An Investigation of Seventeenth Century English Bookbinding Tools in Randle Holme’s  “Academy of Armory” to be presented at The Guild of Book Workers Standards of Excellence 2021 Online Conference October 9

I’m making great progress on my bookbinding tool presentation. But I need a longer title….

Randle Holme’s 1688 Academy of Armory contains the only known images of seventeenth century English bookbinding tools. It has been almost forgotten in bookbinding literature, and wasn’t included in Pollard and Potter’s standard reference, Early Bookbinding Manuals: An Annotated List of Technical Accounts of Bookbinding to 1840. Holme describes six essential tools: a folder, a beating hammer, a needle, a sewing frame, a lying press, and a plough. The relationship between actual books of the time and the tools used to make them will be explored in this presentation. A demonstration of reproduction folding sticks — and a discussion of the difficulties in deciphering extant evidence of them — will end the session.

It only costs $79 to attend the entire conference. This includes the opening reception for the WILD/LIFE exhibition, Peter Verheyen on fish-skin in bookbinding, Karen Hanmer on an even more simplified binding, Radha Pandey on Indo-Islamic papermaking, and a roundtable discussion on exhibiting books. I hope to see some familiar faces there, in little squares.

Register here for this online event!

If you can’t attend the conference, or are thirsting for more information concerning Randle Holme and 17th c. bookbinding tools, an article will soon be published in The New Bookbinder 41.

New Tool for Sale: The Kaschtoir

If you have never heard of a kaschtoir, you are not alone. The term is a portmanteau coined by Peter Verheyen. The kaschtoir is a backing tool; a combination of a German kaschiereisen and a French frottoir. More about the kaschiereisen here, and more about the frottoir here. This tool combines the most useful aspects of each.

A stainless steel Kashtoir

The kaschiereisen end has small teeth, which help to move the sewn, rounded bookblock into to a backed position. The froittoir end has a gentle smooth curve, which also can help move a bookblock into position, in addition to smoothing out irregularities and trueing raised bands. Two for the price of one!

If you are tired of deforming your spine into double folds with a hammer, or deforming your fingers hand manipulating your spine into shape, this may be the tool for you. Fits comfortably in one or two hands. The stainless steel is safe for contact even with historic bookblocks. The edges are very comfortably rounded, and the froittoir end is polished to make clean up easy.

I reproduced the gentle curve on the Frottoir from examples in my historic collection. This tool is not a die meant to exactly shape a spine to its curvature. A gentle curve is much more useful for a range of round spine shapes, smoothing irregularities, smushing sewing threads, etc… . The teeth can be cleaned of adhesive with a stiff brush. This tool is quite heavy, and the weight allows you to easily persuade even hard modern paper into the shape you desire with little effort.

304 stainless steel. Approximately 6 x 2 x .5 inch (15 x 5 x 1.25cm). Weighs about 1 lb. 5 oz (600 grams).

Order your Kaschtoir here!

Vernacular Rug Hooks. Exemplars of Practical, Comfortable, and Efficient Tools

A collection of handmade rug hooks bought in Prince Edward Island, CA.

I purchased this small collection of rug hooks while on vacation in Prince Edward Island, Canada, this past summer. Most of them have handmade hooks, and the handles are repurposed, altered, or custom carved. There is a compelling beauty to these humble and utilitarian objects.

Not only are they simply constructed, but they are extremely well used, which implies a degree of excellence. A poorly designed or made tool usually does not see much use! They are purely functional, with no decoration or even extra polishing on the hook end. Things that are well used and worn are an increasing rarity in our current culture. I sometimes refer to this as  “use value”, but there must be a better term.

A precisely shaped hook at the tip.

They all have a square shaft end where the handle is mounted, and look hand forged. The overall length is almost exactly the same, so that they fit into the palm of a hand and the tip reaches near the end of a slightly bent index finger. Gravers have a similar length, and one of them has what looks to be a graver handle that is missing the ferrule (the second one on in from the left on the bottom).

Several of them have file marks near the hook, indicating they were sharpened, fixed, or altered. The thickness of the shaft in relation to the size of the hook makes perfect sense: I imagine the thick area pushing apart the backing, and the hook small and sharp enough to pull the material efficiently through.

The first one (top row, far left)  reminds me of a Jim Croft awl handle, with its comfortable looking hand carved handle, worked just enough to knock any sharp edges, but not going overboard with sandpaper to make it smooth as if it were lathe turned.

Simple and ergonomic handle.

I imagine them gradually being shaped to the hands that used them over a long period of time. None of them seem to have any extra finish applied, so they feel like natural wood and oil from the hands. The shapes of the handles are all different, and likely the most individual choice.

They all demonstrate the two key aspects of successful tool design; the tool fits comfortably in the hand and fits efficiently with the material worked. They all look like they could comfortably jump into your hand and go to work.

 

Detail of what a hooked rug looks like. They were often made of strips from worn out clothes.