The week just gone I have tackled two things I had been putting off since getting to France. The first of which was doing some silver soldering using some rather primitive new equipment. I became accustomed to silver soldering using oxygen/acetylene mix when I worked at the V&A but I have no such luxuries anymore.

A few years back I was gifted a hobby-type soldering blow torch that I have brought over to France with me, all it requires is some butane gas to get going (it will also double up as a suitable kitchen tool for caramelising the sugar on crème brulee when I get round to making it!). I have set up my metal-working kit in the barn and began by piercing a pen-nib from sheet brass using a piercing saw and hand-made bench peg.

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I then neatened up the sawn edges with needles files and wet and dry paper, before preparing the surface of the brass for soldering. When I attach metal cut-outs to my bindings I don’t trust adhesives to keep the pieces on the bindings for the rest of the life of the book – this is why I always mechanically attach them. I do this by soldering posts onto the reverse of the metal, that I can then feed through drilled holes in the boards, bend over on the inside and then conceal with the build up of the infills and doublures.

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My soldering set up now is a small ‘asbestos substitute’ soldering block, the soldering torch mentioned above, some reverse action tweezers and some ready-mixed solder paste. I soldered two posts to the reverse of the brass, in order to avoid any twisting of the piece once it is put onto the binding, and I got the results I wanted so I am very happy!

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I have done two nibs, one being for the sample board and the other for the actual book. I have yet to affix the one to the sample board as I wish to get it, plus the one for the binding, gold-plated. I have not yet found out where I can get gold-plating done over here in France, so I will be reverting to where I know in Hatton Garden and keeping my fingers crossed they will not get lost in the post.

On the subject of gold, the second thing I got round to this week was some gold tooling. The first bit was for the above sample board however the tool I was using, although very pretty, is an absolute nightmare to sight back into the blind-tooled impression. I use the method of gold tooling where the blind impression is made, then glaire is painted into this impression. Gold is then picked up on the end of the tool and sighted back into the blind impression.

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It is however one of the reasons I make sample boards, to test out ideas, colours, tools etc. I have decided for the actual book I will probably choose another pattern or use a roll for what I want to achieve as I need to make a lot more impressions! I have also tested out the walnut burl veneer I mentioned in a previous blog post on this board, to great effect.

Secondly, I have also been tooling with handle letters and numbers in carbon.

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I have all my sample boards housed in a wooden box I made last year (there are now 29 in total, one for each fine binding I have done plus some extras). I have them numbered chronologically, however when I am showing them to a group of people, they don’t always get put back in that order so I have made some tiny numbered labels to stick inside the box to try and aid the process!

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Unfortunately we are still having printer issues, the one we have ordered over here has arrived missing a vital part so we are now having to contest this with the supplier, seems like we are going to have to return it and buy another which is frustrating. Once that gets resolved I will be able to concentrate on finishing some binding commissions I have started, plus I will more efficiently be able to work on new designs for upcoming books.

Until that time I will be featuring small tit-bits of other projects. This afternoon I must photograph the first binding I have finished since being here, however will not feature it on my blog until the recipient has seen it in person – I don’t want to ruin the surprise!

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