Minute

The latest We Love Your Books exhibition, Minute, is now up at the University of Northampton. It includes my flip book depicting one minute on the clock. This year the exhibit in Northampton was selected from a larger online show, and views of it can be seen here. A catalogue can be seen and bought here. “Minute” could be interpreted in any way desired, and there’s some genuinely fascinating work here.

Board Book Tutorial

I haven’t seen many instructions around for making a board book. So I thought I’d share mine.

Some things to consider before starting:

  • I usually use 4-ply museum board when making board books. Illustration board, matboard, chipboard or any thin, stiff and lightweight support can also be used.
  • The paper you use for your pages will form the hinge between your boards, so it should be strong enough to withstand lots of bending. As with most books, the grain of both the boards and paper should run parallel to the spine.
  • It is important to cut your boards accurately and squared. Take your time when you cut.

Making the Board Book Pages

To get straight page spreads that are joined together evenly, you need to line up your boards against a straight edge. This needs to be anchored down either with removable tape, or by putting it against something that won’t move, such as a brick or other weight. I prefer tape. [Note: many “removable” tapes will cure after a few days and become more permanent. I discovered this the hard way after leaving an acrylic quilting ruler taped down for a week.]

carpenter's square used to align boards
You don’t have to use a square–a simple straight edge will do. But accurate alignment is important.

At any rate, tape your straight edge to your work surface with drafting or artists’ tape. I prefer to use a flat L-square — it gives you two sides to line your pages against. [Edit: I later devised an improved jig setup for this. See note at the end for a link to it.]

Also make sure you have something close at hand for wiping your glue-covered fingers. As all bookbinders know, glue-covered fingers are the Devil’s friend.

To begin, you’ll need to have your boards cut to the size you’d like your book to be. Your page spreads should not be trimmed exactly to size before mounting. It’s easier to trim a little excess off of the pages once they are glued than to try to match paper and boards exactly when gluing.

The example instructions are assuming you have 8 boards, which will make a 14 page book (7 page spreads) and a cover.

  • Take two of your boards and line them up against your straight edge. When making board books, you don’t need a large space between your boards. When working with museum board, I use a single board thickness.

  • Place one of your page papers on your scrap paper and carefully put a thin, even coating of PVA on the back. Carefully position your glued paper onto your boards. It can be tricky to do this without your boards moving — it gets easier with practice. If the paper I’m mounting has to be positioned exactly (ie to line up text or pictures exactly on the page), I’ll trim off a side — one that will fit against the straight edge–and leave the others untrimmed. [Note: if your finished book is wobbly, you likely have gaps in the glue near the spine. Be sure that you have evenly glued the entire board.]

    Lining up one edge, saving the others to trim later.
  • Immediately after gluing, quickly wipe the glue off your fingers. Using your bone folder or a hard brayer, carefully smooth down your paper-covered boards. Put your joined pair of boards aside (preferably under weight) to dry. When they are dry, trim off the extra paper around the edges.

    I actually find a brayer easier to use here than a bone folder. Either will do.
  • Make three other pairs the same way.
  • Now take two joined pairs and line them up on the straight edge, closed, side by side, with spine edges facing each other. Check that the tops of the pages are in the right place. Join these with a paper page the same way you joined the single boards.
Two pairs lined up.
  • Join the other pairs the same way. Ideally you will end in the middle of the book with the last remaining page spread, with an equal number of pages on either side. If, however, your book does not come out with an even number of pages on each side, prop spare boards under the shorter side until the height is equal. Then you can glue your paper on them without distortion.
  • After the book block is dry, you can go back and brush a thin even layer of glue over the spine and then let it dry before proceeding. You want to ensure that there are no gaps at the spine that will make the book wobbly.

Making the Drop Spine Cover

  • Place your book face down (front down with edges facing the edge) on the left end of your cover paper, allowing a little bit of extra room on the side to trim off later. Where the spine begins, (keeping in mind the paper “hinges” that stick out a little bit between the boards–roughly half a board width extra), carefully mark in pencil. Draw a line. Measure the thickness with of the spine with dividers (or fold a scrap paper over the spine to determine the width) and transfer this marking to the appropriate place on the cover paper. (Or, if you’re feeling lazy, tip the book onto its spine, carefully lined up with the mark you made where the spine begins, and mark the width on the other side of the spine with a pencil.)  Score both spine edges.
Tilting book on spine.
  • Now on the back cover side, to the right of the spine width you just marked, repeat the same measurement as the spine width to the right of the spine. Mark and score this third line.

  • Turn the cover right side up. Make mountain folds for the spine, and a valley fold at the extra score. Smooth well with bone folder. Then lightly straighten the valley fold (don’t bone).

    Checking cover fit.
  • Wrap cover around the book to check the fit. If it looks ok, place your cover on scrap paper, wrong side up, and place a thin even layer of glue everywhere except between your first and last score lines. Neither the spine nor the extra space next to the spine should have any glue. I find it helps to mask the area you won’t be gluing with a scrap paper.

  • Carefully fit your book into the cover, smoothing the glued portions onto the front and back boards. Wipe glue from your fingers. Smooth the glued parts with your bone folder or roller. Put waxed paper between the pages and press under weight until dry.
  • When dry, trim off excess paper around the edges.

When There’s a Specific Page Order

It’s possible to attach each page spread in the order it will be in the finished book (ie begin with pages 1 and 2, then 3 and 4 . . . ). However, this is awkward.

A better way is to determine your page order beforehand and make all of the 2-page spreads first, followed by joining those pairs together with the remaining page spreads (the same way we made our prototype). The only hitch is that we need to figure out ahead of time which pages are going to be the 2-page single spreads and which will be the pages that will be joining the separate pairs together.

To do this, you need to make a mockup before beginning. You can just use little scraps of paper folded in half to stand in visually for your page spreads. Place them in the order of your book, piled one on top of the other (not like a pamphlet), making note of which pages represent the ones in your final book. By looking at this, you can determine which spreads will be “pairs” (the single spreads you made) and which will be “coupler” pages that will link the pairs together.

When you’ve figured this out, make a chart or list for quick reference.

An example of pages mapped out for a board book I’m working on. (This particular board book will include a 3-page spread and a pull-out, so not all of the details apply to our example.)
An example of pages mapped out for a board book I’m working on. (This particular board book will include a 3-page spread and a pull-out, so not all of the details apply to our example.)

Now you can go ahead and make your single pairs first, then join them with the “coupler” pages in an order that will make the book easier to assemble.

If you want rounded corners, you can trace a round object, such as a coin, that’s the right size and trim. Or you can use a corner rounder or punch that will go through board. If you become obsessed with board books and other structures with rounded corners, you might even invest in a more durable corner rounder…

Corner lust–this will cut through 6 museum boards at a time.
The finished example, showing the drop spine on the back cover.

[Edit: I later added another post with more info on making a gluing jig for board books. This might make the process easier.]

Other Resources for Learning to Make Board Books

 

Tip of the Day: Blade Disposal

We all know we should be changing our knife blades frequently. Dull blades make displeasing cuts and are more likely to harm you. But it’s a nuisance to stop in the middle of working to wrap each blade for proper disposal (and we do this, of course, because we care about our trash collectors and the roaming animals sampling our bins on garbage night… right?).

Or else the blades sit out on our work tables waiting to be disposed of. Need I even mention why this is not such a good idea?

There is a better way. If you don’t have one already, consider making yourself an arts ‘n crafts sharps collector. Get a container with a tight-fitting lid. Something like a margarine container will work.

Cut a slit in the lid that will comfortably fit your blades. Securely attach the lid to the container.

And since this is for arts ‘n crafts, you might want to appropriately decorate your new item. At the very least you should write on it to make it clear it has dangerous sharp things in it. (And, of course, this is only for adult-friendly workspaces! Very dangerous, not a plaything, use caution, blades are sharp, you have been duly warned, I’m not legally responsible if anything bad happens, etc.)

I made this one here several years ago. It’s one of the most used things in my studio. I’ve been dumping all my old scalpel and rotary blades in here for all that time, and there’s still room for more. (Although I have to slip off the lid for the big rotary blades.) Nothing has ever cut through or poked out of the plastic container, but I’m sure that doesn’t mean it still couldn’t at some point.

When it’s full, I might carefully seal the blades in a sturdy container and dispose of it in a garbage company-approved manner. Or I might fill a jar with all these scalpel blades and keep it as a decorative piece in the studio.

Bookbinding Soft Weight Tutorial

Time to add to my collection of soft weights. I actually have more than I’ll ever need. But I don’t yet have any chipmunk weights . . .

These are so handy when you need to weigh down small or irregularly-shaped items as they dry. Not everything fits in a press or under boards or a brick. I often use these when making miniature books or boxes.

I originally found instructions on Pam Sussman’s Book Arts Studio blog. This is very similar, but with my own tweak or two.

Aside from some cloth, you’ll need some BB’s. As Pam recommended, I’ve been using the copper coated premium type. Lead buckshot is traditional. However, I’m thinking unless you like the idea of sacrificing for your art in the way of Caravaggio, it’s probably not recommended. [Actually, I believe these are lead-based as well, but coated. I wanted an excuse to insert the Caravaggio link.]

For each weight, you’ll need:

  • BBs as described above
  • 2-3 plastic Ziploc-style bags that are around 3″x5″ (7.5 x 13 cm) or 4″x6″ (10 x 15 cm)
  • Two pieces of fabric cut 1″ ( 2.5 cm) larger on the sides and about 1.5″ (4-ish cm) longer than your Ziploc-style bags

Place the fabric right sides together and sew around 3 sides using a 1/4″ seam allowance (my metric conversion says approximately .6 cm, but the 10 mark on my sewing machine gauge is the one closest. You non-Americans can probably figure it out.). I go over the seam 2-3 times to make sure it is really strong. Clip the corners and press the seams open. Tuck the open top down about 1/2″ all around and press. Turn right-side out.

Fill one of the Ziplocs with BBs. Make it full, but not too full and tight. The feel of a firm beanbag is good. Personally, I don’t care for the slight scent of the BBs. I also don’t trust one flimsy plastic bag not to tear. So after I fill up the Ziploc and firmly seal it, I tuck it inside another Ziploc the same size, top side down. This one here in the example is actually triple-ply. This makes your weight sturdier, and also insures that the slight aroma of BBs stays inside where it belongs.

Slip the filled sack of BBs into your sewn pouch. You could hand stitch it shut, but for laziness and durability I prefer finishing with a regular straight stitch on the machine. Like the other seams, I go over it at least once more. This will give you a nice solid weight that will feel like a heavy beanbag. This one here is 3 1/4 lbs (1.5 kg). The smaller ones in the first picture are more like 1 to 1-1/2 lbs (.5-.7 kg). Either size is handy for weighing down small and awkward items as they dry.

Ta da!

A Tunnel Book Evolves

My friend Shirley sent me a British children’s book from the 50s that is (more or less) about human evolution. She thought it looked like perfect material for an altered book.

She was right.

A couple of months ago, a call went out from MarinMOCA for their annual altered book show. I got out my scissors. A little natural selection, anyone?

I gutted the book. It has some basic human biology in it as well, but I decided to focus on the evolution bits for the sake of cohesion. I mounted the cutouts with dry adhesive onto stiff paper. Then I arranged the chosen elements into layers.

I cut out several identical black frames from stiff black Strathmore paper and folded two accordions from black German Ingres (the stuff is strong, but thin enough to fold into a nice pliable structure). I anchored the cutouts onto the paper frames.

 

Then I added hinges made of the Ingres onto the back of each frame.

 

I used 3M 415 double-sided tape for mounting. Why use glue when it can be avoided? Especially when there’s a good archival alternative.

 

The downside is it has no open time for repositioning. Stick it once, and it’s there forever. That’ll keep you on your toes. Additionally, I hadn’t made a tunnel book in a long time. I’d forgotten that it can feel like binding a Slinky. Eventually, however, a rhythm emerges and it’s not too bad. Also, I quickly remembered that the best way to handle double-sided tape is to not peel off the backing paper all at once after positioning. It’s best to line up the page into position and then slide the liner off the tape as you go:

 

On the up side, I’d also forgotten how theatrical and fun a finished tunnel book can be, especially a larger one like this.


The finished tunnel is a tight fit into the original cover. If I’d had more time, I might’ve considered altering the spine to fit more properly. On the other hand, this way seems more in the altered book spirit.

I’ve had a few original (not altered) tunnel projects sitting around half finished. Now that my appetite has been whetted, I want to make more tunnels!

If you’re near the San Francisco Bay Area, consider checking out the 3rd Annual Altered Book Show at MarinMOCA in Novato, where Modern Marvels: Man will be on exhibit. It opens April 21. More details are on their website.

And the winner is…

…each of the nice people who commented on my last post! To show my appreciation, I am putting my vending machine capsule books into a cookie jar and randomly drawing one for each of you. Thank you all for your comments and good wishes!

I’ve emailed everyone whose mailing addresses I don’t already have. If you think you should’ve been one of those people and haven’t heard from me, please let me know.


Three Years, and They’re Still Here (Plus a Giveaway)

My experiment in blogging began three years ago today. Chewing with the Paper Chipmunk has changed quite a bit since then. A lot of things have changed since then.

Peek-a-boo...I see you...

But one thing has not.

My very first post was about the black widow spiders in my studio. They, alas, are still here. As I walked in the door the other day, I spied a rather large specimen darting behind a big heavy bookcase that is bolted to the wall (this is, after all, California). I can’t move the bookcase, and there isn’t much I can stick back there with which to remove her nor, I am imagining, her several hundred children waiting to hatch.

I’m not particularly worried about being bitten. Black widows, as far as I know, keep to themselves and don’t wander too far. She’s kind of cute, in her way. I’ve since seen her hide upon sight of me a few other times. Charming. Really. Delightful. Most delightful.

And now that I’ve probably scared off all my spider phobic readers (Wait! Come back!), I want to announce a celebratory blogiversary giveaway—my very first. I never dreamt three years ago how many fabulously eccentric, fun, funny, creative and all-around wonderful people I would meet through this blog. Thank you all.

Leave a comment, and I’ll send you a little surprise. I loved Amanda Watson-Will’s idea of sending a little something to several people (and, I must say, her little giveaway book was delightful). I’m not sure if my small surprise will be delightful, but that will be the idea here, at least for all legitimate and welcome comments (alas, unfortunately there’s been a dark side to having the blog as well…). The deadline is the end of this coming weekend (before Monday 12th) California time.

And I promise—you won’t find any stowaways in the the package.

Radio Show for Stationery Fetishists

I suspect this won’t be available past this week, but I wanted to mention a BBC Radio 4 program called The Stationery Cupboard. It’s about why people have such a deep attachment to stationery and office supplies. I thought my fellow paper fetishists would enjoy listening to it as much as I have. It’s a half hour long. [Update: as of May, it’s still available.]

From BBC Radio 4

Poison

They are bad luck to climb on as well.

Heavens. I’m feeling superstitious about my last post mentioning ladders and superstition. Shortly afterwards, I fell off a stepladder. Remarkably little damage was done, considering. I’m ok. Still, a bit unnerving. I’ve been trying to tidy up the studio a bit (which sounds so tame–actually, I can’t work in there at the moment. It’s utter chaos). Perhaps there should be superstitious beliefs about high shelves.

I’d sworn I was not going to commit myself to anything this year. Then I signed up with Book Art Object … and now I just signed up to also do a second 10-book edition for Book Art Object. My second title will be Poison. I’m wondering how strict the definition of “book” is over there. I was originally thinking of another “children’s” board book, but then I started contemplating the medicine bottles filled with capsules I did several years ago. I also recently came into possession of a bunch of discarded psychiatry journals. Possibilities there, somehow? Perhaps not straight capsules, but something similar that provides texts and pictures. Or perhaps something completely different–say, a book about how some people are poison? Just dreaming up ideas at this point. I like this part of the creative process–mad scribbling of ideas and playing around with things to see what might work. And it’s much more enjoyable if I start now, rather than waiting 8 months into the project.