Feed on
I will be at the San Francisco Center for the Book this August taking a one-week class in making four different kinds of books: coptic, flat-back case, limp paper, and rounded back cloth bindings. I'm looking forward to both the workshop and being in San Francisco. A great excursion for this year.

HTMTB_Front.jpgHere is How to Make this Book, an 18-page B6-sized pamphlet using the Hemp Leaf Binding. If you go to Episode 133 you can read a tutorial on this binding. The book is a combination history lesson about the empresses of Japan; there have been only eight. However, two of the empresses (Suiko and Koken/Shotoku) were instrumental in developing printing, book making, and writing in Japan.

HTMTB_Page.jpgSuiko sent the people to China who brought back the writing system Japan still uses. Koken/Shotoku (the same woman was empress twice so she had two names) encouraged the arts including printing. She imported woodblock printing from Korea so that she could make 1,000,000 copies of a Buddhist mantra. It was the first use of woodblock printing in Japan.

HTMTB_Open2.jpgBetween the two,
printing and writing flourished and with that flourishment (?) came the need to bind the pages together. From that need came what is known as Japanese binding or watoji (和綴じ). Among the more popular watoji are the hemp leaf, the turtle shell, the noble, and the four-hole bindings.
Here you can see the pictures that go with the tutorial. Or go down to Episode 133 and see them there, too. Fun, eh?


As I learn about the Hemp Leaf Binding I decided to write up a quick tutorial. Here it is.

First, you’ll need some paper for the pages. The size is your choice but it should be thin. Hemp leaf binding ~ most Japanese bindings, in fact ~ favor thin pages and thin covers. Craft paper makes for a good cover as it is thick enough to be a cover yet thin enough to work properly. Then, get a scrap piece of paper the same height as your cover. On this scrap piece of paper we are going to mark the holes for stabbing.

There will be seven holes. There will be two rows: one row will have four holes labelled 1A ~ 4A.; The other row will have three holes with clever names like 1B, 2B, and 3B. The row with four holes should be about 10 mm (a bit less than half an inch) from the edge. The row with three holes should be about 5 mm (half the distance from the edge to the row with four holes) from the edge. The distance between the holes should be the same.

Let's start at the very beginning, which I'm told is a very nice place to start. The beginning is the hard part.

Here’s the short version:

Start at 2A. Wrap the thread around the edge at 2A
Go to 2B, wrap the thread around the edge (wrap)
Go back to 2A. From 2A front, go to 3A.
From the back of 3A, go to 2B.
From 2B go to 3A again and wrap the thread around the edge.
Go to 3B and wrap the thread.
Go to 3A. From the back, go to 4A.
From 4A go to 3B.
From the back of 3B go to 4A and wrap the thread around both edges.
Go to 3A. From the back of 3A, go to 2A.
From 2A go to 1B and wrap it.
Go to 2A. From 2A go to 1A and wrap it around the edge.
Go to 1B, then back to 1A, wrap it around the other edge. Go to 2A.
Tie it off at 2A.

Here’s the slightly more intimate version:

Start in the middle of your pages at 2A.

Go to the front of 2A, then wrap the thread around the edge, ending up back at the front at 2A.

Go to 2B and wrap the thread around the edge, ending up at the back of 2B.

From the back of 2B, go to 2A. From the front of 2A, go to 3A. From the back of 3A, go to 2B.

From 2B, go to 3A and wrap the thread around the edge.
Go to 3B and wrap the thread around the edge.
Go to 3A and from the back of 3A, go to 4A.

From 4A go to 3B. From the back of 3B, go to 4A

At 4A, wrap the thread around both edges.

From the front of 4A go to 3A.

From the back of 3A go to 2A.
From the front of 2A go to 1B. Wrap the thread around the edge.

From the back of 1B go to 2A.

From the front of 2A go to 1A and wrap the thread around one edge.

Go to 1B. From the front of 1B, go to 1A and wrap the thread round the other edge.

From 1A, go to 2A. Somehow find the end of the thread that’s in the middle and tie it off.

This should end up looking something like this. Hopefully, you'll be able to follow my instructions. If not, well, tell me about it.

But most of all, enjoy trying your hand at this binding, if you don't already know it.

Thanks for dropping by.

CalvadoCoverSmall.jpgWhat I do is write novels and bind books. I write what are usually called literary fiction. This is when your novel doesn't fit any of the other preconceived boxes (scifi, fantasy, fanfic, romance, detective, mystery, historical, YA, erotica, or western) into which people can put your novel. It also means the characters are more important than the plot.

TristramCoverSmall200x200.jpgMy novels tend to be heavy on characterization and light on the plot although one novel (The Venetian Slime Woman) is plot heavy. Another one (Tristram's Printer) is plot light. Both, I believe, are character-driven. Yet a third (The Idiot Runs) has time travel - a character goes back in time. A fourth (Calvado) has time travel of another sort - the tale of the two main characters is told in jump-cut time-slipping fashion (We meet them, then we see them younger, later a bit older, then back in their lives).

PriestsCOVER.jpgThe fifth novel (The Priests of Hiroshima) also has time travel. In fact, it has two stories: one in the present (kind of) and one in 1453 Mainz, Germany. It also has nothing to do with the priests who survived the atom destruction of Hiroshima (although one of the main characters is Japanese.).

Bookbinding is my other occupation. I write, edit, print, and bind my novels (and other topics, of course) thus improving my binding skills and having a solid soft- or hard-cover copy of my novel. A nice symbiosis. The problem is when I read the novel I find way too many mistakes which means I go back to the 525600cords_2small.jpgcomputer to fix (hopefully) most of them, reprint and then Yes! I have another book to bind. Currently I have about six novels waiting for my bookbinding persona to show up and work on them.

MayaSchedule1516_4small.jpgThis is a 100-page A5 schedule book with pictures from the client to personalize it. The paper is 120 g/m2, which is, in my limited experience, too thick for this kind of book but the client liked it so all is well. A mistake (I thought I was buying regular paper) but it worked out. Fortunately.

The cover is made up of a variety of leftover pieces that I wanted to use before buying more. Since the client gave me carte blanche I gave it a shot. As you can see on the front, there are two different colored book cloths plus a bit of color in the MayaSchedule1516_3small.jpgmiddle. The bit of color is actually an endpaper. Obviously it isn't big enough to use as an endpaper, so I used it to cover the seam between book cloths. The back was also comprised of leftover bits. It might look like two pieces but it is actually three; two just happen to be small pieces of the same design.

Since the client wanted the book to open wide enough so they could use the entire page, I used coptic binding. This was good because Wednesday and Thursday are in the crease and are busy days. Lots of notes will be written in the margins of those two days. I also used multi-colored thread. The book is brown: the textblock, all the pieces on the cover. Even the endpaper I used on the front cover is brownish (with streaks of red and green). The colored thread gives it a little bit more personality.

MayaSchedule1516_2small.jpgSpeaking of endpapers, these, too, were leftover pieces: thicker Japanese paper (washi) cut to fit the covers.

The book itself has a yearly calendar for 2015 & 2016, a monthly calendar for April 2015 to March 2016 (the Japanese school year), and a weekly calendar. The monthly calendar is followed by the weekly calendar for that month. Just like the client designed it.

The April 2015 - March 2016 Schedule Book


Next up? The 366-page schedule book.

The San Francisco Center for the Book has a workshop called the Bookbinding Core 1 ~ 4. In this workshop people can make all sorts of books, learn all sorts of new skills, get all sorts of advice from great teachers, and generally ratchet up their bookbinding skills to a new, higher level. I wanted to go. I checked the dates of the workshops. I checked around for cheap hotels. I checked for cheap flights. I was psyched to go! I checked my work schedule. Boom. A meeting. Right in the middle of the workshop week. Impossible for me to go. Then, on my Facebook page, I get photos by Facebook friends who Are in San Francisco and the San Francisco Center for the Book and Are taking this Bookbinding Core 1 ~ 4 workshop. And Are getting great instruction. Drats! Am I jealous or what? Yes! I'm definitely not What?

Pages.jpgRegardless of my jealousy and frustration, I am making a book about soup. It is not merely a history of soup but includes characters such as Bishop Ussher, Hunt & Tony Sales (musical sons of Soupy), the last soups of famous people before they died (Julia Child had French onion), Duck Soup by the Marx Brothers, and soups in movies (Tom Jones comes to mind), and, of course, the Soup Nazi and his first appearance (Sleepless in Seattle.) It will be Japanese stab bound as is the red book in the photo at left.

The pages for the Soup book, titled: Soup: A Seasoned History, have been aged in tea & coffee and burnt around the edges. It is B6 in size and has 55 pages. Profusely illustrated, of course. I'm waiting to find a coffee bag to finish of the covers before I can sew it together. Maybe next year I can learn Japanese stab binding better at SFCB.

Kikkado_Cover.jpgAn A6 size notebook that fits nicely in one's pocket is pictured here. It was made of upcycled material. Specifically it was made from a box that a delicious New Year's Stollen came in. Unfortunately, I ate the cake so I can't send you any. The notebook is six signatures of four sheets resulting in about 84 pages. A handy size all around, I think.

Stollen.jpgI sewed, glues, mulled, and put on those glue-on headbands much, much earlier last year and, when I saw the box the stollen came in I thought, wow, here's the cheap (i.e. free) book board I've been looking for. I spent a wonderful afternoon measuring, cutting, gluing, and finding endpapers.

Kikkado_endpaper.jpgThe endpapers are also upcycled.... I really don't like that word. It sounds too cutesy. The endpapers are also made from recycled material. I believe they are from a wrapping that another purchase was wrapped up in.

All in all, a fairly successful adventure, considering these are among the first books I've cased in in a long time. I cased in the yearly planner shortly after New Year's but these are in the top three, for sure.
2015Planner_Cover.pngThis is a  planner that was supposed to be presented as a Saturnalia present back on December 25th but I got a bit  backed up. Well, with running around shopping at least.

It is A5, 12 signatures of four folios each for about 192 pages. I used a link stitch and cased it in with 2 mm book boards. Plus it was only about two weeks late. Hey, it's the thought that counts? Next year... Earlier? (That's what I said this year....)

2015Planner_Endpaper.jpgAs you can see, it has purple endpapers that are intended to match a pair of chairs that will be delivered at the end of January, another Saturnalia present arriving fashionably late.

It comes with a weekly calendar, a monthly calendar, and two yearly calendars. It also has lots of space for note-taking; for example, the weekly calendar is on the left side while the right side is blank. A request from the recipient.

This is the fourth book I've made so far this year and it's only the fifth of January. I will definitely not say I will be making a book-a-day for 2015 but I'm off to a good start. The other three books were kind of a fluky thing.
2015Planner_Monthly.pngI had this badly printed novel on my desk for a while (like a year or more ~  the novel is Tristram's Printer). It was printed on only one side of the paper and I contemplated occasionally, what to do with it. One option, which came up frequently, was to trash it. Another was to Perfect bind it. The last option was to use a Japanese stab binding which is the one I went with. However, a 200 page novel is hard to stab. So I divided it up into five mini-novels which are pretty much divided along chapter lines. On the second day of the first month of the year, I stabbed section one.

This stabbing was followed on the third and fourth. When I finish all five sections I hope to make a small clamshell box for them and title it Tristram's Printer's Skeleton as the pages have been edited in red and black pen. Lots of corrections.

2015PlannerOpen_Weekly.jpgOn the last two pictures you can see a monthly calendar followed by a weekly calendar. On the weekly calendar you can also see how much space is available for writing: the entire right-hand page. The previous planner had a weekly calendar on both pages but the recipient requested more writing acreage which I happily provided.

Speaking of casing in books, I believe I have about 14 uncased books lining my desk. Does that mean I will case in 14 books in the next two weeks? One can only hope. Especially considering that two of them were intended as year-end presents.

Giapan_small_Adjusted_ipod.jpgArt-o-Mat sells art through used cigarette machines. Artists may submit their work to Art-o-Mat but it must meet certain requirements, like size. This is a great idea for not only recycling used cigarette machines but for also distributing art to people walking down the street. Go to: Art-O-Mat.

In that spirit, I am working on cigarette package-sized books. The book must fit inside a box the size of a cigarette pack and that has given me a whole new set of skills: measuring extremely accurately, folding, printing, and sewing small stuff. Eight pages are printed on one sheet of paper and then folded. The first book is nine signatures. The signatures are then sewn together. The second book is seven signatures. How many books will it eventually contain? I have no idea. Thrilling, isn't it? Picture two has a couple of cover ideas.

Giapan_small_cover.jpgThe book is called Giapan: A Quixotic Love Story. It is about a gypsy nun (La Gitana) and a wanderer (Giapan) who find themselves working for King Phillip of Spain shortly before the Spanish Armada sets out on its fateful voyage. The nun and the wanderer cross paths with a famous Spanish novelist who works briefly as a tax collector for King Phillip; until he is arrested for embezzlement.
PriestsJapanese_KadoKami1.jpgThe first picture is a picture of my be-jeaned knees. Pretty, no? Between the knees you can see the kado-kami (edge papers) that support the text block and go under the cover and around the corners at the head and foot of the book. You can also see the thread wrapping around the edges.

This second picture is of the covers of the two recycled volumes of The Priests of Hiroshima: An Historical Love Story. What is the story about? A medical student and a Japanese student discover an antique bookstore in Istanbul with a talking cat that has perfected time travel. They go back to Mainz, PriestsJapanese_Cover.jpgGermany to watch Gutenberg build his printing press, avoid arrest, watch a nun and priest fall in love, and discover their joy of life. Nothing whatsoever to do with Hiroshima or those semi-famous priests.

One of the better things about the Japanese binding? It can be done fairly quickly with no waiting around for glue to dry. (Except for the kado-kami.)



The shaded areas in the picture on the left are the Kado Kami (角紙) that supports the corners of the spine. On the right are the Koyori Kami (コヨリ紙) that supports the text block itself. In this picture the twisted paper is put through two holes; some instructions are for only one hole.

Plus, an easy to watch speed version of sewing six signatures of a blank notebook: Binding Six Signatures.


- Older Posts »