How We Say “Thank You” at UIUC

Following the colloquium last November, Cher Schneider and I made some custom “thank you” cards for the speakers using the topics of their talks.

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Adhesives in Library and Archives: A Colloquium Review

The first Biennial Conservation Colloquium was held at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in early November 2014. Four conservators traveled to Urbana from the UK and across the country to speak about their research or practical experiences with various adhesives in library and archives conservation. Thanks to generous funding from the UIUC Library and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the day-long event was free to 50 attendees.  This review will attempt to summarize the major points of each talk and hopefully encourage others working in the field to visit us for the next event.

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Parchment Over Boards

Back in February, Peter Geraty came to NBSS to teach a two-day workshop with the second years on parchment over boards bindings. Parchment has a reputation for being somewhat unruly as a binding material, and the goal of Peter’s workshop was to provide us with a system by which we could more easily work with the material. In general, it was a fun couple of days and my confidence in using parchment on stiff board bindings has greatly increased.

These bindings are elegant and particularly satisfying binding to handle. The covers are cool to the touch and the visual texture of the skin is eye-catching. They are quite durable, chemically stable, and take gold tooling well. Parchment is hygroscopic, however, and dimensionally unstable (Wood, 1995).  For this reason, covering stiff boards with parchment and keeping them flat can be quite challenging. It is much easier to use parchment in a limp, non adhesive structure (see my post on those here). When the book is finished, it must be stored at a stable temperature and relative humidity to keep the boards from warping.

Unfortunately, I was too busy trying to finish my model over those two days to take any photos during the binding process. Therefore, I will just share images of the finished binding and include a brief description of Geraty’s method of construction at the end. Peter Verheyen has written a well-illustrated procedure for parchment over boards (see link at bottom), but as a case structure, rather than with the lacing that I will describe.

Spine and fore-edge views.

A view of the open joint, showing the lacing of the sewing and endband supports.

A detail image of the sewn endband and headcap.

The endsheets.

Procedure:

In the first step, we chose parchment for our book and cut it to size, leaving ~2.5 cm for turn-ins. Like the limp bindings, the thickness of the skin should be based on the size of the book. The skin that we used was quite thin and flexible, however, the opening may end up stiffer than one would like for a book of this size. We lined the flesh side of the parchment with text weight paper, using high bloom gelatin as an adhesive (available from Kramer).  The paper lining reduces the transparency of the parchment (which will keep the color of the boards from showing through after covering) and stabilizes the skin, making it easier to work with later. Animal-derived glues are recommended for this step, as they are most similar to the character of the parchment and keep the moisture (and distortion) to a minimum.The laminate is then placed between Hollytex or Reemay and blotters and left under weight to dry overnight.

As the parchment dried, we prepped the textblock and boards. The endsheets for this model are a single folio of Hahnemuhle Ingres, hooked over a single folio of text paper. We also tipped Japanese paper hinges to the inside spine edge of the first and last sections; some binders call these loose guards, but I’m sure there are other names for them. The sections are sewn on 4 narrow (2 mm) parchment slips. Historical examples of this style of binding that I have seen are often sewn on much wider parchment slips. The binder would often then split the support at the shoulder, so that only a narrow portion of the tape laces through the cover at the joint. For a model of such small dimensions, wider sewing supports were not warranted. After sewing, the free ends of the Japanese paper guards are adhered to endsheets.

The textblock is squared up, the spine is pasted up with wheat starch paste, and the fore-edge trimmed. The book is rounded and backed, creating a 45° shoulder, and the head and tail edges are trimmed. If the book was getting edge decoration, now would be the time to do it. Simple, 2-color silk endbands (with a bead on the front) were sewn on two layers of 2 mm parchment for cores. The inner layer of parchment is trimmed to the width of the endband, while the outer is  left long and will lace through the cover with the sewing supports.

When the book is rounded and backed, boards of the appropriate thickness can be constructed to fit the textblock shoulder. Geraty and Verheyen recommend making a “floating” board to control the warp from the parchment. This board is composed of a thicker base board with a thin board tipped to the spine edge (See Verheyen p. 5 for diagram). We used millboard (from Conservation by Design Ltd.) as the base and 10 pt. Bristol board as the thin board. Each were lined on both sides with text-weight paper. The boards were nipped in the press and left to dry under weight. When ready, they are cut to the size of the book and the thin board is tipped to the thicker with PVA.

The spine of the textblock is patch-lined with muslin and a hollow tube of handmade paper is adhered over that. After trimming the hollow to height, it is slit down the shoulder about 2 cm at the head and tail to allow for the turn-ins. The boards are attached to the textblock by putting dots of PVA on the extended muslin lining and putting the boards in place (leaving an open joint). This weak attachment is only temporary, and serves to hold the boards in place during the covering process.

The parchment must be marked out and prepped a bit before covering. The spine width is measured and transferred onto the parchment. Lines are scored with the bone folder at the spine markings. A Dremel or Foredom Flex Shaft with a sanding drum attachment is used to thin the parchment at the endcap area. This is much easier than trying to pare it with a knife. The spine of the textblock and spine area of the parchment are then brushed out with PVA, and the textblock put into place. After working the parchment down a bit with a teflon folder, the book is placed between press boards made with small dowels that fit the joints. This applies tension to the parchment across the spine and holds the book in place so that it can be really rubbed down with the folder. Proper adhesion is key. The faces of the boards are then glued out with PVA and the parchment is worked into the joint and across the boards. After doing the head and tail turn-ins (and forming the endcaps), the fore-edge turn-ins are done.

The sewing supports and endband cores pass through the covering material at the point of the shoulder and back inside the covers at the edge of the boards. The ends of the parchment lacing are then glued down to the inside of the board. After trimming out the turn-ins, the glue spot attachment between boards and muslin is pulled off. The textile is fully glued out and put down on the inside of the boards. The tapes and muslin are trimmed back and, to finish, the pastedowns of the endsheets are glued out and stuck down.

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I keep hinting at the long list of projects that I have yet to write about and post. Rest assured, I’m going to keep ’em coming. Your patience will be rewarded!

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Brockman, J. (1993). A Vellum Over Boards Binding. The New Bookbinder, 13, 43-53.

Verheyen, P. D. (2004). Vellum on Boards. Library Publications. Paper 16. (available for download here)

Wood, C. (1995). Conservation Treatments for Parchment Documents. Journal of the Society of Archivists, 16(2), 221-237.

Bone Folders

A few days back, when it was sunny and moderately warm for the first time in this god-forsaken land, we took an afternoon to make some bone tools. Here are three that I finished that afternoon.

These are only my latest attempts at bone shaping: as a Lennox Foundation Intern at Iowa State University, I also made a few bone tools last summer. You can read about that experience here.

Even though we were using elk bone, which is much harder than the deer and cow bones that I used before, I was able to dramatically speed up the process this time. Although I had a much better idea of the tools that I wanted before starting this time, the factor that significantly improved the process was using a Ferrier’s Rasp.

These are designed for removing or leveling the hoof wall, so they are much wider and longer than a typical wood rasp. The increased surface area allows you to really cut quickly using the rasp side, then smooth out the shape evenly with the file side. As always, one has to be ever-mindful when rasping for an extended period of time. I lost a few of my fingerprints when I allowed my attention to wander. Hopefully they will come back soon:)

So far, I’m finding the largest of my bone tools (I think it looks like a butterknife) to be the most useful. In addition to the usual folding of paper and scraping of gunk, I find the increased length to be very helpful in compressing sections while sewing.

Paper Marbling Workshop

Recently, we spent a fun-filled couple of days with the Chena River Marblers, Regina and Dan St. John. With over 25 years of experience marbling, Regina and Dan have been coming to NBSS for some time now to teach the first years the basics of marbling and to instruct the second years in more advanced techniques. They also often teach one and two day workshops at their studio in western Massachusetts (see their website for details).

Marbled paper has a long and rich history, with various materials and techniques employed across Asia and Europe. At present, I know very little about that history, but have been finding Richard Wolfe’s book on the subject to be a handy reference (1). Regina and Dan instructed us in a modern method of marbling that makes use of surprisingly simple materials. Described briefly, acrylic paint is dropped onto the surface of an aqueous solution of Carrageenan (a polysaccharide extracted from seaweed) and manipulated to create a pattern. Next, paper coated with alum (the mordant) is laid onto the surface to transfer the pattern. Marbling is such a fun and fascinating process; I took quite a few pictures of the demonstrations and the many  papers that I produced.

The following photos will outline the process for a kind of swirled pattern. First the surface of the bath is cleaned with a strip of newsprint.

Then colors are dripped onto the surface…

… and swirled with a stylus.

The paper is then applied to the surface with a smooth motion. I managed to take a load of sequential photos of Regina placing the paper and thought it would be fun to make a simple animation using state-of-the-art technology from 1995. Click here to watch!

The paper is pulled from the bath, set on an angled board, and rinsed with water. The water drains into the waste tray and into a bucket placed below. I also made a simple animation of that action (why, I don’t know…) that you can view here.

So many patterns and styles of marbled paper have evolved over the centuries, but Regina only had time to show us the most basic of them. By far, the easiest to produce is the stone pattern – in which the paint is either dropped directly from the narrow spout of the bottle or tapped from a brush to create many overlapping circles of color. Here are some examples that I produced. First a larger pattern…

… and then some smaller ones.

I cannot wait to use these to make some 19th century German-style paper bindings.

Apart starting from the random stone pattern, one can also create a bullseye pattern.

Below is a rather psychedelic bullseye pattern that I produced. I enjoyed using acrylic paint mixed with Photo-Flo to disperse the color, creating large holes in the color and allow the paper to show through.

These stone or bull’s-eyes can be manipulated with a stylus to produce a nice swirl pattern. Below are three examples that I made.

As a novice, I find it very difficult to fully anticipate how the color of the paper will affect the color of the paint. Often I’m going for a subtle melding of color and end up producing some garish monstrosity. The two examples below were made using the same color paint but on different papers (white and blue). I find the difference in results fascinating.

One can also use combs to produce a huge variety of patterns. Below is an example of a Rake comb that Dan made. The shape allows the comb to be used across both the long and short dimensions of the tray, with the tray sides acting as guides to produce straight and even lines. Apologies for the blur – but you get the idea.

Running the Rake up and down the tray in one direction achieves a pattern like the one below – although this one is slightly distorted by a fine stone pattern in white on top.

Building upon the previous pattern: by using the Rake back and forth one time in a cross direction, one can achieve the Git-Gel pattern (seen below).

The Non-Peril comb has tines that are much closer together and these can be used to augment the patterns above.

Additionally, the combed pattern can be swirled with the stylus. The example below started as a Git-Gel – it also is an example of a paper that ends up way brighter than expected.

I also experimented with going back with the rake to make somewhat of a combed French Swirl. Some worked out better than others.

Another technique that Regina illustrated was the Moiré.

This pattern is produced by kind of rocking the paper as it goes down, and is definitely not as easy as it looks.My attempts came out a bit weird.

Finally, Dan demonstrated a method for marbling the edges of books. I was particularly excited about this for our upcoming quarter-leather case bindings, so I prepped two textblocks the day before. In order to marble all three edges, one must clamp unsewn sections (or a textblock with absolutely no swell) up in boards that fit the book exactly. The edges are coated in alum and then applied to the surface of the carrageenan, using one corner as a pivot and tilting it down until the entire surface is contacted. Placing a slip of newsprint over the space where the edge contacted the paint keeps the remainder of the pattern in the bath from distorting. I made a brief animation of this process, seen here. But the result looks like this:

Regina and Dan were wonderful instructors and really helped to maximize our working time. At the end of the day, each of us had produced 30 or more papers. Since we go through so much decorative paper for models or production projects, this workshop was quite a boon to us.

In learning the basics of marbling with acrylics, I discovered that while it is relatively easy to get a nice looking paper, it is extremely difficult to reproduce a given pattern consistently. Not only has this given me more of an appreciation for quality marbled paper, it has illustrated the unique value of being able to just purchase multiple sheets of the same paper when needed. I will never complain about the cost of marbled paper again!

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Well folks, I am falling so far behind with this blog lately. I have pictures of at least 6 projects just sitting in a folder, waiting to go. As the year is winding to a close, either our projects are accelerating or we are just taking on multiple projects simultaneously. Regardless, I’ve got to step it up! Split-board structures, a portfolio production project, Lapped-component, and Paper bindings are all on their way. I’ve also finished some interesting repair projects that I will share eventually. Stay tuned!

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Wolfe, R. J. (1990). Marbled Paper : Its History, Techniques, and Patterns : With Special Reference to the Relationship of Marbling to Bookbinding in Europe and the Western World. Philadelphia, PA: U. of Pennsylvania Press.

Board Slotting

Since the 1960’s several different methods have been developed to deal with the joint failure and board detachment issues that often occur to leather-bound volumes, and each offers distinct treatment outcomes in terms of strength, aesthetics, and disruption of the original binding material. Conn (1996) provides brief, but clear descriptions of a range of these techniques in her feasibility study on treatment options for circulating collections.  In the late 1970’s, Christopher Clarkson developed a method of reattaching book boards in which a slot is cut into the board to accept a flange of textile that is attached to the spine of the textblock. He presented a paper on his method at the Institute of Paper Conservation conference in 1992. This technique offers some distinct advantages over others, including that the turn-ins, pastedowns, and covering material are not disturbed. The thickness of the board is also maintained, unlike the usual swell resulting from a traditional leather reback. This can be beneficial in cases where the leather covering the board is highly decorated or chemically degraded (Zimmern, 2000 , p. 24).

Zimmern states that board slotting with a normal milling machine is “complicated and time-consuming” (p. 22) and, as a result, at least three machines have been developed in recent years to increase the speed and accuracy of the process. We are fortunate to have one of Jeff Peachey’s board slotting machines here at NBSS (seen below) and last week Lou DiGennaro, NBSS alum and Assistant Conservator for Special Collections at NYU libraries, came up to Boston to demonstrate the setup and operation of the machine. I’ll share a few photos and an extremely brief writeup of the workshop here. If you would like to read more on the topic, please see the bibliography at the end of the post.

During his demo, Lou discussed Clarkson’s, Peachey’s, and Alan Puglia’s structures (described below) for board reattachment in instances where the spine material is still intact, as well as the method described by Angela Andres (2008) for books missing their spine covering. No matter the method, the spine of the book is first cleaned and consolidated with paste and Japanese paper and the leather at the board edge consolidated with a 2% Klucel G in ethanol solution.

Lou first went over the basics of the machine’s setup and operation, including setting the carriage angle, blade height, depth of cut, and speed of operation. He also discussed choosing a thickness of saw blade based upon the thickness of the board and flange material to be inserted. Changing the blade and setting up the machine went very quickly. You can find Peachey’s short video on machine operation here.

The book board is placed face up in the carriage (here with a waste board on top) and the height of the blade set to just under the covering material.

Before slotting, the alignment of the blade is checked at both the head and tail to ensure that the slot would be even across the length of the board. The saw motor is then activated, the carriage cranked in so that the blade is cutting a 5-8 mm slot, and the carriage set in motion. The slot is started and stopped just inside the edges of the board so that the turn-in material is not disturbed. Hopefully the image below is clear enough to illustrate.

Both boards were slotted in the same fashion. After tapping out a small amount of sawdust and gently clearing the slot with a micro spatula, the front board is placed in a finishing or lying press. Lou used a small syringe to inject a bead of PVA into the slot.

Previously, Lou had created a two-part hinge, consisting of a layer of linen or cotton backed with Kizukishi or Sekishu and a layer of pre-toned Moriki lined with Kizukishi. The two hinge layers were tipped together on one side with PVA and inserted into the slot. [As a related side-note,  Zimmern’s article provides an interesting discussion of the folding endurance of three hinge materials and three kinds of adhesive.]

After nipping the board and allowing it to dry under controlling weight, the textblock was aligned on the board and the spine glued up. Lou pulled the first hinge layer firmly around the spine and worked it down with a bone folder.

Next, just the shoulder of the hinge was glued and the second hinge layer wrapped around, worked into the shoulder, and allowed to dry under weight. This creates a natural hollow.

After trimming the resulting flange to the slot depth, Lou injected PVA into the slot in the back board…

… aligned it on the textblock, and inserted the flange with a micro-spatula.

Once again, the board was nipped and allowed to dry under weight.

In the last step, the original spine piece was adhered onto the new spine hollow. After delaminating a few of the layers of paper inside the original spine piece, Lou adhered it to the outer (Moriki) hinge layer.

After working it down with a teflon folder, he then wrapped the volume in a compression bandage and placed it under a light weight to dry.

Lou also brought along an example of board slotting on a book that had lost its spine covering entirely. In this example, the boards were slotted all the way through the turn ins and the new spine material was turned in to form the endcaps.

The inside hinge is repaired with a strip of Japanese tissue toned to match the endpapers.

 

At the end of the demo, a few of us were able to try the machine out on our own. Peachey’s machine is incredibly easy to set up and use. Even without any previous board slotting experience, I was able to successfully slot a moderately thin board on my first try. While this machine may not be an economical option for the average conservator in private practice, it does present a viable treatment option for institutions with collections of circulating or medium-rare nineteenth century volumes with board attachment problems. By prepping hinge material in advance and batching treatments, a technician could probably become very quick with these repairs.

As I said, this is an extremely cursory look at board slotting and there is a lot of fantastic material out there on the subject. Including the list of articles below, I’d suggest a blog by Jeff Peachey, Victoria Stevens, and several other contributors (found here) centered around board slotting that deals with a range of topics and links to the relevant academic literature.

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Andres, A. M. (2008). A new variation on board slotting: Case binding meets in-boards binding. The Bonefolder, 4(2), 24-26.

Clarkson, C. (1992). Board slotting: A new technique for re-attaching bookboards. The Institute of Paper Conservation Conference Papers, Manchester.

Conn, D. (1996). Board reattachment for circulating collections: a feasibility study. Book and Paper Group Annual, 15, 29–40.

Minter, B. (2006).  A variation on the board slotting machine. In M. Kite & R. Thomson (Ed.), Conservation of leather and related materials(pp. 241-242). Oxford, UK: Butterworth-Heinemann.

Peachey, J. S. (2006) New possibilities for board slotting. The Bonefolder: an e-journal for the bookbinder and book artist, 2(2), 28-32.

Simpson, E. (1994). Setting up a board-slotting programme. The Paper Conservator, 18, 77-89.

Zimmern, F. (2000). Board slotting: A machine-supported book conservation method. The Book and Paper Group Annual, 19, 19-25.

Sharpening with Jeff Peachey

It’s been a little while, but I’ve finally found some time to sit down and share some of our recent experiences in the Bookbinding program.

Two weeks ago Jeff Peachey, conservator and tool aficionado, came up to North Bennet to teach a three-day knife making and sharpening workshop. This past summer I got to work on my sharpening skills a bit with a Tormek grinding system and the conservation staff over at the Parks Library at Iowa State University (you can read that blog post here), but I learned a great deal more about doing things by hand in this workshop. Jeff has been coming up to teach sharpening at NBSS for a few years now and divides his time up into general information sessions and class-specific activities. While the first years were busy making our own sharpening kits and knives, the second years were re-sharpening their blades and modifying spokeshaves for leatherwork. This blog post will focus mainly on the knives as I was too busy to go over and really see what the second years were doing. I’ll just have to write about spokeshaves next year:)

First off, we all gathered around a table in the workshop with a range of abrasives and different styles of leather paring knives.

Jeff went over the typical abrasives that one would typically use to sharpen (silicon carbide, aluminum oxide, and diamond), as well as some of the naturally occurring materials that can be used (shark and stingray skin, garnet, and emery). He spoke briefly of the strengths and weaknesses of Arkansas stones, Japanese water stones, and ceramic stones and which lubricants one must use to keep metal particles from getting lodged in the stone (aka Glazing). Jeff also gave us a crash course in the properties of the various kinds of steel that we would be using that week and which abrasives would work best for each.

Next we spoke about the different characteristics of English, Swiss, and French style leather paring knives. Jeff demonstrated some different techniques for paring that one might use depending upon the style of knife that they prefer and instructed us to begin thinking about the kinds of knives that we would like to make over the next few days. In the meantime, he got the first years started on small lifting and English style knives. We started out with the 0.5″ Starrett “Redstripe” hacksaw blades.

We used these hacksaw blades specifically because they are fully hardened molybdenum (M3) high-speed steel. You can get them in a couple of different widths – which are useful for making a variety of knives – but we started small to get the hang of the process. After sanding the paint off of both sides of the middle of the blade, I marked the approximate angle of my knife on the blade, tightened it in a bench vise, and hit it with a mallet to break it in two.

All of our leather paring knives have a single bevel with a length that is 4 times the thickness of the blade and an angle of 13 degrees; a bevel that is any lower will be weak and bits will chip off when using the knife. Jeff showed us his method for putting that bevel on quickly with the grinder.

Then we were ready to finish the knives by hand… but first we had to make our sharpening system!

Jeff has been using a set of two aluminum plates with 3M Microfinishing film adhered to each side for some time now. At the beginning of the workshop, everyone received two 12″ aluminum plates. These pieces do not come perfectly flat (they are a bit dished out toward the centers) and we had to fix that in order for our sharpening to be effective. And the only sure-fire way to do that is by hand. So everyone smeared their plates with some silicon carbide grease, placed them together and began lapping.

As you can imagine, this part did not go very quickly. For some, it went on the rest of the day. With the compound on the plate, you can’t really tell if your efforts are having any kind of effect. So you lap for what feels like an eternity, then wipe it away to reveal that your plates are not quite flat yet, and start again.  The image on the left will illustrate – the areas of the plate that are not experiencing contact are lighter than the parts that are making contact. When the aluminum is finally completely flat, different grits of microfinishing film are applied to each of the 4 sides of the plates: 80 micron, 40 micron, 15 micron, and 5 micron. The image on the right shows the completed plates.

If hand lapping for hours (or days) is not your thing, Peachey sells this system on his website (here). One can also use glass – the advantage is that it is already flat, but you have to worry about it breaking.

Now that we each had a sharpening system, we were able to finish the edges of our blades through a two-part iterative process. Starting off with a diamond stone (we used a DMT Duosharp) or the 80 micron microfinishing film and a little water for lubricant, we worked the flat side of the blade until it was actually completely flat and a burr could be felt on the bevel side.

We then worked the bevel side of the blade until a burr could be felt on the flat side – all the while checking to make sure that we maintained our 13 degree bevel angle.

We would then switch to a finer grit and repeat the process until we had used every side of our set of aluminum plates. The cutting edge was finished by stropping with the flesh side of horsebutt dressed with chromium oxide and then polished with the flesh side of calf skin. The result is a mirrored, wickedly sharp knife. These are my first two attempts from the 0.5″ hacksaw blades.

As a side note: this particular knife shape, a kind of English style with a rounded cutting edge at the heel, is apparently favored by Christopher Clarkson. I have yet to really try it out and cannot comment on the situations in which it may be more appropriate to use than a straight bevel at the heel of the blade. But I’ll keep you posted as the year goes on.

After we had made a few blades with straight bevels, Peachey demonstrated the various techniques for sharpening a curved edge.

At the beginning of the workshop I picked up an A2 and an 01 steel blank for making a smaller Swiss style knife and a larger lifting knife. These came with a 13 degree straight bevel already on them, so I just had to modify them a bit. Aside from rounding the sharp corners, I made the bevel on the lifting knife a bit shallower with the grinder. As with the hacksaw blades, these were also finished by hand using the aluminum plates – but with a curving motion. The before and after shots appear below.

On the third day, Jeff went over a few ways to make handles and sheaths for the knives. I tried something different on each of my knives, figuring that I would give them all a try and re-handle the ones that do not feel comfortable. The knife below on the far left is a blade with a double bevel (pretty difficult to do well and mostly me just messing around with a bit of extra 1″ hacksaw blade) and has a wood handle. For the larger lifting knife (second from left) I just rounded the edges and left it without a handle so that, should the need arise, it can be used to lift material in water. The Swiss knife (at center) is wrapped in flax cord, while the lifting knife beside it is covered in calf skin. The small rounded lifting knife to the far right has a simple horsebutt handle. In each case the handle is adhered with PVA.

The sheaths were also relatively easy to construct. Layers of leather and or 20 pt board as thick as the blade are sandwiched between two pieces of horsebutt and adhered with PVA. I gotta say, these are infinitely better than my previous sheath attempts made of Davey board and duct tape. By the end of the 3rd day I had completely sharpened, handled, and sheathed 6 knives of various shapes and sizes.

Aside from knives and spokeshaves, Peachey’s workshop included a range of other demonstrations. He showed us a method for sharpening scissors with a diamond stone and a vice.

(Here Jeff’s arms are moving so fast I can’t get them in focus… but the photo illustrates the action.)

Jeff also blew my mind with this nifty trick to make leather strips. He first cut a circle of leather and basically nailed it to a shooting board with an awl.

Then using a paring knife, he started a thin strip and just kept spinning the leather to make a long, thin length – kind of like peeling an apple.

Finally, Jeff showed us how to make small Japanese bamboo lifting knives, called hera, with a short length of bamboo and a chisel. After splitting a piece of bamboo with a chisel, Jeff squared it up…

… and shaped the blade.

The rough shape from the side looks like this:

The tool is then sanded down with a range of sandpapers (from 150 grit to 400 grit) and polished with 3M Tri-M-Ite polishing paper. Finally a light coat of Renaissance wax is applied to the top of the blade.

You can read his description (with better pictures) of the hera on his blog here.

All in all, this was a fantastic workshop. Thanks to Jeff’s patient and thorough instruction, everyone came away with a much better understanding of sharpening and quite a few more tools. It will be interesting to see how I end up using these tools over the coming months. Will their present form really live up to their intended function? That will be the true test. If not – at least I now have the equipment and know-how to fix them.