Today’s post is gonna be a bit of an odd writing, as I don’t really have this whole bit laid out in my head, yet there’s pictures involved. So it’s gonna be slightly stream of consciousness, but also slightly planned, and so it’ll probably be weird. But that’s alright, life is weird sometimes, Hubski has been quiet lately, and I feel like sharing.
The other night, following an unsuccessful day working with books the day prior and then a long day following, I posted this probably uncompelling rambling. Later on in the week, I decided to re-tackle the book I was beginning to make and to see if I could salvage it. What ended up following was more bone headed decisions, more frustration, and finally, some discovery and progress.
It also ended in these two books. The one on the left being the problem child, the one on the right being a mostly good, final result.
What ended up happening was when I cut the boards for my first textblock, which was premade and 6.5” x 4.5ish” in size. Being the bonehead that I was, I ended up cutting the cover boards to exactly that size. Width wise, that’s absolutely fine, because they book sinks into the spine of the case giving it overhang. However, that gives me zero room for the overhang on the head and the tail of the book. Unfortunately, I discovered this after cutting my boards, but fortunately, before I wasted time and material making a case. I also realized that, for whatever reason, I just wasn’t in a good head space at the time to put together a book, so I put everything away and called it a day.
Fast forward to later this week, and I decided to reuse the materials to make a case for a textblock that I had made over the winter, a book that’s modestly 5.5” x 4.25.” I prepped the textblock by gluing and lining the spine and adding end papers and went on to making my case. I decided that since it’s a new year, it’s a new me, and it’s time to try some new things (I’ll get into those later). Anyway, after much cutting, gluing, and care, I had a case built and ready for my textblock to go into. Only to discover, much to my frustration, that while I trimmed down the cover boards to proper height, I completely neglected to double check my width, because I’m a careless idiot sometimes. What ended up as a result was, I had a completely built case and absolutely zero textblocks that would fit it.
By this time, I put way too much effort into everything and I couldn’t just throw the case away, as that would be throwing away time, effort, and materials. What’s worse is, while the case wasn’t perfect (more on that later too), it was pretty damn alright and I just couldn’t get rid of it.
So, I devised a cunning plan. I was going to take the original textblock I was gonna use to my local print shop, have them cut a half inch off the top, a half inch off the bottom, and BAM! I’ll have a textblock that’ll fit. Except as life would have it, things weren’t gonna go my way on that either.
You see, sometime over the winter, my local mom and pop print shop had closed its doors. That’s legit tragic. Not only are mom and pop businesses important, but with print shops, those places tend to really know what they’re doing and they do it well.
So I ended up taking my textblock to a chain print shop. I won’t name which one, because I don’t want to throw shade on any companies and usually the one I go to treats me alright. So I go, and the person behind the counter looks new (or at least, new to me), and they’re taking care of a few customers getting things done. When it’s my turn, I go up to them, explain that I want a half inch taken off the top, then the textblock rotated, and another half inch taken off the bottom. I even give them dimensions, 6.5” cut to 6.0” inches, rotate the textblock, and cut to a final size of 5.5” inches. They seem hesitant, so I thought maybe they didn’t understand what I want, so we went through the measurements and the cuts again. They politely took my textblock, went over to the electric guillotine, and struggled to make it work. Suddenly, I understood the hesitance, because it looks like it was the first time they ever used it. They were doing everything they could trying to figure out how to line up the textblock, engage the clamps, and make the blade drop.
This was the end result. In case it’s a bit hard to tell from the picture, there is now a light layer of gunk on both the top and bottom of the textblock because the blade on the guillotine had something on it. While the bottom was cut nice and square, the top was cut at an angle either because something is probably loose on the machine. This means that the pages aren’t squared and as you can tell, the cuts go into the lines on the inside of the pages. Either way, the machine was not well maintained. This poor person, seeing what they did to my textblock, felt so bad that I could see it on their face as they walked back to me with my now trimmed but also somewhat ruined textblock.
Believe it or not, I wasn’t mad at all for three reasons. One, I know exactly where they’re coming from right now. Not only do I have plenty of friends who work retail who can tell me stories for days about how difficult things are, I’m learning a new job too and I know how hard it is to pick up on everything. Two, I really don’t think it’s their fault. It’s not their fault that they didn’t know how to use the guillotine because no one trained them and it’s not their fault that the machine wasn’t properly maintained. They’re just a cog in a machine, trying to take care of customers as best as they can. But third, and most important, they owned their mistake. They said, not in these exact words, “I’m sorry. I ruined your book. I’m not gonna charge you for the cutting.” That may not seem like much, but that’s very big of them. We parted friendily, and I really hope the rest of their day/week went better.
I think I’m gonna look for another print shop though . . .
So I get home, I finish putting the book together, and I call it a day. I sit at the couch with my dog, watch a little TV, and let everything else go by.
The next day, I built a case for my other textblock, learning from a few lessons from the day before, and I end up with a much, much better book.
Oops! I shared that already, didn’t I? So what did I learn and how? Well, quite a few things.
Firstly, I started using some new Exacto Blades. They’re called diamond or something, I don’t remember. The point is, they’re supposed to be sharper and more durable. Boy howdy, are they. I don’t have the steadiest of hands, but I’m able to get much nicer, cleaner cuts out of them. What does that mean? Well, remember when I first showed some of the books I made?
Here’s that picture. If you look at the multi-colored books on that picture, you can see how I make the fabrics overlap. It doesn’t look as clean, but I did it for two reasons. Partly because, I get the feeling that if they overlap, everything feels a bit more secured. Like things are glued down twice. More importantly though, with the normal Exacto Blades I was using, I wasn’t able to get a clean, straight cut. This means I couldn’t line up the two fabrics and not have any gaps between them unless I overlapped them. With the new blades though, they cut sharp enough that I’m ready to be a bit more courageous.
I am slightly worried about the covers coming loose, but I think that’ll be tackled by more careful and thorough glue application.
The one interesting thing I found about the new blades though, was that while they’re better for cutting fabric, they’re actually worse for cutting cover boards. They’re so sharp that every time I run the blade across the board, they cut their way out of the groove established by the previous cut. I guess that means I’ll need to get a second Exacto knife with the less fancy blades for cutting bookboards.
If you look at this picture, the second and better book, you’ll notice I still need a bit of practice cutting and lining things up. I don’t have the steadiest hands, so this is difficult to do, and that gap may seem miniscule. To me though, it feels like a mile wide.
As an aside, it’s really interesting how some imperfections I’m okay with, but other ones drive me crazy.
So what else did I learn? Well, if you look at the original images of the two books, you’ll see that the cloth on the second book has been rotated 90 degrees. Why?
Because if you look at the first book I cut, you’ll see that the direction I cut the fabric and the direction it faces means frayed edges are exposed. This ends up not looking all that good and additionally, you can see a gap.
But I’ve only done this twice, so I’m actually pretty pleased with how both books turned out overall.
For my home made textblock, this is the paper I chose for the endsheet. I think this shade of red compliments the green of the brocade cover and the grey of the spine very well.
Remember how, in my last book making post I talked about how because I don’t own a guillotine or plough, I’m not able to square off my pages, so my books end up having little “teeth?” Here’s what those look like. I didn’t like them at first, but most people I show my books to say they look cool, so they’re here to stay.
This image has nothing to do with the previous two books, I just wanted to share these four bits of fabric I bought. They’re four out of of about thirty, but all of them I intend on turning into my own book cloth. The pre-made stuff is wonderful, but to be fair, while there’s quite a bit of variety in material and textures, the color palette tends to be pretty limited. If I make my own though, I could stick to a single fabric store and have more options than I’ll ever know what to do with.
I think I rambled enough for the day. I hope for those of you who celebrate it, you’re having a wonderful Easter. For everyone else, I hope you’re having a beautiful day.