Sunday, October 31, 2010

show and tell and guess and ask....

I've been going over all the lovelies from that booky-find-of-the-century (yes I'm still pinching myself)... And we are now undertaking MAJOR changes to my small studio in order to accommodate all this gear (when that work is basically done I'll show you more of the larger booky bits in their new home)..... While the heavy duty (slow) work is going on, I've been going over the smaller things in the collection - and trying to work out (via the internet) the identity of some mystery items... gosh it's been an education! - like how HARD it is to track down quality useful information... Believe me I'm all ears and eyes (and gratitude) for any advice or leads anyone out there might like to share...

here are most of the small hand tools from the collection ....

and yes I know what some of the bits are (like that beautiful bone folder above.... and the backing hammers, awls and dividers below)

but from there it gets a bit 'interesting'. I have been scouring the internet trying to glean something, anything useful.... I was able to work out a bit via bookbinding suppliers like Faulkiners and Talas and J Hewit & Sons and Hollanders (all of these are in Europe or North America -as if I didn't need confirmation that there is a great lack of Aussie suppliers ... gosh where DOES an Aussie buy good bookbinding gear?)

Anyway back to this collection. Common sense told me that these...

.... are paring knives (for working leather in binding).... on the left, with the wooden handles, are lovely French paring knives.... and the others?... well that's where I start to get confused... does anyone know the difference between a French or English (or Swiss for that matter....) paring knife?

and talking knives does anyone know what these two would be used for?

... the serrated one is rather large and looks positively VICIOUS!

It took me all day but I finally worked out that these.....

... are sewing keys (used in conjunction with a sewing frame..... I posted a pic of the smaller of the two sewing frames from the collection last time) I THINK I can figure out how they basically work...

and this...

... I've discovered is a book plough - but I haven't been able to figure out how it works with either the lying press or finishing press (yes, you might have noticed I scored both of these in the collection too)..... I have NO IDEA what blade this beastie needs let alone where one can buy book plough blades from....

here is the underside of the lovely thing....

has anyone seen a plough like this before? .... (ps I found this site one of the most useful for tracking down info about old bookbinding gear....)

still - many more mysteries remain.... what, for example, is this?...

is it something to do with making mitred corners?

and how about this.....

I'm totally totally bamboozled!! (I THINK it has something to do with measuring.... the numbers seem to refer to fractions of millimetres... but what the heck might it be measuring?)

well I might not know all the ins-and-outs of the collection, but gosh the small tools are delightful! they are really beautifully made from quality materials. And while we are on the subject of quality materials - look at what I found inside a big garbage bag that came with the gear....

lovely book leather!

and sweet rolls of french linen thread

Don't be surprised my book-art-object friends, if some of this leather/thread stash doesn't end up coming your way in the next BAO edition!

Time to get back to cleaning/moving/re-modelling the studio (I've left that long-suffering man of mine working alone making a passionfruit support for the studio sink to sit under..... you'll have to wait for the finished pics for that vision to make sense!)

** November 5 update
thanks everyone for all your hints and help - both here as comments and as private emails - and thanks to anonymous bloggy angels for sending this out into the universe...... big thanks to jeff peachy for dropping by to add his greater wisdom to the mix..... I'll continue trying to track down further details regards all the gear.... (that book plough remains mysterious! what blades does it use? where would I find them? what press does it work with? and how? whats the best way of maintaining the wooden screw? etc etc etc!) ahhhh but learning about all this is GREAT fun!



  1. Ronnie, this chap is a font (ha ha!) of knowledge
    And I expect Ampersan Duck might know a bit.

  2. It's me again...the circular wotsit is a guage. It would be used for measuring, perhaps, instrument "heads" or gaps. Dixieme de millimetres is french for tenths of mmilimetres.
    Now, that's an extremely small unit! SO D de M is probably a name/brand.
    And the wicked serrated knife? C'est facile, cherie! It's for when le bookbinder is, 'ow you say, famished and he cuts le chunk of baguette for his lunch!
    Shoot me down if I'm wrong;I often am! Except in the matter of bread knives!
    (My carpenter father had "odd" things and among them I do recall a guage and a plough, which I thought was a special plane;Dad said it was used by a chap who restored books, but didn't tell me how.)

  3. hee hee hee

    thanks dear for your words of wisdom (wiss zeee frunch accente) - but I don't think I'd be eating any baguette that needs a knife of THIS strength to cut through! (its a seriously wicked blade!)

  4. What a haul! The breadknife/saw may be for sawing sections for sewing, though it looks pretty savage. I have done this with a finer saw and it was a common practice years ago. I have a plough, an enormous thing in pieces in my studio and that is certainly the business end of the plough. I have no idea where to get blades but I'll send you some names in an email - when I find them. Thrilling to see all this great stuff appearing, what fun you'll have with it.

  5. just catching up on blog reading - missed your last one so couldn't believe my eyes when your pics of beautiful treasures unfolded before me. they have found lovely home with your. enjoy.

  6. ooo thanks carol - yes your note about sawing for sewing makes sense to me ... and as I was reading through your comment about your plough I got to thinking..... and I'm happy to be corrected if I'm wrong - but with the rudimentary reading I've been doing I got the impression that the part I've shown known as the plough, and then this slides along a lying or finishing press (the bit that holds the book) which may be in a tub (a stand-like thing) .... but perhaps the WHOLE setup is known as the plough? hmmmmmmmmm more mysteries to unravel!

  7. oh boy Ronnie it just gets better and better. My (our) thoughts on the not a baguett knife were is it used to carve the grooves on the spines of books where cords sometimes go under the leather to give that nice raised line look? What a fabulous challenge to be facing!

  8. Such a good hoard! Is that wheel/cog thing for measuring type perhaps?

  9. I wondered if the round gauge measures the thickness of bookboard? I could see how you might slot the board (or other covering material) into the grooves and read off the measurement... or maybe not. 'Ave fun wiz all ziz loveliness'! (Health warning: Dinahmow is catching!)

  10. I was just about to recommend Jeff Peachey, but MIT beat me to it. I can't recommend him highly enough -- he's very informative and knowledgable, especially about tools, and a nice guy to boot, from everything I've read about him.

    Another thing is that most people I know who make things often have an assortment of tools that have different origins but are perfect for what you like to do. A great example is the little boxwood tool that I use for wood engravings, which is actually a ceramics tool. I also have an assortment of things like dental picks and tailors tools, but they are extremely useful for various tasks.

    So you might never actually know what some tools are, but if they look useful, use them!

  11. I like your thinking sara..... I can imagine how one might shove (ooops I mean gently place) paper/board what-nots into the slot to measure thickness..... hmmmmm.....

    yes duckie it might be (in fact I think it's a guarantee!) that I'll use many of the tools in ways not necessarily kosher (one of my main calligraphy 'talents' seemed to be making tools out of things from the hardware store....) but equally I think my calligraphic background combined withthe present place in HDR study makes me NEED TO KNOW THE REAL DEAL.....

    my best mates are traditional blacksmiths - and I think much of their appreciation for the tradition of tools and techniques has rubbed off on me over the years!

    "dig we must for a better world" (etc etc etc)

  12. Oh my...I'm in heaven just looking at your image of the collection of thread. Wowsers. Nice to meet you Ronnie, I need to have aprobe around here, it looks very interesting

  13. well, these are wonderful. another resource is peter verheyan at syracuse university. he runs the book arts list serv, but you can contact him and ask for a little help. he was apprenticed in the traditional german guild (or whatever it's called). just google him/it, he uses the word philobiblon in his web stuff. i'd email him and ask him for help. he'd probab ly look at your pics and help.

  14. Most of the bookbinding tools here are pretty common, you should'd have too much trouble locating them on the web.
    I'm not sure if you were asking about specific tools, but the corner tool is for measuring/ trimming the outside corners of a half leather binding. The thickness gauge is not a bookbinding tool, but to measure thickness-- perhaps someone used it for binders board.
    Is it a knife or a saw?

  15. Hi there - sooooo jealous ( I know, that's bad..) of your binding hand tools. They are so lovely and useful, every one. It might be cheeky, but if you find some of them are not used, and aren't feeling the love... They'd certainly find a useful home in my bindery...

    Let me know if you'd like to sell any of them [insert sheepish, pleading grin]..


    Sago on Tuesdays bindery, in Victoria


thanks for all your lovely comments - your words are greatly appreciated xx