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[BKARTS] Limp Vellum Binding
Hi rj... sounds like you have a good foundation to begin your
project. Your paper cases had turned under edges, yes?
This is probably not very useful to you but perhaps will help some.
Its supposed simplicity insures that a good vellum case requires
careful judgement and attention to your material's behavior if it is
to work well. It is one of those "just gotta learn by doing it"
things and as you already know, vellum is unlike any other binding
Did you read Cockerell online for his section on limp vellum cases?
Not totally applicable but every bit will help.
If your skin is rolled up you want first to let it go flat. Resting a
day or so under a few pieces of binders board will usually do the
trick. Keep it there as your project proceeds.
You treat vellum much as you would paper in terms of scoring and
folding, though the vellum takes more pressure. Also, one most often
pares the flesh side edges of the turnunders, makes relief cuts
(punched stop holes and cut slits to those holes) on the spine folds
of the head and tail turnunders (reducing the bulk of the doubled
vellum), and incorporates one of the styles of self locking corners.
Does any of this sound familiar from other work?
As to the stiffness of your vellum it is not possible to judge at a
distance.Your vellum cover is not meant to bend on a single line
along the spine edge as boarded cases do but rather to flex, to bow
across its width. And how large is the book? Weight of paper? You are
making a machine whose work must flow and the niceties are only
learned by experience.
So you must wing this part. Ready?
Check your flattened vellum for thickness all over; often you will
find considerable variation over a large skin. Identify the area you
wish to use on the hair side (the thickness across your chosen area
should be even) using a window whose cutout is the size vellum you
need for a case. If necessary (its a good idea until you have many
cases under your belt) make a dummy case of cheap paper which you can
adjust until you are satisfied and use that to make the window.
On the hair side punch needle holes at the four outside corners of
the window then on the flesh side connect the dots with fine pencil
lines. The spine of the case should run parallel to the spine of the
skin. Don't cut the piece out yet.
Now cut out a small piece, but at least 2"x4", adjacent to the area
you reserved for your case. Heavily score a line on the flesh side
3/4" in from and parallel to one long edge of this sample with a
folder. You want a fine edge on the scoring folder but not so sharp
as to cut the vellum; I prefer to use a very dull awl (it
concentrates your force) with a smooth well rounded point. Some
people suggest scoring with a needle or sharp awl. Don't do it! You
will cut into the goodness of your skin and weaken it.
Score against a steel straight edge using lots of pressure on the
ruler so it doesn't slip.
After scoring (make more than one stroke if necessary to get a clear,
well defined, and deeply impressed mark), and keeping full pressure
on the steel, use the awl or folder to lift the vellum from the hair
side up and against the straight edge, pressing the fold vertical. If
your vellum is at all thick you will need a fair amount of force on
the folder or awl (and several strokes) but always more pressure on
the steel to keep the edge from moving. Once the fold is vertical set
the steel aside and use your fingers and folder to press the fold
flat. Crease this piece at a right angle to the folded edge and you
have a model of a spine corner of your case to be. Cut along the
creases of the spine folds of the 3/4" turnunder to within 1/4" of
the edge. This cut should actually be two cuts, the removed piece
being wedge shaped and centered on the crease, like making a very
narrow dart in sewing, the dart pointing to the outside edge. At the
point of this dart punch a 2 mm hole (centered on the crease) to
prevent the cuts from becoming a tear.
Flex your sample, examine all creases, and make a judgement as to
whether the vellum is too thick. You are going to have to call upon
your experience with paper cases. Perhaps you need a larger sample to
If the vellum feels too stiff at the folded edge (it should bow not
crimp as you flex it) you can reduce the thickness of your vellum
before you cut the case out (easier and safer than after) by sanding
or scraping the flesh side at the folds and turnunders.
One last suggestion is that you make a full size practice case out of
two, three, or four ply card stock (try to match the stiffness of
your vellum) and get some more feel up front.
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