Sunday, January 17, 2010

Rebacking Experiment

Rebacking cloth bindings is a relatively common repair, with several variations in treatment technique. For this reason, I decided to experiment with two different methods by experts in the field. Using instructional manuals, I completed two cloth rebacks in the style of Don Etherington and Dominic Riley.
To begin I choose a set of two books from the stacks, which were identical in size, thickness, and required the same level of treatment.
The first step in each method was the same. I separated the text block from the case, cleaned and lined the spine with Japanese tissue (paste), and trimmed the boards (just a hair) at the joint edge. Next, I attached the head and tail bands to both books and lined the spine with linen (PVA), using aeroplane linen on the Etherington volume because it is what he advocates. With the linen lining providing extra stability, I repaired broken sewing in both volumes. At this point, both methods advise attaching a spine lining of "thickish" paper, the exact height of the text block. I used 10 pt board (PVA), dampening the strip for the Etherington volume as advised.
The next step in Riley's manual is to repair the corners, using wheat starch paste, and dry them under pressure from a bull dog clip (I used clothes pins). I typically use PVA for corner repairs, so I treated the Riley covers as directed and left the Etherington (to be treated with PVA) for comparison. Then I lifted the cloth and endpapers on both books. As advised in the manual, for the Etherington volume, I removed excess board fibers by lining the lifted area with masking tape, pressing down, and pulling it off. This does remove a good amount of unnecessary board.
With the text block and covers prepped, I began constructing the new spine pieces. This was really the biggest difference between the two. Riley suggests using toned cloth, sized with methyl cellulose. For this is used linen, and toned with an acrylic/cellulose mix. Then I attached a spine stiffener of 10 pt board. Etherington prefers to use Japanese tissue. He suggests using morike of a similar color, lined with linen, and coated with Klucel G. I had to tone the morike available slightly, so I used an acrylic/Klucel mix. For this spine stiffener, I used blotting paper, because Etherington claims it is easier to shape (which proved true). I parred the edges on both spine pieces to reduce bumps under the cover cloth.
When the spine pieces were ready, I cased in each volume. Both advocate attaching the new spine piece first. Riley's detailed instructions were very helpful for this part. He suggests positioning the boards and then moving the book to a press, sticking out enough to have room to freely move the lifted cloth (The ploy-press was very handy for this part). Next, I glued out the cloth (making sure no adhesive got on the spine stiffener) and positioned it on the text block, with the stiffener was in the correct position. With the spine piece in place, I removed the book from the press, and glued down the turn-ins. Then I attached the case by drawing the linen over the joint, with the cover raised by boards and weights keeping the book in position (as seen below in my Reattaching a Text Block entry).
Etherington suggests casing-in a similar way, except he attaches the Japanese tissue to one cover first. Next he attaches the spine stiffener in the necessary position and trims the second edge of the Japanese tissue spine piece to fit in position on the second cover. I opted to attached the spine stiffener first and trim the morike to size, so the spine piece could be parred.
The finishing steps for both volumes are gluing down the endpapers and cloth, reattaching remaining original spine pieces, and toning with acrylic. This is the completed set (vol. I - Etherington, vol. II - Riley):
My reason for this experiment was to learn variations of cloth reback repairs, and develop a personal preference. I really liked Riley's method, and have used it since. I was taught to attach the text block to the covers first, then add the spine piece. I feel working on the case first is faster, and I like the end result better. However, I do prefer to use morike lined with linen for the spine piece, because it is easier to work with and to tone.
I was also interested in the difference between the paste (Left) and PVA (Right) corners. The corners repaired with paste and held with clothes pins dried perfectly flat, while the PVA corners remained slightly curved. The only problem is the paste took a long time to dry. I think whether this additional time is worth while will depend on the book (2010).
Manuals used:
Repairing an Original Cloth Case Binding - Don Etherington
The Art and Science of Cloth Rebacking: Some Useful Techniques Shared - Dominic Riley

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