Arguably, rebacking is the most difficult task book conservators routinely undertake. Not only is it highly invasive, but with extensive lifting of original material on the spine and boards, there is a risk of damage to the original material. This jig mitigates some of these risks, and makes rebacking a less stressful experience.
This jig to improves on several problematic aspects of traditional rebacking jigs, which are often made of bent sheet metal or plastic. The first version I saw was a metal one that Don Etherington showed me in the 1990’s. To aid exact board alignment, this jig has enough weight to stay in place and keep the board in place. It features an adjustable angle delrin plate to support the lifted leather at any place necessary, so the fragile lifted edge is supported and protected without being stressed. Since the base of the jig is spaced away from the lifted area, the bend of the original leather can be monitored to avoid compression cracking. The delrin shield is easy to clean off when working with adhesives on the new material under it.
This jig is made from brass and has a felt lined base. The arm extends a maximum of 6 inches. It is a sturdy and reliable instrument which fits all books.
The Conservation lab at Reyniers recently hosted a week-long workshop with Jeff Peachey on the Conservation of Leather Bookbindings, organized by Liz Dube and supported by the American Institute for Conservation. You may remember Jeff from his 2018 presentation in Rare Books and Special Collections on his treatment of Dante’s La Commedia, from 1477.
Seven conservators took part in the workshop, in addition to our conservation staff at Reyniers. The hands-on, intensive workshop covered treatment decision-making, various repair techniques, leather working skills, and tool sharpening. Our group took time out to visit RBSC to view the 1477 Dante up close with Jeff and enjoy the exhibits on display. Thanks to Julie Tanaka for hosting our group.
The workshop provided the rare opportunity to learn, practice, and share with colleagues from other institutions. It was a lot of fun! We are grateful to Jeff, and to our colleagues who were able to make it to campus and stay focused during such a challenging week. Special thanks to Tosha McComb, Neil Chase, and Kathy Colbert for their flexibility and support during the workshop.
Using a creaser is one of the easiest ways to impress a solid black line in leather. Simply dampen the leather overall, score a line with a bone folder and straightedge, then rub the creaser back and forth. Or some prefer to score a straight line on dry leather, wet the line with a small brush, then use the creaser. The lines I made in the images were done with a room temperature tool, though with some leathers a darker line develops if used warm — but not hot.
The design of this creaser is based on an early 20th century Frederick Westpfall tool in my collection. You can burnish the line you make by “jiggering” it back and forth, increasing pressure as it forms a groove. The burnishing gives the dark blind line a sheen. Once a basic depression is formed, the creaser slides like a cross country ski in a groomed track. The length of the handle allows for two-handed use to apply extra pressure, and you can even lean into it a bit with your shoulder.
The resulting blind line is flat on the bottom and reflects light evenly, unlike marking leather with a bone folder or other irregularly shaped object. Since the tool is usually used at ambient temperatures or only slightly warmed, there is no risk of burning the leather.
The thick maple handle is easy to grasp with one or two hands, and lean into with your shoulder. Overall length is about thirteen inches. Brass head with maple handle.