Matilda Part Four: The Box and the Completed Binding

Last, but my no means least, in this blog series details how I came up with a box design for this book.

I wanted the container to be made as a reference to the ‘Chokey’ cupboard that Miss Trunchbull locks children in all day if they misbehave. She uses this device during her tenure as principal of Crunchem Hall whenever the children break the rules.

Closely resembling an iron maiden, the Chokey is designed to be narrow that no one can sit or squat while in it. Its measurement is said to be 10 inches and is filled with broken glass sticking out of the walls with nails on the door. The device was one of many dreaded my students as anyone imprisoned who tries to wobble would either be spiked by the glass or the nails.

I drew up some designs for the box to send to a very skilled woodworker I know to make for me. I had to use my artistic licence here a bit as I couldn’t be totally accurate taking the description of the Chokey word for word as I needed to make the footprint to an appropriate size for the book, plus I didn’t think it would be safe to add real nail and broken glass internally in the box alongside the binding!

The oak box is designed to be much longer than the book to give the appearance of it being very long and tall, with a door at the front to look like a cupboard. To make it more door-like I asked a former mount-making colleague if he would be able to turn a little brass doorknob on his metalworking lathe for me – a few days later it appeared in the post!

I am lucky to know so many wonderful makers that were able to help me out with elements of this. In addition to the wooden carcass and the brass doorknob, I was able to entrust another mount-making friend of mine to make some pieces out of acrylic for me.

The real Chokey had broken glass shards sticking out of the walls. To mimic this I asked her to cut, bend and polish some acrylic shards for me, to screw into the back of the box to give the appearance of the broken glass – I figured this would be a bit safer all round!

I asked her to prepare the pieces in short runs so that there would be the opportunity for me to play around with their placement. Each shard was pre-drilled and countersunk which would allow me to screw them into the inside wall of the box. They shards were then cut on a bandsaw and the edges sanded on a disc sander.

They were then individually scraped to remove all the saw marks on the inside of the shards, before being polished to give the edges a shiny appearance. I was then able to peel off the protective coating and screw them into the box as part of the lining process.

The door of the box was constructed to look like a real panelled door and I was thrilled with it. I contemplated driving some nails right through it, cut to an appropriate length so that they wouldn’t actually touch the binding inside but just felt it was too risky!

I found some short little tacks on an old display board I had in the studio which, when pulled out of the edge of the board, I realised were the perfect length to drive through the door of the box without the sharp end protruding out the other side. What I decided to do was use these to spell out ‘Matilda’ in children’s writing as the title for the box. In addition to this I stuck paper “nails” into the inner panel of the door. These two things in combination were used as a representation for the nails sticking out of the Chokey walls, put there by Miss Trunchbull so that the children were forced to stand still within the cupboard for fear of getting spiked by them or cut by the glass.

~ Creating the book title on the door of the box using tacks

I made a little tray, covered in book cloth, to stick into the bottom of the wooden box for the book to stand upright in. Within this little tray I added a book shoe. A book shoe is in essence a slipcase without a top that is fitted with a text-block support. The shoe holds the book closed and the support removes much of the strain on the text block of a vertically shelved book.

In the base of the tray I stuck a piece of card, the same thickness as the size of the book shoulders, and with the same footprint as that of the bottom edge of the book and was covered in black paper. I lined the back of the box with black felt, and the sides in more of the black paper.

I was really pleased with the end result. The tray was made to be just tall enough so that the top of it sat beneath where the chalkboard started on the book.

I always aim to write up blog posts about each of my design bindings, in some ways I have made a rod for my own back as it is very time consuming. Along with the finished images of the book, not only do I have to go through and edit all the work in progress images I took, I then have to order them and add them to my website before I can begin writing the blog. There are so many steps that go into making a fine binding, and even more when it is one as complex as this copy of Matilda! I am pleased to not only share images of the completed binding but also to be able to share images of how I got there.

I took a video of this book in action, showing how the hinged chalkboard panels open and close which I will be adding to the end of this final blog post very soon so watch this space!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *