Paper washing and bleaching, vol 1

Bleaching is a dirty word in conservation, one whispered secretly. However there is no denying that there is something roguishly fun about sticking an old page from a book into a bath of bleach and watching it go from brown to bright white! I can state that the Rev will also be seeing some bleaching treatment in the next couple of weeks, and might then go on the wall!).

This is what we have been doing in the last week with Alan Buchanan, a visiting lecturer of ours, who is very charismatic and great to listen to. We have been working very scientifically and thoroughly, ensuring variables were recorded before starting out, and a control kept.

Preparing the paper for washing
Prior to our various forms of cleaning, it was necessary to record the primary data of the paper, so that we could see the difference once cleaned. We were using pages from the same book, so although they varied slightly in weight, they were very similar on most parts. Each sheet was weighed five times at intervals of 20 seconds, and a mean average taken from those recordings. One sheet was kept as a control and has remained unwashed.

Weighing the paper
The first four pages, ready for cleaning

Washing the paper
Immersion
A simple and straight forward method of cleaning, and one often with satisfactory results as the water will yellow when significant amounts of dirt are removed. Prior to immersion, the page had to be humidified. Immersing a document immediately into water is too much stress for the paper, it needs to be gently introduced to water so that it will accept it more readily. Once humidified we put the page into the water, at about 30 degrees, and left it for 30 minutes. After this, the page came out and was left on the drying rack to dry. In order to flatten it after that, it would need to be humidified again and pressed. Pressing is not something we are doing in our experiments.

Humidification
Ceder humidification chamber
Immersing the page into 30 degrees water
Drying the page on the rack

Float washing
In my opinion, this was the method of washing with the most obvious results as a distinctive residue of dirt left on the blotter. Again, prior to the was, we humidified the page. There are a few methods of float washing including ones where the object is left at an angle and water permanently run underneath it, but Alan assured us that there is no evidence to support one method working better than the other, and in his experience, this was an effective one. In a bath containing two sheets of blotter, water is introduced until it reaches the same level as the blotter, no more. Then the humidified object, recto up is placed onto the blotter. We also left this for 30 minutes. The benefit of this method is that the recto is kept dry, or at least away from the water and relatively untouched, which would be important with fragile media. If the document itself was fragile, it could also be placed on bondina before going on the blotter, which would protect it.

The second page being float washed
The remaining stained blotter

Blotter Washing
The third method of cleaning was the blotter wash, it is an extremely gentle form of washing, should the object have friable media or is delicate in itself. Primarily the first sheet of blotter is lightly wetted, this is a little more needed than for humidification, but not much. At this point both the dry and wet blotter should be weighed. On a clean surface, the dry blotter is placed down, then a sheet of roofing felt (goretex is the more expensive version of the same thing) then the object, recto up, the second sheet of roofing felt, and finally the wet blotter. This should then be covered with a piece of plastic and weighed down to keep the moisture contained. This is then left for an hour or more, as it is a gentle technique and needs time to work. If the object is very delicate, bondina can be used either side of the object. The method works by gravity pulling the water from the wet blotter through to the second, as well as the capillary matting from the roofing felt – this allows vapours through, but not droplets of water. As the second blotter is dry, it will be naturally pulled through to this blotter, via the object, cleaning it in the process. The reason for the object being recto up is so that any matter drawn through the object would show on the verso. Once the hour is up, the blotters are weighed again and there should be a considerable difference in weight.

Wetting the blotter
The cleaning method in action

Washing on the vacuum table
This is not as delicate as the blotter wash, but more so than the other methods. The object must first be humidified before washing to prevent it form being stretched on the vacuum table. The object should be placed on top of a cotton sheet on top of the machine as this will draw the water through quicker and will protect the object. It will also protect the machine from any dirt removed. Once on the table, it can be sprayed gradually all over with water until cleaning is complete.

Setting up the table for washing
The object on the vacuum table
Washing the object with a water spray

Localised and differential washing
We were particularly looking at localised washing with additives such as IMS (Industrial Mentholated Spirits) and Synperonic A7 (detergent that reduces surface tension and cleans).

The solutions were made at 100ml quantities as follows:
50ml IMS and 50ml Water
100ml Water and a drop of Synperonic

These were used in conjunction with the vacuum table. The object had to be humidified prior to being washed on the table. The area needing attention was masked out using melinex and the object placed on top of a cotton sheet. Using a very fine brush, the IMS or Symperonic was added directly to areas such as foxing spots, hopefully reducing them, though it was not massively successful. The object should be placed recto up so that anything that is drawn out through the suction, comes out on the verso.

Washing localised areas

More Stamp Paper

As promised some time back, I have now made some more stamp paper, the last one was a sort of practice run, this is what I had been planning. I have made them a lot bigger, A2 in fact, and YES they took a REEEAAALLY long time to make!

Pinks, Purples & Reds
Oranges, Yellows & Browns

The plan is to scan them in high quality and then get them properly printed on a nice archival paper. That way I can use them as book covers, end papers and all sorts of wonderful things! I also won’t have to cut these ones up! I might even put these on my wall as they look quite nice in real life – even if I do say so myself!

Greens and Blues

I have some more in the pipeline, those will be subject specific, a you seem to get so many of the same thing in these bigs bulk packs of stamps, so I am thinking ones with, animals, birds, transport, flowers and maybe a small one with insects!

Collection of Pamphlets | Flatback Binding with Slipcase

This little book uses sections from a collection of Poetry booklets that came free with a newspaper. This is something the broadsheets often do over the Christmas period and are a great thing to collect if you spot them early enough.

SPECIFICATIONS

  • Hand sewn sections onto tape and linen thread.
  • Complimentary coloured endpapers adhered as a single folio to front and back.
  • Spine lined with mull and kraft paper.
  • Boards and spine covered buckram book cloth and hand decorated papers.
  • Cased in as a quarter bound flat back book.
  • Complimentary slipcase was made in the same buckram book cloth, and a sympathetic coloured ribbon.

ORDER YOUR BESPOKE FLATBACK BINDING WITH SLIPCASE

If you have a collection of pamphlets that you would like bound in a similar manor with a slipcase, please do get in touch. Prices start from £200.00 and will vary depending on any additional requirements you have, such as labels and cover tooling.

For other examples of bespoke bindings, have a look at the bookbinding page of this website.


This particular book was for my mother, who was extremely pleased with it, but is still a bit scared to sit down and read it! The paper was paper we had made together one afternoon, so all very appropriate.

Bookbinding Update | Week 31

Tuesday seemed to mark the completion of all sorts of things – my unit one stuff, which was lots of art work and paper manipulation, the handing in of all my work to date to be assessed (phew!) and a presentation that I was doing with two other people in the class. So as you can imagine, it was a huge relief to have it all completed! I have now handed in all my work so far, and don’t have too much left to do, except finish my project 2 (Journey to the Centre of the Earth) and make a box for it.
As well as all of the above, we also started work on our Coptic Bindings, which we are filling with the manipulated paper we have made for  unit 1 – you can see some of these in the images attached and the start of the binding – an extraordinarily complex way of sewing, that involves a needle for every hole! – 4 in this case!!!

Unfortunately, the sections in this binding are only made of two sheets, so it is quite easy to rip the sheets when you tighten the sewing, as you will see in the picture above – again, practice makes perfect!

Bookbinding Update | Week 22

Again, yesterday seemed to be a bit of a struggle – anyway – I was making my ‘made’ end papers yesterday, which means sticking two bits of paper together – one being the pretty end bits of the book, and the rest being the beginning white bits. These then get sewn on to the text block like another section. Sadly one of mine did go rather skew-whiff, which was disappointing, as I like these things to be perfect, but my tutor said that this will be the least of my problems later down the line when every thing gets harder!! I’m still a lesson behind and hope to catch up next week, but it’s tricky due to drying times, though I am up to date with other stuff, which other people are not, so I suppose it all levels out!

I was a lesson behind last week, as I hadn’t managed to make my pretty end papers, and didn’t take in my book either. Lots of people have bought pretty end papers, but I have found that I quite like making these things, so did that instead – and it saved me money – 90p instead of £10.00!! For the pretty end papers, I did as I discussed with Mummy, but took it a little further. I typed up the beginning of the book on my old type writer (much to our neighbors distress I am sure, as the clerchunking resonated throughout the flats!), I only managed one A4 sheet, as time eluded me yet again, and it takes a surprisingly long time to write a (relatively) accurate sheet of A4. So, with a little experimenting on our photocopier, I decided that I would blow up half the A4 (landscape A5) to landscape A3, making the text seem much larger and more art-like, rather than the small stuff, which may have looked just like the rest of the text. I also did it on dark blue paper so its quite dark and subtle and you don’t see it much. I may stamp this at a later stage with light ink, don’t know yet…

Any way, I don’t have any images of my actual end papers as once stuck they had to go straight in the press, so no time to photograph. I do, however, have pictures of my spare green end papers, as I couldn’t decide what to go for first of all. I’ve also photographed the original type, so hopefully you will see the difference….

C&G Week 15 | Casing-in a flat back binding

Yesterday was a good day, we didn’t have the board to start the slip cases, so the evening was a catch up evening – giving me the chance to finish my Flat back binding, which I managed and is now complete. This was the one I sent an image of some time back showing the card and the pink cloth on the spine and corners.

Well to finish it, I covered it in paper which I had made from the art part of the course, and then had to ‘case it in’. This you have to do fairly quickly – its covering the end paper with glue and sticking the text block onto the boards. This however is also the part which most easily goes wrong. Unfortunately due to it being the VERY last thing you do, it is also the most disastrous if it DOES go wrong, as you have to start from scratch! Things that could go wrong would be the skew-whiffing of the text block and misaligning it completely, or possibly over gluing, which might mean the covers bend or the glue seeps through the end-paper, or you don’t dry it properly and it goes through the rest of the book, as C&Ds did. All of which you can do nothing about! Luckily, this was my most successful gluing yet, and I am thrilled to bits!