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Trim the Book Block

This step was performed on all three books.

This step is not strictly necessary; it depends on how you want the final book to look. Actually, to be honest, it also depends on whether you happen to have the right tool. Martin gave me a plough for my birthday, so I have the option to trim my books. If you're just starting out, and don't have the equipment, skip this stage.


Why trim a book? Well, if all the pages you fold your into your signatures are the same size, then the fore edge of your book is going to have a deckle edge. It'll be uneven. And if you don't stack your signatures just right when you mark and punch to sew, the top and bottom edges will be uneven as well.

trimmed and untrimmed book blocksIf you're binding a blank book and want that "handmade" look, this is great. If you want something a little more formal-looking, or if you're rebinding a very smart edition, you may want to trim. (For rebindings, of course, the decision to trim is based on the margin sizes, a realistic appraisal of your skill level with the plough, and conservation considerations.) Trimming is also an option if the page edges of the original volume were dyed or gilded - even the most careful lining-up may leave unsightly gaps.


trimmingTrimming is done with a tool called a plough. It's basically a device that fits onto a ridge on your book press. It then holds a blade in a specific vertical position in relation to the book block. To operate it, you slide the plough back and forth to slice the pages off one or two at a time. Tightening the wooden screw bit by bit brings the blade into contact with fresh pages on each run.

Trimming pages was not as easy as it might look. The plough blade had to be kept very sharp, or it tended to tear the pages and spoil the book. And lining the book block up in the press, clamping it just the right amount, and knowing when to tighten the screw all take practice. I have a long way to go in this area.

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