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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!).



Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Fixor: part deux, finis!

I have a large project ahead of me so I started picking things up and putting them away.  Don't know why, except it always makes me feel better about the world.  And myself.

In the midst of that I found a bag of shellac which I've had for several months, since I made some blocking powder (which I will post about shortly).  Shellac comes as flakes but those flakes turn into a block if they sit around too long. This bag had four or five blocks the size of marbles and about the same volume of flakes.  I needed to do something with it.

So I decided to make more of the fake Fixor glaire, used in gold tooling as described in the previous blog entry.

The beauty of fixor, or other shellac glaires, is that they pretty much last forever.  So I decided to use the whole 100 g. bag and be done with it.  The shellac was light yellow in color, bleached and unwaxed.  Peter Geraty (who steered me to this recipe) wrote that generally orange was the best shellac to use but that he didn't know if that applied to our purpose.

The recipe is this (Wehlte p. 217):

10g. borax  /  200 cc  water  /  30 g. bleached shellac
Disolve the borax in hot water.  Sprinkle in the shellac.  Do not boil.

Having 100 g of shellac I obviously increased all the quantities so that I could use the whole bag.  I took out my least favorite tool in my bindery, the hot plate, and went at it using my glass pyrex pan since I didn't know whether it was best to avoid metals when making this stuff (like one should do in making paste or methyl cellulose).

I kept the hot plate at half temperature (I think the hot plate that burned down the building I had just moved out of was probably set higher than that, but the fear remains!) and dissolved the borax instantly.  The shellac took probably 20 minutes of stirring to get it all dissolved.  I wondered what would have happened if I pulverized them in my coffee grinder (which I don't use for coffee, by the way) but I also wondered how long it would take to dissolve the marble sized pieces.  Seemed more therapeutic to stir and stir and stir.....

It came out this color:

Here is a picture of Fixor, which has been diluted 1:3 (Fixor : water) to its usable consistency:

I'd say it looks quite similar.  Obviously using a different colored shellac would result in a different color.  Again this was light yellow shellac.

But all that matters is whether it works.  I took a calf skin which I had dyed for tests on this.  In the right section I applied Fixor, in the middle of this image I flooded the space with this homemade fixor (I can't capitalize fixor if it's not the brand name Fixor, can I?  Too bad I'm not married to an editor.  Wait!  I am!)  The left section of this picture is two lighter coats of this homemade solution applied more carefully.  By this I mean that I used a cotton ball to spread the solutions over the whole part of the skin, not just in the impressions.

The surface of the leather after this application of Fixor and fixor didn't show much of a difference between them.

Looking closely at them anyone would have a hard time telling the difference between them, or deciding which was better to use.  These were all just a one strike impression, going back in would make them all more consistent and better.  If any section was worse than the other two it was the flooded section, which one wouldn't do anyway except to mess about.

A big, big thanks needs to go to Peter Geraty for pointing the way in this.  It's much appreciated.


  1. HI Mark
    I wish I had read this blog before buying the Talas Fixor. I am trying to melt it in the sun. Funnily enough I am making a binding for Peter Geraty as a gift and I wanted to use the fixor for some tooling. Did you ever put the gel directly in a pan? any answer helpful cheers erika

  2. No I never did anything with it. No one I talked to had any idea why it was a gel and not a liquid and had any idea at all what to do with it. So it's still around here somewhere.

  3. I'm watching a Don Glaister training on the GBW site (free during the quarantine!) and he mentioned Peter Geraty's recipe. And here I am googling his recipe. Thanks for writing this eight years ago, haha! Even the BS glaire I have had solidified and no experimenting got it usable again, so I will be trying this recipe out. Thanks again.