Phive Star Light

The Phive CL-1 illuminating a book being sewn on a Nokey sewing frame.

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.

Studio Reopening

New Studio

Finally my new studio is set up.

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.

Soon, back to book work….

Boom for Tabletop Tripod

Frequently, I need to examine books on-site.  Often, the combination of low and mixed light sources made it difficult to get good enough digital images for notes.  So I’ve built a  lightweight boom that attaches to the Giottos QU-400 tabletop tripod.  Although this boom cannot support a DSLR, there are some high end point and shoot cameras, such as the Nikon P6000 and Cannon G10, that have manual shooting modes and RAW capability.  These cameras do not meet the recommended minimum standards of practice for documentation according to the AIC Guide to Digital Photography and Conservation Documentation, but they are very useful for visual note taking or emergency response.  I am continually surprised by the difference in seeing when actually looking at an object, and when  looking at a blown up digital image. 

tripod overview


The tripod and  boom weigh in at  1lb. 0.7 oz (472 grams) and collapse into a small bundle about 12 inches long. A weight or small clamp is necessary to keep the tripod from tipping.  The shot below was around the equivalent of a 28 mm lens, which accounts for the distortion.  Conservatively, the largest undistorted area is about 12 x 9 inches (30 x 23cm). It is also possible to position it off the edge of a table for a larger field of view, about 36 x 24 inches (92 x 61 cm).

tripod view


tripod close up

The boom itself is pretty easy to construct and all the parts can be ordered from McMaster-Carr.  A drill press, hacksaw and some aluminum files are the only tools required.  I drilled and tapped tapped a 1″ block of 6061 T6 Aluminum 1/4-20 to mount on the head, and 10-32 for the brass thumbscrew. The 1/2″ boom rod is hard anodized Al, again tapped 1/4-20 to mount the camera and a small 6-32 set screw to hold the short threaded rod.  The knurled portion of the thumbscrew was coated with a commercial rubber dip tool handle coating to provide more friction for easy tightening.  

I experimented with a number of materials, and this combination, with the softest part being the brass screw, next the 6061 block and the hardest the rod.  The end of the thumbscrew shows some distortion, but it is easy to replace.  It seemed most important to maintain the concentric profile of the rod for smooth, even operation.  After a couple of weeks of hard use, I can’t detect any deterioration.