Make Summer Camp: Coptic Books II

This post is part of the Make Summer Camp Series.  The goal is to make 10 objects or things between now and September 21, that help you become a more effective Maker and teacher of Makers.  I’ve made a bunch of things, from origami to a red tunic. Make Summer Camp has been great for me to learn a bunch of new skills, mostly in paper engineering, but also in mechanics and some [very] basic woodworking.

Coptic bound booksThere’s no point in making something if you’re not going to make it twice, preferably three times. So today, when I got out my finished coptic-bound book from last time, to use with my geomancy wands for the first time today, my thoughts also turned at the same time to the idea of producing a second book, with the second set of pages I’d assembled when I made book blocks earlier this summer.  Book forms are a great way to develop your paper engineering skills generally — but the coptic-bound book offers a great way to bind up a collection of around a hundred pages or so, minimum.  And that means that it’s great for a lot of the kinds of things that I’m likely to eventually make into a book, like my poetry for example (of which there’s quite a bit). I was planning on taking more pictures of the actual process of binding a coptic-bound book, and maybe making a tutorial of sorts.  I’m using Esther K. Smith’s book on making books, though, and she’s terrific at explaining — if you take the time to do it once, wrong, and then go back at least once more to do it right, once the mistake becomes glaringly obvious. Which is not, precisely, to complain about Esther Smith. I think the book is fantastic. How-to books are terribly difficult to write in the first place. How does one explain how to do something, to someone who’s never done the thing before?  That has to be complicated.  And I was far more ambitious with my first book than I think she ever imagined I would be, which added to my challenges, of course.Coptic bound books

Even so, here in the picture is my first Geomancy Casebook. it’s 168 pages, each with a printed shield chart, and some lines for writing out the results of a given chart. I put my first chart in it this morning, as part of my work for Druidry (you can see my geomancer’s wands here, too).

I’ve got a picture of the book both open and closed.  You can see that each signature, or set of pages, is bound individually to the other sets of pages in five places along the spine.  The binding is uneven; sometimes the signatures are lined up and sometimes they’re not. This is one of the things that will eventually have to be corrected.

Book Two: Liber Spiritus

Coptic bound booksThe second book is supposed to be a book of spirits for my druidic work.  You can see that, at first, it was simply a lot of sheets of paper in a stack (the book block) and some paper wrapped around the covers (which are nothing more than foam board recycled from a student project on the stages of mitosis (somewhere under all of that paper is a pencilled label that says “telophase”). The cover which eventually became the back was poorly wrapped. Actually, both covers were poorly wrapped.  I used regular school glue, at least in part to learn how to work with the materials that my school actually has.  And I used paper that was on-sale at Michael’s, 50% off, maybe even 60% after coupons.  In retrospect, I wish I’d used paper from the Design Lab anyway, but a hunch told me I’d want to keep the final results, so I used paper from my own personal stash of materials.  Coptic bound books

I have to say, the finished product looks impressively book-like. When you look at it from the front, especially in these slightly-grainy photos,  you can see that I did a much better job of aligning the signatures into a single book block.  You can see that the paper is nice, but that I mis-aligned it — that design is so impressively vertical on that brownish paper, I really should have turned it the other way. Oh well.  It’s bound with purple thread, which doesn’t really match. And like good book-binder’s thread, it’s waxed linen; which means that it turns sort of pale purple-to-white as it’s stretched and bound in place.

What did I learn from this second book-making endeavor with the Coptic binding?  Among other things, I learned that it’s important to use good glue in the process.  Bad glue can’t do much — the paper was already peeling off the back cover of this book by the time I was attaching the paper to the sides and front.  This is not good — the cover papers can’t be ripping off or rippling off the book before it even gets used!

Coptic bound booksThat said, when I open it up and look in the front cover, what I see is that I’ve made great progress. The holes for the binding are in the right places, this time.  That’s a great improvement already.  I forgot to attach the front cover the same way the back cover got attached; someone else might not notice this, but I will; there’s room for improvement in my coptic book-binding skills.

Third, although the back cover of the book has a lot of flaws in how the paper was folded around the foam-board core, the front cover is much better. Much! So one of the key things I learned here was how to do it wrong, and how to do it “right”.  If I’d used book cloth or chip-board, I’m sure I would have done even better.

But the third time is all, right?  So I have to think of a book-block to produce.  I don’t want it to be another blank book to write in; I want it to be an actual book, with readable text.  That does, all joking aside, suggest creating a set of my poetry to be the book-block.  This is challenging in more ways than one.  The pages themselves are going to require thinking through exactly the right order, or using elaborate page-layout software, in order to retain the correct order of pieces.  The content is a minimum of six signatures (seven or eight or ten has a set of growing problems and diminishing returns, and beyond 15 signatures gets really complicated and isn’t worth the trouble, I gather), and each signature can contain up to 8 sheets of paper, (again, diminishing returns after 7 sheets of paper, I think).

So, I think the goal is to produce one more coptic-stitch book before the end of the summer.

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