A Test of a Book Conservator’s Mechanical Aptitude

This test was taken from Popular Science, December 1942.  There were many puzzles like this one during 1940’s when mechanical aptitude was considered key in winning World War Two.  Because this one features something that looks a lot like a book press, I thought some might be interested.  You might have to turn your monitor upside down to read the answers. 


New Stool

Last weekend I purchased a new stool for my studio.  I find stools without wheels much more comfortable than ones with wheels, because they can be used for leaning against while you are working, as well as sitting on.  But except for sewing, some paper repairs and headbanding I tend to stand.  

The stool looks industrial, possibly from the 1920’s and should last at least another century.  The remains of a label are difficult to make out,  “xxxx/ Steel/ Furniture/ Toledo/ USA”  in a center circle, surrounded by “Metal / Furniture/ Quality/ Strength”.  I paid way too much for it, especially since the wood seat was refinished, but admired the graceful curves of its riveted construction, and hadn’t seen one like it before.  The seat is quite comfortable, in part because it is much wider than most modern wooden stools and not as dished out in the center.  It is adjustable by using the lever under it and ball bearings allow it to spin freely.  The foot ring is most likely the most comfortable aspect, since it protrudes outward far enough from the stools legs to allow space for a shoe or to just catch your heal on.

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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