An Investigation of Seventeenth Century English Bookbinding Tools in Randle Holme’s  “Academy of Armory” to be presented at The Guild of Book Workers Standards of Excellence 2021 Online Conference October 9

I’m making great progress on my bookbinding tool presentation. But I need a longer title….

Randle Holme’s 1688 Academy of Armory contains the only known images of seventeenth century English bookbinding tools. It has been almost forgotten in bookbinding literature, and wasn’t included in Pollard and Potter’s standard reference, Early Bookbinding Manuals: An Annotated List of Technical Accounts of Bookbinding to 1840. Holme describes six essential tools: a folder, a beating hammer, a needle, a sewing frame, a lying press, and a plough. The relationship between actual books of the time and the tools used to make them will be explored in this presentation. A demonstration of reproduction folding sticks — and a discussion of the difficulties in deciphering extant evidence of them — will end the session.

It only costs $79 to attend the entire conference. This includes the opening reception for the WILD/LIFE exhibition, Peter Verheyen on fish-skin in bookbinding, Karen Hanmer on an even more simplified binding, Radha Pandey on Indo-Islamic papermaking, and a roundtable discussion on exhibiting books. I hope to see some familiar faces there, in little squares.

Register here for this online event!

If you can’t attend the conference, or are thirsting for more information concerning Randle Holme and 17th c. bookbinding tools, an article will soon be published in The New Bookbinder 41.

New Tool for Sale: The Kaschtoir

If you have never heard of a kaschtoir, you are not alone. The term is a portmanteau coined by Peter Verheyen. The kaschtoir is a backing tool; a combination of a German kaschiereisen and a French frottoir. More about the kaschiereisen here, and more about the frottoir here. This tool combines the most useful aspects of each.

A stainless steel Kashtoir

The kaschiereisen end has small teeth, which help to move the sewn, rounded bookblock into to a backed position. The froittoir end has a gentle smooth curve, which also can help move a bookblock into position, in addition to smoothing out irregularities and trueing raised bands. Two for the price of one!

If you are tired of deforming your spine into double folds with a hammer, or deforming your fingers hand manipulating your spine into shape, this may be the tool for you. Fits comfortably in one or two hands. The stainless steel is safe for contact even with historic bookblocks. The edges are very comfortably rounded, and the froittoir end is polished to make clean up easy.

I reproduced the gentle curve on the Frottoir from examples in my historic collection. This tool is not a die meant to exactly shape a spine to its curvature. A gentle curve is much more useful for a range of round spine shapes, smoothing irregularities, smushing sewing threads, etc… . The teeth can be cleaned of adhesive with a stiff brush. This tool is quite heavy, and the weight allows you to easily persuade even hard modern paper into the shape you desire with little effort.

304 stainless steel. Approximately 6 x 2 x .5 inch (15 x 5 x 1.25cm). Weighs about 1 lb. 5 oz (600 grams).

Order your Kaschtoir here!

New Tool for Sale! Fraying Shield

A stainless steel fraying shield of my design. There is not a standard term for these in English, but they are called Aufschabeblech in German.

I’d seen versions of tools like this fraying shield (sometimes called a fraying plate) for a couple of decades. Some are just a simple “V” cut into a pressing tin thickness piece of metal. Why bother, I thought? Who needs another specialized, single purpose tool for such a simple job? I’ve been fraying out the cords on scrap pieces of binders board or card stock just fine.

But recently Peter Verheyen engaged me to design and make one for him. He details some historic ones and has a video of him using this one in this blog post. I became intrigued by some of the subtleties of this simple tool. Once I had a prototype I liked, I had a familiar, nagging feeling. Why the hell didn’t I do this sooner? Even if you don’t buy this one, I urge you to make one for yourself and see!

Fraying out test. Check out the fluffy, evenly thinned slips!

The speed of fraying is quicker, and the quality of the resulting slips much better than using binders board or card stock. They are very even and it is easier to control how thin they get. This is due to fraying on a hard and flat surface, rather than an irregular surface that abrades. The thinness of the steel helps too, so that you can start fraying just next to where the cord exits the endsheet. The shield itself is made from an unhardened stainless steel, soft enough that it won’t damage your knife blade. Traditionally, though, the back of your knife is used. So far it has worked with all the different plys of linen cord I’ve tried, from 2 to 12. The stainless steel is also safe for contact with binding materials.

Fraying shield. Stainless steel, 2 x 6 inches. Buy it here, introductory price only $25!