Thursday, May 1, 2014

Some of the Parts of Creating a Custom Journal

It was mentioned in the comments by lostannfound soooo I thought maybe some others might could have an interest as well in some of the mechanics of leather art.

Building a journal takes a couple of different skills and a small collection of tools. Some you just gotta buy and others you can build yourself. I built my Stitching frame to sew up the book blocks. I built my punching cradle to punch the sewing holes in the signatures of the book blocks annnnnnd... I built the new stitching horse I needed.

Built a new one because I gave the old "new" one away to a very good friend when we hit the road. Truth be known I believe that it is a great benefit to the craftsman... to build as many of his own bits of necessary equipment as he can.

It benefits in ways that might go unnoticed. One of the big ones is in CONFIDENCE. The more you DO... the more you KNOW you can do. Simple fact is... Everything is within your ability... unless you tell yourself you can't. Building your own equipment also automatically tailors its function to the way your ol' brain thinks. Kinda cool.

So... Journal Building. A combination of book binding and Leather Craft.

signature punching cradle for book binding

One of the first things you need to do is build your book block. To do that you've got to stitch the signatures together.

I rubed up a carboard quickie for a journal I built in camp last year.  I chose to build a functioning punching cradle, to ease punching of the stitching holes into the signatures, for my ongoing shop work.

A piece I built last summer is this stitching frame...

You take the punched signatures one by one and stack them up...

... and stitch them together, as well as stitching them to the re-enforcing "Cords".

Those cords can be leather straps as I choose... or actual rope type cords... as well as a bookbinders tape... many choices are available.

Then... it's on to the cover... Now, THIS is where I have my most fun. The Cover is the canvas that opens up the opportunity for imagination. You can go simple or you can go wild...

My inspiration and "mentor" of sorts... though I'm sure she's not got a sliver of a clue is a gal back east... by the name of Marcia Engeltjes.

Ho LEE CRAP!!! That gal is an Ab-sew-LUTE Freakin' Genius of an artist!

anyhoo... for this simple lil' journal for the Fire Department Auction I'll stick the journal cover in this new Saddler's Stitching Horse I just finished designing and building. This will be its very first Christening Use!

full throat stitching horse

Hand stitching is an art in itself. You can tell the quality and dedication of the artist by the stitches. Mine on this project are... uh... not my best work. It's been a bit of time since the last time I sat on a stitching horse and it's a perishable skill, and I'm just a bit rusty...

But, the rhythm is coming back quickly.

First thing you learn is... Your hands are kinda busy.

You have to manipulate two needles and an awl.

You can't just go jabbin' that awl through things either. You have to keep a few things in mind.

First, it's made with a diamond shape. You can't just ram it through the leather any old way.

It MUST penetrate the leather with the diamond at about a 45 degree angle to the line of the stitching.

 You can see the awl punched hole in this pic. If the diamond lays inline with the line of stitching... the holes will tend to tear on through as you pull your stitches tight. So you have to keep that proper orientation.

Secondly, your awl has to penetrate the leather perpendicular on two planes. Horizontal and Vertical...

If it's "Off" from either... you end up with irregular stitch spacing (horizontal error) or a wiggly stitch line (vertical error)

On this journal I'm putting a tooled plate on top of the cover and stitching in a billet for a leather clasp closure as well...

First thing was to glue the plate and billet in place in preparation to stitch.

Then... stitch along the line I'm pointing at..

So... there's a lot of bits to pay attention to.

I tried to put up a quick video of a few stitches... but... google's improved so many things... that nothin' works. :-/

 You punch the sewing hole with the awl positioned correctly... then you push the left hand needle through the new hole, and then put the right hand needle through the same hole... You end with a stitchline that is much stronger and more reliable than machine stitched.

It's only drawback is it's time consuming.

Once you get the rhythm going you can stitch fairly quickly... me... I've been away a bit so I'm kinda slow just now... relearning the muscle memory.

The tooled plate and the billet are stitched in place. Now just need to finish the edging of the cover, put the book block in place, and rivet the other half of the leather closure in position... plus a couple other small bits and pieces of finishing work.



Janna and Mike said...

You are an artist Brian, your leather work is truly beautiful!

lostAnnfound said...

Thank you for sharing the pictures and explaining how it's done. Very interesting learning how your craft is done!