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[BKARTS] Book Plow

A plow, properly sharpened, aligned, and handled, will do a better job of
trimming than a cutter (guillotine). A chief advantage is the fact that one
can trim a truly minute amount with a plow, whereas most cutters require a
minimum bite of 2 mm or more. Not to mention the fact that most commercial
binders and printers are not too concerned with always keeping their blades
nick free (much easier to keep a plow blade in shape); the nicks on
guillotine blades leave those arc shaped marks on book edges, a real pain to
scrape or sand away. And of course a plow weighs much less and requires much
less space than even a small table top guillotine.
Bannister's plans are as good as you will find for a fixed knife plow. The
design, allowing for wood versus metal screw (and no reason not to do metal),
has not really changed for hundreds of years. The exposed length of a fixed
knife (as in Bannister) determines the width of book edge that you can trim;
an adjustable knife gives a wider range of options, but requires more parts,
specifically machined. Any plow, to be truly useful, must be rather precisely
constructed. Everything square, parallel, razor sharp, etc. Deviations yield
really awful cut edges and a lot of frustration.
If you do make your own plow, consider having a machine shop make your
blades, say 20 mm wide by 3 mm thick by your length (usually 100 to 150 mm),
of stainless steel. And do have several made at once. You will want a rounded
blade for cutting board, a pointed for trimming book edges, and spares for
You will have noted, I imagine, that a plow must be matched to some sort of
track in your lying press. This means either constructing or modifying a
press for the plow. Again, precision is important.
A final thought: purchased "professional" equipment tends to hold or increase
it's value much more than homemade, unless the homemade is the equivalent of
the professional. This may or may not be important to you. Good older plows
(usually with adjustable knives) show up rather frequently on eBay and seem
to sell in the $150 to $200 US price range. But if you've reasonable skills,
make your own. Best,

James Tapley
Hand Bookbinder
2077 Thirteenth Street
Sarasota, FL 34237
Tel 941 366 8248

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