Saturday, September 29, 2012

Atelier du Marais: Bookbinding Part 2

In today's post I'm going to show you the method I used for making of the covers of both the books I made in Paris. Some of this was new to me, and some was familiar. Hopefully you may see something helpful.

First off, I'm continuing with the book with watercolour paper and a linen cover, started in the last post.

Before going any further with the book block, the card which will form the spine
of the covers is cut to size. Below you can see the formula used, and above you can see that height of the card is not a concern at this point.

 The spine edges (in grey) are folded to create a nice, sharp edge prior to glueing to the boards .

The boards are cut to size and their orientation is marked (VH= verso haut=back top; RH=recto haut=front top) before sanding the spine-side edge. The goal is to create a very thin edge, (~1mm) with the board gently curving back to its full thickness within a couple of inches.  Above you can see the boards and spine after glueing with PVA.

For glueing the fabric to the book boards, I first marked the outline of the book onto the fabric, and then generously applied PVA to the outlined area. To position the boards accurately, place the top and bottom left corners of the front board into the left side of your outline. Then carefully "roll" the boards into position from left to right, taking care with the placement of the right corners. Use your hands to press the boards and fabric together, taking special care with the spine area. Now you can trim your corners, as you see above. (Actually, this isn't trimmed closely enough, but go slowly - you can always cut more off, but you can't stick it back on).
It's a simple step to apply PVA to the bare fabric with an appropriately sized brush. I started with the shorter sides, folding them in carefully, followed by the longer ones. You use your thumbnail to fold the sliver of fabric over the corner of the board, making a lovely neat corner (if all goes well!)

Here you can see the boards with their full fabric covering (please disregard the ruler - it isn't there for any good reason). 

Making Leather Covers

As I've already mentioned, the other book I made was covered with leather. The book boards were made in the same way outlined above, however the way the leather is applied is rather different. I'm afraid I was so engrossed in the process that it didn't cross my mind to take any photos. Nevertheless, there were a couple of aspects that were really new and surprising to me, which I'd like to share with you.

1) The Glueing
 Both wheat paste and PVA were used, but rather than mixing the two before application, each was applied in turn. First, I had to apply a generous coat of wheat paste. (And I mean generously. I thought I was being generous, but when Madame Malouvier saw what I was doing, she up-ended jar of glue, creating a pool of paste on the leather for me to distribute!!)

The brush is used to work the paste into the surface and remove the excess. (You shouldn't be left with any pools of glue.)

Next a moderate coat of PVA is applied over the top of the wheat paste, and you're ready to place the covers onto the leather.

2) Working the Leather
I had hoped that I would learn how to prepare the leather for covers, but it turned out that nobody does that themselves at Atelier du Marais. Each person cuts the leather to size and then it is "sent out" to a leather specialist a few streets away. My leather was shaved perfectly for me for the princely sum of three euros. I imagine that it is organised this way so that Mme Malouvier doesn't have to deal with any thumbs or fingers being chopped off in the Atelier.

The students do bevel the angled corners of their leather, prior to glueing. This experience was enough for me to realize that it was just as well my leather had been "sent out".

However, once prepared I was surprised  how easy the leather was to manipulate. It is quite an elastic material and can be not only stretched, but contracted (by gently pushing it back with the fingers) to a surprising degree. As a result, it is actually much easier to create a beautiful, neat corner than it is when using fabric or paper covered boards. 

Look at that neat corner!

When the glue has dried, you can clean up your leather with a sponge dampened with a little white vinegar and water. 

I have a few more finishing touches to tell you about, but that will be in the next post. I do hope that you aren't bored! I'm enjoying going over all that I learned, and am pleased I took decent notes.

À bientôt!
(see you soon)


  1. Aah...the elusive neat corners! Not bored Amanda, thank you.

  2. I, personally, am absolutely fascinated. Thank you so much for sharing what you have learned!

  3. What a dream Amanda to send out your leather to be pared for 3 euros - oh to be in Paris!

  4. Hi Vicki! Hi Stan! Thanks - I am genuinely pleased to hear from you both, and to know you're finding this interesting.

    Helen : I know!!! Three euros!! If only we could find someone similar here in Brisbane. Next year there's a leather workers conference on, maybe we can put up a notice or something. Nevertheless, I bet it won't be a few streets away or cost €3.

  5. Hi Amanda....thanks for the comment. As for embroider, embellish, create...I don't think it will run again early next year. Too soon after the next one...sorry!! I hope you are well x It certainly looks like you got a lot from this book class.

  6. Not bored at all! This is fascinating! I look forward to more, please. I love this different take on casing in from what I know, and getting to see what you did at the Atelier.