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Re: Metal Binding Techniques

Hi all

I'm a metalworker, working with patinaed brass (and some copper) in
so-called real life, and for the moment bookbinding is just a hobby.
But I've worked the two together in four books so far.  Yes, I have the
equipment to do fancier patinas (though most just require some
chemicals, a torch--a cheap propane torch from the hardware store would
do in a pinch--and VENTILATION) and have the materials convenient to
hand.  But it's not something anyone should shy from.

Personally, I had little difficulty adhering boards to metal with PVA.
However, adhering a heavy paper spine (quarter-paper binding on
green-black patinaed brass boards) or, lord help us, quarter-vellum on
heat-red copper...THAT was hellish.  I'll have to try the shellac.

I also tried one of Keith Smith's exposed spine bindings with a thin
(.020") metal spine plate (and covers to match) glued on to a heavy
paper cover (yeah, I know, it violates the non-adhesive concept of the
thing, but I really didn't feel like making hinges for it) then sewn
through an insane number of specially drilled (and carefully de-burred)

Anyone want an easy, cheap, very dramatic RED and redorange torch patina
(with some gray, black, orange, occasionally green bits)?  It needs a
torch (a blowtorch head for a hand propane tank will work unless you've
got really thick copper), or a kiln, and copper, and borax.

The idea is to heat the copper up, and let it cool fairly slowly (some
say you can quench it--I haven't decided whether that makes it better or
worse or easier or harder) without contact with the air.  Get copper
(brass won't work--also, until you know what's going on, get something
thicker than, say 18 gauge, and don't use it in a flexible application
like Nicholas Yeager's limp copper binding).  Get Borax--from your
grocery store: it's in the detergent section, and it's cheap, but only
comes in big boxes, so if you already have some for your laundry or
whatever, so much the better.

*Wear eye protection when you use a torch.

Take a small amount of borax, like a teaspoon, and dissolve it
(partially is fine) in water (like a couple of tablespoons), to make a
very liquid slurry.  Brush this thinly over the copper.  If it looks
like you're hardly even leaving any water on the plate, that's what you
want.  In a well-ventilated area, if possible in dim light, on very heat
resistant surface (not, not, NOT concrete), heat the plate from one side
till it just begins to glow (keep careful watch if you're in bright
light outdoors).  Let it cool.  If you don't like the color, heat it
till it glows again.  All steps of this are quite forgiving.

If it doesn't work a few times, recoat it, then reheat it.  If you come
out with flaky black stuff as it cools,  you should increase the borax
concentration, or the amount applied (but check the look first--without
any borax to keep the oxygen off, the brown mottled colors can be very
nice, too, but they may require more care (or wax or lacquer) than other
patinas. If you put on LOTS of borax, it will fuse to glass on the
surface, and can occasionally be interesting, but often the borax (even
sometimes small granules left behind) will attract water from the
atmosphere and produce salt blooms.  Definitely NOT archival, but you
shouldn't consider any patina you ever find even remotely archival in
contact with other binding materials, nor any metal for that matter
except nonreactives--gold, stainless steel, titanium and the like.

If you have access to a gas-fired potter's kiln, you should be able to
get very even reds without borax at all, simply by heating the copper
with a REDUCING atmosphere, up to its annealing point.  You can look up
the annealing heat of copper, or you can write and ask me, and I'll look
it up.  I have not actually tried this, but it seems it should work
well; if anyone out there does try it, tell me about how it works.

If anyone's interested in some of the easier chemical/torch patinas, I
know several of the least toxic (though none is as easy or as cheap or
as non-toxic as the one above, which may not really be classed as a
patina).  Write me and I can give you some recipies, all are well tried
on brass, and all should work okay on copper and bronze.

If you get to the point of being willing to invest some money in
patination, the patina Bible is Hughes and Rowe's _The Colouring,
Bronzing, and Patination of Metals_.  It is beyond compare; it's pretty
widely available, too--even Amazon.com has it(!), if you don't see it


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