How to Begin to Repair Your Books
Welcome to Save Your Books! If you haven’t registered yet, go ahead and get that done. Registering allows you to take all the free courses available and gives you access to the student forum. What’s next? Without knowing how far you have already come in your studies I thought I would just start at the beginning. I am going to go ahead and assume that you are starting with a blank slate even though it is far more likely you have some tools and materials and knowledge already. Use this blog post as a checklist to create your book repair work station. When you have checked all the boxes (◊) you will be ready to get started repairing your books. Then you can choose your first project. Look for some good beginner project suggestions at the end of this blog.
- Create your Book Repair Workspace
- Gather Tools
- Gather Materials
- Choose your First Book Repair Project
Perpetual Caveat: Don’t choose rare and expensive books to repair and don’t practice on books you care about.
1) Create Your Book Repair Workspace
◊ Table Space:
You don’t need a whole bindery to repair a book, but you do need a clean space on a table. A bare minimum of about 4 feet by 2 feet ought to do it. That ¤way you can have the tools off to the sides while you work on your book. If you are working on a folio-sized (very large) book then you will need more room of course.
◊ Table Height:
I like to stand up to do most book repair work so I have a counter height table with a tall chair for when I do want to sit. Desk height works just fine too.
It is crucial to have good lighting. Having your table near a north-facing window is the ideal but you don’t need to rearrange your entire room for it. In my studio I have overhead fluorescent lighting and two skylights. It is pretty handy to have a swing-arm lamp with a magnifier but that is optional. Natural light is best because colors matched under fluorescent lights may look very different under natural light. Getting a natural sunlight lamp will help with color matching and may just lift your spirits in the bargain.
◊ Heat and Humidity:
Wherever you are working, make sure that you and your books are in a controlled environment. The temperature and humidity should not fluctuate greatly. The humidity should be under 50 percent and the temperature should not be over 70 degrees but stability is more important than the exact numbers. Good air circulation is very important as well to keep books healthy. This just means don’t create your book repair space in the garage and then leave your books out there when it is 100 degrees or below freezing.
◊ Household Tools (left to right in photo)
- Brushes: 1/2 inch wide and 1/4 inch wide. (The kind for Acrylics Painting rather than for watercolors or house paint.)
- Pencil (and pencil sharpener)
- Emery board (disposable nail file)
- Binder or bulldog clip
- Utility knife (Exacto or similar. I prefer the kind where you can snap off the tip and have a fresh blade.)
- Pliers (to snap off the tip of the utility knife)
- Straight-edge (ruler or similar)
- Hair Dryer
- Damp (not wet) clean rag for cleaning your fingers (Keep this in a container such as a bowl so you don’t get the moisture on anything by accident.)
- Iron (make sure there is no water in it) A tacking iron or travel iron is better than one with steam because irons with holes for steam can leak unexpectedly!
◊ Book Repair Tools
(I have realized that some of these are also household tools. I’ll fix it later, for now I added *s.)
- Book Repair Knife (or sharpen a micro-spatula so it can lift paper)
- Knife Sharpening Sandpaper (320 or higher grit sandpaper to get rid of burrs)
- *Baking Parchment Paper a.k.a. Silicone Release Paper (Get the brown colored paper if available)
- 8Waxed Paper (Get the white colored paper so you don’t confuse it with the baking parchment)
- Pressing Boards (Binder’s board or similar. You could use the boards from an old textbook you were going to recycle. Cover one long edge of the boards with Packing tape so glue won’t stick to it.)
- Thin board to support pages for repairs like Bristol board or cereal box board
- Bone Folder
- Corner pressing boards: 2 (Approximately 2 by 2.5 inch binders board)
- 2 Hinging/Pressing Rods (This can be bamboo skewers or acrylic rods, knitting needles, etc…)
- White Polymer Eraser (like Staedtler Mars)
- Spray (misting) Bottle (fill with clean water)
- Micro-spatula (It is nice to have the kind with a pointy end and a rounded end.)
- Cutting mat (self healing mat or even just some cardboard)
- *Sharps Container (To keep the dull utility knife blades out of general garbage. A glass jar works well because it is nice to remember what is in the jar and not throw it out by accident.)
- *Weights: Several both small and larger. (1 pound, 5 pound, 10 pound or similar. Heavy books, or cans of soup, or covered bricks all work so you don’t have to buy anything special.)
- Simple Book Press or Lying Press: See Save Your Books Course # 1-205 for more info on how to make your own simplistic version inexpensively. A press like the one below is at least $200 as of 2018.
◊ Tools to add for Leather Book Care
- Shoe brush (clean, not used)
- Flannel cloth
- Orange (cuticle) stick
◊ Everyday Book Repair Materials
- Archival PVA Glue (I recommend Jade 403 but any archival white glue is fine to start with.)
- Rice starch Paste or Wheat starch Paste. (I recommend Nori Paste rather than making it yourself for convenience.)
- Waste paper: This can be any clean paper that you can use to glue on or to help create a clean line of glue. (Magazine pages work in most circumstances but sometimes you want paper with no color like printing paper or even brown paper bags, because the color can come off the magazine pages.)
- Blue low-tack Tape (Painters tape)
- Cotton Twine or similar
- Colored Pencils
◊ Paper Materials for Book Repair
Note: gsm means grams per square meter. It is also written as g/m2. This indicates the thickness of the paper. The higher the number, the heavier/thicker the paper.
- Antique Endleaf Paper (Alternative: any archival paper around 70 lb) Dove Gray and White are good colors to start with. It comes in about 10 colors. Available at Talas in large sheets.
- Sekishu Tissue:White or off-white (Any archival long-fiber kozo tissue around 30 gsm)
- Colored Japanese Papers: Black to start and add colors to match your needs: (Any kozo papers around 40 gsm) Regular printer paper is around 80 gsm.
◊ Cloth Materials for Book Repair
- Mull (Alternative: just replace it with unbleached muslin)
- Unbleached Muslin (just get a yard at any fabric store)
◊ Materials to add for Leather Book Care
- Klucel-G (Cellugel)
- SC 6000 – half ounce
- Hewit’s Leather Dressing
4) Choose your First Book Repair Project
◊ Foundations Courses
Take some time and browse the Book Repair Foundations Courses. I suggest these ones to get you started:
- 1-101: Book Repair Guidelines $Free
- 1-103: Clean a Book Cover with a Damp Cloth $.99
- 1-104: Will Repairing a Book Damage the Value? $Free
- 1-204: Sharpen a Book Repair Knife $Free
- 1-205: Make a Simple Book Press $Free
- 1-206: Book Repair Glue of Paste $Free
- 1-401: Don’t Do This! Scraping a Book towards Yourself $Free
◊ Beginner Courses
Now start with some easy repairs. If you aren’t used to working with your hands it can be quite challenging to work with fiddly materials like tissue and paste. So remember to have a book or two that you can practice on before approaching your special books. Here are some of the simpler courses to consider:
- 2-104a: Repair a Damaged Book Corner $.99
- 2-107b: How to Reattach/Preserve Loose Book Spines $14.99
- 2-111b: Preservation Repair for Outer Hinge $14.99
- 2-115b: Replace a Fly-leaf $19.99
- 2-120b: Strengthen Inner Book Hinge $.99
- 4-101: Care and Repair Guidelines $29.99
- 4-105: Beware Klucel-G on Light Colored Calf Leather $Free
- 4-201: Repair a Chipped Leather Spine $.99
- 4-204: Quick Fix for a Cracked Leather Spine $14.99
- 8-201: Remove an Old Library Pocket
- 8-202: Remove an Ink Library Stamp
- 8-204: Remove a Modern Library Pocket
Have you checked all the boxes? Table space, good lighting, tools and materials all in place?
Don’t forget to ask questions on the Student Forum. Your questions will help others so don’t be scared to put a question out there. I might even reward a great question especially if it has to do with mistakes.
Now it is time to get started and save your books! You’ll be a real book hero in no time.