Board Slotting at John Hopkins Department of Conservation

Jennifer Jarvis, Conservator in the John Hopkins Department of Conservation and Preservation, demonstrates how fun book conservation is using the Peachey Board Slotting Machine.

John Hopkins Department of Conservation and Preservation recently acquired a Peachey Board Slotting Machine as another technique in their book conservation arsenal to reattach detached boards. Detached boards are likely the most common place books fail. This machine accurately cuts a very small slot, as thin as .015″, to allow a hinge to be inserted without disturbing the covering material or obscuring evidence of lacing, board attachment, etc…. The machine is manually operated, and can accommodate boards up to a 18″ high. The start and stop of the slot is controlled by setting adjustable stops.

No matter which side of the fence you are on regarding the use of leather in book conservation, board slotting with a cotton or linen hinge is a strong and durable base. The fabric can be left alone or colored with acrylics for fast repairs. Or board slotting can be combined with other treatments — such as tissue repairs, cast acrylic repairs, and leather onlays — to achieve a high degree of aesthetic integration. Board slotting is especially suited to nineteenth century leather bindings with a made hollow. More information on different structures for board slotting.

Contact me for a price quote.

Jennifer Jarvis aligning the height of the blade where it will begin making the slot. This is much easier on the new machine, since you can sight the length of the board from the end of the machine.


An Easy Way to Strain Wheat Starch Paste

Wheat starch paste is widely used as an adhesive and size in bookbinding and conservation because it is long lasting, strong, reversible and non-yellowing.  After making wheat starch paste, it is generally strained, thinned, aged, or otherwise worked to give it the appropriate working qualities for the task at hand. A horsehair (or other non-metalic, ie. silk screen fabric) strainer is commonly used, however the technique below is quick, easy, fun and impressive. It results in a paste suitable for many bookbinding and book conservation purposes.





-Use an undyed, unbleached, natural fiber square of cloth that does not shed fibers.

-The cloth can be prewetted, to various degrees, to alter the final consistency of the paste.

-Rinse and clean the cloth immediately after use.

-Note the use of the thumb during the final squeeze.

Caution: Too vigorous a twisting and squeezing motion can cause the paste to fly out, in equal proportions, into your eye and onto the floor.

-I imagine different weave tightness or thread counts could change affect the consistency of the paste.

-The main drawback of this technique is that it is best suited for small quantities of paste.


Thanks to Clare Manias, Rare Book Conservator of the Museum of Biblical Art for sharing this tip.

Conservation of the Journal of the American Institute for Conservation: Results of a Survey and Treatments

A paper copy of Setbacks, Vol. 3., No. 1., 1990. Oddly, this paper volume is easily accessible in my library, while the more recent, online digital only version is difficult, if not impossible to find.  All three early volumes are indispensable.

I originally published the article linked to below in “Recent Setbacks in Conservation Online” in 2004.  In the intervening years, many of the problems discussed are, regrettably, as yet unresolved. Sadly, Setbacks Online seems inactive and inaccessible. Please be aware that the conservation techniques mentioned in this article are possibly somewhat dated, and are presented for historical and informational purposes only, and the author takes no responsibility for their efficacy or lack thereof. Caveat Conservator!

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