Feb 132011
 
My stats say that a few people landed here recently after Googling “how to make a volvelle.” I guess volvelles are gaining in popularity. I’ve mentioned them before, but not how to make them.

However, I have taught a workshop on making one without a brad or other hardware. Google suggests, and I will offer.

It looks long and intimidating, but this is actually pretty easy once you get the idea. I’m just wordy.

You’ll need:

  • Heavy paper or card stock.
  • A compass.
  • Pencil.
  • X-acto knife or scalpel with sharp blade and cutting mat.
  • Optional: tracing paper, large hole punch or circle template, Tyvek. A ruler or straight edge can be helpful.
  • Small amount of PVA or double-sided tape such as 3M 415
1. Fold your paper.
For our example, we’ll use a piece of heavy paper or card stock folded into 3 panels to make a card, and a separate piece of card stock for the wheel and turning mechanism.

 

2. Make your wheel.
Open the card. Using a compass, measure a circle that will be just a bit smaller than the width of the page (one of the sections)–but don’t draw a circle here. Lift up your compass and draw this circle on the piece of card stock that you would like to use for your turning wheel.

 

Now shorten the distance between the legs on the compass so that you can make another circle that will be roughly around .75″ (2 cm) or so in diameter. This doesn’t have to be an exact measurement and can be smaller or larger (when this circle is too small, it’s more difficult to work with, but if it’s too big, it leaves less room for your outside window and the pictures or text that you will put on the wheel.)

 

Place the point of the compass in the indentation left in the middle from making the bigger circle and draw this smaller circle in the center. You are making a small circle centered inside a big circle–a donut shape.
If you’d like you can use something like decorative edge scissors around the outer edge of your donut/wheel. This will make the wheel easier to grasp when your are trying to turn it.

 

3. Make the turning mechanism/hub.
Keeping the compass measurement exactly the same as from the inner, small circle on the donut, draw another little circle elsewhere on another sheet of card stock. (Or, cheater’s method: simply trace the small hole from your wheel.

 

Now increase the compass size to make another circle roughly .5″ larger than the little circle you just made. Draw this around the smaller circle. You should wind up with two nested circles.

 

Cut out around the outside edge of the larger, outside circle. What you are creating is the hub that is going to hold your turning wheel in place and allow it to spin–sort of a big paper version of a brad.

 

Now make an X across your nested circles to create a guide. Cut 4 slits from the outside circle just to the inner circle (see photo at left). This will allow you to form two tabs on either side. If the slits you cut are too big, your volvelle will wobble. If too tight, it won’t spin.

 

Now fold up two opposite ends to make tabs, as shown. Rolling these tabs a bit as needed, slip them through the hole in the center of the wheel, then flatten down. Check to make sure the wheel spins properly.
4. Make a space at the edge of your card so you can turn the wheel.
You need to make a little space at the edge of the card (or page) for your fingers. You can use the edge of a large circle punch or stencil. Or you can center a little cut out section at the edge of the card. The photo below is the idea. Don’t make the opening too deep, or the pictures or text that you add to the wheel will be visible in this opening as you turn it. You want enough room to allow you to grasp the wheel, but no more.

5. Position the wheel.
Position the wheel on your card stock. It won’t be exactly centered, but will overlap the edge a bit, matching up inside the slit/opening you made. Lightly mark around the wheel so you will know where it will be attached. Now remove it and put a small amount of PVA or strong double-sided tape on the back of the hub only (don’t get glue on the wheel itself or it won’t turn). Position into place.

 

6. Make the window on the front of the card.
There are many ways to make a window. You can use a stencil or a hole punch, measure an opening where you’d like it, or even make an irregularly shaped window. You just want to make sure–very important–that the hub tabs or edge of the wheel won’t show through where you make your opening.

 

Keep in mind that this can also be a two-sided structure if you also put a window (or windows) on the other side of the card or book page.

 

Here is a method for making an arched window.
Take a piece of tracing paper the size of your card. Open the card and place the tracing paper on the wheel, carefully lining it up with card edges, like this:

 

Keeping in mind the position of the wheel and hub and tabs (so you can be careful to avoid having them show through), mark where you’d like your window. Follow the contour of the wheel edge as a guide. You can use the compass as an aid.

 

Remember doing this in school? Turn the tracing paper over and trace in pencil over the window you just made. Turn this back over onto the front of the card and rub with a pencil or burnisher to transfer the markings.
With the card open, cut out the window.

 

7. Finish.
It helps a lot if you lightly trace around the window opening onto your blank wheel as you turn it, showing where you’d like to add your pictures or text.

 

 

 

Once completed, seal the card using a small amount of glue or double-sided tape along the edges. Be very careful not to get any glue or tape on the wheel. If you do, you will have a stationary wheel, rather than a turning one.

The dotted lines show where you can put the adhesive.

If I was planning to make anything fancier than a casual card, I’d lay out the wheel pictures on the computer and print them out directly on the wheel. Even when doing this, it sometimes makes it easier to use a wheel with window tracings as a template to scan and work over. You can erase the window markings in your photo or graphics program before printing.

 

This was solely a mock-up for demo purposes. Which was a good thing. When I was done sealing up this 2-sided wheel (you can see both sides below), I realized the side with the writing displays through the window upside down (I turned it around for the photos below). But that’s why we make mock-ups, no? (And why I consider coffee an art supply.)

 

8. Variations.
If you’d like a volvelle that is simply a turning disk (or other shape) on top of a page, without a window, simply make a hole the size of the “donut hole” in the card front. Thread the tabs of a hub through, and glue your disk or shape onto the tabs, on top of the card.

 

The hub mechanism forms the basis for many animated paper engineering structures. Books and websites on paper engineering can lead you to more.

 

Alisa Golden shows a similar volvelle in her new Making Handmade Books. She suggests using Tyvek for the hub. I haven’t tried this yet. She also uses a much smaller hole. I can see how Tyvek, being stronger and more pliable than heavy paper, would make using a smaller hole feasible. This sounds like something to experiment with.

 

 

Sep 272010
 

Book cloth making time! I first did a few sheets following the directions I learned a long time ago from a book, using rice starch paste. Then I experimented a bit.

[Please be patient and try not to get confused, since I took pictures at various times when I was doing different cloths. We might jump around from florals to squirrels without notice.]

First, you need a smooth flat surface to work on. I’ve saved my old worn-out cutting mats and use the back sides of those. Spritz the cloth with water–get it good and damp. Smooth it out with the right side of the fabric facing down:

On a piece of scrap paper (here, newsprint), brush an even layer of paste onto the backing paper, which should be just a bit larger than your piece of cloth. Always brush from the center out to the edges and be sure not to miss any spots. I’m using basic Japanese kozo:
Smooth backing paper, paste side down, over the fabric:
Using a dry brush helps smooth the paper:
As does using a rolled up towel to tamp down the paper onto the fabric. This also, especially, helps create a better bond between fabric and paper:
I also use another method to smooth down the paper onto the fabric, but almost hesitate mentioning it. This could potentially stretch your fabric and push too much glue onto the side of the fabric you don’t want it on. That said, carefully using a roller (going, as you always should, from center outward towards the edges) will give you incredibly smooth and well-bonded book cloth (for some fabrics, you might not even want it that smooth):
The original method I was taught was that one should now carefully turn and smooth the book cloth over onto a new, clean surface, right-side up, then paste around the edges to hold it down flat as it dries:
From recent experience, I can report that this is also an excellent way to drop your wet, newly-made cloth and ruin it. (I did not take a pic for posterity.)
So what I started to do was just leave the cloths in place–don’t 
touch!–right-side down to dry, without an extra turning step. (Do you know why we are supposed to turn over the cloth? Does not turning increase the likelihood of paste getting onto the side of the fabric you don’t want it on?) Regardless, I’ve found that, at least for the dropping-prone, the leave it alone method works:
When dry, peel it off, trim off the extra paper edging and voilà–book cloth:
Apr 052010
 

As I mentioned before, I wound up waxing inkjet-printed papers for use as covering material for my latest books. I’ve been quite pleased with the result. I thought I’d outline the process.

First, rub an even layer of wax over the paper. Since this is for a miniature and my block of beeswax is rather large, this is fairly easy. (This fantastic block of beeswax, by the way, was found in a local health food store for less than beeswax costs at an art supply place.)

I then experimented with different ways of sanding the waxed paper. Regular fine grit paper did not work–it rubbed off some of the ink. I found this rubber sanding pad at the hardware store, and it works well. I can also roll it up to make it a little easier to grasp. For some reason, a regular sanding block with the same grit number did not work.

Then smooth with a buffing pad, also from the hardware store.

Wiping with tack cloth helps smooth out the wax, but it can leave a little stickiness. I buff some more after this step. Repeat until the desired finish is obtained.

Even though this is a small area to do, this process was causing me problems. I have painful and not very strong hands. I got the idea to try a cheap electric toothbrush to do some of the buffing. It works…up to a point, although I found it actually was not that much easier. However, it is another option and does allow for some finer finishing. I discovered at the drugstore that the toothbrushes are not all equal. Some only vibrate, and others simply don’t feel nice in the hand when they’re turned on, and, on some, only a small portion of the head moves. If you like this idea, take advantage of the ones that allow you to turn them on in the package at the store. That way, you can get a better idea if it might work for you.

In spite of the hand thing, I’ve been excited about this. The finish is just perfect for this project. It’s smooth and glossy, and is far more durable than regular unfinished inkjet paper. It also deepens the colors of the printouts. I use an Epson with pigmented Dura-Brite inks. I’m not sure how others would hold up to this process, but I imagine they’d be similar.

Mar 272010
 

Tyvek is so versatile. I’ve been trying to find the right cover material for a set of miniature books (more on them later). I decided Tyvek might be the way to go.

My favorite way of decorating Tyvek is to use a foam cosmetic sponge dipped in acrylic ink. I evenly smooth the color over the Tyvek, rubbing it in with the foam sponge.

It’s best to work on top of some scrap paper and to wear vinyl or rubber gloves (I like the close-fitting kind, not the dishwashing kind).

Rubbing an even layer of the ink into the Tyvek brings out the patterns of its non-woven fibers. And one of the nicest things about acrylic ink is that it doesn’t leave any discernible texture or tackiness–perfect for book pages. It just soaks into the Tyvek.

Once the Tyvek is decorated, it can be used for all sorts of things. Cut into strips, it can be used as decorative tapes to sew signatures onto. Keith Smith, in Non-adhesive Binding Books Without Paste or Glue, says of it: “Archival, flexible and strong, Tyvek seems perfect for pages in a book. It can be sewn…and since it is strong, it can be a substitute for book cloth. PVA must be used for the adhesive…”

I’ve used it for accordion pages and small book covers. Most of what I’ve read claims it’s archival, although I think nobody will know for certain until it has been used for more decades. Keith Smith cautions that some binders are skeptical, warning that the plasticizer in it may eventually dry out and shatter. That said, the stuff is used to wrap houses and it’s a popular art material. I just use it and enjoy.

This shows a little gift book I made a while ago. The cover material and the pages are paste-painted Tyvek. I wish the photo could convey its tactile quality — very sturdy, yet people seem to like to pet the covers and pages.

Mar 202010
 

I mentioned a while ago that I’ve experimented with using magnets for closures, with limited and varied success. The problem was the tiny magnets I’ve tried are very strong, but once the bookcloth and/or paper are placed on top, they aren’t really strong enough. Recently I got some more, slightly bigger, magnets from my favorite source. Oh my.

The first difference was after I unpacked them. The stack of square ones (1/2″ x 1/2″ x 1/16″) held together with such force I couldn’t pull them apart! I do realize that I don’t have the strongest hands, but still… it took surprising effort. The trick was to carefully slide them with as much strength as I could manage (and even then I somehow got my hand in the way and got pinched hard enough to start dripping blood…yike).

Then I discovered that if you leave one sitting too close to the rest of the stack–say, within a foot or two of it–it will, after a while, begin to move and will SLAM into the stack…with enough force to smash the attracted magnet into shards. Pretty trippy.

I’m thinking these babies will have enough force under bookcloth and paper to work (hopefully not too well), although I have yet to try them out in anything. I’ll let you know when I do. I should add that the company I got these from recommends this size for brochure closures.

Those with pacemakers and metal implants should probably steer clear…

Sep 202009
 

A while back I was on the hunt for a decent pasting brush. I’d been using standard cheap brushes, and had invested in a more traditional round brush (for clear paste), which wasn’t going to be helpful for painting. None of the brushes I’d tried really worked well.

One day I was browsing in the hardware store. On a whim, I decided to treat myself to a fairly good synthetic house painting brush. The bristles were firm, but not too stiff. As it turned out, it was the best brush I’d ever used for such purposes. Paste  flows smoothly and the hairs don’t fall out. It’s quickly turned into one of those things I wouldn’t want to be without. I wound up getting more in different sizes and with different handles. You really do get what you pay for. Now that I’ve experienced these, I never want to go back to the $1 specials!

If you want to make paste paper, good brushes will make a difference. My favorite paste recipe comes from Diane Maurer-Mathison:

Blend 1/4 C. cornstarch with 1/4 C. water.

Add 1 C. water and heat on medium high, stirring with a whisk until it thickens.

Remove from heat. Add 1/2 C. water and let it cool thoroughly. Strain if necessary. When cool, divide into containers. I use roughly 1/4 cup of paste for each color, but this can be varied. Add a teaspoon or two of acrylic or watercolor paint to each portion of paste.

This paper was done with copper acrylic paint mixed into the paste, painted on black paper. The pattern was created with a dental tool that came as a freebie from somewhere. I think it’s supposed to be some sort of tongue cleaning device, but I much prefer it as an art supply. This dental tool decorated paper is in honor of a friend who almost just needed a root canal. (Hi there, M!)

The blue one below was done on Tyvek. The results tend to be a little more muted than when done on paper, but that often adds to the interesting effect. The golden pattern was done on the shiny side of some Japanese Masa paper. Most of the others (examples in the previous post) were done on Strathmore drawing paper, which I’ve found to be extremely versatile.

Mar 242009
 

This is so Martha Stewart-ish it’s embarrassing. I decoupaged the knobs on my little plastic organizer drawers. Since I recently got another one, I thought I’d provide a tutorial.

First, mask around the knobs.

I use Golden Self-Leveling Clear Gel as both adhesive and final coating. It holds up well. I’ve had a set of these drawers in my bathroom for years, and the knobs are still fine. Since these particular knobs are a little rough in texture, it holds the gel and doesn’t flake off.

 

Tear up bits of paper. Thin papers that are easy to mold around things when wet are best. This here is Nepalese Lokta (a fabulous all-around paper). Various Japanese papers work great too.

Brush on a coat of the self-leveling gel.
I recommend wearing rubber gloves—it makes this much easier and neater.

Begin to layer on the paper, using a thin, even coat of the gel.

 

After you’ve completely covered each knob, let them dry overnight. At this point, you could finish up by applying another couple of coats of gel, drying completely between each one. However, I had some nice Italian paper sitting around, so I thought I’d add a final touch with it.

I cut out pieces shaped to fit on the knobs, and adhered these on top using the same self-leveling gel. I then brushed another coat of the gel on top. I left them to dry overnight. I then added another couple of coats, drying thoroughly (preferably overnight) between each.

Voilà.