Friday, April 13, 2012

Fix-It Friday : Be Square

This month's Fix-It Friday book mending topic is short and sweet: some quick ways to get straight, square measurements without taking down a lot of numbers. 

First of all, it's useful to know how wide your regular metal ruler is, and to use a cutting mat that has grid lines printed on it.  You can use the width of the ruler as well as its length as a measuring tool, and the paper or stock you are cutting can be placed square on the grid on the cutting mat to ensure a straight cut.

A trick I learned recently was to install a jig onto the cutting mat that can be used to jog up paper and hold it true and straight while cutting or folding.  Such a jig can be made easily with a piece of thick, stiff board (here, a strip of Davey book cover board), attached with strips of double-backed tape.

Peel and stick.
Once in place, the jig can be used to line up the edges of folded end sheets or signatures, to fold a sheet exactly in half.

Most 12"-18" long metal rulers are 1 1/4" wide, so you may already have a 1 1/4" jig for cutting spine inlays or that width (or wider).  Pieces of key stock (or "bar stock") in various widths can help with cutting narrower inlays faster.  These metal strips, in 1", 3/4", 1/2", and 1/4" widths, can be found at a regular hardware store; ask for "key stock" or "bar stock" and you should find what you are looking for!

Key stock in various widths.
Using a 3/4" strip of key stock against the jig to cut a 3/4" wide bristol board inlay.
A small metal triangle can make faster work of measuring and scoring/cutting on perpendicular lines, and simply for checking if your end sheets, spine cloth or cover boards are cut square.

A square with a weighted, stable edge can be used to jog up text blocks evenly (for loose leaves, before adhesive binding; or for signatures, after sewing and before rounding and backing).  It's also a useful tool for making sure the walls of a box are perpendicular to one another.

A couple of ways to use an upright square to even up a group of loose sheets before trimming and tipping in.

If you create a lot of custom enclosures for books, you may wish to invest in a "MeasurepHase" tool -- a tabletop book-measuring device that takes ambiguity out of measuring a book's three dimensions.  Garry Harrison of Indiana University Libraries describes the use of the MeasurepHase here.

Quick and easy!  Thanks for checking out this month's Fix-It Friday.  Your comments, questions and suggestions are welcome!  Next month's post will appear on Friday, May 11.

Carolee Harrison
Portland State University Library

Straight-up gratitude:
Andrew Huot, Conservator and Preservation Specialist, Illinois State University Library

Garry Harrison, Head of Circulating Collections Conservation, Indiana University Libraries Preservation Department, and the E. Lingle Craig Preservation Laboratory Repair and Enclosure Treatment Manual.

The Focus on Book Arts Conference, Forest Grove, Oregon

Talas Conservation, Bookbinding, and Restoration Supplies


  1. I love the Fix-It Friday posts! I am not a book-repair person, nor should I be, considering that I not good with exacting, accurate physical things like that. But I really like the practical, easy-to-follow advice that's being collected here, and commend Carolee and SSD for doing it.

  2. This is super-helpful for me in general, not just for book repair! Thanks!