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Archive for February 2012

EddieOpenCamUp.jpgA friend is writing an online novel called Teach Yourself Japanese: The Eddie Trombone Case. Or it might be completely true. True or false, fact or fiction, I was looking for content to practice imposition, binding, casing in, and the other particulars of bookbinding. Viola, a marriage made online.

I copied his online scribblings, did a little desktop publishing magic, imposed it, printed it out (which took close to a half-century to finish - Gutenberg had it easy), and did a link stitch before casing it in with a sort of ersatz Chinese motif cover.

About the Book Part One There are six signatures of four sheets each for 96 pages. It is B6 in size and I really messed up the first time I cased it in. I forgot to push the text block up tight against the spine and it came out loose and messy. After I tossed it across the studio and shoved it in the recycle bin, I relaxed. Then I tore it apart and re-bound it. It came out better when I was relaxed.

About "the Book" Part Two What, you might ask, is the story about? An American in Japan by the name of Eddie Trombone is missing. A consulate officer at the Osaka consulate, Gerard K. Dirkins, is charged with finding him. His efforts lead him to a book Eddie took out of the Chicago library called "Teach Yourself Japanese" and a diary kept by Mr. Trombone. From Eddie's diary, we follow his life from Chicago to Osaka and witness the many frustrations as Dirkins tries to understand Eddie's frustrating "new" and exciting (?) life in Japan. Will he ever find Eddie? Is Eddie still alive? More importantly, will "Teach Yourself Japanese" ever be returned to the Chicago public library?

Eddie_front_camright.jpgThis book, which I have made in an edition of three (two to the author, one for me), is titled "Teach Yourself Japanese: the Eddie Trombone Case, Part 1" because the online novel is not, as far as I know, finished yet. Plus, I am currently working on "Teach Yourself Japanese: the Eddie Trombone Case, Part 2."

Second, you might ask, is why is the green part of the book so big? Well, when I tossed it across the room? I kind of ripped part of the cover which was mostly the fake Chinese red part. And, I, uh, kind of had to cover up the tears. Maybe this will be the copy I keep for myself. In retrospect, rather than a hard cover, I think I should have made it a softcover because it is only 96 pages. Kind of thin, but when Part 2 comes out, I might try a dos a dos.


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What we have here is a recycled book cover. It began life as a bento box: a box with food in yamatobentoOpen.jpgit that is ubiquitous in Japan. You can find them virtually everywhere. I ripped mine apart (after eating the tiny bits of meat, chicken, salmon, vegetables, and massive amount of rice that comes with it), made sure it was clean, then turned it into a book cover. I liked the design that flows from the back to the front - a sort of Japanesey pattern - and the front has a nice strong diagonal under kanji. Everyone who has lived in Japan longer than a month laughed when they saw this book because they all know it is the lid from a bento box.

I used the Yamato Toji binding - butterfly by Smith - and B5 size paper so the book is about B6. And blank. I sewed the text block together, then glued down the first and last pages as endpapers. The inside is, therefore, all white paper - like rice? If I had thought ahead a little bit, I would have used a more thematic paper for the endpapers.

The kanji is maku-no-uchi (幕の内) which is two things: the highest ranking in sumo and a type of bento. I'm going with the type of bento here since it's a pretty slim book. It's 160 pages (10 signatures of four sheets each) and, surprisingly, didn't take too long to make. The Yamato Toji is a pretty quick little binding and gluing on the endpapers wasn't time consuming either.

And now for something really completely different: The B-52's Private Idaho from YouTube. For your entertainment pleasure only. Please don't try this at home.


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Here we have three small books using two different Japanese bindings. Today, I'll talk about the one on the far left - First Hemp. I used the Hemp Leaf Binding (Asa No Ha Toji -  麻の葉綴じ) which I think is pretty but it still doesn't allow the book to open widely. This is my first attempt. Perhaps below you can see a close up of the binding. The picture might be too small, however.

First Hemp has 52 pages - 26 single sheets. It is a blank notebook and for the cover I used my first attempt at suminagashi, which I'll tell you about in a second. The hemp leaf binding is fun and quick to do once you remember the order. According to Keith Smith, there are about 18 different places for the thread to go. Each hole gets the thread multiple times with the first hole getting threaded about five times. Bulky, eh? Toji_AsanoHa.jpg

Last night I made another hemp leaf binding book - a book with content which I will show you in a future post - and was surprised how quickly it went. I think I finished in less than fifteen minutes. The book still doesn't open as widely as I like but I think the binding is pretty pretty. I mean, awfully pretty. Or, maybe, awfully delightful.

Now, about suminagashi. Sumi (墨) is ink and nagashi (流し) is flow or flowing. So suminagashi is Japanese-style marbling which uses ink, a solvent like soap or oil, a couple of brushes, water, and paper. Here is a video of a master of the art. He's been doing this about half a century and happens to live nearby. Here's another video of a more homey variety of artist. Both are in Japanese but you don't really need the audio.

You drip the ink and solvent into the water in alternative drops. The two don't mix so you get concentric circles. When you have enough ink on the water (it shouldn't sink), you can blow on it or fan it with a fan. This eventually results in a pattern you like. Place the paper on top, pull the paper off, wash off the excess ink, and set to dry. The end result is random with a little bit of control. Another end result is a pile of paper you can use as endpapers, text block papers, or covers.

I, obviously, also used suminagashi paper for the cover of the small book nestled in front of the cactus. This paper was my - literally - first attempt at suminagashi. More about this book and the yellow book in a future post.


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