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Re: Making bookbinding tools by hand



A number of years ago, when it wasn't possible for me to write a cheque
or whip out the VISA, I made myself some brass tools. I started by
buying the equipment for engraving and I think I managed one tool before
deciding that it was not firmly within my capabilities.

I then gathered some designs from old catalogues and bookbinding
histories. I took several tools from each period, ending with a set of
about 50 designs. I had them blown up and cleaned up the drawings (no
Photoshop in those days!); and then reduced them. I bought some quarter
inch engravers' brass and had the designs photoetched into the brass. I
cut out the individual tools with a jewelers' saw and silver-soldered
them to brass shanks and put them onto wooden handles.

The cutting with the saw left edges that showed up in tooling because
the etching was not as deep as hand or pantograph engraving, so before I
put on the wooden handles I put the tool into a vise and went around the
edges carefully with a dremel cutter and then needle files.

I made the handles myself by cutting up wooden rods and rounding the
ends and drilling holes for the shanks in a lathe. I bought the brass
material for the shanks in bulk and sawed it into pieces, then finished
the ends in a metal lathe. The end that is soldered to the back of the
tool has to be perfectly flat.

Some interesting things happened. The first trial set was soldered with
ordinary solder. I didn't know at the time what silver soldering was. I
didn't bother to re-do these tools and they got mixed in the with rest
of my tools. Once I was demonstrating binding at a craft fair and I had
made a mock-up finishing stove from a Coleman camping stove. Once when I
was lost in conversation with a visitor, I heard a series of little
'pings' and discovered that the ends were falling off my tools!

I thought that that I had finally fixed them all, but after moving here
(to Jerusalem) I was working on a binding that had a tight deadline. I
was tooling a blind pattern around the cover with one tool, and the end
fell off! I panicked, but then remembered a friend of mine who is a
jeweler and ran ot her studio to solder the end on properly.

If anyone has specific questions about this method, I would be happy to
answer them. At this stage in life, I would be inclined to whip out the
old VISA.

I should point out that this is a way around engraving tools by hand. I
know at least one binder (Michael Wilcox) who engraves his own tools
when he needs them, but I consider it beyond me.

Yehuda Miklaf

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