen projects as it is used in some cases for binding, archival quality is still being debated as I understand it.)
Follows is the leather-wrapped boards, with the honked-up edges showing, because, hey, this is real-life, warts and all. The paper you see on the right is the template on the outside of the book to assist with the initial pattern embossing. The center liner is undyed calf leather, book leather, and was infinitely easier to work, or so it seemed. This serves several purposes: it makes the binder look finished, it helps the spine retain shape, adds strength to the binder helping hold the boards together, and looks really cool when there’s no calendar inserted.
Next, you’ll see the pattern embossed in the leather. I used a couple of different bone-folders to initially press, and final pass emboss the pattern into the leather. As with the previous journal, I went for subtlety, and simplicity, of pattern. I wanted to emulate, not duplicate the journals from the show.
Finally, you see the finished binder with the end papers. My projects for my girls are directly from the heart, and so it is with great pride that I use some very special, very rare hand-marbled paper for the end papers.
The binder now sits, as of this post, under weight to let all the glue dry, and help straighten the boards, overnight.
I hope you enjoyed this timey-wimey trip with me, over a 3 week period of time in the creation of these gifts for my daughters.
The next projects are not slated for completion until March, and will not be posted until the competition under which they are entered is over. I will be discussing research, and the projects themselves, but no pictures until the contest is over.
Thank you for showing up, happy holidays!