Feeling insecure in my profession—again. I was reading this bookbinder’s blog, and he is a true craftsman—a true professional. He has so much experience, and he writes well about it. I feel the full weight of my inadequacy and inexperience, and part of that weight is a feeling that it will never dissipate, that I lack the ambition to work in this field with the kind of dedication, ambition, and integrity that seems necessary and that I admire in so many of these craftsmen. I want what they have . . . and I don’t. And so I’m left without knowing where to direct my passions.


from the lab: recent work

here are some of the projects i have been working on in the lab this week (and from the last weeks). i find myself frequently yelling out, "this is so fun!" or at other times something sounding more like "blast!" or "curses!" all in all, tho, i've found work to be so satisfying.

and what could be more satisfying than throwing a print (possible lithograph) that looks like this (notice gross stains) and that's mounted with some nasty adhesive plastic-paper-something-or-other into a couple baths for a day and a half and find the stains actually do wash out!

this photo represents a few baths. first isopropyl alcohol. alcohol released the heat activated backing tissue on the print. once submerged in the alcohol, it was just a few minutes before the print had nearly lifted off from the adhesive backing by itself. like magic. second was an overnight soaking in a plain, deionized water bath. in the morning i replaced the water with hot water. it looks a bit fuzzy in the pic because it's sandwiched between two layers of spun polyester called reemay. this fabric makes it possible to handle the wet paper without it disintegrating in your fingertips.

after the final bath with a little calcium hydroxide added for deacidification, the print comes out to air dry and then pressed flat. thanks to the before pictures bid of little faith could see that the stains had really faded. huzzah!

much of the reference material i work on comes to the lab like this--spines flapping, a cover or two hanging on by a thread or completely detached. these books are mostly informational and simply need to be made functional again, which gives me a chance to try new techniques (and not get bored!)

this is a first edition book of mormon made important not by its first editionness, but by joseph smith's writing on the front fly leaf and by the fact that it belonged to a stalwart woman named Vienna Jacques. clearly, the book needs to be resewn, but it can't be until the spine folds (the backs of the sections) are "guarded" or reinforced with thin japanese paper and wheat starch paste. without doing this, the thread has nothing to hold on to. it's tedious and incredibly time consuming.........

............but, doesn't it look so much better! i love guarding spine folds. i love the way this looks.

this is a pull-out page from the 9th edition of Fox's Book of Martyrs. it's been pulled out one too many times and is now in 3 pieces. (this page, btw, illustrates various torture methods, so don't look too close. gruesome.)

the paper is incredibly weak, so i lined the back of the whole sheet with japanese paper. i learned a new technique for doing this that involved pasting dacron--a polyester fabric--to a piece of plexiglas, pasting japanese paper to the dacron, and pasting the pages to the japanese paper. sticking everything to plexi insures the object will dry flat and with consistent tension.

once dry, the dacron peels easily from the plexi, and the japanese paper peels fairly easily from the dacron. with everything so wet and full of paste it's easy to move the pieces exactly into position without them drying too fast.

once dry and trimmed, the page is reinserted into the book and folded back along its original folds which are now super strong (thanks to the long fibers of the japanese paper)....

...and ready to withstand the zillions more handlings. the great part is that this is all reversible and can be done again if need be.

finally, fun project of the week.
this is an 1840 Book of Mormon in a pitiable state with some previous half-hearted attempts at mending these first pages. the book is missing the front cover, which partly accounts for its ragged filthiness.

i copied missing title pages from another identical 1840 edition

mended the pages

replaced the front cover

and recovered the book with japanese paper and replaced the remaining pieces of the original spine. (not a leather cover since they already have a decent 1840 edition with a lovely, in tact, leather binding)



i am beginning some ideas for a book exhibition i'd like to do based on the idea of a bookmobile.

and book mobiles.

the possibilities are endless and exciting!


i love the big parks so much. i walked round and round and under and over and through liberty park today after work. the longer i was there, the more people came. joggers, bikers, skaters, rollerbladers, walkers, tennis players....

the multiple personalities of a city emerge in its parks, and this is where i thrive.

it's fascinating that at the end of a day we burst with energy from our workplaces and immerse ourselves in the wild, fresh, unpredictable outside--the antithesis of our indoor workdays (especially at the COB).

i need these people in the parks and on the streets and in the markets. we are sustained by each other on the energy of our diversity and as we engage with the world around us.


of books and lovers of....

Books Fall Open
by David McCord

Books fall open,
you fall in,
delighted where
you've never been;
hear voices not once
heard before,
reach world on world
through door on door;
find unexpected
keys to things
locked up beyond
What might you be,
perhaps become
because one book
is somewhere? Some
wise delver into
wisdom, wit,
and wherewithal
has written it.
True books will venture,
dare you out,
whisper secrets,
maybe shout
across the gloom
to you in need,
who hanker for
a book to read.


ode to classmates

a grand day for double flexible binding!

missing these little buddies. we are now spread across the country, from coast to coast, spreading finely handcrafted, well-bound books to all the world!!!

notes from the lab: sublime cyclododecane

i met a new chemical marvel at work about a month ago:


(here, it's easier to read this way: cyclo do decane)

since various web sites and published papers have already explained about this little buddy in all its complexity (just google it and check out the JAIC and consdist list pages), i'll keep it simple.

Cyclododecane is an alicyclic hydrocarbon.....uh...that is, it's a neutral substance. that is a wax-like solid at room temperature. it's non-toxic. and insoluble in water. which is the key, because we used it to keep some inks from getting wet and bleeding during aqueous treatments. a.k.a as a fixative for water sensitive stuff.

it's most thrilling property--it sublimes. which means, it volatilizes from a solid directly to a gas in normal room temperature. so you can use it as a consolidant and fixative, and in a few weeks time it's gone all by itself, damaging nothing.

so here's what we did. there was a sticker on a paper that we needed to remove. in water. but this sticker had a suspect ink we wanted to keep from bleeding onto the document. so. we melted the cyclododcane (melts at 35-65 degrees C) and dripped it over the problem ink. we dunked it all in a bath, removed the sticker, and hung it all to dry.

i took the sticker with the remaining gob of cyclododecane (more of a glob than was necessary, btw) and this is what it looked like on August 4.

on August 7th

August 12th

August 15th

August 21st

and finally, September 2nd......

after one month, the subliming is complete!

cyclododecane's usefulness reaches beyond this, as does the complexity of the chemistry beyond it, but mostly i found it very satisfying to work with such a sublime substance that helps without damage and takes care of itself.