New notebook

Some time ago, I realised that our large collection of beautiful Japanese washi papers would do us no good when it’s stored away.
So I devised a way to force myself to actually use those sheets by creating a cover around an A5 notepad, with the washi on the outside. I use it for taking notes and todo-lists, and if a page is filled, I take it out. That means that there is an end-of-life for this: once all the pages are gone, I’d chuck it and make a new one with a different paper on the cover! The transience is precisely the point.
I’m sure it’s symbolic that the notepad I used has run out of pages, and so last week I made a new cover for a fresh notepad. I look forward to taking it with me and make a fresh new start at my new position later this week.
Notepad cover with dark blue Japanese washi paper depicting Daruma dolls
The paper depicts Daruma dolls. Daruma was one of the foundational fathers of zen buddhism, and a legend tells that he meditated for so long, that he turned blind and his arms and legs fell off from dis-use.
The Daruma doll has two empty eye sockets, and if you want to work hard towards a wish, you color in one of the eyes and place it somewhere it can see you work. Every time you see the doll, you are reminded of your goal and encouraged to work hard for it. Once you have achieved your goal, you fill in the remaining eye, to thank Daruma for his support.
All these dolls have their second eye filled in, which makes it double symbolic, because it’s certainly a goal I achieved in very short time!

Last year in April, we visited the temple in Takasaki, Japan where the custom of the Daruma dolls originated. They have a little museum with all kinds of dolls and interesting variants — sadly you were not allowed to take photos inside. But the giant doll on the outside does provide the perfect photo op!

Next to the museum was a hall that was used for ceremonies, and there were nets around the veranda around it. To me, it looked like worshippers who had their wishes fulfilled would bring their doll to the temple and chuck it onto the veranda. I’m guessing the priests would burn the dolls (they’re often made of papier mache) once per year, just like the wooden prayer plaques at Shinto shrines.

I hang out a lot over at — it’s the RPG-focussed little brother of BoardGameGeek. One of the things that impresses me most is the community. People on the forums are, generally, quite friendly and welcoming, willing to interpret each others’ words in the most positive way. It’s really something to experience with such a big group of people.

One of the things going on on the site is the ‘Chain of Generosity’. There’s two of them: one for the US and one for Europe, for reasons of postage. It works as follows:
– Someone offers something from their collection. Perhaps something they don’t need or play anymore.
– Others can express their interest in the offer.
– After a set period, a ‘winner’ is chosen (using the RPGGeek dice roller, of course).
– The person offering sends the item to the winner — without any cost to the winner!
– The winner then becomes the next ‘link’ in the chain, by posting up an offer themselves.

It’s fun, and sometimes there’s something in there that’s really interesting. I’ve gotten a nice hardcover with short side-quests from a Frenchman earlier, and sent the full Fireborn set in hardcover to Germany. I had gotten those books as part of a lot in the auction of RPG books from rupertdaily‘s estate. It was fun to send those books off to a place where they might get used.

A few weeks ago, an offer came by that I was interested in: the Star Wars: Age of Rebellion Beta rules. Those came out at Gencon, a year before the final version came out. It’s kinda light in art, and it might not have the exact same rules as the final game (it’s a beta, after all), but for something I was interested in and for free? Hell yeah, I got in on that and yesterday the book came in the mail!

In return, I reprised my set of offers from the previous time. I also added some Rolemaster rulebooks and a classic module that I had in surplus. However, after one week, I didn’t have any takers! That’s a bit of a problem, of course, but it’s to be expected: the pool of participants is not very large, and most of the ‘movable’ inventory has found a new home already.
This put me in a bit of a bind (that some of the current ‘links’ of the other chains are already in): what if nobody wants what you are offering? Surely you do not want to be the one that makes the chain break! And so I decided to throw in another offer: I would print and bind a RPG-related PDF for the winner. Lots of people buy their roleplaying books in PDF format: lots of stuff can be found over at DriveThruRPG, and it’s a cheap way to expand your collection. I’ve once bound a roleplaying game into a hardcover, and it’s a fun thing to do.

Within a few days, I had eight people who wanted in. Apparently, there’s a market for this… And the cool thing is that I can repeat the offer again and again, because it’s not something that dissapears from my collection!

My friend A. was interested in the extra copy of Golden Sky Stories I had acquired through the Bundle of Holding — but she would rather have a book than read it all from a screen. And who wouldn’t want to have a handsome book to add to their RPG collection?
So this weekend, I turned the PDF into a book. (Text is in Dutch, but the pictures are… not.)

klik has re-bound a book for her sister. We tought it would be cool to make the cover full linen in black (her sister’s favourite colour), with her name on the front cover. So I got out the hot foil press and experimented with it for a bit to get the text on the correct spot. In the end, we liked the silver foil better than the white.
We made a testing board, with a scrap op board and a scrap of linen, to help in positioning the text. With these things, you have to crete the cover first and then do the foil press – but if it goes wrong, you’ll have to re-make the whole cover. Good thing we did, too.
It was a bit of a hassle for only one cover, but I did learn more about the machine. And her sister is getting a very personal book!

Quite some time ago, klik took my dad’s pocket version of The Lord of the Rings (printed in 1971 — older than I am!) that he had read to pieces. Literally. She repaired them and re-bound them into pretty hardcover books.
I was to make a box to hold the books, but it took me a lot of time to figure out what I wanted to do with it. In the end, Imade a ‘plateau’ of sorts to put the books in: I didn’t want to hide the books inside a box! Yesterday we gave them back, and my dad was mighty pleased with the results!

Pictures and (Dutch) text are up on

(And if you have a pocket book that you want to have restored, you know who to call!)

Colleague R. wanted to gift a book with a very specialised subject matter to a friend who graduated on that field of research. But he wanted to personalise his gift by making a new cover for it, with a photo of him and another friend posing as scientists on this subject. Naturally, I was willing to do the hard work for him!

Enormous bookbinding picspam

In the first bookbinding course I did, there was a lesson on repairing bound books. So our homework was to find a book in bad shape so we’d repair it during the lesson. I don’t have many bound books, and the ones I do have aren’t that bad off. But when I looked through my parents’ (or rather, my father’s) bookcase, I found a book that really needed some lovin’. It was a large book of fairy tales, in an old-fashion binding.
The space between the spine and the cover (‘kneep’ in Dutch — I don’t know this jargon word in English) was too wide. It looks very chic, but it’s precisely where all the force is applied when you open the book. It was completely torn, and the book was held together with cellotape — which doesn’t really work well to preserve paper.
So I asked him if I could bring his book of fairy tales, and he gave it to me to repair. He had one condition: it had to be still readable afterwards.

During the lesson, I re-stitched some of the signatures of the book block. Luckily, there wasn’t too much wrong with it and I didn’t have to re-bind the whole book block. Most of the work would be the cover. I re-made the cover with a more sensible spacing, so that it wouldn’t tear anymore. But that meant that the cover got a lot less wide, and then it was too narrow for the book itself! I would need to make a completely new cover.
But to do that, I would need to get the cover paper off the original cover. There is a way to do that: let the cover soak in water for weeks to get the paper off. It’s not without risk: first you have to make a high-resolution scan of the cover, because if it gets ruined, you can always print out the scan and use that!
Pretty intimidating stuff. And we had loaned our scanner to klik‘s dad, so we had no easy access to a scanner as well. The project was shelved and remained shelved for more than a year!

About a month ago, I got over my fears, scanned the cover in at work, filled a baking tray with water, put it in the closet and put in the cover. The boards were made out of straw cardstock, which is pretty tough and took a long time to dissolve. When it did, we dried the cover paper and it looked like this:

I made the new cover according to the measurements of the book block, with beige linen on the spine and cream-coloured ‘elephant skin paper’ on the cover. Then I cut the sides from the cover paper and glued that over the new cover paper. You can see the space where the cover paper is narrower than the cover — this is how much excess space there was between spine and cover boards!

During the repairing and soaking process, the original spine had completely faded and was unreadable. So we got out our scan and applied the design in gold and red foil:

One of the things my dad does is sign his signature on the first flyleaf, instead of an Ex Libris card. And if he acquired the book during a special occasion, he will write that down there too. However, the flyleaf is what holds the book block on the spine — and so it had to go while I was deconstructing the original book. Clearly, the signature had to be preserved: I’m sure he still wants to know that he got the book from his friend Ada on the occasion of his 37th birthday.
A flyleaf is double the width of the book block: one side is glued to the book block and the other side to the cover boards. Tearing off the flyleaves meant that I was left with one half of a flyleaf from both the front and back, because there’s no way you can get the other half of the flyleaf cleanly off the cover: they’re meant to stick to those boards!
So what I did is take the two halves that were left, and reconstruct a new flyleaf from those two halves. This meant at least the front flyleaf (which is what you see when you open the book) is ‘authentic’ — including the signature! For the back flyleaf, I simply cut a new one from paper that was of roughly the right colour.
You can see that the left side is slightly damaged — the price I had to pay for keeping the original flyleaf.

To add to the book, I created a case for it. The same colour linen as I used for the spine, with a nice decorative pattern in a greenish beige on the inner cover paper:

And this is the book in the case. The whole book fits inside the case, but the two ‘holes’ allow you a firm grip of the book when taking it out. The text on the front (“Fairy tales from all countries”) is a slightly enlarged version of the text on the cover, in red foil.

This project was two years in the making. I’m glad we went through with it, and I’m sure my father will like the result. This book is good to go for another 45 years!

Wedding album

Our colleague Jeroen was getting married to his beloved Elise, and we were invited! The gift suggestion was an envelope with money — very practical, something we did for our own wedding as well. But I wanted to give a personal gift as well — but I was quite sure that they weren’t waiting for well-meant junk. So we offered to make them a reception album.
At our wedding, we had a notebook lying around, and of course it’s very nice to have people write and draw in it — but at the end of the day, it’s still only a notebook. By offering a hand-bound reception album, we could give this particular aspect of their wedding a bit more ‘cachet’. And Jeroen and Elise liked the idea, so off we went.
Their invitation consisted of red text on white paper, folded in a dark-grey envelope. The envelope had a red metallic foil stamp on it as well. We looked at our extensive collection of paper, and found that we could match those colors for the book and the book box that we were going to make for it. We did have to order red metallic foil, but once that was in, I could put their names (in the same font as on their invitation!) in red foil on the front of the box.

I’m too lazy to re-upload all the photos and translate all the text. It’s all on, along with more (Dutch) explanation.

They liked it, and that’s why we did it. And yes, we also made a reception album for the upcoming wedding of luna_puella, but that one is very different from this one. (And of course I’ll upload photo’s of that one after the wedding too!)

Magic wallet

Last Tuesday was the first lesson of the advanced bookbinding course. There’s only four of us, but that means plenty of coaching from the teacher, and the mood is great. The first project is a so-called ‘magic wallet’, and of course we lacked the time to finish it completely during the lesson — so I got some homework. I just finished it, and I took a little video to show you my handiwork.