Category : Bookish Tips

Paper Sample Book

I love love love my paper sample book. I’ve had it forever.

Paper sample book

In fact, I’m not really sure when I started working on it. It’s a loose leaf binder with baseball card holder pages in it. Whenever I get a new paper, I cut a piece from it that’s 2.5” x 3.5” and slide it into one of the pockets. Sometimes I’ll wait until I have a use for the paper and cut it up for a project, and then I’ll take a sample piece from whatever is left over.

Paper samples

I have most of my papers organized by either maker/manufacturer, country, or weight/use. Those that don’t fit into those categories are usually organized by the whatever-I-feel-like approach. This binder has been invaluable for custom orders. I may no longer be able to get a specific paper that’s in there, but it’s much easier to find a replacement when I know the color, texture, and weight characteristics.

Paper samples

I also bring the binder with me whenever I go shopping for supplies. It’s much easier to look for a bookcloth match when you don’t have to bring a big roll of paper with you. Just whip out the piece from the sample book and you’re good to go. Plus, you may be looking for one thing but find something else that can work with something you already have.

Paper samples

Sometimes I put information on the back of a sample, such as the sheet size, where I bought it, or who the manufacturer is. I have even placed the store’s price label right on the back of the sample – then I’ve got the SKU number for reference.

When I get paper sample books from manufacturers, I usually take them apart and cut the pieces down to sample book size. It’s much easier to just carry around one reference book.

Do you have a way to organize your samples? I’d love to hear about it!

Gooey glue tip

Jar of PVA glue

You know when you get to the bottom of a jar of PVA and the glue is all super-thick and gooey?

At this point I have one of two choices, add fresh PVA to it or add methyl-cellulose to it to loosen it up.

Wait, did I say I had two choices? I have three choices. The third choice is to keep the goo around.

The über glue is great for those times when you need extra sticky glue – like when you have a really teeny turn in or if you have a glossy paper that won’t comply.

Do what I do and go get yourself another jar – keep the fabulously fresh PVA in one jar and the super-tacky PVA in the other.

You’ll be glad you did!

Album Alter­na­tives with Betsy Palmer Eldridge – Day 1

My morning session was Betsy Palmer Eldridge’s album workshop. We met in the ceramics studio.

Ox-Bow ceramics studio

Betsy told us about her history in the book arts, which is extensive. Seriously extensive.

Betsy Palmer Eldridge

She explained that there are three issues in dealing with collections:

  1. How do you attach material to the page?
  2. How do you compensate for the addition of materials to an album?
  3. How do you put the album together?

She then explained that there are three categories of binding albums:

  1. Stab bindings
  2. Sewn bindings (through a fold)
  3. Adhesive (ex. perfect binding)

Something new I learned today – when gluing covers, the universal turn-in is 3/4″. I’m already doing that, so I’m psyched to know that it’s a standard.

More nuggets of knowledge from Betsy:

  • Use a synthetic bristle brush with synthetic adhesives and a natural bristle brush with natural adhesives.
  • PVA is for gluing exterior materials and paste is for gluing interior materials.
  • Cloth shrinks when wet and expands when dry. Paper does the opposite – expands when wet, shrinks when dry.

When we glued the covers for what will become a book of samples of attachment methods, I was so stressed out. I couldn’t focus and made so many mistakes. I had to go back to the studio after dinner to redo one of the covers.

Not that I’ve ever made photo albums before. Ugh.

And now for some coolness, meet the Veritas Precision Square:

Veritas Precision Square

It’s a little peanut of a tool, but a bit pricey at $24.50 plus shipping. I’d have to think more about getting one.

Betsy recommended Conservation of Scrapbooks and AlbumsPostprints of the Book and Paper Group/Photographic Materials Joint Session at the 27th AIC Annual Meeting as a source for more information on album structures. You can get it from the AIC website for $30.00 – so getting it.

And for the last bit of coolness, we were introduced to the Shoemaker’s knot. I had never heard of it before. It’s like a regular knot, but you bring the loop through the opening twice (this isn’t a double knot). It can be untied like a regular knot, but it doesn’t come undone by itself. Brilliant!

Sunday bookbinding

Text block in lying press

My friend Elizabeth is super-awesome nice.

She came over this past Sunday and offered to share some of her North Bennet Street School (NBSS) awesomeness.

I told her that I wanted instruction in case binding. Everything I know, which isn’t much, has been self-taught through book instruction. I haven’t felt confident in my abilities in this area and I usually learn things better when taught by a person.

Since Elizabeth is a person, I figured that it would work. 🙂

As you can see at right, I got to use a lying press for the first time. Now I want one. Specifically, I want this one, made by Keith B. Uram. Coincidentally, he also graduated from NBSS. Clearly, I’m meant to have the press.


[Just nod your head yes]

Not only did I get to use the lying press, but I also got to play with some of Elizabeth’s other tools – a Starrett Pin Vise and an OLFA Silver knife:

Awl & X-Acto knife

Pointy. Shiny. Want.

She explained that everyone in her class at NBSS has the same tools. I guess they’re like the bookbinding program’s mascots?

Threaded needle

I learned how to make headbands, which wasn’t on the agenda. This made my day. Even though I have two books on the topic, I’ve never given them a try. Luckily, I had some silk thread that I bought from Colophon Book Arts at a conference (I’m a stash girl).

I learned a really great tip – glue the tail end of your thread to the main thread so you don’t have to knot it. Brilliant! Why didn’t I ever think of that one myself?

I think that it will take me a while to get the hang of the sewing technique, especially where to put my fingers – hold this down, pull taut, wind this around here – they just didn’t want to listen to me.

Sadly, we ran out of time and couldn’t get to the actual casing in part of the process. I was told that everything we had done that day was called “forwarding”.

I’m looking forward to finishing the book!


Dremel sample books

As promised, here’s a look at the sample books I made during my adventures in The Amazing Dremel workshop with Jill Timm. I decided to name the books d1 and d2 for a simple reason – I now have two sample books. As I create new samples, my sequel book will be named d3.

Dremel sample books

Jill gave us raw bookboard for the covers, but I took it further by carving them and covering them in Lokta paper. And yes, I used my Dremel to do it (I knew you were going to ask me that).

I started by creating outlines with an X-Acto knife, then peeled away a few layers of the board by hand. I used the Dremel with a pink aluminum oxide grinding stone to even out the surface of the removed board. Lastly, I used a bone folder to burnish the surfaces.

It took some work to get the Lokta into all of the recessed areas. The surfaces of these areas weren’t completely smooth and the Lokta showed every bump, but I decided that I was okay with it and I’m now referring to it as “intentional texture”.

The pages are made of paper CD envelopes.

Dremel brass sample

I love this idea and think it’s a great storage solution for flat items. I used alphabet stamps to identify the sample enclosed in each envelope. I had considered embellishing the envelopes more, but I think I’m going to leave them as they are.

Dremel glass sample

We used a Zutter Bind-it-All to put everything together. After playing with this tool, I realized that I had to have one for myself. Yes, it is now mine.

More images of the book:

Dremel bookboard sample

Dremel steel sample

Dremel sample book notes

The last page holds a book we used for recording tips learned in class. The pages are currently unbound, but I plan to bind them using a pamphlet stitch.


Yes, I have a Dremel…what else can I work on?

As mentioned in my last Dremel post, this post focuses on tips for using a Dremel with specific materials. When I attended The Amazing Dremel with Jill Timm last year, I documented what I learned in my post So now I have a Dremel…what can I work on?

This time I took 4 ½ pages of notes during the workshop. Most of my notes duplicated what I learned last year, but some of the tips were new to me. In addition, I worked on two new materials – bookboard and brass – those notes are new.

New materials:


  • It’s easy to drill holes in bookboard. For better control, use a workstation to stabilize your Dremel.
  • Use carving bits to do deep work.
  • Bookboard tends to “barf” when you work on it, meaning that material comes off in fluffy chunks. In addition, you’ll be left with fluffy, chunky burrs on the board.
  • To get more control when carving out areas, cut out borders with an X-Acto knife, then work within those lines. You’ll get a cleaner edge.
  • Aluminum oxide grinding stones (brown, orange, pink, or grey bit) can be used to clean up burrs and soften edges.
  • Bookboard will erode grinding stones, so move the Dremel while working to even out the wear.
  • You can get a smoother finish on the surfaces of worked areas by burnishing down with a bonefolder.


  • Because brass is softer metal, it’s easy to create depth with layers of work.
  • Diamond bits can be harder to control.
  • Pay attention to the direction of your work and stay consistent – it shows!
  • For polishing, use felt pads with polishing compound.
  • For polishing, use emery-impregnated bits without polishing compound.
  • Polish brass before doing other work (such as engraving) or you’ll risk getting polishing compound into groves/texture and you’ll have to work hard to get it out.

Previously-covered materials:

Some general tips:

  • When putting a sanding band on the drum mandrel, tighten the screw on top of the mandrel to snug up the drum.
  • If your bit turns red, it’s overheating. Once it burns, it will turn black and you won’t be able to use it again.
  • A Dremel has two motor brushes, one on each side of the motor.
  • Motor brushes will wear down and get shorter over time.
  • Always replace both motor brushes at the same time.




  • Use light pressure – you don’t need to go deep.
  • Put a drop of oil on glass prior to drilling to both increase speed and keep the bit from overheating.
  • Be careful when drilling too close to the edge of glass because it can shatter apart.
  • For safety, tape glass edges before drilling.


  • Start at medium speed.
  • This is a soft material and won’t allow fine lines or detail like harder materials.


  • If your bits get gummed up, put them in the freezer for easy removal of the offending material.
  • You can also squeeze gummed up bits with pliers and the material will pop off.


  • Sanding bits can be used to create a satin texture and remove rust.
  • It is easier to work in one direction.
  • Use titanium bits to drill holes – these are gold in color.


  • Take short passes because wood can scorch.
  • Use sanding bits to remove burrs from the surface of wood.
  • An aluminum oxide grinding stone acts as really fine sandpaper.

In my next post, I’ll share the Dremel sample books that were created in class. Jill came up with a great solution for housing our material samples – stay tuned!

The Amazing Dremel – new (to me) accessories

As I mentioned in my previous post, I recently assisted Jill Timm with her Amazing Dremel workshop for the Book Arts Guild of Vermont. In this post, I’ll talk about some of the new bits I used.

Before I start, I’d like to make it clear that in no way am I paid for endorsing Dremel products – I am merely talking about the products I used in the workshop. I’m sure that there are alternatives to the items listed below. Of course, being the tool junkie that I am, I sooo want one of everything!

In reviewing my What do those Dremel bits do? Well I’ll tell ya! post from last year, I discovered that I left out some information about another option for cleaning & polishing (I blame information overload) – emery impregnated bits.

These bits look like grinding bits, but they’re much softer. Unlike the felt polishing bits, you don’t use these bits with polishing compound. These bits are good for use on rougher surfaces, including scratches and burrs. If scratches still remain after using these bits, you would move to the felt polishing bits for finer work.

The polishing point is good for detail work, as you can get better control with the tip.

The emery impregnated disc is better for general use and for work on larger areas. As is the case with cutting wheels, you have to attach the disc to a mandrel. You can see how to attach the disc to a mandrel in this post (scroll down to the cutting section).

In addition to using the polishing bits on metal, they’re also great for use on mirror. If you use one of these bits on the backside of a mirror, it will remove the paint and silver without affecting the glass – you’ll get a clear glass effect, not frosted (the diamond bit creates the frosted effect).

Something else I did at this workshop that I didn’t get to do last time was drill glass. To help with stability, I put my Dremel into a workstation, which essentially turns your Dremel into a drill press.

I so have to get one of these. It makes drilling sooo much easier. I can totally see using it in my studio for drilling sewing holes.

I started with making a small hole with a diamond bit. Once I got through to the other side of the glass, it climbed up my bit and started spinning. The tip of the bit glowed a really scary red before I was able to turn off the Dremel.

While I was successful at achieving a hole, the edges of the hole were chipped. I would need to sand down those edges to get a neat hole.

Next, I used what I’m pretty sure was a tungsten carbide cylinder cutter. The bit is hollow in the middle and allows you to drill larger holes.

I didn’t make it all the way through the glass before it shattered. Luckily, the bit didn’t burn out. Oh, and no one was hurt by the flying glass shards.

Here’s what I learned about drilling glass:

  • Make short passes with the Dremel – let the bit cool off.
  • Put a drop of oil on the glass prior to drilling to both increase speed and keep the bit from overheating.
  • If your bit turns red, it’s overheating. Once it burns, it will turn black and you won’t be able to use it again.
  • Be careful when drilling too close to the edge of the glass because it can shatter apart.
  • For safety, tape the edges of glass before drilling.

Jill told me that the bits we were using to drill glass weren’t really recommended for that use. She added that as of now, there are no “official” Dremel bits intended for drilling glass.

There is hope – in October 2010, Dremel will release two new glass drill bits.

From the Dremel website:

This diamond-impregnated core-style bit features superior long life and is ideal for drilling in both flat and contoured surfaces. Diamond grit a full 360-degrees around the circumference of the bit allows it to be used in a rasping action to enlarge a hole if needed. Holes on the side of the bit allow the removal of glass dust from inside the bit. Each bit is packaged with Dremel cutting oil to increase the speed of cut and prevent damage to the bit from overheating.

For use on glass, ceramic wall tile, glass block, glass bottles, jewelry.

The new drill bits come in two sizes – 1/8″ and 1/4″. These seem like good sizes for use in bookbinding and I look forward to trying them out.

As promised, my next post will focus on new tips for using a Dremel on specific materials, both new and old (includes materials covered last year).

* Many thanks to Dremel for allowing me to use product photos from their website.

The Amazing Dremel with Jill Timm – The Sequel

Two weeks ago, the Book Arts Guild of Vermont hosted Jill Timm‘s fabulous workshop, The Amazing Dremel. I was fortunate enough to work as Jill’s assistant during those two days and I picked up lots of tips that I didn’t catch when I took the class last year.

If you’re new to my blog and haven’t read my Dremel posts from last year, this should get you up to speed (or multi-speed, depending on your Dremel):

And if you’re scratching your head, thinking “What the hell is a Dremel?” – you have lots more reading to do: Dremel website

The class worked on two materials that I didn’t get to play with last year – brass and bookboard. I continued work on my “E Series” that I started last year:

I really enjoyed working with the brass. It’s a softer metal than steel and it’s easy to get layers of depth. It’s hard to see in the image, but you can get a really nice shine by using a polishing bit – I’ll talk about more that in my next post.

I was eager to work on the bookboard, because it’s what I’d use most frequently. Unfortunately, it was not a compliant material.

In general, using the Dremel caused something I call “board barf” – board material came off chunkily and fluffily. I know those aren’t words, but that’s what happened. After removing material, I’d have to burnish the surface down to bring it back into submission. I was much happier with the bookboard once I glued paper over it – the results were much smoother than I had anticipated. Gotta love Lokta.

This is just the first in a series of blog posts where I’ll be focusing on the new things I learned. Here’s the rundown of what I plan to cover:

  • New Dremel bits and what they do
  • Dremel tips for specific materials – new and old (last year’s materials)
  • Dremel class sample books
  • A printable guide for everything learned in both classes (this will take some time)
  • Jill Timm’s discussion of her work in artist books

Stay tuned!

Bonefolder alternatives and Twitter awesomeness

Every now and then, I just want to give Twitter a hug.

Over the past year, I have come to really love the Twitter bookbinding community. After leaving a full-time office environment for the solitude of my studio, I found camaraderie in my Twitter friends – they became my studio mates. These folks are so generous, so creative, so intelligent – ask them anything and you’ll get a wealth of responses.

Today, while working on handout for a workshop, I asked the Twitter bookbinding community for ideas on bonefolder alternatives. I got so many great suggestions that I just had to share them:

  • @gnewfry: you can use the back of a spoon as a bone folder.
  • @stormfilled: Toothbrush handle!
  • @skynash: lipstick 😛 if its a solid case (love that one)
  • @DingbatPress: a fingernail? or maybe for those nail-biters out there, the butt of an xacto blade. Or sometimes I take the pen part out of a bic ball point pen and it works good for scoring.
  • @hilkekurzke: The back of a (horn) comb could do for folding, a (horn) hair pin for pinching and maybe for scoring.
  • @pinsandpaper: When I taught Elem., we used 6″ plastic rulers since the edges were tapered similar to a bone folder. Only $.25, too.
  • @neustudio: No bonefolder: use a pen with the cap on. or the flat edge of a plastic ruler
  • @evolvingblue: heh. in my experience a soup spoon isn’t bad, but the edges had better be hella dull.
  • @lackriver: hmm i’ve always used the backside of a butterknife

I received all of these responses in around 20 minutes. These folks rock. Seriously.

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