Giacomo Joyce Part Three: Casing-in, Board Piercing and Box Making

With the text block sewn, the spine lined and flat and the case covered in leather it was time to connect them together! I applied PVA glue to both the spine of the book and the inside of the false round dowel of the case. I then got the text block in position and pushed the two pieces together, before leaving it to dry under a weight.

Once I was sure the glue had dried I was able to open the boards and remove the waste sheets that I had attached to either side of the text block to reveal the leather joint. The joint was mitred at the point it met the turn-in on the board and then stuck down along the length with PVA glue. I made sure I rubbed it down well with the tips of my fingers so that it was well adhered, before closing the book board carefully making sure the joint didn’t bubble anywhere along the length. Once closed, I opened it once more just to double check it had glued properly before closing the board again and repeating on the other side.

The turn-ins were trimmed square on all sides of the board, and a piece of watercolour paper was cut to the correct size to stick down and infill the recess. The watercolour paper was sanded flush once it was properly dry and a layer of Zerkall was then stuck down on top, cut to a slightly smaller size than that of the boards. Once completely dry this was also sanded to remove any lumps and bumps in the surface.

It was at this stage I was able to plan piercing out the holes to provide the viewing holes right through the boards. I marked the sections I intended to cut out with little pieces of post-it notes, so I could visualise the placement of them, as you can see in the below right image.

When working on the sample board I cut the holes through the board using a scalpel, peeling out layers as I cut through it but there was much more room for error in cutting the embroidery threads doing it this way. Instead, I decided to use a jewellers piercing saw to cut the holes – the blade is very fine and they cut slowly so are fairly easy to control. The cutting produced some dust so I made sure to give it a blow fairly often so I could see the cutting line, which I placed about 2mm in from the stitched line to avoiding cutting it with the blade.

It was a little daunting at first: after spending hours and hours paring, marking and embroidering the leather before sticking it to the boards of the book, to then suddenly be cutting holes out of it whilst avoiding cutting the stitching too!

~ Piercing the book board with a jeweller’s piercing saw

I was pleased with the cut that was made and it gave a much straighter and neater edge than if I had used the same method as on the sample board, cutting through with a scalpel. Given the board lamination was thicker too on the book in comparison to the sample board construction, it was by far the best method to use.

For the holes in the more central regions of the boards, I had to turn to a piercing saw with a much longer throat so that I could reach the areas to cut. For these harder to reach holes, I first drilled a small hole right through the board in each of the corners of the shape. The drill bit was chosen to be just slightly bigger than the width of the fine metal blade of the saw, so that the blade could be slid through before fastening it tight into the saw in order to start the cutting.

Piercing saws, also known as jeweller’s saws comprise of a metal frame and handle that hold a fine saw blade using tension. As the fine blades break frequently, many frames are adjustable for blade length to allow the re-use of broken pieces. I certainly got through a lot of blades during this part of the binding process, mainly because it was so hard to hold the tension in the saw frame whilst trying to push the blade through the small drilled hole and then tighten it all at the same time, I could have definitely done with an extra pair of hands for this job!

Once each of the holes had been cut, it was time to stick the doublures down! The plan was to stick the full, uncut sheet down with PVA glue and once dry the holes would be pierced through this paper afterwards.

I used a sharp scalpel to slice the paper away to reveal the holes through the boards. At the stage of embroidering the paper doublures, I planned carefully so none of the stitched words fell where the holes were going to be cut!

~ Piercing the holes through the paper doublure

The final touch was to line the edges of these holes with the thinly pared leather I had sourced at the start of the project – chosen to to correspond with the thread colours on the cover. Each hole was covered with a different colour, the leather was cut into strips the same size as the thickness of the board and covering materials. I used fine tweezers to get them into place and stuck them down using PVA glue.

For the holes that I had made on the outer edges like in the below image, I had to also take into account the bevel that had been made on the board. The strip of covering leather therefore had to be carefully trimmed once it was dry so it also followed the board bevel, using the size 15 Swann Morton scalpel blade again making really sure I didn’t catch the sewing threads.

~ Trimming the leather at the hole on the board edges

This concluded the work on the book and all that was left to do was make a box! The client requested a drop-back box to house this book in, and given the scale of the book of course the box was also a good size. I made up two interlocking trays that were covered in cerise bookcloth, with the outer part of the box covered in pale green bookcloth. It was super satisfying that the size of the box was the perfect size for my litho stone (see the bottom middle picture) which made it the perfect weight to use when sticking the trays to the outer case!

I also embroidered the title onto the same grey leather as the cover and glued this into a recessed area made on the spine of the box. The box was then lined with felt and the inside edges of the lid were lined with strips of the printed paper that I had leftover from the endpapers and doublures.

It was a satisfying feeling to have completed the binding and the book, in what I thought was enough time to reach Bromer Booksellers for it to be at their booth during the Boston Antiquarian book fair. Alas that wasn’t the case and it sat all wrapped up in it’s box in customs for a rather long time!

The penultimate thing to do for this binding was to photograph it (the final step being the one I am working on now – the long write up about how it was made!). The bookbinding studio was temporarily turned into a photography studio with the aid of a couple of bulldog clips and a roll of white bookcloth as a hanging backdrop from the oak roof truss.

There are so many angles to capture of a book, and then extra if you also include the box! Here are a couple that show the variation in the colours of paper on the back endpaper plus my little book signature which was tooled onto leather and glued onto the back endpaper. You can also see in the below left image how the section edges were deckled on the bottom edge, with the pages all running to slightly different lengths however the stubs are all folded to the same length.

And here you can see an image of the sample board held against the binding. The sample board I get to keep that will remind me of all the decisions I made whilst working on this particular binding.

~ Showing the sample board held up against the front book cover

Last but not least I also took my first video I of a completed binding which you can see here, inspired by some other binders I have seen doing the same, I think it is a great way to capture the book as a whole. For more stills and to read a little more about the materials used you can visit the Fine Bindings section on my website here where this binding is listed – thanks for reading this far!

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