Volume 3 - Spring 1997


Letters & Feedback

Thank You

Thank you for the Autumn issue of Skin Deep. I have already bound a book of magazines using the Rigid Concave Spine Method as shown by James Brockman in this issue - it proved to be a great success.

The following trick may be of use to other amateur bookbinders like myself. When rubbing down end papers, instead of using ordinary paper, try using the silicone release paper from 'Fablon' or other such product or even a cornflake packet using the shiny side uppermost. The bone folder will glide like magic with little or no drag - superb!!!

With many thanks to your excellent staff and your very good delivery service,

yours faithfully,

A.W. Martin, Lowestoft

Concave Spines

My initial reaction when reading James Brockman's article on The Rigid Concave Spine was "lucky fellow having that much time to spend experimenting, some of us have got busy workshops to run you know".

My next reaction was one of interest and I am now full of questions such as:

    Does the grain or weight of paper affect the work? What sort of glue is used? Why sew on tapes? Is the thickness of the volume a deciding factor in the suitability of a concave spine? Can concave spines really be called fine bindings? I am not convinced that there will be less strain on the sewing and in my opinion the book may have more tendency to move than with a conventional style of binding. Who knows, maybe one day I will have time to discover for myself, but in the meantime it is interesting to hear other binders ideas. Thank you James.
Barry Brignell, Cambridge

James Brockman replies:

I am grateful to Mr. Brignell for taking the time to respond to my article "The Rigid Concave Spine" in your newsletter, Skin Deep Number 2. I was hoping for some reaction from fellow binders and hoped that a discussion in your columns would follow.

I, too, run a busy workshop employing several people with the pressures of maintaining quality, meeting deadlines etc. but I have always found time to experiment and develop new ideas along side my everyday work. This approach has worked well for over 20 years and I can remember in 1975-6 there were months of evenings and weekends designing and making my first electronic binding. This was a purely speculative exercise and in fact the binding was brought by the first collector who saw it for £2000!

I have maintained this approach to binding and question every technique and style I come across. No binder in the past had all the answer and no binder today has all the answers but I believe we should pass on more that we inherit.

In response to Barry's particular points:

I do not believe the grain or weight of paper would present any additional problems over the rounded and backed book.

I always use a thin layer of edible gelatine on the back of the sections for good reversibility. After the initial linings unbleached Irish linen and acid-free paper - PVA may be used.

I prefer to sew on tapes as this cuts down on the bulk over the joints and makes lining and spine easier (8 or more linings are needed). I have bound one rigid concave spine binding sewn on single raised cords. The boards were attached by flattening the slips and gluing into the split boards.

To date, the thinnest book I have bound using this method was 1/2" miniature book and the thickest 5" Bruce Rogers, Oxford Lectern Bible (See photographs).

I did not invent the Rigid Concave Spine with a view to using it on fine bindings. In fact it evolved from my interest in binding structure whilst rebinding manuscripts, early printed books etc. and I have always considered the structure most suitable for conservation binding. However, my earlier invention of the single hinge binding produced a concave spine automatically, therefore if the techniques, materials and structure are fine, then I see no reason why it cannot be used on a fine binding.

With regard to strain on the sewing, I would emphasise that it is a Rigid Concave Spine. There must be enough spine linings to guarantee that the spine will not move - WHAT DOES NOT MOVE DOES NOT BREAK!


Quarter sawn oak boards with
alum-tawed leather spine, gold and blind tooling

Open Book Open


Skin Deep - Volume 3 - Spring 1997

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