Tag Archives: backing hammer

New! Bookbinder’s Hammer for Sale

Quite likely, one of the last things the bookbinding world needs — besides another introductory bookbinding manual —  is a new specialized hammer. There are serviceable backing hammers commercially availaible for under $100 that just take a little filing of sharp edges and polishing of the face to work. Many people use old cobblers hammers that can be picked up for around $12 at flea markets. A froiture is arguably easier to use, and in most cases performs  as well or even better. Sometimes, a little piece of wood and any old hammer will do. Many times, with older books, your fingers are the only tools you really need.

But who cares!

I wanted to make the best bookbinder’s hammer possible, without consideration of the final cost.

I originally wanted this to be some kind of “tool art”. Then I recalled someone who told me anytime you put the word art after that of an object, there is a very good chance it is not art, but some kind of craft with pretenses to art. That said, it is very difficult for functional objects to be considered as Art. Still, there might be some kind of framework within tool-artifact-user interactions.

More practically, this hammer has a non-rusting stainless steel head, one face domed and one flat, with a slight texture to both faces which help move the paper, and a very comfortable applewood handle. The idea for the textured head came from an old brass hammer with a damaged and pitted head, that I use on leather. Somewhat counterintuitively, the textured surface marks the leather less, since the force is not concentrated at one specific spot, making it flat. The handle shape was derived from a jewelers chasing hammer and an old Hammond cobbler’s hammer I own.

This hammer can be used for backing, sewing compression, beating down slips, hammering corners, or any time you need a little extra persuasion. Like to get a client to cough up a little more dough for a particular project. This is a tool that could pay for itself the first time you use it.  The polished cylindrical body of the hammer can be used froiture like to smooth out a spine.

I use a hatchet to rough out the American apple wood, and then refine the shape with a spokeshave. The hammer has an oval eye to prevent the handle from twisting, and a stainless steel wedge to secure it. The handle is then sanded, lightly oiled and polished to 3 microns. The resulting surface is incredibly smooth. Apple wood was traditionally used for saw and other tool handles.

The stainless steel head has a one inch diameter, and is about two inches in length, though this varies with the length of the handle. The eight to nine inch long apple wood handles are all unique, but I make them generally to the shape depicted below.

This hammer very comfortable, well balanced, and extremely aesthetically pleasing. But Art?

Bookbinder’s Hammer: $425.00.  Purchase here.

 

 

 

Good Diehl

Edith Diehl’s “Bookbinding: Its Background and Technique”, thanks in part to an inexpensive and ubiquitous Dover reprint, is perhaps one of the most common introductory bookbinding manuals.  Although frequently maligned for propagating innacuracies, especially the historical section, the practical section is informative and well done.  I use her sequence of leather covering steps when teaching– it is a clear, calm list of what needs to be done. Panicking students, covering their first full leather binding, often find it reassuring.  Her diagrams in general are concise and present the relevant information in an easy to follow manner.

 

diehl-hammer2

 

This hammer came from her studio, via Gerard Charrier, who purchased many of her tools. It is a large London pattern cramping hammer and according to Salaman, Barnsley’s 1890 catalog of cobblers tools lists six sizes of them, this one is a “No. 1”.  It is similar to a French hammer and is used to paning the sole edge, heel breast and waists of shoes. He also notes that this style of hammer was already going out of fashion by 1839!  The head is quite large, 55mm, so I don’t use it for binding- more often to tenderize pork when making tonkatsu, or in place of a proper beating hammer.  Even though I don’t use it for binding, the feeling of using historic tools remains somewhat inexpressible. Touching the  smooth worn areas at the end of handle, examining dirt near the head, or polished areas around the cheeks, gives me direct tactile and visual information about how Diehl held it.  The makers mark is fragmentary, but it starts “CHAMMO…” with “CAST STEEL” stamped underneath.   This hammer must have been the one she copied for the illustration below, unless she had more than one of them.  The illustration is from page 143 of the Dover edition.

 

diehl-hammer

 

Diehl  likes a large and heavy  hammer, feeling they are less likely to damage signatures by leaving small indentations in the spine.  She also makes the point that when using a heavy hammer, its weight does most of the work, so there is less danger of forcing it and damaging the signatures.  She specifically recommends that the hammer should be weighted so that the face balances even if no one is holding the handle, as both the photo and figure clearly show.  I find it a bit odd, given the attention to detail in most of her diagrams, that she didn’t depict the eye in this one. There are two photographs of students using a similar London pattern hammer in Palmer’s 1927 manual “A Course on Bookbinding for Vocational Occupation”, found on the frontispiece  and on page 38. One is using the face to back a book, the other the  peen. 

I also have a book from Diehl’s library. Her gold stamped book plate is quite lovely. It only measures 35mm high and 27mm wide and I assume it is St. Jerome.

 

diehl-bookplate1

 

 

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