Beginning Coptic & Distressed Board Examples

Around the middle of each semester in my Bookworks class, we use mallets and metal objects and alphanumeric punches to distress and mark book boards and use them as covers for a Coptic binding sewn with a curved needle. One hundred percent cotton, 4-ply museum board is my favorite board to use because it is soft, but we had an ample supply of book board, so that is what we used this week. Here are some examples. Only one of the students had ever sewn this structure before, but all of them did an excellent job. 

Distressing boards is shown on page 216 of Making Handmade Books: 100+ Bindings, Structures & Forms. Coptic with a Curved Needle is on pages 174-176. We used a Fiskars Manual Rotary Craft Hand Drill for the holes. Much easier than an awl for this particular use. It would probably look nice to paint the boards again around the drilled holes. Waxed linen thread from the Caning Shop is terrific for this application, where the spine sewing is exposed. You can also use different colored paper for each signature to change the look of the spine as well.

 Runes with green and brown acrylic paints, runes highlighted in silver gel pen.

 Notched edges and runes with acrylic paints and gel pen highlighting the stamped runes.

 Blue acrylic paint and white gesso over boards with a rune and some notches at the edges.

 Green and blue acrylic paints with reddish edging.

 A lively mix of pinks, built-up gel medium, and white gesso with lettering added in silver gel pen.

 Gold paint covering lightly distressed letters and marks.

 A thick layer of acrylic paint that was textured and felt like leather after it dried.

 Lots of deep blues over paper layers adhered with gel medium.

 A dark layer was put down first with gold brushed over it.

Layers were carved into the board and stripped out before painting with purple and blue acrylic paints.

Many different approaches!
I had fun. I hope they did, too.


Dane et Moi said…
You can minimize the "burst" around the drill sites by clamping the boards between 2 pieces of wood, or even heavy book board scrap, pre-drilled, to form a jig. The pressure of the wooden jig will reduce the amount of raw-edged board material that shows where the drill burst through.
Alisa said…
Thanks for the great tip! We drilled one board, held down by a brick on top of a wooden board, then used it as a jig for the back board. But having a board pre-drilled underneath sounds like it could be the answer!

Other thoughts:
Sanding would have helped as well.

As an alternative, a Japanese screw punch is ideal and will remove the material in the hole, but the bit gets dull very fast.
DerekL said…
Even a little blue tape (painters tape) will greatly reduce the "bursting".

Based on my experience as a woodworker, I'd put blue tape or (preferably) support the inside of the board with another board or some bookboard and drill from the outside - and then paint/stain after drilling. Also, going slow and not applying too much pressure will help too. (Too much pressure and you're punching a hole rather than creating a hole by removing material.) Using a high quality (read: sharp) drill bit helps too, as a dull/low quality bit encourages excess pressure and punching.

Keep the drill handy though, depending on the finishing method you may have to go back in and clean out the holes.
Alisa said…
Thanks for all the detailed tips!

Just to back up a bit: the photos make the holes look a bit worse than they actually are and, as mentioned, touch-up paint would really help.

But all good!