Tools of the Trade

Metal Type

Whenever you see an image or title embossed on one of my projects, I've either used a custom made magnesium die, or lead or brass type from my collection. The photo above is a close up of my type drawers. I've stamped a sampling from each drawer onto labels, so I know what's inside.

Many of the tools and pieces of equipment that I use weren't necessarily invented for the craft of bookbinding. Much has been re-purposed from other trades, and more often than not, my tools have already had a long history before they land in my hands. This is definitely true for all of my type.

In Dillard, GA at Good K-9 Antiques, I found a plastic grocery bag full of lead type, and then in Mount Dora, FL at Renningers, I found a beautiful wooden box full of little paperboard boxes that organized something very neatly once upon a time, and would be perfect to organize that newly acquired type. Put them together, and what have you got? Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo!

This box of type, one of my favorites, was originally intended for a Kingsley stamping machine but it works like a dream in my Kwikprint from the 1930s. I found this set in an antique shop in Astoria, OR when Josh and I ventured there with my parents on a pilgrimage to the land of The Goonies.

This is the side of my box of type drawers, with evidence of the luggage shop it came from. I found my Kwikprint via Craigslist and had it shipped from Wisconson along with the box of type and some stamping foils.

At least once a week I click around online to see what might be out there. Just last week, Josh and I found a honey-hole of bookbinding and screen printing supplies, and lately I've been asking antiques dealers if they have the type that goes in all of those empty type cases that are lying about. I think I got a bite yesterday - wish me luck!

Rosewood Folder & Walnut Box

Today was an exceptional start to the week! I'm having fun getting prepared for our trip to San Francisco for the Guild of Book Workers Seminar. It was a productive day in the bindery. My friend Glenn brought some pumpkin bread over, which made for a wonderful fall feeling that is otherwise amiss here in warm Orlando. And now I get to watch the top 20 on So You Think You Can Dance!

All of the above are so wonderful, but the very best thing was something special that came in the mail. On Friday I got a notice that I had a package to pick up at the office which wouldn't be open again until Monday. I had all weekend to wonder what sort of mail was in store for me.

Last month, when I called Randy Arnold for his interview, I got more than than I requested and made a new friend! In these photos you can see the beautiful folder that I received from my friend. It was a delight to see that the package was from him, and a thrill to see what was inside. First of all, look at that great packaging! The earth tones compliment his work perfectly. Pictures don't quite capture how nice it is to hold this rosewood folder, and how perfectly it fits into its handsome walnut box. You can see more photos of this folder on Randy's blog, and visit his shop to add some tools to your wish list!

Thanks a million, Randy, for my new prized possession! If any of you happen to be headed to the Guild meeting this week, I'll plan to bring my new folder along. Let me know if you'd like to get your hands on it, and I will have a show & tell!

Tools of the Trade: An Interview with Randy J. Arnold

I posted this article over on the Bookbinding Team blog today. Read on to learn about an awesome tool maker!

Lovely ebony folders have been on my mind for the past couple of months. If you read my first post about folders, you’ve probably gathered that I am quite a fond of these useful tools. Randy J. Arnold, makes a variety of exceptionally beautiful wooden folders. I’ve been keeping an eye on his Etsy shop, and am increasingly impressed with each new product he has to offer. It doesn’t end with folders, or the custom boxes he builds for them. Randy makes a range of bookbinding tools, from those ebony folders I’ve had my eye on, to punching cradles and nipping presses.

After following a few links from his shop, I stumbled upon, It turns out that in addition to making amazing tools, Randy is a luthier and has a blog dedicated to his craft. Naturally, I was curious about what led him from banjos to bookbinding tools and my hunch was that he must have a bookbinder in his life! Randy kindly agreed to a phone interview last week, and I’m so glad, because it was so much fun to talk to him!

Woodworking seems to run in his blood. He is self taught, but was lucky to be able to observe his grandfather and father work in the family shop, which is pictured above. His grandfather worked on household projects and his father was a talented furniture maker. Randy has come a long way since those days as a young boy watching his father and grandfather; he inherited the family home and restored the shop to working order. You can read more about his efforts here and here.

As far as having a bookbinder in his life, I’m proud to say that my hunch was right! Randy’s partner, the talented Amy LeePard of Painted Bunting Books is the reason he started making bookbinding tools. Amy, who studied with Amy Pirkle at the University of Alabama, initially used tools provided by the university, but found that she really needed her own, and was looking for a better quality than was readily available. That’s when Randy stepped in and made his first set of folders. Amy took her new handcrafted folders to a Julie Chen workshop and the Paper and Book Intensive. Other book workers saw these fine tools and couldn’t help but want their own! Interest and encouragement from these book workers prompted a few custom orders for individuals and beyond. Randy’s work is now offered through Colophon Book Arts Supply and through the Morgan Conservatory. You can also find his work at our favorite place, on Etsy!

Like any artist, Randy looks to things around him for inspiration. His main inspiration is, of course, Amy, but inspiration also strikes when he is looking into family history, hiking, or riding his bike. As he slowly pedals down the road on his bicycle he has time to think about preliminary designs and work out any technical details of current projects. Fresh air and beautiful surroundings, as seen in the photo above, can go a long way for encouragement! I'm sure his bike rides are also a great time to think about his next choice in materials. He tries to use materials that are found locally, whether it be the wood he finds from his local sources, regionally tanned leather, or spalted wood found on one of his hikes.

Buying a fine tool, should be like buying a nice piece of furniture. The tool should be well made and built to last. Randy subscribes to this philosophy, and using the same tools as his father and grandfather before him, he makes tools for bookbinders that are not only delightful to look at, but rewarding to use.

Randy is still a luthier and while he is finding a balance between the two, working on bookbinding equipment gives him an opportunity to employ techniques he wouldn't otherwise get to practice. There are so many things he’d like to make, it’s just a matter of deciding what to make first! A main priority is addressing Amy’s needs (naturally), but he’d love to hear what you might like to see available in his shop. He mentioned that he's working on a vertical plough, which I'd love to see! Feel free to get in touch with him or leave a comment below.

Thanks again Randy, for a great conversation!

B.E.S.T. Contribution: The Bonefolder

Today is my first day as a contributing member to the Etsy Bookbinding Team blog.

Thursday is my day to post, and my plan is to document and chat about the tools of the bookbinding trade. I'm limiting the tools to those that I find in my own bindery. I've yet to do the count, but I think this will take me through quite a few Thursdays.

Luckily, I have a little helper who will help me choose what to post about, & more importantly what to play with.