Bookmaking: Secret Belgian Binding

This workshop, with Jean Riley, was a good way to first explore the Belgian Binding technique.  One or two things could have been better but, overall, it worked out well.  I’ll highlight a few things to consider when constructing books.

We were supplied with the materials required to create a book and matching box.  Jean likes to work this way as she is then assured that everyone will turn up with the correct board, inner leaves, covering paper and thread.  She provided a good quality 150gsm cartridge paper for the pages.  These were folded and formed into groups of 6 sheets (making a signature).  I made 10 signatures: 10 sets of 6 folded sheets = 120 single pages.

Jean brought an interesting gadget to help position the holes in the sheets accurately.

PPA-BB1You can see that sheets of MDF have been attached to a frame at an angle whereby the signature sits open and holes can be pushed through using an awl.  One snag though: there is no underneath support half way along the length of the boards.  So when you try to punch a hole towards the bottom of your paper, as can be seen in the right hand photo, the boards actually push down and bend apart and the paper slips through the space, becoming trapped.  A reasonable basic design but badly executed.  Frankly I think my existing method of opening the Yellow Pages and doing the same thing works better.

The cover is made in three parts using box-board: front, back and spine.  Once covered with a feature paper they are then held together with bulldog clips whilst the stitching is done.

The first problem was the covering paper.  A lovely paper: lightweight paper on the underside with a plastic-like snake-skin effect on the outer.  Unfortunately, the minute it hit glue it stretched horribly.  Murderous to cover the box-board without creasing.

PPA-BB2The second problem was the clips.  Not in a thousand years would they hold the covers and spine in place, the whole lot just kept falling apart.  So I abandoned one clip and started lacing from that end towards the semi-held section.  That worked better.  Photo left: outer cover. Right: inside, showing the lacing pattern.

The third issue was the stitching thread.  Who in their wildest dreams would lace a book together (after all the effort to make each part of it) with 6 strand embroidery cotton?  Completely nuts, unattractive and will, over time, definitely become ‘furry’ and stretch.  How I wish I’d taken my own bookbinding thread.

OK, it was a workshop and I can live with it as a sample.  Damned shame though.  If I undo it I have to restitch every signature back in place.

PPA-BB3Finished inner and outer cover.

PPA-BB4Above:  Close up of signatures being attached to the inside cover.

PPA-BB5Above: the finished book and book-box.

The techniques taught were interesting, valuable and have given me a new skill.  The tutor was excellent but some of the materials she supplied could have been better.  We were using PVA glue to attach the covering paper and next time I think I might try my Japanese chine collé glue (rice glue).  I have a feeling I might prefer it.

About Claire B

I'm a passionate printmaker, paper-maker and a poor sketcher (which I'm working to improve). I've stitched from early childhood and am a perpetual student, loving learning and participating in everything creative.
This entry was posted in My Creative Pieces, Workshops & Classes and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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