What Happens to the Manufacturers of Bookbinding Machinery?

Desk blotter advertising. Late 1940’s?

In the 21st century, bookbinders are understandably nervous concerning the continued availability of essential machinery and replacement parts. Many of the board shears and guillotines we use on a daily basis are more than a hundred years old. This equipment not only needs to be maintained, but periodically their blades need to be resharpened or replaced. The last New York City grinding service, Ace, moved to New Jersey a number of years ago, priced out of Soho.

I support Ace by using their services. I also collect and preserve bits of history associated with these types of industries, such as this desk blotter ephemera I scored over the past weekend. This is the second bookbinding related desk blotter I’ve found in the past month, a little unusual,  though synchronous finds are not uncommon in dedicated flea market and antique mall exploration.

The Wapakoneta Co. was sold in 2009, but is still making knives and industrial cutting products. But as the numbers of newspapers, books, and other paper based products continues to shrink, what will happen to these vital ancillary trades — like board shear blade making and resharpening — that hand binders and conservation labs rely on?

 

 

A Simple Fixture to Hold Leaves Upright on a Sewing Frame

Inside view. Note the extended bed on the frame.
Outside view.

Large books are a pain to sew.

It is often impossible to reach all way to the end when holding the needle, so it is necessary to switch hands mid-way and suspend a floppy half-gathering at the same time. This fixture alleviates the problem by holding the leaves up and out of the way. Some might want something similar for smaller books. It also speeds up two-on sewing, which is occasionally necessary.

I made the one above out of binders board, book cloth, and sewing cord. It needs to be large enough to support the leaves, and heavy enough so it doesn’t swing out of the way by itself. Plexiglass might be nice….

The idea came from Tim Ely’s sewing frame, which has a similar acting wire device to keep the upright part of the page out of the way.

Sewing frames are often quite shallow, so extending the bed, as pictured above, keeps the leaves flat and is a must for accurate sewing. Otherwise there are always weird tensions in the finished binding.  A loaded stick also helps to keep the sewing under control and the spine in good shape.

The next step is to coin a less prosaic name. A fixture to hold leaves upright on a sewing frame?!?!  Yuck! There are already a lot of piercing jigs for sewing, so it needs to be something other than a generic “sewing jig.” The Pageprop?