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About Me

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Tucson, Arizona, United States
I work as Panther Peak Bindery and am a bookbinder, conservator and instructor working outside Tucson, Arizona for individual and institutional clients across the country. I am a two term President of the Guild of Book Workers, was a Fulbright Scholar, taught at North Bennet Street School for over nine years and was the fastest in my middle school class at running up and down a flight of stairs (really!).



Monday, December 26, 2016

Panther Peak???

I stole the name. Unabashedly and without shame. I think Diane still resents me for it, just a little bit.

Her folks moved to Tucson in the early 1960s. They lived in the East side of town and bought a house in a development that went bankrupt. That meant there were many acres of desert around their house at the outset.

Over time it got more and more crowded and paved. Hilly roads were flatted. Dirt roads were paved. People came and built and came and built and came and built. Her mom got tired of it and all the people.

She looked around, thought about moving to Alaska, but instead found the property we currently own. The reason they moved here was the views of the mountains! The northernmost peak in the Tucson range is Panther Peak.

Diane was shocked they would move so far out of town. Strangely, folks that grew up in Tucson feel that the East side of town is the best place to live. Folks like me who moved here, think they’d rather live anyplace in Tucson except the East side. It’s too far away from everything, which is ironic because we’re pretty remote where we currently are.

As a joke Diane named their place "Panther Peak Ranch." She even painted a sign for them and I think she hung it up when they were away. The sign is about 20 years old and is now on the barn. It’s fantastic!

I loved the name and when we decided to wise up and move out here I wanted to call the business Panther Peak Bindery. It is a delightfully ridiculous name! Diane had aspirations of a publishing company using that name but relented. Eventually. Life isn’t fair.

Panther Peak is the northernmost peak in the Tucson Mountains, though it can’t really be seen from Tucson because Safford Peak is just on the Tucson side of it. Our secret, perhaps. It’s 3500 feet above sea level, and we’re at 2400 feet.

Enjoy the views of it from our property.

Monday, December 19, 2016


I can be kind of mean, but generally with good intentions.

When I was teaching the students would give me Christmas presents, at least they did for a few years until I told them to cut it out. They were paying a lot for their education and living in a very expensive city. There was no necessity to spend money they didn't have to give me a gift when, to me, it felt like hanging out with them every day was more than gift enough to me.

I did, however, want to give them gifts.  But just giving them a gift didn't seem right, either.  Not that it would sound like a bribe but the standard is to avoid the appearance of evil, not just not doing evil. And what's more evil than gift giving?  Well, now I'm just getting confused.

I had brought in a table hockey game during my first year at the school.  Lars had one at the radio station he worked at in Link√∂ping and I thought it would be a great way to blow off steam and take a break from what could be a bit of pressure during the day.  It worked pretty well, at least to my mind.

There was a school tournament, created to force students to get to know each other throughout the building.  NPR did a story on it you can find here.

But there was also the Stanislov Cup for the bookbinding program, I think named by Stacie Dolin. We had a trophy and everything.  Or we did it might be in the trash by now for all I know.

I used to tell the students it was the most exclusive tournament in the world, only twelve were eligible each year!

But the point was that I would buy bookbinding related prizes during the year and give them away after the tournament.  Nothing crazy, mainly books, tools and posters but it was fun looking for them through the year.  And more fun giving them away.  I wish I could have given them more, they certainly gave me a lot.

So in the season of giving it's nice to be reminding of all the students gave me during their time in Boston, and am grateful most of them still liked me even after I made them play table hockey against each other.  Well, a few of them probably enjoyed it.  Hopefully.

Monday, December 12, 2016

drape, not drapes

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about the flexibily of spines and regulating how much they throw up.  (That post can be found here.)  The other aspect of that equation in that post is the amount of drape in the paper being used in a binding.

This is an adhesive bound book where the pages don't drape.  This is a problem for adhesive bindings becuase it means that the spine has to flex a lot in order for the book to be read.  To my mind adhesive bindings need spines that barely flex in order to be durable.  But, and perhaps more importantly to the end user, it's not too much fun because it takes too much effort to hold the book open to read.

The reason for the lack of drape in the above example is because the paper in the book has the grain going the wrong direction.  One can think of grain in paper as minute toothpicks which align in one direction.  The paper will fold (or drape!) along the direction of the toothpicks but wouldn't if the page was folded against the direction of them.

So, clearly you could fold a paper with the grain in this orientation from left to right and it would go well but if you wanted to fold the top edge down to the bottom you would have some issues.

And this would be the result.  Here I am holding a group of pages with the grain running away from my hand.  Notice how the pages don't drape at all.

Here is the same paper with the grain going in the opposite direction - it's running parallel to the floor, or away from you in this picture.  You can see how the paper drapes, at least a bit.  The fact that the paper drapes even this much creates less stress on the spine when the book is opened.

Of course the weight of the paper is an issue as well.  With Bible paper it doesn't seem to matter all that much because it would drape well in either direction.  It does matter for other issues I won't go into here.

And heavy paper won't drape even with the grain, though it would fold more easily with the grain.

The problem we have as binders is that printers don't care about this, they want to print the paper in the most effecient way.  That causes many issues for binders in folding sections, rounding and backing, gluing up spines amongst others.

But that's pretty much the way the world works. When we built the house the plumber didn't care he was causing problems for the electrician. He did care when he would cause problem for the carpenter because that was me and my neighbor but if we weren't there it wouldn't have mattered to him.

We just have to learn to deal with it, and the first part of that is understanding the problem.