Essays, Letters and Poems 1781


This is the book I am working on at the moment, it has been a few weeks now since I started working on this book, and I hope to finish it before Christmas if all goes well. There have been some hiccups along the way, but as of today, it seemed to be alright when I left it.

It has been a book for me to practice board reattachment, which is a series of lectures we have been having for the past couple of weeks. Here I am going to list the work I have been doing on the book for my journal and hopefully include some pictures of how it has advanced.


The book has both boards detached and a severely deteriorated spine, as you can see in the photograph, the end papers are detached with some minor paper repairs necessary. The end bands and end caps have also deteriorated and are no longer present, through there is some evidence of their initial present. A full account of the damage is in my documentation report.

The first step I was advised to take was to prepare some toned tissue for the repairs to the cover and also make any paper repairs. These included reattaching the end papers with the use of a japanese hinge on each side. This worked very well and has formed a discreet and strong attachment.


Toned japanese tissue for cover repairs.


Reattachment of the endpapers using japanese tissue hinges.

Pulp papers with Alan Buchanon

We have recently had a fascinating day with Alan Buchanon on making and using pulp papers for paper repairs as an alternative to japanese and western paper repairs. This is a technique that Alan has honed to a great art and precise formula that allows any conservator to give it a go an come out with a good and useable result.

To start with we made and dyed paper at the same time, this was done using shreds of a high grade of cotton rag paper to make the pulp and a precise mixture of dyes to get the colour. The percentage of the colour is essential a the lower the percentage, the lighter the colour. There were about six colour charts using a different percentage of dye for each chart, these can be seen in the photographs below.

Once the paper was made, we then moved on to making the pulp. By take the object and comparing it to the charts, it was possible to see what colour match the object best. Once found, the chart then gave grammages of how much paper was needed from each colour in that percentage, these could be weighed out and blended together like a recipe!

At this point a pulp was ready, and after making small samples and adding any colours if necessary, we were ready to repair. This was done using a powerful suction table, on which the object sat with the area to be repair masked out of melinex in order to prevent any damage to the surrounding area. Using a pippet, the pulp was then squirted into the area the be mended and built up gradually to the required amount. Once this was reached, the use of a hair fryer would dry out the final parts of the repair, and it was done!

I was unsure how strong these repairs would be as there is no adhesive involved. Alan assured me that the combination of the suction of the table and the hair dryer meant thy the cotton fibres would form a very strong covalent bond with the cotton fibres in the paper. This was not necessarily the same with wood pulp papers, which might need a small amount of adhesive mixed into the pulp to ensure it adheres enough.


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!

Making stamp paper

As I think many of you will have heard me go on about, I am going to have a table at the Crafty Fox Market in Brixton on April 16th (please come along if you’re around), which, now I have done my essay (phew!) I am now really looking forward to. So… in preparation for some more stock, I have been making some paper – stamp paper. Having done it once before for a book for my Dad, I knew it would look nice – and luckily I have not been dissapointed yet –

paper covered in stamps

I have some plans for some more single coloured ones, but that might come in the easter break as they take a while to make! Whilst sticking stamps, I came across one which was amazingly relevant – a stamp showing a small etching of some printers – AMAZING!!

Early printers

I imagine many of you will be thinking ‘that’s really not very exciting’ – HOWEVER, for a team of 9 who have spent a whole Friday having lectures (very intresting ones mind you) on the history of printing, this is VERY exciting! This little picture is showing one man inking up the block to be printed and the other selecting type from the cases (where the term upper and lower case from, the capitals being in the ‘upper case’).

I’ve also been sent a great flyer from the Crafty Fox Market for the fair on the 16th April, so here it is – spread the word!!

Crafty Fox Market, 16th April

A Method in Knife Sharpening

Over the last couple of weeks, we have had a team of expert craftsmen from the British Library come in and teach us knife sharpening and leather pairing – it has been FANTASTIC!! I’ve never done either and have been thoroughly enjoying myself! Leather, as many of you will know, is an amazing medium to work in and gives and extremely satisfying result! It also seems to work sooo much better with a nice sharp knife, so the two have been going very well together.

Sharpening my knife
Sharp and covered

As you’ll know from my tools post, I’m very fond of my kit, and there is nothing quite like having a tool that you can mould exactly to the form you want to, so I have been slowly sharpening and  honing my pairing knife, which is used to take off the edge of the leather before you pair/thin the rest of the leather (edge pairing!). I have also been given a spokeshave by my wonderful father – a tool which is used to thin down the rest pf the leather. This particular tool was designed for woodworking and needs a bit of manipulation before it can be used for leather pairing – which is going to take me a few weeks… Anyway, here is a video of Mary sharpening her pairing knife:

Having tried out pairing and knife sharpening, I decided to give a case binding a go in leather, as my sister is after a book for her PhD for her acknowledgments. Unfotunately I ripped the spine piece after two hours of pairing, but I suppose that is what practice is for. I decidied to still use the leather due to a lack of dark green and plans for the cover, but its a bit sad!

Ripped spine piece

Though all in all not as sad as missing out the N in ‘acknowledgments’ on the spine itself, after my VERY first attempt at blind tooling. Neither of which are remotely as disappointing as it was to find out I after speaking to my sister that I also had too many E’s – HOPELESS!

My first attempt at blind tooling

Anywho – bit of a long post today as its been a while and lots has been happeneing – will update quicker next time and will put the finished acknoweledgemets up soon!

PS – I now have a ‘page’ on facebook so I can put up events and spread the love so come and have a look if you’re keen.

Paper Conservation | Wet Repairs

For a while I have been trying to think of something I could do on a weekly basis to keep my blog up and running and relevant, so I thought I might do a series of instructions. These will be to let people know exactly what I am learning at the moment, It will also help me remember everything I am learning, and means I have notes for myself in the future!

So this week I am starting on wet paper repairs, as this is something I am working on at the moment and have had recent instruction in.
Prior to using the wet repair method, it is necessary to check that the object will not be effected by water, as it may have fugitive media on it or the water may cause tidelines, so relevant tests and humidification must be done first.

Repair material

A key issue in paper repair, is that the material you use for the repairs should be lighter in weight than the paper being conserved, this is because a heavier repair will create a weak spot, so if any pressure is put on the object will cause a break at the point where the two materials meet. Check the wet using a micrometer (if there is one to hand!!)

Japanese tissues, such as Spider and Tengujo are very good for paper conservation. They are archival papers and have an alkali reserve within them, which will lower any acidity in the object. They are also made from very thin, very long fibres. This means that they can often be invisible on the repair due to their weight, but strong at the same time and will provide support for the object where necessary.

Cutting the tissue and paper

Paper fibres are essential to the repairs, you cannot just cut the repair tissue or paper with a blade, as the harsh line will lift up from the object after time, you need a frayed edge of fibres to adhere properly. This is done using a water pen or a paint brush and water. You must draw a line using water onto the tissue or paper where you want to cut, you can then tear the tissue along this line, giving you a soft edge that will adhere better. When cutting infills, it is done in the same way – you can put the object on a light box with a piece of melinex on top to protect it, you can then trace an accurate line with a water pen directly onto the repair tissue/paper on top of the object and then tear it.

Mending tears

1. When repairing tears on the object, primarily, the tear must be tacked together using a small bit of wheat starch paste, this is done with a very small overlap as it will pull apart when it dries.
2. Starting out on the reverse (verso), draw out and cut a small piece of tissue using the lightbox method described above. For any tear bigger than an inch, it is better to use small pieces of tissue, letting each one dry before applying the next, as longer pieces can cause the object to cockle.
3. Trim the extra long fibres using scissors, as then will be too long to pick up the paste.
4. Paste the small piece of tissue on a piece of scrap melinex, leaving a tiny area at the end to allow you to pick it up.
5. Lift the tissue from the melinex and place onto object, and flatten down using a bonefolder on top of bondina and archival blotter, then weigh it down for a couple of minutes.
6. Repeat this process on  front (recto).
7. Once dry, trim any excess tissue from the edge of the object.

Mending missing pieces
This is very similar to mending tears, but uses an additional infill piece of paper

1. Find an infill piece of similar but lighter paper, if the object is antique laid paper, it should be repaired with the same type of paper. If it is a modern paper, it will be heavily sized, so should be put in bath of hot water to remove any size, and dried and pressed appropriately.
2. Cut the repair paper to fit the missing section using the lightbox method described above.
3. Tack the new infill piece to the object using wheat starch paste.
4. When dry, cut a piece of tissue that will cover the back of the infill and about 3/4mm of the object itself, this is because the tacking of the object alone will not be enough to keep the infill there.
5. Paste this piece of tissue to the object and infill on the verso and allow to dry under a weight, blotter and bondina.
6. Once dry check whether another piece of tissue is needed on the front – ideally not, but it may be necessary.

Please be aware these are not official instructions and should not be followed as or in replacement of professional instruction.