Book Repair Workshop

Recently we held our Bookevent2 at The Cross Art + Books where John Turner of the Bookbinders Guild kindly ran a workshop to show us how to make simple repairs and to gain a deeper understanding of the bookbinder’s craft. Here are the notes from the workshop:

Some simple book repair and refurbishment tips

  1. Tightening joints on a cloth covered book (Outer hinge OK, inner joints OK, but boards a little loose).
  • Particularly with small books, results can be excellent using this method. What we are doing is reconstituting the cloth, cheesecloth (mull) lining and the endpaper at the joint.
  • Load a knitting needle or kebab skewer with PVA (available at art shops) and work it gently up and down, inside the joint, under the cloth.
  • Close the book.
  • Use a bone folder to shape the groove on the outside of the joint.
  • Open again in 1 hour or so.
  1. Cloth case – fraying at head, tail, corners.
  • Don’t overdo this, but the PVA will generally dry clear and the sheen will often match the cloth.
  • Work a very small amount of PVA onto the worn area with fingers.
  • Mould misshapen areas at head and tail into shape.
  • Leave for 1 hour.
  • Remaining frayed bits can be trimmed off with a small scissors to neaten.
  1. Cloth case – stained or faded patches.
  • Slightly dampen a commercial cleaning cloth (untreated types such as blue and white or wettex), and brush gently across both the faded and brighter areas. (Most old cloths are water soluble).
  • The trick here is to start carefully and work up to a bit more pressure. What you are doing is spreading the colour – taking a little from the fresher areas to replace the colour lost in other areas.
  • You may care to do a test in an inconspicuous spot first.
  • Wait for one board to dry before doing the other.
  • If you are careful, gilt decoration is usually not affected. Any pigment lying on the gold can be rubbed off. But, this is not always the case and you may care to test small area first. Colour blocking on the cloth (e.g. black) is a little more tricky and some dulling and discolouration often results.
  1. Cloth case – colour dulled.
  • Some of the original sheen can be put back via wax (I use hair wax).
  • Apply a very small amount to a cloth (or the palm of your hand) and work in.
  • Work carefully – if too much is put on in one patch it can be hard to even out.
  • Work lightly over the whole area in even sweeps.
  1. Repairing broken inner joints (boards not too loose, but endpaper split).
  • A strip of thinnish cream coloured Japanese tissue (Kozo is a good variety) can be used to repair.
  • Don’t cut the strip, but score the edges with a sharp pint and tear along the grain. The grain on Japanese tissue can be seen by looking at the paper against light – the grain matches the long lines. Grain should run on the book from head to tail.
  • Strip should be just wide enough to cover the width of the joint, and be the same length as the endpaper head to tail.
  • Apply Paste or a PVA/paste mixture with a brush. (Paste down on a sheet of glass or a piece of Gladbake to prevent sticking).
  • Carefully lift up the strip with both hands and place over the split. The strip should just reach the vertical surface of the joint.
  • Rub down carefully with your fingers, or the bone folder.
  • Leave open for a few hours to dry.
  • This method also strengthens and tightens loose joints.
  1. Detached plates
  • These can usually be tipped in by putting a very narrow strip of PVA or paste along the inner edge.
  • If you have steady hand, just hold the plate and run a brush along the inner edge.
  • Alternatively, lay down the plate on some waste paper, lay another piece on top, just exposing 2 or 3mm on the inner edge and apply adhesive.
  • Open the book to where the plate should lie, carefully align the plate, head and tail, tip in so that the inner edge of the plate touched the inner fold of the book.
  • Use a bone folder to press along the inner edge of the plate so that it beds in.
  • Close the book and let dry.

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