M2 Hybrid Knife Video

The M2 Paring Knife used for edge and overall paring.

For spines and headcaps in full leather binding and when rebacking, several tools are usually used. Some binders like to use a straight English knife and modified spokeshave or razor blade paring machine for this. Others like to use a straight English style and a round French or Swiss knife to accomplish this. But the M2 hybrid can do the job of all of these, and many like the simplicity and economy of using one knife.

Body cam with heart center point of view!

I’ve been honing my video skills in preparation for more online workshops. Lots of new gear and tech: computer, lights, Vimeo plus, Zoom pro, wireless earbuds, GoPro, and iMovie. Oy!

I’m working on converting my repertoire of existing workshops into online versions. If there is something that particularly interests you, mention it in a comment or contact me directly!

Many thanks to Jeff Altepeter, Head of Bookbinding at North Bennett Street School, Karen Hanmer, Bookbinder and Book Artist, Henry Hebert, Conservator for Duke University Special Collections, and Andrew Huot, Owner of Big River Bindery, for sharing practical pedagogical advice about teaching online!

Using an M2 Hybrid Knife to pare into the skin.

Dover Publications: The Quintessential Trade Paperback

Dover Publications reprint of Edith Diehl’s “Bookbinding: Its Background and Technique. I’ve used it heavily since 1988.

A recent piece from the NY Times Magazine, “As Everything Else Changes, My Dover Paperbacks Hold Up”, reminded me how much I love my Dover books. From the perspective of a book conservator, Dover made the best paperbacks I know of, combining physical durability, pleasant tactility and legibility.

The Dover sales pitch, on the back cover of every book, is no lie. “A Dover Edition Designed for Years of Use!  We have made every effort to make this the best book possible. Our paper is opaque, with minimal show-through; it will not discolor or become brittle with age. Pages are sewn in signatures, in the method traditionally used for the best books, and will not drop out, as often happens with paperbacks held together with glue. Books open flat for easy reference. The binding will not crack or split. This is a permanent book.” In addition to being very well made, Dover books were always very reasonably priced. What’s not to like?

The textblock of my “Bookbinding” is in good physical condition, though the surface pH of the leaves is around 4.5. The spine is becoming concave, due to 32 years of very hard use, but the sewing is completely intact. The covering material, consisting of three layers, is also in good condition. There are only a few detached areas on the spine, some delamination, and tension/compression creasing. The spine glue is still surprisingly flexible. Dover books were always well printed, with nicely chosen paper for reproducing illustrations. The book has a pleasing solidity, reminiscent of a phone book. It is not a book that needs careful handling.

At the beginning of my career, this book was read, reread, abused, annotated, and weighted the book open with a bar of steel while I bound my own books following Diehl’s instructions. While the book repair section is quite dated, the binding information is still solid. My students always get a copy of her calm and detailed checklist of what to do in the flurry of covering a full leather book (pp. 208-209).  I like the Dover reprint so much, I’ve never been tempted to buy the original two volume first edition, or the Hacker Art Books reprint.

It is great the Times published a piece about book structure for the general public. As the author notes, the current worldwide instability may drive us to look for more permanent things in our lives, and re-appreciate them. A bit of hope found in a Dover paperback?


Edith Diehl. Bookbinding: Its Background and Technique. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1980.  Reprint, orig. 1946.


UPDATED 6 OCT 2020: Corrected title from “… Mass Market Paperback” to “… Trade Paperback” in the title. Thanks to Ann’s comment below!

Online Workshop: Making Delrin and Bamboo Tools. November 14 and 21.

Nine different basic tools we will make in the workshop. Of course, everyone is encouraged to redesign them for their own needs.

NOTE: The workshop is now full. If you would like to be on a waiting list, and also notified first of the next time I run this (likely spring 2021) please contact me. 

Making tools is not only engaging and fun, but entirely practical since the result is set of tools you can use daily. Bookbinders, book conservators, photographic conservators, paper conservators, and others will find this workshop valuable. Filing, scraping and polishing are meditative activities, no previous experience required. Working Delrin and bamboo is a great way to start toolmaking and we will make folders, lifting tools, microspatulas, hera, and creasing tools. Fair warning: making your own tools is highly addictive!

All aspects of making tools with delrin and bamboo will be discussed in detail: design considerations, cutting, filing, rough shaping, final shaping, and polishing. The workshop consists of two 3- hour synchronous zoom sessions with PPT’s, videos, discussion of handouts, demonstrations, Q&A chat sessions, and working together time. Also included is one month access to four videos demonstrating key techniques.

The workshop includes a kit with enough materials to make nine tools with a retail value over $300. Hand tools are also included: a cherry bench hook, scraper, burnisher, a file for plastics, and a variety of sanding and polishing supplies. All you need is a stable work surface, and some time to work between the two weekend sessions.

SCHEDULE: Two 3-hour sessions. Saturday November 14 and 21. 12-3pm Pacific, 1-4pm Mountain, 2-5pm Central, 3-6pm Eastern, 8-11pm GMT, 9-12 CET, 10 – 1am EET, 5am – 8am (+ 1 day) JST, 6am – 9am ( +1 day) UTC

International participants need to contact me for an invoice to pay by credit card, and order before October 17 to ensure kit arrival.

US participants can register here

COST: $375 US  ($425 Canada/  $445 other countries, includes shipping)