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The Art of Book Binding
by Joel VandenBerg
Hand binding is a dying art.
Our book binding combines old binding methods with new technologies. Bibles used by Jehovah's Witnesses are used over and over again, possibly more than any other books in the world. This presents a challenge, for the standard procedures taught for binding are designed for books that are only used occasionally. Some of my methods are learned from schooling, some from a number of old timers with years of experience and some from trial and error, with pioneers testing out my books for years.
Most people judge a book by its cover, but the inside components that cannot be seen are crucial to how long a book will last and how much use and abuse it will take.
End Sheets
For our Bible and Reasoning Book combination, we use a special reinforcement on the book spine that will hold the book together better than the standard procedures used. We use technologically advanced binding materials and methods to provide extremely durable end sheets, yet retain the current maps used by the Watchtower.
Leather Care
Individuals sometimes inquire about leather treatment. The Awake magazine once stated that the best leather treatment for books is natural hand oil. Where can you buy this? You don't have to, for you produce it naturally. Just be sure to use your Bible on a regular basis and this will prevent it from drying out and cracking.
Leather Covers
We use Top Grain cowhide, not 'splits' which are a cheaper grade of leather with an imitation surface rolled on. Some binderies use a spray on finish, however ours is drum dyed, which means that the color goes all the way through. The difference is a higher quality, longer lasting product. Leather is made from animal hide, which is skin. Each hide is unique in its markings and attributes, much like everyone's skin is different and unique to them. The top layer of the hide is the toughest and most durable but also has small defects such as scratches from barbed wire, markings from brandings, or insect bites which have healed but are still slightly visible. If you see these slight imperfections, it means that you are getting Top Grain leather and these marks are an indication of authenticity. They do not weaken the leather.
Turned-edge style covers have a cardboard backing which you would never see unless you tore the leather cover off. I have repaired books from other book binding companies that use a very inexpensive type of material. It works well for the first few months of use, however after extended use the leather has a tendency to either pull away from this inferior material or crack, thus causing the leather to wrinkle. I have found that spending a little more money on a special material made for this purpose adds years to the life and appearance of your book. This special flex board is something we have custom made from a paper company for our use. This material flexes nicely with the leather and adheres superbly.
Designer colors are available and will change according to demand and availability. These hides are slightly thinner and softer. Because we do not buy them in large quantities, they are priced higher then our standard colors of CB Black, CB Burgundy, CB Hunter Green, CB Navy Blue and CB Purple. (Notice our colors are prefaced with 'CB'. These are Custom Bookbinding Company's rendering of these colors.) Shades vary and individual perception of color can be different. We have leather sample swatches which can be ordered, located under the 'Bibles' tab on our home page.
Gold or silver foil is used for stamping titles and names on book covers. Our standard foil is gold unless the customer requests silver. If silver edging is chosen the title will be stamped in silver. Regarding how long the gold or silver will last depends greatly on the individual person. Everyone has a different acid level in their skin and this acid may react to the metallic element in the foil. We use a foil similar to what the Watchtower Society uses for their covers, so if you have problems with their gold wearing off quickly, I would recommend ordering our hand-tooled style. I have used my personal service Bible for over five years and the gold has remained intact despite much use.
Tooled leather
Our tooling leather is vegetable tanned which we tool and stain. We make this available in two different styles: TOOLED and PREMIER. The TOOLED is a heavier leather and not turned edge. You thus see the raw edge of the leather. The PREMIER is about the same thickness as our deluxe style leathers and it has a turned or finished edge. We use the term "tooled" as originally we used to handtool each cover but now we usea laser. The laser helps to get a fine detail not possible by hand and instead of using a carving knife the laser machine burns the image onto the leather. We still hand stain and dye the vegetable tanned leather. This is a very durable cover and will stand up to many years of use.
Paper Edging
The paper edges of a book, over a period of time, can become soiled and worn so some protection is needed. Our speckled edge is the least expensive way to provide this protection as it aids in 'hiding' stains which come from use. The most durable protection is our gold or silver edging.
Gilding is the heat process that applies the gold or silver foil to the paper edge of the book. The gilding process is only as good as the preparation done to the paper edge of the book in order for the foil to adhere. If done incorrectly you will have a book that looks nice for a short time, however the foiled edge will soon start wearing off. Some companies try to imitate this style of edging with gold or silver paint which does not last. Because applying the foil properly is an involved process, there is an extra charge for the gold or silver edging.
Trimming books
In order to bind two books together, such as the Bible along with the Reasoning Book, the books must be trimmed. Some Watchtower publication printings may be slightly out of registration, so when we trim a book the margins of the front and back sections are narrower than the margins in the center of the book. We cannot guarantee the uniformity of the margins due to the variables we are working with from the original bindings.