Testing pH

Similarly to the recent post on paste, this is another self indulgent post, designed to remind myself of techniques I have used for the future when my brain starts to forget them!

pH is necessary to test on any number of occasions, for any number of reasons. Our recent washing and bleaching session saw us testing the pH of paper before and after doing experiments on the pages of a book. There are are also various methods of testing pH, though I am only looking at the one here at the moment.

Testing pH using a Probe Meter

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Before starting to test the object, the machine must first be calibrated. Once calibrated, it can be used for a day or so, but after leaving for a period of time, it must be calibrated again. The picture shows two pippett jars and two small pots. One jar has an acidic solution with pH of 4, and the second with a neutral pH of 7. A small amount of each solution is put in each small pot and the pippett jars can then be put to one side.

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The probe is kept in an airtight pot with a small amount of deionised water to keep it safe. The next step is to remove the probe and dip it into the pH7 pot. At this point the machine should then be altered so that the dial rests on 7. The probe is then washed with deionised water and dipped in the pH4 pot, again the dial should be moved to meet four.

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This is repeated until the dial no long needs to be moved. The machine should now be calibrated.

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Once calibrated, it is very simple to test the pH. Although one stipulation for this method is that the tested item has to be wet. If testing a dry object, a drop of water can be dropped onto the object and left to soak in. The probe is then rinsed in deionised water and placed on the object, and the reading taken.

Obviously one negative point of this process is that there is the possibility of tidelines, so if it is possible to test whilst humidifying anyway, the risk will be much reduced.

Making Wheat Starch Paste

This is a post I have been meaning to do for a while, both for me to refer to in the future and for anyone interested, and have finally got my act together after a nudge from Sago On Tuesdays! I hope that I may be able to add to it in the future as I learn new techniques. At the moment I only have three or four to list, but they are good ones that I like.

Paste at the V&A

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The V&A use shofu paste powder for their paste, it is one of the most refined pastes and is a good tackiness and consistency. It is also not necessary to let it stand like with common paste, it can be cooked immediately.

– Mix 27g shofu powder to 200ml water in a beaker and stir together
– Place the beaker on a hot plate on a medium heat
– Stir for about 15 mins or until the liquid starts to go clear and thicker
– Turn up the heat and continue to stir until the paste is thick enough and stays on the stirrer.
– Cover the beaker with a damp cloth and place in a sink of cold water to cool
(have a cup of tea)
– Once cool transfer the now jelly like paste to a clean beaker
– Fill with water until the paste is all cover and recover with a damp cloth
– This can now be left for a few days on the side (not fridge)
– When using it, take how much you need and sieve it three times
– Do not return served past to the beaker

In this case and all cases where paste is cooked on a hot plate, the paste must be on the heat for at least 35 mins and constantly stirred. This is so that the enzymes can open up and create the tackiness.

Paste at Camberwell College of Arts

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Paste at Camberwell is unfortunately the slowest process, but very authentic in terms of how it was made once upon a time. It makes quite a sticky dense paste, with little liquid, which is good for many purposes.

– Mix 1 part paste to 4 parts water and leave to stand for 20minutes
– Poor the mix into the top part of a double boiler (above), and fill the lower part with water
– Set to a high heat and constantly stir until mixture becomes like custard
– Lower the heat and continue to stir until it has been cooked for about 35 mins, it should be clear like silicone
– Leave to cool and then sieve 2/3 times

Paste at the The National Arhives

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The National Archives also use shofu paste because of its good qualities, and unlike anywhere else I have been, they also use a saucier, which removes the need of a stirrer! Their paste is also at 20% concentration, which I find a little too liquid, but it is made for everyone, so is what most people there require.

Using a saucier
– Mix 20g of shofu powder with 100/150ml distiller water (dry/wet)
– Put the mixture in the saucier and set to level 4 (out of 5)
– Allow to cook for 30 mins
– Sieve 2/3 times
– Keep in the fridge when not in use

Using a microwave
– Mix 20g of shofu powder with 150ml of water in a beaker
– Microwave at short intervals as below, stirring in the middle
60s/20s/20s
– Sieve 2/3 times

Making Toned Tissue for Paper Repairs

Tissue toning is something I have only done briefly before this lecture, and not one I had had any instruction in. Having previously had a thorough introduction into pulp repairs with Alan Buchanan, this particular process of toning tissue seemed to make a lot more sense than perhaps it had done previously.

It was necessary to learn to and tone tissue in order to move ahead with our board attachment lectures. The use of japanese tissue is now essential in the repair of books and paper, and has more strength than one might imagine, indeed a hinge repair in japanese tissue is often enough to hold a board onto a book for the foreseeable future, though to look at it, it almost seems impossible.

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The technique for this tissue toning, was to create a colour pallet similar to the colours of the book cover in question. This was done using different acrylic colours, such as burnt umber and ocre, these can be mixed on a sheet of melinex as an artists pallet is. Once the desired colour is reached, the pigment is then dabbed onto the tissue using a damp piece of cotton wool. This means that it is possible to get a meddly of colours on the tissue.

Personally I was not so enamoured with this particular method. I found both the cotton wool and the tissue would soak up the pigment too quickly to get good coverage, and the tissue ended up looking too patchy and the fibres of the tissue would become damaged and fragile.

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An alternative method, which I personally prefer, is to make up a pallet of liquid colour in a relatively large quantity. Then the tissue is dipped into the liquid pigment. This way the colour is more consistent and will cover a larger area. It also does not put any strain on the tissue fibres, meaning they retain their strength. Once one tissue is toned, it is possible to add water to the pallet and get a lower percentage of pigment on another sheet, and so on until the pigment is gone and the tissue toning is quite pale.

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The negative is that it is important to get the right colour before you go ahead and tone the sheet, whereas in the former method, more colour can be added to get the toning correct. In both methods, colour can be added to the tissue once it has been added to the book to blend in the tissue. This is often done with black.

An alternative method, which I have yet to test, is using a spray gun to cover the tissue in the pigment. This should get a maximum coverage of pigment onto the tissue with a minimum effect or damage to the tissue.

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
acknowledgemets.

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.