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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, May 30, 2016

Is this a thing?

I had some students who wanted to make good corners without having to freehand the cuts.  Now, normally I want to only teach the "right" way of doing things because you never know.  Maybe someone will end up doing this work forever, and it will be their life, but if they started out with jigs and shortcuts I wonder if they'll ever rise above that.  Learn to do it right, then pull out the jigs if there's a reason.

It seems to me that people cling to what they first learned and often have a hard time understanding that what they were shown in the most basic of classes may not really be the best way to approach all their projects as their work approaches greater and greater heights.  It sort of reminds me of birds imprinting people as their mother.  They need to move beyond that but they can't.

I had some pieces of aluminum around and a few minutes to kill while I was waiting for stuff to dry.  So I put an end mill into the milling machine, drew some lines on the aluminum and went to town.  I ended up with this:

What mattered was the angle, obviously, and then the distance between the top of the triangle and the opposing edge of the metal. It should be around 1.5 board thicknesses.  This is pretty close to 1.5 of a 98 point board.  Between setting things up and doing the milling it probably took 5 minutes, with three of those minutes being spend on drawing the cut lines.  

The idea is that the notch sets on the corner of the board:

It gets pulled down to the corner and then I cut the edge:

In the end you get this:

One thing to add is that I wanted the length of the piece to be longer than the covering material would be, but it was even more important that my hands be able to grab the ends with two fingers so that I can use it quickly.  My hands are pretty large - I could palm a basketball in the 8th grade, my only real basketball skill by the way.  Perhaps it might be better if it was shorter for those with smaller hands.   Does Trump do bookbinding?  I'll make a shorter one for him. 

I wanted to be able to hold handle it like this:

Today, even though it's a holiday, I put material on ten covers. I decided to use this for the fun of it (did I mention it's a holiday, I should have some fun!) so ended up cutting 40 corners.  It took me around 8 seconds to cut the four corners on one cover.  I think it worked.

But I wonder if it's a thing that I haven't seen before.  Or maybe I've seen it and forgotten about it.  In any event I think it'll be a thing for me at times and for some of my classes.  

But if it is a new thing it might be just to ticket to get that Nobel Prize so that I can shake the King's hand and make up for blowing that opportunity in a windy hanger at SeaTac in 1975.  Some day I'll get over it, I'm sure.  I know.  I hope.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Precision & Pride and Mail Fraud

One more library story before I get back to binding and conservation. I feel I need these posts as a warm up so that I won't pull a finger muscle when I get up to speed with "real" posts.

After I graduated from Washington I continued on in graduate school for a quarter, until I realized that a master's degree in Scandinavian Studies probably wasn't going to really do anything for me.  Or anything I really wanted anyway.  So, instead I got into a program to get a teaching certificate, also at UW.

But I was no longer at the Reserve Desk (mainly because none of my friends worked there any more so it wasn't all that much fun), but liked working in libraries and applied for a job at Government Publications.  It was in Suzzallo Library, a church of a library on Red Square, just across from Odegaard.

(It was the same building where I ended up fixing books for several years about ten years later.  In between I taught high school social studies for a bit, moved to Boston and was on my way without having any idea where I would end up.)

At Gov Pubs I had the job of checking in publications that came from around the world.  It was pretty hard, actually, because stuff would come in from around the world with 15 word titles but really the title was "Report" or "Newsletter" or something like that.  It was easy after a few months of questions but a bit frustrating at the outset.

The best part of the job was meeting this guy.  If you look up "nicest guy on the planet" in Wikipedia you will see a picture of him.  I still talk to him fairly often (and I had this job in the early 80s) and, frankly, think the world would be a better place if he lived next door to us.  I give you a picture of Andy (in the middle) with Robby, his husband.  Robby is very, very nice as well, but somehow Andy ended up with the Wikipedia entry.  You'll have to ask him how he aced Robby out of that recognition.  Andy was one of the librarians, specializing in Washington state documents.

After going to the Torchlight Parade in Seattle one year, and seeing the police motorcycle drill team, I came up with the idea for a Library Book Truck Drill Team.  It didn't exist, of course, but I would tell other student employees about it and asked they wanted to be part of it. It took a few hours of practice every Saturday morning, I'd tell them, but it was really fun doing the parades.  It was hard pushing a cart in formation for a few miles without books falling off, but we modified the carts with better wheels.  The challenge was remembering all the formations and weaving we did during the parade.

Many of them were interested, actually MOST were interested, and I would tell them go to talk to a librarian in Gov Pub.  They would go ask about it, find out it was a joke and everyone would get a good laugh.  Somehow I hope that joke carried on.

That was fun but there was something better.

Anyway, the job was checking in stacks of stuff.  Including lots from Norway who was publishing voraciously because of their oil money I heard.  Lots and lots from Norway.  Like, a lot.  But stuff came from everywhere.

In the envelopes were cards that came with the publications.  "Courtesy of the National Bank of Zambia"  "Compliments of the Republic of China"  "Gift from the Department of Commerce of Guyana"  We got stuff from most countries in the world, and most annouced with cards.  In all honesty I could never figure out why they felt it necessary to include the cards.  Were they afraid we would be confused why we were receiving them, or that we would think we had to pay for them?

I was told I could just throw them away, but instead I kept them.  Then I would go buy a pack of gum or some candy, or find a half used pencil. Something not worth buying, let alone mailing.  Then I would put the insignificant item in a padded envelope, add one of the cards, type out the address and return address, and then mail it to a friend. So they would get a worn out pencil "compliments of the Reserve Bank of Mauritania."

Fortunately they'd toss the envelope before thinking about checking the postmark.

It was almost as much fun as the phone calls, but not quite since it lacked immediacy and I didn't always hear about it.  What's nice is that I still have a few of the cards still kicking around.  Maybe you'll get a half used pad of post-it notes from the National Bank of Norway.  

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Library Work

When I was an undergraduate at Washington I got hired at the Reserve Desk in Odegaard Library.  Odegaard was a barn of a library built in the 60s out of millions of yards of concrete, but covered in brick to it didn't look as stern as it felt.

In the days before the internet the Reserve Desk was where professors could photocopy articles for students in their classes, or move books to that segregated part of the library. The students could then check them out for four hours, so there was quite the turn over as you can imagine.  It was one more example of The Man trying to keep students from hogging study materials to the detriment of their classmates.  But then this was the 80s and not the 60s so never mind.

I worked evenings mostly. Often from 7 to midnight.  Towards the end of the night it would get rather slow and after nine I was by myself mostly.  It could get rather boring at times.

The phone system allowed for transfering of calls, after all it was a professional establishment where professionals conducted their business.  Except when they weren't there. And when they left students in charge.

 If a call came that needed to be transfered the answerer could click the hook switch once and get a dial tone, could make a call and then hit the hook switch again and the caller could be connected with the newly called number. Make sense?  Actually, all three would be on the line until the person making the transfer hung up.

When things got slow I started calling the weather (one used to be able to call a weather forecast on the phone, you see.  This was some time after electricity was invented and before the cell phone.)  Once the weather was on the line I'd call a friend and then connect the two.  They'd pick up the phone and hear the weather forcast.

Fortunately this confused them and delighted me.  How did the weather forcast call them?  Why was it on the line?  What force had bent the universe resulting in this confusion?

But this wasn't enough after a while.  You know, like drugs always leads to something worse.

Eventually I figured out who took a while to answer the phone and who answered quickly.  I'd call the slow-to-answer friend and, before they answered, I'd call another friend and then sit in the quiet sanctuary of the library and listen to what happened.

The first friend would pick up the phone and hear ringing.  Their response was often, "What the f@*k?"  The second friend would then answer and then they'd try to figure out who called who. (Or is it who called whom?)  Most often they'd spend two or five minutes trying to figure out how the call had happened and then they'd hang up, confused.  I'd sit there and try not to laugh.  The hardest this was on any of the three involved in this was me who was trying not to laugh.

Needless to say I did this a lot, and never let on who was behind this.  A couple figured it out by triangulating who they were connecting with.

It was the best part of that job. By far.

I was too chicken to do this with random people, however.  And I had friends who would not have reacted well with this.  So I was completely responsible with my irresponsibility.

What's really great about this was that it was this job that led me to conservation and binding.  Why?  When I moved to Boston my library experience is what got me the job in the archives, which led to them asking me to repair books, which led me to school, which led me to everything else.

So, prank phone calls directly resulted in my election as President of the Guild of Book Workers. Remember that kids when you folks tell you to behave.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

warming up

I'm ready to start posting here again.  There's stuff that's better done here than on Youtube, I think, and so I'll do both. For all of you twelve people who read this.  This is just a post to check on the posting mechanism and to check on questions about the template, etc.