A couple of weeks ago, Shiwan Rong and her crew from New Tang Dynasty News interviewed and filmed me in my studio. I recounted how I entered the field of conservation, explained some of the differences between conservation and restoration, and demonstrated a few bookbinding techniques. It was interesting to see what made it into the final cut, and despite some quibbles, overall it presents a reasonably accurate summary of what I said., considering that a three hour interview was cut down to two minutes!
One of the first questions was something like “How does it feel to be a master craftsman in the dying art of book restoration?”. This allowed me to explain that first of all, I am not a master craftsman, though I suppose anyone can call themselves one. Secondly, I discussed the differences between restoration, conservation, and bookbinding. Finally, I argued that the study and importance of the material nature of the physical book is thriving, not dying, in a large part because we as a society are not dependent on books simply for textual information. All in all, I hope the interview can educate the general public a bit about books and book conservation.
The video is accompanied by a written article and still images:
My first workbench light was a twin tube florescent I found on the street. The long tubes illuminated very evenly, without casting shadows from my own hands while I was working. Eventually the buzz from the ballast became intolerable, and I switched to a 100 watt round swing-arm adjustable style, which most people use.
Recently, I decided to try out the Phive CL-1 LED lamp. So far it is a great light. It looks high-tech, the arm is easy to position, and more importantly stays in position. The 5000k color temperature is pretty close to daylight. The area where the LED’s are mounted is very small, so you can position it close to yourself or to your work.
The bulb does not seem to be replaceable, but the lifespan is estimated to be 50,000 hours, which is 17 years at 8 hours a day — very close to my own working lifespan.
In a fairly compact space, I’ve managed to squeeze in 21 linear feet of workbench surface and all the essential equipment for bookbinding and book conservation. Equipment includes a circa. 1895 Jacques board shear, Hickock lying press, Nilfisk GS80 HEPA variable speed vacuum, Hickock 001/2 book press, Schaefer S2 stamping press, Peachey manual board slotting machine, Altair spine stamping machine, and a Museum Services cold suction platen.
Rereading Planning and Constructing Book and Paper Conservation Laboratories proved useful when thinking about my new space. It is borderline embarrassing that I even found my own chapter useful. I would like to add one bit of advice: although it is fun to think about the efficient storage of commonly used materials and tools, it is equally important to know when to stop theorizing and try things out for a while.
The bench tops are all a double layer of 3/4″ maple faced plywood with at least a 2″ overhang for clamping. They are 37.5″ high, and the main bench 32″ deep. I decided to try the “other” position for the book press; the opening is positioned 90 degrees relative to the front of the mounting surface. This should make sighting critical alignments easier, ie. press board to book board edge.
The island workspace on top of the flat files serves three functions: a convenient place to examine and discuss treatments with clients, a nice big desk for writing, and is great for natural light photography, since it is equidistant between two windows. My most used reference books are easily accessible.