Conservator at the New England Historic Genealogical Society
When Jeff asked me to pick my five most essential tools for bookbinding, I thought about what the most important ones were for making a book and so I chose a needle, a bone folder, scissors, an OLFA knife and a Swiss paring knife.
The needle was pretty obvious when I started to think about some of the first tasks involved with making a binding. You can fold and tear pages by hand to create signatures but page attachment for me involves sewing with a needle. The needle can also be used to poke holes, scratch line, and just generally pick at things (who doesn’t like to do that) so it has some versatility as well.
I use a bone folder for so many bookbinding tasks that it seemed a natural one to include. I’m showing the one that I also use for box-making; one end has been shaped into a 90-degree angle to be able to work in corners. I broke my favorite bone folder about 10 years ago, it was basically the only bone folder that I used, and since losing it I haven’t really found another one that I like that much to replace it.
The scissors and the OLFA knife might be a little redundant as they are both used for cutting but the way I use them is different enough that I decided to keep both. I tend to use them quite a bit and the thought of not having either one at my disposal is a little strange. There was some back and forth about dropping out the scissors and replacing it with a 90-degree triangle, a brush or a ruler, but I eventually decided to keep the scissors instead. I actually do a lot of measurements without a ruler by measuring materials against a book by eye, I can use my fingers or a scrap of board to apply adhesive and I think I can come up with a right angle some other way if I needed to.
Leather is such a beautiful material to cover a book with and I really enjoy working with it so my last tool is a paring knife, it’s kind of a must for me. I’m showing a Swiss version that I purchased in 1983 so it has gotten a lot of use and I like how versatile it is. I also own a right and left English knife but the curve of the Swiss knife kind of combines both so if I’m restricted to just one paring knife, I’ll include it.
I really hope that I’m never limited to only five tools but if that happens those are the ones I would choose.