Sunday, December 1, 2013

Substitute Tools

When I was a child I received a set of craft encyclopedias that ultimately functioned as daydream enhancers rather than as practical guides. Why? Because each project required a new set of specialized tools. Paint rainbow stripes on a Volkswagen bug, cast a penny in resin, knitted garments—all needed something other than what I had around my room. Now to make something you can be proud of, you generally need some kind of tools, and for bookmaking, they are certainly helpful, but are they required? If you are traveling, have just moved, or are staying with friends and find that you really must make a book and you have no tools, what can you use? Here is a list of tools and some possible substitutions.

Needle. This is not starting out well. Needle. I suppose you could push thread through a hole with a toothpick, but it seems like that would be exasperating.
Bone Folder. For scoring paper and making tight creases try: a butter knife or thumbnail to score, the back of a spoon to crease.
Awl. A little girl I knew used a sharp pencil. Someone suggested a pushpin. You could also use a nail or a needle or toothpick (see first item.)
X-Acto knife. Mat knife, razor blade. Or tear against a straightedge instead of trying to cut.
Metal straightedge to use as tearing or cutting guide. You could probably tear against a hardcover book that has relatively few pages, such as a children's book. A metal cookie sheet would work.
Ruler for measuring. Here I might suggest that you keep a tiny tape measure on your keychain.
Glue. Cook a paste of white flour and water: 1 part flour to 4 parts water.
Glue Brush. A stiff piece of cardboard to use as a spreader.
Mull, Super, Crash. Cheesecloth.
Book cloth. Use the wheat paste and adhere thin paper to a piece of scrap cloth.
Book press. To flatten glued covers or a finished book, wrap in waxed paper and place under a heavy book (dictionary, art history book, etc.).

Are these better? Easier? Cheaper? Only the bookmaker in you knows for sure.


Lucia Sasaki said...

Hi Alisa!
Thanks for your post, it called my attention because when I started to learn bookbinding I actually used spoons and butter knives. Fortunately I have bought some of required tools,not all of them, little by little. It was a good investment and enough to make my own books with a minimal of confort.
Thanks again!!

Lucia Sasaki

Trish J said...

Great list Alisa!
I avoid any project that requires me to buy loads of "stuff," especially if it something I have not tried before and don't know whether I will stick with it.I would add two things: for scoring, a plastic knitting needle, and a glue scraper, an old credit card.
Thanks for all your continuing posts.

Alisa said...

It is interesting to hear about the different things you have used: one person's common object may be another's specialized tool and vice versa!

india flint said...

i always carry a nice smooth sea-pebble...splendid as a "stone" folder and good for burnishing too.

Alisa said...

India, you just took my breath away! The thought of gathering tools from nature hadn't occurred to me and opens up some lovely possibilities! Now I must take another look at some little stones in my studio…

Rachel Mims said...

before I had an awl I used the needle tool from my ceramics kit! I don't have book making needles - I use embroidery needles. And I use whatever thread I feel like - its usually not waxed.

Alisa said...

I sometimes use the needle tool, too, and used embroidery needles before bookbinding needles were readily available.

Many kinds of thread will work just fine as long as it does not stretch or break when you tug at it or become abraded and worn when you stitch with it.

Waxing the thread is useful and adds to its strength, but it isn't necessary. You can always use a candle end for that, if you like.