Skipping straight to the result, I have two books. One a very simple single section item which has a cover, held together with an easy bind. The bind is essentially a lone thread which holds about three pieces of folded paper together.
The second of the two books is an indication of the over ambition and expectation which easily took over the project. The book is unfinished, made up of several sections and precisely bound by tear drop shaped stitches running up both ends of the spine.
I feel that perhaps I am being generous to say that there are two books. With no cover, no finished stitching and a significant lack of glue on the spine the second book is not complete, however it does represent my experience of bookbinding quite well.
The day started with coffee and a book. A book on binding books. It was lent to me by a fiend who has done something similar in the past. As she handed me the book and the relevant tools she said “this book makes it sound harder than it is”. The first section of the book was dedicated to the tools which are needed to get the job done. I am sure it would have been very useful to have weights in a variety of shapes and sizes, a special hammer as well as the dedicated time and space to get the job done properly. Immediately acting the expert I ignored most of the required items and laid out the tools which I considered essential to the job. Very methodically I followed the set of instructions to put together my first book. Excited and enthusiastic, 90% of my time was spent measuring and cutting the cover that I didn’t really want for the book that I felt was a bit boring in appearance. This is where ambition kicked in. Skipping the next section of the book I flipped over to the third project which was hard backed and covered in cloth. This matched much better with the end product I envisioned when first deciding to sample bookbinding.
This style of book is made up of sections which are pieces of paper folded in half and stacked together with the folded edge of these sections being sewn together to form the spine of the book. The stitch that the book advised was called a Kettle Stitch and proved to very methodical. After folding and stacking paper, creating a template for punching holes and making those holes accurately distributed along the fold of each section, I was ready to start sewing my sections together. Starting at one end of the first section, the needle and thread works its way from one end to the other, back and forth, stitching each section to the next. After the third repetition of this process I knew I had too many sections, not enough time, not enough patience and not enough enthusiasm left to make the cloth bound finished article. It was at this point that I regretted using our kitchen chopping board to secure the expansion of my book.
Finding time throughout the weekend and the evenings which followed I eventually managed to free up the chopping board and show off the skeleton of my second book. I feel proud about the end product having learned that, as is often the case, the first time always takes longer than I feel it should do. Much of the unaccounted for time is taken up with preparations, which when carefully done end up producing a much better product at the end. Fighting against preparatory tasks is a bit of a waste of energy and should instead be embraced, having said this I still maintain that the right tools are nice but not essential. As with most things, practice makes perfect and there are no shortcuts! I very much doubt that this is the start of a career change but I am very happy to have experienced an art which is still immensely useful to this day. If there is one thing which I have taken away from this, it is to take a special interest with what we work on. Whatever it is, give it the care and attention it deserves.