The Time Traveler’s Wife Part Four: Tooling and Box

~ Covering the text block with the leather using paste

Once all the embroidery was complete the next step was to glue the leather to the text block. I made up some paste with bread flour and water and left it to cool down. I sprayed the front of the leather with water using an atomiser, and applied three layers of paste to the reverse of the leather using a paste brush, dabbing it down to allow it to spread evenly. In between each application of paste I left it to penetrate the leather for about ten minutes.

I applied a layer of PVA to the spine and joints of the text block just before covering to help with adhesion of the leather in these areas. The leather was applied and then turned in and formed at the head caps before the turn-ins were done at the edges of the boards. Once I was happy with the overall application of the leather the book was left to dry under a small weight in between boards. I changed the blotting papers regularly over the course of 24 hours until it was completely dry.

When the glue was completely dry I dampened the boards joints of the book using a water pen to soften the leather in this area before opening the boards for the first time.

~ Using a water pen to ease the opening of the book board for the first time after covering

The boards were opened up and the leather joints revealed by taking off the paper and cling film used to cap up the book earlier in the forwarding process, followed by the outer waste sheet that was tacked to the leather joint. Both boards of the book were opened and propped up on boards before gluing the leather joints down with PVA glue and rubbing down with a bone folder and my thumbs to ensure even adhesion. The boards were shut soon after the leather joints were glued and then left closed whilst the glue dried.

~ Putting down the leather joints

The leather joints were mitred along with the turn-ins of the outer covering leather at the top and bottom of the boards. The turn-ins were trimmed square all the way around the edges of the boards and then a layer of 145gsm watercolour paper was stuck in the centre as an infill. As the turn-ins had been pared to the same thickness as the watercolour paper (0.4mm) the level of the inside of the boards was nice and even at this stage.

~ Gluing down the watercolour paper infills inside the boards

A layer of Zerkall was cut slightly smaller than the total size of the boards and glued down on top of the watercolour paper infill using PVA glue. By doing this it created a layer that could be sanded to remove any bumps on the surface of the inner boards.

~ Laminating the inside of the boards with a layer of Zerkall

Once it was totally dry, the Zerkall was sanded flat to create a perfectly smooth surface for the final paper doublure to be glued on to.

~ Sanding the Zerkall layer flat

I had worked on the date-stamped paper doublures as one piece, so cut these to the size required for the boards. I had left some of the date slots blank, as I wanted to add some in as hand-written entries after the paper doublures were stuck down.

~ The completed paper doublures, printed with dates

With the doublures stuck down the only things left to do were to add some final details to the book cover. This included adding some detail with a fine red pen to the areas without stitching.

~ Adding pen detail to the bare sections of onlays

I also wanted to add a small amount of blind tooling to the outer edges of the board, just to add some visual difference to the leather at these points.

~ Preparing for blind tooling

Using a straight palette tool heated up on my stove, I blind tooled a series of dashes onto the outermost edge of the book boards to match the small stitches elsewhere on the cover. I also cut out some teardrop shapes from gold leaf that had been backed with Japanese paper and stuck these down to the centres of the leaves.

~ Blind tooling the outer edges of the book boards

The tooling was the last step in completing the binding but the book needed a box to live in! As the cover design was directly based on the brass perpetual calendar, I wanted to use this on the lid of the box to keep it together with the binding. I do not currently have the means to make my own wooden boxes as I do not have woodworking equipment available to me so commissioned a veneered wooden box to be made for me.

I supplied the carpenter with an annotated drawing, the calendar, some wooden veneer and hinges to work with and a few weeks later he sent back a working box with the shape of the calendar expertly cut out of the veneer at the top. By insetting the calendar into the veneer on the surface so that the top of the box was flush was a very neat way to do it. I also wanted to permanently attach the calendar to the lid of the box, but for it still to function with the moving disc on the back so asked for a large hole to be cut through the substrate so that it could be accessed from inside the box.

I unscrewed the disc from the back of the calendar and abraded the back of the brass using a coarse sandpaper. I applied epoxy glue to both surfaces, positioned the calendar in place then left it to dry in my nipping press for a few hours. Once the glue was dry and well adhered, I additionally drilled a series of small holes in four of the engraved leaf centres (one for each corner of the calendar), and passed some thin wire through the holes which was twisted at the back to strengthen the fixing of the calendar to the box lid.

~ Insetting the brass perpetual calendar into the veneer on the box lid

The box was hinged at one side, and some clasps attached on the other. Some bog oak was inserted into the edge of the box where the clasps were going to be placed to add some detail.

~ Adding some bog oak detail into the edge of the box where the hinges were to be attached

I repeated the title I had made for the binding for the box, to be glued down on the centre of the brass calendar. This also meant that I could hide the original wording of the calendar whilst using this space effectively. I glued the leather down to the calendar using Lascaux glue, which is perfect for sticking paper and leather to non-porous surfaces. A hole was cut in the centre of the leather so that the screw could pass through it.

~ Making a title label for the book box to attach to the centre of the brass perpetual calendar

Inside the lid of the box where the hole had been cut, I needed to line the inner edge of the void to hide the cut edge of the substrate. I used a thinly pared piece of red leather, and glued it in place with PVA glue, folding the edges over onto the face of the inner lid as this would then be concealed with felt when the box was lined.

~ The reverse of the calendar visible inside the lid of the box, with a circle drilled so the the brass disc on the back of the calendar could still be spun and used. You can also see the small twists of wire used to fix the calendar to the box lid in addition to the epoxy glue.

The back disc of the calendar was then reattached into the circular hole that had been cut inside the lid so that it could still be spun.

~ The calendar glued into the lid of the box

The box was finally ready to be lined with felt and a lifting ribbon was attached. I also inserted felt-covered corner spacers as the book was smaller than the box so needed to be padded out to stop the book from shifting around.

~ Lining the box with felt and off cuts of the paper printed with the date stamp

For all of the bindings I make with wooden boxes, I supply them with an additional outer conservation box ordered custom-made from the Bodleian Library in Oxford. I made a corresponding title label that was stuck to the spine of this card box so it could be identified on the shelf of my client’s library shelves.

~ A larger duplicate title made for the outer conservation box

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