Monday, 27 June 2011

Teaching and Learning

I was folding some large sheets of endpapering this morning, and thought of my first bookbinding course. It was a home study thing, so I was watching a video and didn't have any direct input from the teacher, but I was sure if I followed the instructions exactly it would all work out in the end.

After running us through the whole saga of paper grain, we got down to actual work and she showed us how to fold a piece of paper. She said that if you started the fold at either edge of the paper you would get little creases in the middle, and dictated that you must always press the fold down starting from the middle and pressing towards each side. She said that several times, just to make sure we got it.

Until then I had been pressing from the side and had no little creases. Under her instruction I started pressing from the centre and soon had lots of trouble with creases. But I was paying for the class, the teacher was well-known and respected, and I wanted to do what the teacher said. I persevered, and eventually developed a technique for starting at the centre and folding towards each side and not getting any creases most of the time. But it wasn't easy.

Flash forward a year until I started working at the bindery. The very first day I was told to fold some large sheets of paper. Aha! Something I know how to do! I confidently folded the paper the way I'd been instructed.

Wrong! The bindery manager had apprenticed in London and worked in a variety of binderies for many years before moving to Canada. He knew his folding. Mine was wrong, wrong, wrong. How should I have done it? Exactly the way I had been doing it right at the beginning before I had any instruction, of course. The way that I did it where I had no trouble at all with little creases.

So was the teacher wrong, wrong, wrong? No, I don't think so. The teacher was telling us the way she did it, and outlining the problems she had had that she had solved her way - which is pretty well the only way anybody can teach. It is up to the student to receive the teaching, practice what they're taught, and when they've reached a level of confidence they can then decide whether they want to follow what they were told, or do something else.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Making Do

One of the things I love about bookbinding is that you can do it with so few tools. Sure, it's nice to have a press and specially-constructed beaded pressing boards but in a pinch, if you know what you're doing, bricks and smooth hardboard and knitting needles also work.

And it's nice to have a sewing frame that is professionally made of polished wood and a thing of beauty on its own. Sadly, the boss wanted $450 for it, so I had to leave "mine" behind when I left my job, and ever since I've been making do with sewing on the edge of a piece of hardboard and taping the sewing tapes to the back side. Which works fine for one book. Or two. But it takes time to set up, and when I contemplated making a series of books I tried not to think of the time that would be spent taping little pieces of tape onto the backside of the board, and flinging them back when they got in the way of the sewing, and otherwise fussing around with them.

So I went out into the world to have a little look-see, and this is what I found:

It's made of aluminum tubes, is very lightweight, and telescopes sideways to a maximum of 28", for those big books. And it has shelves - a number of them, though I'm only using two here. You get 8 shelves with it, each about 3" wide. As a sewing frame, it works great. The only problem is that you have to elevate your textblock somehow, but I have lots of books handy, and just shoved a couple in to support the textblock.

This tool didn't cost anywhere near $450. In fact, it cost $32.98.

What is it? It's an expandable under-the-sink storage shelf. I got mine at Bed, Bath & Beyond, but I'm sure they can be found any number of places.

Do you have any tools that are really something else?