The Art of Bookbinding/Chapter 15

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The Art of Bookbinding by Joseph William Zaehnsdorf
Chapter XV.



In olden times, when our present work-tools did not exist and material aids were scarce, a sharp knife and straight edge formed the only implements used in cutting. Now we have the plough and cutting machine, which have superseded the knife and straight edge; and the cutting machine is now fast doing away with the plough. There are very few shops at the present moment where a cutting machine is not in use, in fact I may say that, without speaking only of cloth books, for they must always be cut by machinery owing to the price not allowing them to be done otherwise, there are very few books, not even excepting extra books, that have escaped the cutting machine.

Cross-hatched drawing of a heavy, flat, clamp-like device.

Cutting Press and Plough.

All cutting "presses" are used in the same way. The plough running over the press, its left cheek running between two guides fastened on the left cheek of the press. By turning the screw of the plough the right cheek is advanced towards the left; the knife fixed on the right of A rectangle with a pointed right-hand end.
Sliding Knife.
the plough is advanced, and with the point cuts gradually through the boards or paper secured in the press, as already described in preparing the boards. There are two kinds of ploughs in use—in one the knife is bolted, in the other the knife slides in a dovetail groove—termed respectively "bolt knife" and "slide knife." The forwarder will find that the latter is preferable, on account of its facility of action, as any length of Outline of a shape. Square, witha square inner hole, at the left-hand side. Long rectangle with a point end on the right-hand side.
Bolt Knife.
knife can be exposed for cutting. But with a bolt knife, being fastened to the shoe of the plough, it is necessarily a fixture, and must be worn down by cutting or squaring mill-boards, or such work, before it can be used with the truth necessary for paper.

To cut a book properly it must be quite straight, and the knife must be sharp and perfectly true. Having this in mind, the book may be cut by placing the front board the requisite distance from the head that is to be cut off. A piece of thin mill-board or trindle is put between the hind board and book, so that the knife when through the book may not cut the board. The book is now to be lowered into the cutting press, with the back towards the workman, until the front board is exactly on a level with the press. The head of the book is now horizontal with the press, and the amount to be cut off exposed above it. Both sides should be looked to, as the book is very liable to get a twist in being put in the press. When it is quite square the press is to be screwed up tightly and evenly. Each end should be screwed up to exactly the same tightness, for if one end is loose the paper will be jagged or torn instead of being cut cleanly.

The book is cut by drawing the plough gently to and fro; each time it is brought towards the workman a slight amount of turn is given to the screw of the plough. If too much turn is given to the screw, the knife will bite too deeply into the paper and will tear instead of cutting it. If the knife has not been properly sharpened, or has a burr upon its edge, it will be certain to cause ridges on the paper. The top edge being cut, the book is taken out of the press and the tail cut. A mark is made on the top of the hind or back board just double the size of the square, and the board is lowered until the mark is on a level with the cut top. The book is again put into the press, with the back towards the workman, until the board is flush with the cheek of the press; this will expose above the press the amount to be taken off from the tail, as before described, and the left hand board will be, if put level with the cut top, exactly the same distance above the press as the right hand board is below the cut top. The tail is cut in the same way as the top edge.

To cut a book properly requires great care. It will be of great importance to acquire a methodical exactness in working the different branches, cutting especially. Always lay a book down one way and take it up another, and in cutting always work with the back of the book towards you, and cut from you. Give the turn to the screw of the plough as it is thrust from you, or you will pull away a part of the back instead of cutting it.

In cutting the foredge, to which we must now come, always have the head of the book towards you, so that if not cut straight you know exactly where the fault lies. The foredge is marked both back and front of the book by placing a cutting board under the first two or three leaves as a support; the mill-board is then pressed firmly into the groove and a line is drawn or a hole is pierced head and tail, the foredge of the board being used as a guide. The book is now knocked with its back on the press quite flat, and trindles (flat pieces of steel in the shape of an elongated U, about 1½ inch wide and 3 or 4 inches long, with a slot nearly the whole length) are placed between the boards and book by letting the boards fall back from the book and then passing one trindle at the head, the other at tail, allowing the top and bottom slip to go in the grooves of the trindles. The object of this is to force the back up quite flat, and by holding the book when the cut-against and runner is on it, supported by the other hand under the boards, it can be at once seen if the book is straight or not. The cut-against must be put quite flush with the holes on Diagram of a book help between two boards, which are themselves held between two blocks marked "Press." The pages at the top, the edge of the book have been half trimed, with one side flat.
Section of Book and Press, book partly cut.
the left of the book, and the runner the distance under the holes that the amount of square is intended to be. The book being lowered into the press, the runner is put flush with the cheek of the press and the cut-against just the same distance above the press as the runner is below the holes. The trindles must be taken out from the book when the cutting boards are in their proper place, and the mill-boards will then fall down. The book and cutting boards must be held very tightly or they will slip and, if the book has been lowered into the press accurately, everything will be quite square. The press must now be screwed up tightly, and the foredge ploughed; when the book is taken out of the press it will resume its original rounding, the foredge will have the same curve as the back, and if cut truly there will be a proper square all round the edges. This method is known as "cutting in boards."

If the amateur or workman has a set of some good work which he wishes to bind uniformly, but which has already been cut to different sizes, and he does not wish to cut the large ones down to the smaller size, he must not draw the small ones in, as he may possibly not be able to pull the boards down the required depth to cut the book, but he must leave the boards loose, cut the head and tail, then draw the boards in, and turn up and cut the foredge.

"Cutting out of boards" is by a different method. The foredge is cut before gluing up, if for casing, taking the size from the case, from the back to the edge of the board in the foredge. The book is then glued up, rounded, and put into the press for half an hour, just to set it. The size is again taken from the case, allowing for squares head and tail. The book having been marked is cut, and then backed. Cloth cases are made for most periodicals, and may be procured from their publishers at a trifling cost, which varies according to the size of the book and the amount of blocking that is upon them.

This method of cutting out of boards is adopted in many of the cheap shops (even leather shops). It is a method, however, not to be commended.

To test if the book be cut true it is only necessary to turn the top leaf back level to the back of the book and even at the head; if it be the slightest bit untrue it will at once be seen.

A few words about the various cutting machines that are in the market. Each maker professes his machine the best.Cross-hatched drawing of a table-like bench, with many wheels and handles.
Cutting Machine.
In some the knife moves with a diagonal motion, in others with a horizontal motion.

The principle of all these machines is the same: the books are placed to a gauge, the top is lowered and clamps the book, and, on the machine being started, the knife descends and cuts through the paper.

Another machine by Harrild and Son, called a registered cutting machine, is here illustrated. Its operation is on the same principle as a lying press, the difference being, that this has a table upon which the work is placed; a Cross-hatched image of a man working at a large bench, holding an attached tool against a clamped book.
Registered Cutting Machine.
gauge is placed at the back so that the work may be placed against it for accuracy, the top beam is then screwed down and the paper ploughed. A great amount of work may be accomplished with this machine, and to anyone that cannot afford an ordinary cutting machine this will be found invaluable.