The Art of Bookbinding/Chapter 2

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The Art of Bookbinding by Joseph William Zaehnsdorf
Chapter II.

CHAPTER II.


Beating and Rolling.


The object of beating or rolling is to make the book as solid as possible. For beating, a stone or iron slab, used as a bed, and a heavy hammer, are necessary. The stone or iron must be perfectly smooth, and should be bedded with great solidity. I have in use an iron bed about two feet square, fitted into a strongly-made box, filled with sand, with a wooden cover to the iron when not in use. Line drawing of a beating hammer - a hammer with a spreading, funnel-shaped striking surface
Beating Hammer.
The hammer should be somewhat bell-shaped, and weigh about ten pounds, with a short handle, made to fit the hand. The face of the hammer and stone (it is called a beating-stone whether it be stone or iron), must be kept perfectly clean, and it is advisable always to have a piece of paper at the top and bottom of the sections when beating, or the repeated concussion will glaze them.

The book should be divided into lots or sections of about half an inch thick, that will be about fifteen to twenty sheets, according to the thickness of paper. A section is now to be held on the stone between the fingers and thumb of the left hand; then the hammer, grasped firmly in the right hand, is raised, and brought down with rather more than its own weight on the sheets, which must be continually moved round, turned over and changed about, in order that they may be equally beaten all over. By passing the section between the finger and thumb, it can be felt at once, if it has been beaten properly and evenly. Great care must be taken that in each blow of the hammer it shall have the face fairly on the body of the section, for if the hammer is so used that the greatest portion of the weight should fall outside the edge of the sheets the concussion will break away the paper as if cut with a knife. It is perhaps better for a beginner to practise on some waste paper before attempting to beat a book; and he should always rest when the wrist becomes tired. When each section has been beaten, supposing a book has been divided into four sections, the whole four should be beaten again, but together.

I do not profess a preference to beating over rolling because I have placed it first. The rolling machine is one of the greatest improvements in the trade, but all books should not be rolled, and a bookbinder, I mean a practical bookbinder, not one who has been nearly the whole of his lifetime upon a cutting machine, or at a blocking press, and who calls himself one, but a competent bookbinder, should know how and when to use the beating hammer and when the rolling machine.

There are some books, old ones for instance, that should on no account be rolled. The clumsy presses used in printing at an early date gave such an amount of pressure on the type that the paper round their margins has sometimes two or three times the thickness of the printed portion. At the present time each sheet after having been printed is pressed, and thus the leaf is made flat or nearly so, and for such work the rolling machine is certainly better than the hammer.

To roll a book, it is divided into sections as in beating, only not so many sheets are taken—from six upwards, according to the quality of the work to be executed. The sheets are then placed between tins, and the whole passed between the rollers, which are regulated by a screw, according to the thickness of sections and power required. The workman, technically called "Roller," has to be very careful in passing his books through, that his hand be not drawn in as well, for accidents have from time to time occurred through the inattention of the Roller

Cross-hatched drawing of a Rolling Machine

Rolling Machine.

himself, or of the individual who has the pleasure of applying his strength to turning the handle.

I never pass or hear a rolling machine revolving very rapidly without having vividly brought to my mind a very serious accident that happened to my father. He was feeling for a flaw on one of the rollers, and whilst his hands were at the edge of the rollers the man turned the handle, drawing the whole hand between the heavy cylinders. The accident cost him many months in the hospital, and he never regained complete use of his right hand.

Great care must be used not to pass too many sheets through the machine at one time; the same applies to the regulating screw. The amount of damage that can be done to the paper by too heavy a pressure is astonishing, as the paper becomes quite brittle, and may perhaps even be cut as with a knife.

Another caution respecting new work. Recently printed books, if submitted to heavy pressure, either by the beating hammer or machine, are very likely to "set off," that is, the ink from one side of the page will be imprinted to its opposite neighbour; indeed, under very heavy pressure, some ink, perhaps many years old, will "set off;" this is due in a great measure to the ink not being properly prepared.

Machines.—Of the many rolling machines in the market the principle is in all the same. A powerful frame, carrying two heavy rollers or cylinders, which are set in motion, revolving in the same direction, by means of steam or by hand. In many, extra power is supplied by the use of extra cog-wheels; the power is, however, gained at an expense of speed. The pressure is regulated by screws at the top.

Decorative circular design