Conservation Blog

By: Sherif Afifi | November 13, 2017

Parchment is the skin of an animal which has been processed with a lime solution and stretched under tension. Parchment has unique structural qualities which differentiate it from paper, and it is usually positively identified with the assistance of a hand lens or microscope.In some cases, analytical testing should be considered due to the fact of some certain types of highly calendered papers misidentified with parchment during the visual examination process.

Parchment which is most commonly used as a writing surface and as a binding material in some cases; has a cultural and historical significance that makes it precious material that needs to be conserved and protected against future deterioration by specialized conservators.

Using magnetic as a parchment conservation tool 
Profissional conservators usually take the responsibility of developing innovative treatment methods. Parchment flattening magnetic table is one of the innovations that conservators developed and work with. In the next few lines, I will explain how this flattening magnetic table works and it's mechanism.

Disclaimer: Parchment is a very sensitive material, never ever try to deal with historical parchment materials unless you are well trained to do so, or under a supervision of a professional conservator.

Flattening magnetic table parts:

  1. Wooden frame table.
  2. Metal flat surface.
  3. Magnetic presses.

- Note that the Parchment or vellum is humidified in either one of the common safe humidification methods before applying flattening.

Wooden frame
 The metal (stainless steel) flat surface is mounted on a wooden frame table and the stainless steel surface is with holes or pens to allow a good ventilation to the parchment during the flattening process. Remember using Reemay® acid-free archival polyester tissue under the parchment (between the parchment and the stainless steel) during flattening process.

This picture (Fig 3) shows what is inside the magnetic press and its mechanism. the screw handle controls the magnetic pad level through the metal coil compression string. Hence, this is how conservator controls the strength of magnetic pressure on the parchment, and to eas the process of removing and adding those magnetic presses on the metal table.
Figure 3 - Inside the magnetic press

Wach this video which explains more how this magnetic flattening technique works

By: Sherif Afifi | November 06, 2017

Islamic Headband
    Chevron pattern endband or what known as Islamic endband is one of the most beautiful historical endband styles. however, some of emerging conservator-restorer and bookbinders finding it not that easy to sewing the Islamic chevron endband; thinking it is more complicated endband technique than most of the other western endbands.
The good news is after this video tutorial the Islamic endband will not be complicated anymore, and the bad news is... Likely there is no bad news today ;) you will master the chevron pattern endband finally :)

Now you need to prepare your Islamic binding text-block model, a 3 to 5 mm piece of leather as a core, linen thread No.150 for the loom as tie-downs, and 2...

By: Sherif Afifi | March 25, 2017

            Limp binding is a bookbinding method in which the book has flexible cloth, leather, vellum, or (rarely) paper sides. When the sides of the book are made of vellum, the bookbinding method is also known as limp vellum.

The cover is made with a single piece of vellum or alternative material, folded around the text block, the front and back covers being folded double. The quires are sewn onto cords such as alum-tawed thongs and the sewing supports would be laced into the vellum cover. The thongs would also often be used at the fore edge of the covers to create a closure or tie.
In limp binding the covering material is not stiffened by thick boards, although pa...

By: Sherif Afifi | July 18, 2015

Grain Direction
Folding paper to the grain direction

As a conservator and bookbinders deal with several materials especially paper-based material, it is important to understand the paper grain direction theory and get a practical training about determining the grain direction for several paper-based materials whether it is machine made or handmade.In this blog, I will use samples from several and different paper materials and demonstrate the importance of understanding paper grain direction.

What is paper grains?

A paper's grain is the direction which most of the fibers align in a specific orientation . Grain is determined during the paper making process when fibers tend to align in one direction or the other.

Is it important to know the grain direction?

Paper is susceptible to any moisture, so it is important to know the paper grain direction.

For binding
It is ideal to have the grain of the pages, endpapers, lining paper, and boards used for the case...etc. to be barreled with the book spine, in order to eliminate the unnecessary stress on the hinges and for the ease of turning the pages.
For paper restoration (paper mending)
Normally we are using Japanese paper for conservation and restoration process especially in paper mending, suppliers now a days providing a mechanical made Japanese paper and tissue (unless they say it is handed mad), so knowing the grain direction for mending paper well be as the same concept of having the grain direction barreled to the gutter or to the spine or to be as the same direction as the original paper. So that, old paper (original) and new paper (that we use for mending) have their tension factor and did not act differently with the temperature and humidity changes. 
For customized box and mount making
when the grain direction for all customized box materials and customized document mounts is parallel to its hinges, it will open flat with the grain and last longer.

Short grain and Long grain.

  It is depending on how it was cut in relation to its grain direction. For example, when the grain direction moves parallel to a paper short side that means it is short grain,
On the other hand, if the grain direction is parallel to the long side (like most of A4 Paper that we use in printers) it called a long grain. So if the grain direction is as long as the length of the whole piece of paper, then it is a long grain sheet. 
For example:
  • if we have an 11×17 sheet of paper, the grain is running parallel to the 17-inch edge of the sheet and is referred to as Long Grain.
  • If the paper is 17×11, then the grain is running parallel to the 11-inch edge of the paper and is referred to as Short Grain.

Mechanical made papers & Handmade papers grain direction!

Once you get a mechanically made paper that means for sure you have a grain direction and this is because of the mechanism of paper making machines,
during the paper manufacturing process a bulb path with what called mesh screening is to be used instead of using a mold frame in handmade paper making, the machine using mesh screening which is moving on relays with running water and mold continually, making paper rolls, the direction which is the bulb is running throw the mesh screening makes the fibers mostly aligned in the same direction of the bulb and mash screening movement.  this movement direction is the grain direction for the mechanically made paper after drying.
Bulb movement direction during mechanical paper mad process

In opposite side, Handmade papers do not typically have a grain direction because all the fibers that make up the paper lay in all different directions when it is dried.
Handmade paper

What if folding in a wrong grain direction (against the grain direction)?

Generally, In folding against the grain, you are folding the fibers. This cause weakens or split for the fibers, resulting in cracks and tears in the paper-based materials.
folding effect
Folding effect with and against grain direction on Carton
Folding effect with and against grain direction

Folding against grain direction - card 
Folding with the grain direction - card

Now it is clear that folding against the grain direction cause weaken for the fiber which will make the folding gutter completely weakness and causing cracks and tears, that is why it is recommended that during binding or restoration process you should fold your paper-based materials to the grain direction and the grain direction should be paralleled to the book spine during binding.

Easy ways to determine the paper grain direction, please see this video.

By: Sherif Afifi | July 12, 2015

   Attaching a new thread to a short one during book quires sewing..

I understand that this topic maybe not a knowledge target for binders and conservators professionals who normally knows by heart how to do attaching a new thread to the short one during sewing process and we do it thousands of times on our daily binding and sewing work.
So! what features this knot do you think it should carry?
Features!! what a strange word for such a very basic and regular process for bookbinder and book conservators as well, but think carefully now!
mmmm yes! it should be:
  • Strong, which means that when we continue sewing and pull the new threat it should be strongly attached and knot to the small (old) one.
  • Even if you will attach the new thread from inside the quires or outside it (from the spine depend on your technique) you still DO NOT want to have a large solid knot which will cause a large hole when you trying to take it throw to the inside of the sections (in case of you prefer this technique). and also if it is large knot it will make a bad appearance to your final sewing quality and maybe the quires themselves.
  • What if you have only a very short end thread? in a case of accidentally cut of the threads for example, and you are not then happy to reverse the sewing for the last quire to get a longer thread end to make you easily able to knot it with the new one.
Book Sewing
So now you understand that your new thread should be attached to the short one with 3 basic features
  1. strong knot.
  2. small knot.
  3. easily attached to a short end.
performing a weaver's knot will give you all those features and here is step by step picture tutorial teaching you how to do this knot.

note: I am using here 2 thread colors to make it easy for this tutorial to distinguishes the process
Short thread (A) White & new thread (B) blue
I will point to the short thread (the thread that is in your quire) with the  White(A) thread and the new one (which you wont to knot with the short one) with the Blue(B) thread in the tutorial pictures.

step 1:
Loop the new thread (B)

The longer end of the thread (B) is brought up throw the loop

Pull up the long end from the middle of the loop then pull together the longer and the shorter ends of thread (B) until it makes a sort of hanging knot.

Step 2:
Place over the short end (A) of the old thread inside the loop, the encircling loop must not be tightened.

Pull both longer and shorter ends together for the new 
thread (B) in an opposite direction.

Step 3:

Now the tricky part and you should be sure that you did it as I explain or as the photo shown below, otherwise, your knot will fail to be strongly attached to the old one. >>>
The new thread (B) is tightened the short end (A) throw the encircling loop which tightens behind it as shown in pic(8)


Note: In all previous steps, only the new thread (B) ends (the shorter one and the longer) pulled.

NOW you tight the knot pulling both threads the short one (A) and the new one (B) from both longer sides to completely knot them, 

Both short ends (A) & (B) are cut quite close to the knot, if you do this knot outside the quires (from the spin direction) carefully take this knot through the inside of the section as sewing is continued.

This tutorial blog is for those who like to print and keep a copy in their reference library, but for thous who prefer to watch a tutorial video, here is one that I have made for you.