Timothy Ely’s Five Essential Bookbinding Tools

Timothy C. Ely

Artist in private practice – makes books, prints, drawings and the occasional guitar. Instagram

I had enough warning that I could watch over the course of a few days exactly what was used often. These are tools I grab when I am traveling to teach and they find cross over into other areas. Jeff knows this was a challenge as I have many tools inherited, made and gathered over the years. Next challenge should be the most important twenty five.

First off, a custom weight made by Randall Hankins of Salt Lake City. I have many weights of Randy’s as well as heavy things found over the years like massive things to hold x-ray machines in place. After making do with essentially the wrong things for decades, Randy and I designed these sixteen inch long weights so that some of the endpapers varieties I make could be selectively weighted or just kept from moving. I have a pair and I could not now work without them. Being steel, magnets can be applied — here is one catching a needle.

I can put you in touch, [contact Tim here] All are custom made.

Cobblers knife from Buck and Ryan [sadly gone] London. Purchased in 1982. Cutting paper and used as a marking knife.

 

Margaret Smith [d.1982] her dividers, about 6 inches long. She was born while Victoria was still alive and bound books with a Victorian sensibility. Very gracious and knew everyone. Studies a bit with S. Cockerel and was full of stories. She made her stone burnisher from flint found at Brighton. I use this tool more than any. No idea how many dividers of all configurations and lengths that I have found.

 

Triangle for various squaring and metering jobs. This one allows the worker to dial up the amount of focus required for certain jobs.

 

My first bone folder. It is sharpened on the lower edge, about 3 inches so that I can fold and then cut folds without needing two tools. I have many bone folders, they are sort of talismans to the discipline and are nice. I have a giant folder made from free range mastodon by Jim Croft. This one is balanced for throwing.

Robin Tait’s Five(ish) Essential Bookbinding Tools

Robin Tait

Bookbinder and Book Conservator, Queensland, Australia

1. Freer Periosteal elevator or raspatory. Double ended with sharpened fine end.

2a. Bone folder. Shaped with double bevel.

2b. Stainless steel folder for scoring.  Single bevel, for use with a straight edge. Custom order from Peachey.

3a. English right handed paring knife. Paring and general utility knife.

3b. Peachey paring knife. Leather paring only.

4. Peachey mini lifting knife.  Peachey/ Roger Powell design.

5. Small Japanese scissors. Cuts to the tips.

Bill Minter’s Five Essential Bookbinding Tools

Bill Minter

Inventor and Book Conservator, Penn State University Libraries.

 

Five Essential Tools for bookbinding is an intriguing question.

While thinking, I tried to imagine trying to bind a book on a deserted island, or at home during a pandemic. What tools are essential?

For a Simple/Basic Pamphlet:
Tool:   Needle — If paper were available, it can be folded without a bone folder, it can be wetted and torn, and then folded to a codex for sewing with thread, so the needle seems to be essential.

For a more elaborate book with some precise details:
Dividers (see note), straight edge, knife/cutter, and maybe a scribe (awl) or pointed bone folder?   No ruler, no scissors; no pencil, etc….

Note:  Initially, I thought dividers were needed, but then Karen Hanmer suggested a piece of paper for duplicating dimensions. Essentials!

PERHAPS the most important and essential tool (if we can call it a tool) is what we have learned. Someone shared their experience and their ideas that allows us to grow and expand beyond the basics. In essence, what we have learned is a tool that allows us to build beyond our inner talent. Someone inspired us to work beyond what we know, which allows us to experiment and grow ever more.

While we might have the very best tools, it is how we use our skill with those tools that is the ultimate and essential.