Summer Hiatus, 2014

The voice-over at the beginning of The Seven Year Itch informs us that the Manhattan Indians had a custom where “Every July, when the heat became unbearable, they [the husbands] would send their wives and children away.”  This continues into the 1950’s, and is the reason that Richard Sherman (played by Tom Ewell) happens to be living alone for the summer and meets “The Girl” (played by Marilyn Monroe).

But times have changed.  Now, it seems husbands, wives, children—everyone?—vacates Manhattan for the summer, myself included.  So my book conservation and tool business will be on hiatus until September 1, 2014.  I will be teaching in Boston, working on some new tool ideas, then on a brief vacation.

Please email if you want to schedule something for the fall. Stay cool!


Everhard Ball Bearing Beveled Stitcher

Fillet or creaser?

At the massive Brimfield Flea Market last month, I picked up this unusually well made tool. Note the ball bearings barely visible around the axle. Not only does is spin freely, but there is zero play side to side. And the wheel is very heavy.

At first I thought it was an unusual fillet, used for marking lines in leather. But it turns out it was made for the tire/ rubber industry. It is marked “The Everhard Mfg. Co.”, and is known as a beveled stitcher,  used to smooth wavy edges of uncured rubber. It also bears a striking morphological resemblance to a leatherworkers wheel. Even if it can’t be usefully adapted for bookbinding work, it is still a wonderfully well made object to have.

Yikes! Have I started down the slippery slope from tool user to collector? Is this a problem?

Naturally Packed Sewing


I first noticed what I call “naturally packed sewing” on an early 16th century quarto. Usually, a pack sewn book has extra windings around the cords to fill them in even with the thickness of the signatures. I believe it was Peter Frack who first described pack sewing, which he called “arch sewing”.[1] For naturally packed sewing, if the sewing thread is fairly soft, and the signatures relatively thin, the paper pretty thin, the book can be sewn packed without additional windings. Here, there are 39 signatures and 39 windings around the double cords. This image is larger than life size.

The paper is 60lb. Mohawk Vellum Soft White from New York Central Art Supply. Folded down to quarto, 2 folios, 4 leaves,  8 pages.

The cord and thread are from Colophon Book Arts Supply. The cord is Garniture Linen Cord, the thread Londonderry Linen, Ash Grey, 18/3.



Peter Franck. A Lost Link in the Technique of Bookbinding and how I Found It. Gaylordsville, Conn: n.p., 1941.



A Nice Scissors Move

A hairdresser showed me this move.  She said she had also spoken to a surgeon who uses a similar technique. It allows you to safely keep the points of the scissors away from whatever else you are doing, without taking them completely off your hand and putting them down. A couple of years ago I wrote about Palmer’s proper method for using scissors, which deals with how to hold the paper to make a straight cut.

For this, you will need to have a scissors with single finger metal bows. The bows are the “handles” of the scissors, the enclosed round part that you put your fingers in. (1) This might be a good excuse to ditch those plastic handled Fiskars and buy some real scissors, such a pair of drop-forged chrome-plated ones made by Mundial, which are an excellent value.

Basically the scissors are spun 180 degrees on the middle finger.


When you are done cutting with the scissors, take your thumb out of the bow.


Twirl the scissors, using your index finger, so that the point is facing towards you.


Then your fingers are free to grasp another tool or manipulate an object without fear of stabbing it. Don’t stab yourself, though.


When you are done and need to use the scissors again, twirl them back into position by using your ring finger, then reinserting your thumb.

Usually we use one hand per tool and occasionally two hands per tool. But using two tools in one hand requires dexterity and practice, like handling chopsticks or holding an awl and threaded needle at the same time for heavy leather stitching. Generally we keep the cutting edge of tools pointed away from us, although David Esterly mentions wood carvers are trained to spin their chisels around and place them down on the bench handle first, so as not to damage the edge.(2)

I imagine this move come in handy in a number of circumstances. Cutting strapping and double stick tape when mounting books for exhibition currently comes to mind. Others?


(1) J. B. Himsworth  The Story of Cutlery: From Flint to Stainless Steel. London: Ernest Benn Limited, 1953. Chapter 10 deals with scissors, the whole book is great. Filled with interesting historical tidbits, like early nineteenth century Sheffield knife grinders, who often died of silicosis, sometimes had their grinding stones used as their gravestone.

(2) David Esterly, The Lost Carving: A Journey to the Heart of Making New York: Viking, 2012.