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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, July 25, 2016


Many months ago I got a phone call from a gentleman who wanted to talk about having some boxes made for some photographs he had. His name is David Taylor and he’s a photography professor at the University of Arizona School of Art.

If only it was a simple as that, but it was much more, and much more interesting.

It turns out he had photographed all the border monuments along the US—Mexican border. It is a stunning project. Absolutely stunning. The scope, the beauty of the photographs, what they represent. All of it. It was a privilege to be part of it.

There are, I think, 276 monuments. They needed four boxes and one lid. He was making a wooden box to hold the four boxes, I was making the lid for the set.

But he didn’t want the telltale signs of boxes, especially the paper wrappers most of us use on boxes to increase their strength. For the smaller boxes that wasn’t an issue but for the lid it was a problem. This lid was pretty huge:

Without using paper to support the edges it was a huge problem for a huge box. I tried paper but couldn’t sand away the seam to a degree that I was happy with so it was decided to do without.

To get some stability while covering I tried all kinds of things including getting out my pneumatic brad nailer. But the nails, even the size of brads, expanded the binder’s board and were visible. In the end I used non-permanent tape and augmented it with strategically placed weights. The walls were glued on top of the top of the lid, if that makes sense. It would have been easier to put the walls on the side of the lid but the top wouldn’t have been as clean.

Every time I’ve made them, I’ve been frustrated. It feels like I’m trying to balance pins on their ends, but in the end they come together. I shouldn’t be such a wimp, I know.

The bigger challenge, in some ways, has been to stamp two dies over each other and have them align properly. I never could have done this without the Kensol. But the lids are so much bigger than the table that all normal methods of alignment won’t work. In the end we made up a foam core jig and used that. The dies fit perfectly into each slot in the jig. Kreg clamps hold it in place while we stamp.

The final result:



The photos and the boxes are currently on display at the Phoenix Art Museum. Go see them!

And what’s better is we’ve become friends, and it’s always a nice (and rare) thing when clients make the transition. Nicer, even, than the boxes I think.

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