Are you leather curious? Interested in larger issues of hand craft? Then you will enjoy this zoom presentation on the craft of hand paring leather. Both practical and theoretical aspects of hand and tool interaction will be explored. Leather is a three dimensional material, and selectively reducing the thickness is essential for making a well functioning binding.
I will begin by showing some historic examples of leather paring, then to demonstrate the process of paring vegetable tanned leather using just one knife. Have a seat, make yourself comfortable, grab your beverage of choice and a snack, then enjoy watching the relaxing progress of gradually paring leather. While working, I will attempt to narrate — like a homunculi in my head — some of the complex decisions that go on in this process. As the leather gets thinner and thinner, excitement will mount: will I ruin the skin by tearing it? Towards the end of the demo, there will be time for Q&A and comments from the audience.
This presentation is based on my recent article, On Tool Embodiment, and I encourage everyone to read it beforehand.
Jeff Peachey: The Craft of Hand-Paring Leather. Sponsored by the American Bookbinder’s Museum. Saturday November 12, 4pm EST. Zoom. Attendees will have access to a recording after the event.
I’m very pleased to see my article, “On Tool Embodiment” published in the online Journal Decorating Dissidence. I’ve been refining these ideas for a while now, since I began exploring them in the inaugural issue of The Bonefolder back in 2004.
Using leather paring as an example, I explore some of the complexities and often subconscious hand actions that allow us to pare leather. If you are a beginning bookbinder who is interested in paring leather, this article contains some valuable practical tips. If you are an experienced binder, you will likely find some similarities to your own experiences, and perhaps some contradictory ones! If you are interested in craft or technology in general, embodiment is common in all tool use.
Decorating Dissidence is a thoughtful, inclusive, craft-positive online journal. Their mission is succinctly summed up on their homepage:
“The decorative is political. Craft is powerful. We host workshops, curate exhibitions and facilitate discussions on the topics of decorative art. We trace the lineage of modernist making legacies to the contemporary and bring to light stories of marginalized makers.” https://decoratingdissidence.com
The theme of Issue 15 is Tools, Use and Mastery. There are many articles of interest to anyone with involved in craft. Issue 14 focuses on Craft and Education, another rich important, and complex topic. It’s worth poking around through the archives, too. Enjoy “On Tool Embodiment”
Thanks to the rock star book artist Miriam Schaer for bring this journal to my attention!
Trindles are used for flattening the spine of in-boards bindings after the boards are laced on, and prior to cutting the foreedge in a plough. This gives a smooth foreedge, without “stepping” of the signatures, which can result when rounding and backing after cutting. I recently designed some modern trindles in stainless steel. Essential for historical models and modern fine binding. 7 x 1.5 inches.
Usually, when a lecture or article begins with a dictionary definition of a particular term, I eye the closest exit or quickly switch tabs. After reading Arthur Green’s historical, technique based article on in-boards edge cutting and trindles in the new Suave Mechanicals 7 I found myself wondering about the origins of this unusual word.
My first stop: Mr. OED! The two volume quarter-scale print version with magnifying glass in a slipcase was one of the few books I brought with me in an overstuffed VW bug when I moved to NYC in 1989. Anyway — according to the dictionary — the word “trindle” has been around for centuries, most of time referring to proper names, or an object that is round or cylindrical.
From a google ngrams search, there is a reference dating from 1695 mentioning “trindle-pins” which may be some sort of fastening device for ships or buildings. This may lend credence to Green’s argument that Dirk DeBray’s use of long needles to flatten the spine are earliest trindles. For me, these two tools, while performing more-or-less the same function, are morphologically too different to be called the same name. Not every tool used to hit a nail is a hammer.
Within English bookbinding literature, the earliest reference is found in Parry’s 1818 The Art of Bookbinding. They are simply described as “… two flat pieces of iron made the size and form of a folding -stick, to place between the back and boards of the book, before cutting the fore-edge (pp. 1-2). Folding sticks of this time are usually described as about 6-7 x 1 inches, and made from wood, ivory or horn. Trindles are one of the few tools Parry not only names, but describes how they is used. An implication they were uncommon at this point in time?
A few years earlier, the 1813 Circle of Mechanical Arts describes trindles without using the word, instead simply mentioning the technique as “… introducing 2 pieces of thin iron 4 or 5 inches long near the head and tail of the book, between the paste-board and the back…” (p. 77) Sounds like a trindle to me!
The top of the image is the quintessential trindle shape, roughly 6.75 x 1.5, and made by the English firm Bodil Parker brass foundry. They are quite thin and deflect when used to flatten the spine of a book, resulting in a foreedge that is less round than the spine when removed. The one on the bottom is more sophisticated, and has an English patent number that I can’t find information on. (Can anyone help?): “Patent No 116972/17” The various curves around the edges fitting around brass buttons of various diameters. The legs of this one would make it very difficult to use in bookbinding.
In the 20th century, museums and manufacturers generally refer trindles as button sticks (or less commonly, button guards). They tend to be associated with military use, dating to around WWI, and made from brass. Brass — as opposed to the thin iron usually mentioned in bookbinding literature — makes sense in that it would not scratch the buttons, since they are made from the same material.
Questions remain. Did bookbinders coin this term in the second quarter of the 19th century? Was it used in the trade commonly earlier? Why would binders create a new term for the more common term “button stick”? Is it workshop slang? Bookbinding does have its own idiosyncratic colloquial terminology. For example, most trades use the term “tommy bar” for a long tightening rod, which bookbinders call a “press-pin”. The search continues. Happy trindeling.