Monday, May 4, 2015

Our first craft fair, and so glad it didn't rain! We stayed with Jennifer Knowles of Brown Dog Bindery (my apprentice from TACA's Master/Apprentice program) and enjoyed a late dinner with her at Koi Sushi & Thai in Nashville. Caroline was the consummate "booth babe" (of the elegant and welcoming sort) and I talked non-stop with fair attenders for three very full days. With over 190 juried artists presenting, we were utterly astonished to win "Best of Show"!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Miniature Books published in Kingsport, Tennessee

At only 9/16" x 3/4" (19x14mm) these are the smallest books we've worked on. They were published by the Training Division of the Kingsport Press in Tennessee and came with a brass bookshelf, two covers brittle and detached and one cover missing. They're real books (142 pages for George Washington) with leather turned in and gold tooling.  We made new leather covers of morocco pared paper thin and laid original parts over for two, tooling the third. The titles are Extracts from the Autobiography of Calvin Coolidge, 1930; Washington, His Farewell Address, 1932; Addresses of Abraham Lincoln, 1929. The last picture puts them in context with a somewhat large book also on the bench: Hayden's Geographical and Geological Atlas of Colorado. 27" high by 20.5" wide.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Paper Repair

We've repaired a lot of repair work, ranging from removing layers of duct tape to pulling nails pounded through inner margins. Most intriguing, though, are really old repairs on really old books. Here are just a few.

The Wretched State of Man by the Fall, &c., 1732. This little pocket-sized volume has thin wooden boards under the cracked leather and was held together by sewing on leather straps top and bottom. Especially interesting, though, are the sewing repairs to the first page!

Currently on our bench is a 1650 edition of Thomas Fuller's "A Pisgah-sight of Palestine and the confines thereof" which is filled with beautiful maps. Earlier repairs looked to be patchwork with whatever scraps of paper were lying about, and the map pictured has been patched with four different pieces!
Backside of the repair, including a portion of a letter from 1850.

The "good" side.
How, you might wonder, will we repair these? "The Wretched State of Man" is now more interesting as an early American imprint and historical object than as a working text, and was left as is but housed in a protective box. Although we'll often remove old repairs, resize the paper, and do more "sympathetic" joinery, repairs to "A Pisgah Sight" were also left intact. Though sloppy, they're holding, and might be considered to add "charm". These decisions are made after consultation with the client; historical interest, budget, and mechanical concerns are all factors in choosing treatment.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Vintage Reenactor Journals: Civil War, Lewis & Clark

We're working on a series of historically accurate journals, capturing historical periods we hope will be of great interest to reenactors. The above journal is a faithful reproduction of Lewis & Clark's Codex A and B, roughly 6" by 3" oblong sketchbooks they used for recording maps, wildlife, and descriptions of their journeys. We're working on a dedicated website (  but feel free to contact us if you find them here!

This small pocket diary's title page reads, "Ladies' Diary. Being a repository for daily musings and reflections on the domestic life." Its leather spine and embossed cloth sides covers the period from roughly 1850 to 1890.

We're especially proud of these Civil War pocket diaries. With interest tables, postage rates, travel times, advice to soldiers (such as "Grow your beard at least 3" to avoid disease") and an expanding pocket for pay stubs and receipts, these are exact replicas of the diaries many soldiers carried. The period-correct flap closure, vegetable tanned leather, hand-marbled paper, choice of fonts and the feel of the paper (an ivory vellum finish as close as we could get to the original), these are the genuine article 150 years later. We hope they become an essential part of the reenactor's kit and spend time on the same ground won and lost during that horrible conflict.

1776 Journals of Congress

 An interesting project that just crossed our bench; an original printing of the Journals of Congress for 1776. Cased in library buckram, it was well preserved but not very attractive. A little strengthening, new endpapers of a similar handmade paper, a little airbrushing for tone, and a binding chosen by the client, a dealer in rare books.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Reproduction Endpapers For Sale

Though hand marbled papers are readily available for restoration work, printed endpapers appropriate for late 19th to early 20th century work have been impossible to find. A small angling collection here for restoration finally brought the matter to a head. An 1884 Denver printing of "With Rod and Line in Colorado Waters" had decorative endsheets too brittle and cracked to be reused, and so we've launched a line of appropriate papers.

They feature small repetitive patterns in a single color, currently available in brown, green and a golden wheat. They're easily aged by immersion or airbrush, have a vellum finish that is a very good match for machine-made papers, and are printed on a Mohawk Ivory 70# text.

We hope to make them more readily available through some of the large suppliers, but meanwhile you can get them from us at $6.90 a sheet, 19" by 25" short grain. Inquire for quantity pricing and shipping costs (zipcode dependent).

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Looking for Help with Unusual Brass Type

I have several drawers of an unusual brass type; odd in its not being "type high" for use in a standard KwikPrint. It's short, with base to top height of about 1/4": 17/64, or 6.65 mm. Since it won't work in my usual machines, I made a typeholder by mounting a multi-line pallet from the Kensol sideways on a metal block. Can anyone tell me more about this type or supply a picture of the original typeholder?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

We recently hosted a field trip for home schoolers studying the middle ages; a great group of kids and a chance to show off some unique book structures.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Another project for the MAAP program with Jennifer McQuistion, who painted the wooden boards. Bound in brown morocco, tooled in blind and gold, brass bosses.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Moby Dick: An alum-tawed whale with details burned in.

Moby Dick: Bob Roberts & Jennifer McQuistion. Bound in blue morocco.  Blind tooled, with silver palladium fish.

Romaunt of the Rose. This piece was Jennifer's introduction to restoration. The textblock needed some mending and resewing. Jennifer did pretty  much everything but the tooling!

A few of the books bound with Jennifer McQuistion of the Brown Dog Bindery through a partnership with the Tennessee Arts and Crafts Association and the Master Artist Apprenticeship Program. After months of training, design, sewing, paring, trimming, carving, pasting, fixing, re-fixing, re-designing, painting, covering, and tooling, we finished the program with a three-day blitz of bookbinding to get these ready for the gallery deadline. It was a great experience! Jennifer has been a pleasure to work with and I look forward to future collaborations!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The MAAP program through TACA

It's been great working with Jennifer McQuistion, teamed up with me through a grant from TACA's MAAP MasterArtistApprenticeProgam. (Their website is here: and includes more pics of us at work.) Jennifer is a painter/woodburner/book artist from Nashville and we're working on some projects for a September show, including bindings of a Bernard Middleton book on restoration, Moby Dick, The Romaunt of the Rose, two Bibles, and the Sermons on Job pictured in the last blogpost. Here are pics of Jen in the shop and other projects we're working on. Her website is and her blog with with more photos of us at work is at

Sewing a headband

Cutting the book's edges using a traditional lying press and plough.

Paring leather using a great new tool, the Scharfix. It uses a double-edged razor blade in a vise that can be raised, lowered, and tilted for bevelling.

Jennifer painting panels for the Job binding

Jen sketching out designs for our "Restoration of Leather Bookbindings" by Bernard Middleton.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Sermons on Job

Outside cover tooled very simply in blind.
Jen painting the inner wood panels
Cutting flowers

Leather borders on and adding leather onlays. The flowers are first tooled in gold, very thin leather applied over the gold, and then tooled again in blind and then gold.

Leather onlays tooled

Front Panel finished and inset into front board. Turn-ins tooled in gold.

The finished rear panel
Rear panel inset into rear board, turn-ins tooled in gold.
Rear panel again
Closeup of rear panel.
We've just finished a copy of John Calvin's Sermons on Job, a facsimile of the 1574 folio edition published by Banner of Truth Trust. The Tennessee Association of Craft Artists has teamed me with Nashville book artist Jennifer Mcquistion for a Master/Apprentice program and this is one of our projects. We've bound the book in alum-tawed leather over raised bands and tooled the outside very simply in blind. Jen does wood burning and painting and she created the wood panels that were laid into a recessed panel on the inside of each cover. A black leather border was added to the paintings and then I've added floral leather onlays in white and red and many hours of gold tooling to fill in. It's currently in the Tennessee Arts Commission gallery in Nashville for a September-November show.