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Line the Spine

This step was performed on all three books.

Although the rounding and backing the books turned them into coherent units, they were still not ready for covering. They needed some spine construction, to fill in the horizontal gaps between the tapes (for the tape-sewn books) and to strengthen and preserve their shape.

After the rounded and backed books had dried overnight, I replaced each one in the backing press in turn. Before I started, I took some measurements, because this stage uses the same ones over and over. First, I measured the height of the book from head to tail. Then I used a strip of paper to measure the circumference of the spine, going over the curve.

Then it was time to start building up the spine, layer by layer. I use plenty of PVA on each layer to make sure it stuck, and rubbed it all down firmly with my bone folder.

Marker ribbon

ribbonThis is an optional step. I like using them in blank books and reference books, but they may not be suitable for archival binds. Some ribbons deteriorate over time, and can stain the pages if the book is kept in a damp environment. I find that taffeta ribbon is best, and easily obtained from the haburdashery counter of my local fabric store. I cut it about 6 centimeters longer than the book height, angling the free end is angled. This stops it unravelling over time.

I glued about 2 centimeters of the non - angled end of the ribbon to the top of the spine, making sure it was centered.

Header tape

header tape This is also an optional step; it is possible to bind a book without header tape. However, it does add a certain charm to the book to have the colored bands peeping over the head and tail of the book. I glued it in place so that only the stripy bit shows.

2005: Most really skilled binders sew their own headbands straight onto the book. I have done so for some time now, either using coloured thread or tiny beads.

Kraft paper

"Kraft paper" is the generic term for brown paper, or for any paper serving as filler in the spine of the book. In older binds, you can sometimes see old newspaper used as padding. This is a bad idea to replicate in archival binding, since newsprint has a high acid content and will deteriorate over time. This can cause a binding to crumble long before its time. I tend to use brown wrapping paper, which though not acid-free is less acidic than newsprint. As I often do, I spent some time cutting a few strips the width of the spine before I got the glue out again.

2005: If you're binding a book you've printed yourself, or a blank book, spare pages from the book may be a better solution than kraft paper. As long as it's not too thick, you know that it's no more acidic than the book block itself.

filling the gaps For a tape-sewn book like the red and blue book, I first used the kraft paper to fill in the gaps between the tapes, and between them and the header tape. I took a strip the width of the spine and cut it into bits that fit between the tapes. The tape and paper I use are about the same thickness, so I only needed to glue one layer down to even up the spine.

rubbing with a bone folderEach layer should be firmly rubbed down with a bone folder to ensure adhesion.

For a book sewn on buried cords, such as the green one, I didn't have to fill in between the sewn tapes. I still had to fill in between the two pieces of header tape, however. To do this, I cut a length of paper one spine width wide and one book height tall minus the overlap from the header tape at top and bottom. I glued it down to make an even surface the length of the spine.

the next layer in placeOnce the back was nice and even, I added another layer of kraft paper the full length of the spine. Again, I took some time to rub it down well.



header tapeTo strengthen the flexible hinge between the book and the boards, I glued a strip of cloth onto the back. It's important to use a woven fabric that doesn't tear easily. Professional bookbinders use a kind of inexpensive cotton called mull, but since I bind so few books I use undyed linen. I cut a piece about a centimeter shorter than the book block and eight or ten centimeters wider than the spine. I glued it down centered, so that a tag of fabric sticks out at each side. This was to be glued to the boards (for the green book), or to form the tab to connect the book to the split boards (for the red and blue books) a little later on.

2005: These days, I tend to glue the cloth down before the final layer of kraft paper. This means that I can sand the spine of the book after the adhesive has dried, producing a smoother, solider back to my book.

For the blue book, which was to be cased in, I then glued another piece of kraft paper onto the spine, rubbed it down well, and set it aside to dry. The red and green books needed their hollow backs glued on (see the next step).

If you're doing this, remember one thing. Don't open your book now or the whole spine will come off. Really.

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