Volume 27 - Spring 2009


How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

by Gavin Dovey

.....so every now and then Carnegie Hall wants to honour someone, usually a donor with very deep pockets, or commemorate a season, lifetime......whatever the reason I'm glad of it as it means I get to make some nice bindings, stamp their great plates in leaf, and use my first ever and favourite wheel.

The binding is pretty straight forward.... a case with inlaid panels, usually red, but this weekend green. Then comes the finishing...

It did admittedly take me some time (good tip coming) to figure out that the best way to stamp difficult plates in leaf was to not use anything to hold the leaf in place. This may be pretty obvious to some, but I always have to learn the hard way. The red book is a lot larger, and the plates more difficult. The image of the hall is problematic, due to its size (approximately 6" x 9"), its very detailed, and it's top-heavy, meaning its position underneath the blocker is key to getting a good impression. The text plate has a large wide band of gold, which is not impossible to clean out with butane, if you are sticking down with Vaseline, but it takes nerves of steel....... as does removing, cleaning, and replacing underneath the press, and stamping again..... trust me, it does. No, the key, is to position under the press, lay the leaf on top, stamp and brush out easily using a soft-haired brush - quicker, easier, and just an all round better result. Obvious to everyone but me, right?

After stamping, the back of the book is put in, headcaps made, tied-up, and left over night to dry. Then next, a hand rolled wheel across the front and back boards, but first as in the photo, gold is laid down. The tool is then rolled across the gold, and butane is used to clean of the excess, hopefully leaving behind the pattern!!

I chose the wheel as the pattern was simple, open, and the raised petals were just about the right size to ensure a good finish pretty easily.

On the more recent green book, I did try a different gold. For the past several years I have been mostly using a French pale 22-carat, on new work. This was originally because I found the shade more appealing, but later it became clear that it is actually easier to use, than the fine stuff. I did try some years ago, the 24-carat fine gold, but found it incredibly delicate and prone to cracking, and flying around, etc! But, guess what, another four day turnaround, and I'm out of pale. I've got plenty of fine though, so I gave it a shot, and it came out.

Yes, the 24 carat is more delicate (seems lighter, possibly due to not being mixed with alloy), and it did require some repair work, but it came out just as good.

In the little I have learnt and understand about working with gold in the past five years, its all about confidence (positive action), and confidence can only be gained by experience, and experience is only gained by failure, lots of failure...

But it's just like the cliché. How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice (sorry!! it was just too easy)

Gavin Dovey - an British trained bookbinder is Paper Dragon Books and can be found online at http://paperdragonbooks.blogspot.com/. Paper Dragon Books, practices the art of fine and design bookbinding, and is located in New York City. The bindery produces bespoke handmade bookbinding and boxes for book dealers, libraries, museums and galleries, as well as tailored solutions for any and all commercial presentations. Editions run from the one-offs to the hundreds


Skin Deep - Volume 27 - Spring 2009

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