So the time had come to try and get the leather I had spent so many hours embroidering onto the book and given the nature of how precise the design was laid out there wasn’t going to be much (if any) room for error. The boards had been bevelled to a shallow curve on the outer edges and the inner corners back-cornered to allow for the leather to be moulded helping to form the headcaps. I had also split down the sides of the hollow on the spine to allow for the leather turn-ins. I also capped-up the book, covering the text block with a layer of newsprint following by cling film to prevent any moisture being able to reach the text block during the covering process.
I dampened the front of the leather using an atomiser filled with water in order to prevent blotches appearing on the surface of the leather following the pasting process. I made up a flour paste and applied three layers onto the reverse of the leather with a large brush, waiting between each application for the paste to penetrate in.
I also applied PVA glue along either side of the board joints on the book block, to ensure good adhesion there once the leather was put onto the book. I made sure I had all the tools I needed in reach, plus plenty of waste sheets, and then took a deep breath before starting the covering process.
The leather went down well and I managed to turn in all the leather around the edges and form the corners without too much hassle. I spent a while gently pressing the leather down flat with the palms of my hands (with rings removed!), initially over the spine and then on the flat of the boards. This was very important as I wanted to make sure the leather stuck down evenly across the book.
I used a few tools to form the head caps, pulling the leather up and over so it was the same width as the board edges. I worked the top and bottom headcaps consecutively turning the book from end to end to ensure they matched eachother.
Once the leather was safely on the book it was left under some boards between blotting paper sheets for 24 hours. I repeatedly changed the blotting paper in order to continue to draw the moisture out of the leather.
Once dry, I was able to open the boards for the first time. I did so by dampening the leather at the board joints with a water pen before gently opening each one. I was then able to release the leather joints from behind the waste sheets that were stuck to the outer edge of the text block.
I laid the book down with both boards open before attempting to stick the leather joints down. Working on one board at a time, I glued out the joint with PVA and stuck it down in place making sure I rubbed the leather carefully along the whole length to ensure even adhesion. The board was then closed and the joint left to dry before repeating on the opposite side.
One extra element I chose to add to the design was the addition of some gold-plated brass “drops” at the bottom of the stalks of the fuchsia flowers. These were made by forming the end of a brass rod into a rounded shape using a file and then some sandpaper. The end was then sliced off the rod with a jewellers piercing saw and soldered onto a bit of wire creating a post on the back, resembling little earrings. I then sent them off to be polished and gold plated.
The process of inserting them into the boards was as such. Firstly I drilled small holes at the bottom of each of the fuschia’s stems, right through the boards, with my Dremel. I was then able to push each of the drops through and mark where the outer edges of them were going to lie using my needle pricker. I then removed the drops and blind-tooled an impression into the leather where each the drops was going to sit. I did this in order for the drops to lie slightly sunken into the leather, to protect them and their gold plating. If they were too proud I was worried that the plating would wear away over the course of the years.
I like this method of fixing metal items to book covers and do it fairly regularly. I don’t like to trust adhesives to do the same job as I am worried they will become unstuck over the course of time. I prefer to mechanically fix details to the covers. Once the pins were pushed through the holes in the boards, and the drops sat happily in their blind-tooled impressions, I bent the tail end of the pin back against the reverse of the board, and glued it into a channel I had cut out securing them all in place permanently.
At this point I was then able to start adding some tooling. When I initially drew out the design at the very start of this process I blocked out some of the “negative” spaces with dots, at the time I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted these dots to be but as book evolved I decided I wanted to blind tool these areas. I chose to do in order to add more visual impact to the design, and I was really pleased as in the process of doing so the embroidered sections seemed to “lift” off the covers.
I worked randomly around the spaces, mainly using one large circular tool but filling in smaller gaps and passages here and there with a smaller circle.
When it came to tooling the spine, I stood the book up in the laying press and had to stand on a step in order to be tall enough to tool it!
I tooled right up to the book edges. I did contemplate tooling the board edges too but in the end decided this wasn’t necessary.
The last thing to work on before I could say the book was complete was the endpapers. The next blog post describes how I came to decide upon endpapers that would compliment, yet not compete with, the very extensive cover design.