47: Engraved Leather

Poor broken spine!

Poor broken spine!

My favorite binder is showing some wear and tear. Not a surprise, considering I’ve been using it for the past 20-odd years, since I was a little girl. It holds a legal pad, has a pocket for papers, and has more sentimental value than anything.  It’s made of inexpensive plastic and has the name of my father’s family business hot stamped inside.

So simple inside but it's perfect!

So simple inside but it’s perfect!

Not ready to part with it, I though I’d put my bookbinding skills to use and repair the spine with a strip of leather.  Leather is a traditional material for book spines; it’s flexible, but strong.  To use leather in bookbinding it should be thin; I happened to have some 1mm thick leather that was too thin to use for Leather Cuffs we made back in week 3.  To make it unique (and a project worthy of the blog!) we tested out leather engraving.

The leather is quite thin, and it had gotten quite wrinkly being stored away.  To smooth it out, we applied transfer tape to the back.  It held the piece nice and flat, and gave it a little more weight in the laser bed.  I taped the back because I wasn’t sure the tape wouldn’t ruin the finish on the front.

Top strip is wrinkled; the middle part has the tape backing.

Top strip is wrinkled; the middle part has the tape backing.

Gigantic ABCD

Gigantic ABCD

The design I chose to go with was the scalloped one Ryan made for one of his giant Abecediaries, and he kindly filled in a strip so we could see what the engraving would looks like (the original is just vector lines)

Tests of leather - 10%, 30%, 45% and 50% engraving power

Tests of leather – 10%, 30%, 45% and 50% engraving power.  The first one (on the far right) got a bit singed!  

The photo above shows all our tests, and top half has been cleaned with leather conditioner.  The final verdict was a medium engraving at 45% power, and the cut was at 25% speed (relatively quickly, so no more singed  edges!)  The spine of a book is a rectangle, pretty simple shape, but I added the slits at the top and bottom to help the book close.  Leather folding on itself can get a little bulky, so the slit prevents this.

Finished with the new "binding"

Finished with the new “binding”, with the Rock Band guitar peeking out from behind, oops.

Here is how the leather bends - quite nicely!

Here is how the leather bends – quite nicely!

When we first cut it, I was afraid the engraving would be too subtle.  Once it I cleaned it and let it dry, the contrast works!  My trusty binder has most recently seen me through my first semester teaching.  Hopefully the reinforcement will make it last another 20 years!


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