Bookbinder’s Pliers

The Bookbinder’s Pliers. It securely holds commonly used bookbinding needles.

When sewing books or endbands, it is sometimes helpful to grip the needle with a pliers in order to position it or increase leverage. Standard pliers do not grip a needle securely, and the jaws are the wrong shape for these types of manipulations. Precise needle control is also essential in book conservation, for in-situ resewing of loose signatures, endband reinforcement, and various types of board reattachment. If you have ever had to pierce a parchment spine lining, you will likely understand the purpose of these pliers immediately. These pliers are also great for removing staples.

The Bookbinder’s Pliers. Fits needle sizes from 24 gauge (.020″) to 12 gauge (.104″) The massive 12 gauge needle on the right is an antique John James, labeled bookbinders needle. Possibly it was intended for sawn-in cords?

The Bookbinder’s Pliers have a small groove cut near the tip, which securely grip needle sizes from 24 to 12 gauge. (.020″ – .104″)  Note that 18 and 15 gauge needles are most common in bookbinding, though conservators may need smaller sizes for specialized tasks.

The Bookbinder’s Pliers holding a 24 gauge needle. Tip: always sew with needles that have eyes the same size as the shaft to prevent an excessively large hole in the paper.

The jaws are ground to .375″, which is wide enough to leverage and guide the needle through stubborn materials, but narrow enough to get close to the work. All edges of the pliers are rounded to prevent potential damage to the book and the user.

The Bookbinder’s Pliers fitting comfortably in the hand.

Made of stainless steel, this precision tool fits comfortably in the hand. The pliers have a box joint to apply even pressure. About 4.5″ long. You will wonder how you ever worked without these.

Purchase your Bookbinder’s Pliers here.

 

Sewing in the Round

One of the advantages of the Nokey sewing frame is that it is easy to loosen, then retighten the supports to sew a book in the round.  Sewing in the round is less invasive than flattening the original backing, then rebacking, and incidenally is quicker. However, thick books such as the one pictured take me a while to sew: I am no where near as quick as an experienced sewer in the mid-nineteenth century who could sew between two and three thousand signatures a day, according to “A Day at the Bookbinder’s” from The Penny Magazine Supplement Vol. XI, December 24, 1842, p. 380.

Three sizes of the Nokey are available here for purchase.