Feeding Fingers

Appletons’ Modern Mechanism Supplement of 1895 contains an excellent bookbinding machinery section. The article mentions that machines haven’t changed significantly in the past decade, but performance and efficiency are improved. Chamber’s rotary board cutter is a particular beauty.  I find these hybrid cast iron and wood machines quite interesting since we usually think of machinery as consisting one of the other, not both. Note the automatic board advancement pins on the bed of the machine, which are called “feeding fingers”. OUCH!

How Many Soles

How many soles have tread on this board shear clamp pedal?  How many decades did it take the original deep crosshatching  to become almost completely eroded in the center of the pedal? How long did it take for the original japanning to become mirror polished? How many different people have used this machine?  How many shins has this pedal bloodied?  How many blades has this machine had? How many cloth case bindings have been cut on this machine?  How many boxes? How many curses have been hurled at this machine,when something was miscut?

And how many times has this board shear subtly retaliated, going minutely out of square, cutting one book board a hair short, tearing material rather than cutting, or even pinching a finger in quiet defiance, only to be stepped on once again?

Board Shear Blade: Up or Down

Perhaps on of the most ingrained and contentious habits of bookbinders and conservators is if the leave the blade of the board shear up or down.  Once you are in the habit of leaving it one way of the other, it is virtually impossible to change.  So if you use a board shear please take a second to fill out the poll below and the results will be immediately calculated.  I realize this is perhaps not the most important topic I could be thinking about, but the new poll option was introduced this week on wordpress, so I guess this is a good example of how technology drives and influences content.


I confess I fall into this camp.  I find it much faster, when approaching the board shear to be able to immediately able place the material to be cut under the fence, and slide it into place without having to lift the blade first.  Also, when the blade is up, it sticks out less, so there is less of a chance of running into the handle or counterweight, which is a more common injury than cutting yourself on the blade.


It is dangerous to leave the blade up for two reasons. First, although the blade has a fairly obtuse angle, it is still possible to cut yourself on it, and it just looks dangerous, this long blade sticking up in the air. Second it is more likely that the counterweight could slide off the end (especially if you haven’t drilled through the bar and inserted a bolt) and the weight of the blade would come crashing down on whatever happens to be under it.

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