wooden board workshop at the Huntington

This fall, November 8-12, 2010, I will be teaching an intensive five day master class at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California.  This will be the first time I’ve taught this class, and hopefully it will be a great introduction to woodworking and the conservation of wood board books.  I’m really excited about it and think it will be a lot of fun, as well as a lot of learning. The workshop fee is a very modest $650, and I’m estimating about $150 for materials and some basic woodworking tools.  Please contact Justin Johnson ( jjohnson (at) huntington (dot) org) for an application, or if you have questions, please contact me.

WOODEN BOOK BOARDS: THEIR CONSERVATION, HISTORIC CONSTRUCTION AND THE PRAXIS OF WORKING WOOD.

This five day master class will focus on the fundamentals of wooden book boards: the basics of using hand tools to shape wood accurately, easily and efficiently; the making a sample set of wood to identify common historic varieties; the examining of historic techniques of shaping wood; and the making a sample set of common treatments for split boards. Choosing, tuning, using, sharpening and maintaining woodworking tools will also be taught. Exploring some of the complexities of wood technology and how this impacts treatment, storage and handling options for conservation treatments will also be covered. Participants are encouraged to bring documentation concerning specific split board treatment problems for class discussion. No previous woodworking experience is necessary.

Bio: Jeffrey S. Peachey is the owner of a New York City-based studio for the conservation of books and the inventor of conservation tools and machines. He is a Professional Associate in the American Institute for Conservation. For more than 20 years, he has specialized in the conservation of books and paper artifacts for institutions and individuals.

GOALS OF THE WORKSHOP

  1. Learn how to evaluate, use and maintain basic hand wood working tools.
  2. Construct a sample set of reference wood commonly encountered in historic book boards.
  3. Construct a specialized jig to plane thin wood boards.
  4. Reproduce historic board shapes, channels, tunnels, chamfering and learn to recognize the tools used to make them.
  5. Construct samples of currently used techniques to repair split and splitting boards, and discuss their applicability in various real world situations.
  6. Make one sample board from a log, by hand, to understand the historic hand technologies– using a maul, froe, and broad axe.
  7. Begin to appreciate some of the complexities of wood technology and how this impacts treatment, storage and handling options for real world books.
  8. Discuss in depth the results of a recent article by Alexis Hagadorn and  Jeffrey S. Peachey  “The use of parchment to reinforce split wooden bookboards, with preliminary observations into the effects of RH cycling on these repairs” Journal of the Institute of Conservation, Volume 33, Issue 1 March 2010 (pp 41 – 63)
  9. Consider storage, housing and display issues unique to wooden board bindings.
  10. Discuss specific potential treatment options from examples that participants supply.

The registration fee for this 5-day workshop is $650.00. Other costs apply. Class size is limited to 10. For more information and to apply contact Justin Johnson at jjohnson (at) huntington (dot) org.

The Use of Parchment to Reinforce Split Wooden Bookboards

I was quite pleased to receive the new Journal of the Institute of Conservation, Vol. 33, No. 1, 2010, since Alexis Hagadorn and I have an article included in it titled “The use of parchment to reinforce split wooden bookboards, with preliminary observations into the effects of RH cycling on these repairs”

Here is the abstract:

Split wooden boards are a common problem in early book bindings, and treatment can be complicated by the need to disturb original components as little as possible. A technique used to reinforce or rejoin fully or partially split wooden boards using parchment has been evaluated. A reinforcing parchment strip has sometimes been employed to treat cracks in wooden musical instruments and examples of reinforcing strip repairs to wooden bookboards have also been observed. The books considered in this article presented an opportunity to use this technique and make observations about its merits. With favourable results but some questions, the authors undertook a systematic study of this method, considering and comparing several options for re-joining split wooden boards. Samples of some common repair techniques were made and subjected to relative humidity cycling to compare how each method might withstand extreme RH fluctuations at a constant temperature. The response of reinforcing strip repairs to RH changes showed a negative impact on join adhesion within the sample group, which may indicate that modifications are necessary to improve this technique. When re-examined after three years, the treated boards were intact and stable.”

It took over four years from the start of the project until the revised manuscript was accepted for publication, but it is gratifying to see the results of our research, and images of a couple of my treatments in a peer reviewed journal.  Unfortunately, the journal is not available online yet, although I have heard it is in the works.  And if you are not a member of ICON, this single issue costs, gulp, $228.oo!


Wooden Book Board Lacing Exposed

Above:  The anchoring and lacing pattern on the inner face of a wooden book board from 1453.

Not only is it remarkable that the tight “S” twist double cords are still held tightly by the treenail, but I find the almost casual tool marks from a gouge beautiful.  They look like they were cut yesterday, although they were protected and covered with a vellum pastedown that became detached at some point in the past.  Judging from the splintered wood on the right hand side, it looks as if the hole was drilled first, then the channel cut from left to right. The cuts must have started at the bottom, and worked upwards, ending with what I can imagine was an attempt to clean up the slightly splintered wood. And like most attempts to rectify an error, it only made things worse.  A bookbinders mistake from five centuries ago?  Notice the split in the board is not caused by the treenail or the two iron nails at the top and bottom of the image, which is often the case.

I’m always impressed by any mechanical object that is still intact and functioning after 557 years.