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Metal Binding Techniques

While I enjoyed all the anthropodermic jokes about beating the subject to
death, I can't get away with another one by the skin of my teeth, so I'll
move on to Peter's requested topic of metal binding techniques.

I made a 24 ga. limp copper binding a few years - sewn on cords with
exposed terminal cord attachment, an alum-tawed perimeter and goat skin
spine. The challenge there was to see if I could take the limp vellum/paper
structure and apply it to a metal binding. It worked very well, acting more
like a paper wrapper than I would have imagined. I field tested it for a
year - it served as my1992 calendar - by keeping it in my back pocket. The
structure held up quite well and the metal was flexible enough to mould to
my butt. I made a patina of urine, salt and water - very nice mellow greens
and blues. More subtle than commercial grade ammonia.

I've also done a lot of sterling and nickle silver work as well as brass. I
photo-etch designs and logos into the metal, and additionally work them
with stamps and punches.

The biggest "secret" was learning how to affix a metal panel to board,
cloth or leather. I've found two methods, very simple and quite old. First,
the mechanical attachment - hammer escutcheon pins through metal to
substrate or bend the ends of the metal around the substrate. The second
method uses adhesive - but that's where the "secret" resides. Try putting
PVA or paste onto the metal surface and you'll be thwarted by every trick
you can think of. Put away the sandpaper and get out the shellac. This
coating quickly dries to create a surface that will accept adhesive. I've
found PVA does the trick quite well - but paste isn't as strong.

If you want your metal to stay put after you've adhered it, cut a recess
into the substrate - board or wood and press the metal into the vacated
space. This will put the metal below the surface and reduce the chances of
it getting caught on something - your finger for instance.

I'm currently working on a series of wedding albums - 12" square - covered
in copper or silver. It's very hard to get 28 - 30 ga. metal in larger than
12" and you can imagine how expesive it would be to make a special run for
only a few sheets of 14" square metal. I solved this problem nicely - the
leather spine will take care of one direction as I only need 10" or so to
complete the turn - in. But the head to tail measurement was still 14" and
can't be reduced enough to suit my needs. So, I took 12" wide sheet copper
- it comes on a 100' roll, bought the amount needed and cut up the pieces.
After photo engraving the family name on the cover, I took the pieces of
copper to a plating company anf for $20/pc. I had them plated with sterling
silver. They polished up beautifully, and the books will look great when
I'm done.

There are a variety of smithing techniques that are easily learned for any
competent craftsperson, and the technology is as old - some of it older
than bookbinding. So, have fun and get hammered with your metal bindings!


Nicholas G. Yeager 51 Warren St.#2 NY, NY 10007 212.346.9609

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