Skip to content

Scrub Oak Bindery

January 20, 2009

A couple months ago (a month after returning from West Dean), I started working for Ethan Ensign at Scrub Oak Bindery. He called me up because he had more work than he and Annette could finish on time for the Christmas rush. (Annette and I used to work together at the Conservation Lab at BYU and now she’s also working for Ethan). Scrub Oak mostly does book conservation and restoration projects, but Ethan also will take occasional binding projects.

I started the job thinking of it as a temporary thing–I could keep my hands busy while I look for work in an institution–but it’s turning out to be good work experience and a friendly environment. So while I figure out what I want to do next, I’ll be at Scrub Oak.

The following photographs are from the first project I was asked to work on.

The client wanted four sets of LDS scriptures to be bound with stiff boards and leather. So new scriptures were purchased and promptly removed from their bindings. most of the outer folds then had to be guarded (mended with strips of Japanese repair tissue). That alone took a couple weeks. Then the books were ready to be sewn on double raised cords (as pictured above and below). A concertina (fan-folded paper or cloth) was sewn around the first and last several sections to add strength to the sewing/structure, as well as to protect the pages from the glue.

the books were then glued, rounded and backed. Then the spine was lined with several layers of handmade paper:

Headbands were sewn by hand (using silk thread which is woven around a stiffened hemp or linen cord)

Next the boards were attached to the book, and the leather was cut to a template of the book and prepared (pared).

The books were then covered in leather and tied up in a press to ensure that the leather adhered to the spine and was nice and tight around the raised bands. (While most modern books have hollow spines where the leather is not adhered to the spine, this structure, which is more traditional to older bindings is called a tightback).

Once the leather had dried, the books were polished and tooled. These bindings should last several hundred years. Below are the final books:

I did most of the preparatory work, then two were sewn and covered by me, another by Ethan, and another by Annette–so it was a pretty satisfying group effort.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Sarah permalink
    January 20, 2009 2:21 pm

    Hi Lili,

    It’s great to see what you’ve been up to. Those books look beautiful!

    Sarah x

  2. January 20, 2009 3:55 pm

    Looks fabulous.

  3. John Bradley permalink
    January 21, 2009 8:34 pm

    That is so awesome. Very beautiful. Just out of curiosity was the book just the four standard works of the LDS church (Old and New Testament, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price? I can’t believe what an amazing talent and art form this is. I would love to own a book like this that I truly treasured, but being the lowly college student that I am greatly doubt that I could afford the process.

    Keep up the amazing work. What a talent that you have.

    Kind Regards,

    John Bradley

  4. Lili permalink*
    January 21, 2009 10:50 pm

    John–
    Yep, they’re LDS quads!

  5. January 26, 2009 7:40 pm

    i just found your blogs via momentile – this book binding info is really cool! i’ll keep checking it out.

  6. Lili permalink*
    January 26, 2009 8:06 pm

    Megan–very cool that you found me, thanks for visiting!

  7. Susan Peacock permalink
    March 2, 2009 8:12 am

    I am learning bookbinding in New Zealand. I came across your website by chance and look forward to more on it.

  8. March 12, 2009 12:03 am

    Dera Lili,

    Beautiful work, its lovely to see our old craft still thriving. We ourselves have a young lady coming to the end of her BA, at LCC.

    Glad to see a client that apprecitates the time involved to complete old craft methods, and the respective costs.

    As an old craft hand bookbinder, I will try to follow your future projects progess.

    David Stevens

  9. PatriciaTrathen permalink
    January 13, 2013 6:06 pm

    How do I get in touch with Mr. Ensign to see if he can help me? I live in SLC and have two 40 year old out of print books that need some repair. I want to give them as gifts and want them to be the best they can be. My phone is 801-565-9100. Thank you. Patricia Trathen

  10. October 11, 2013 7:17 am

    once again, beautiful artistry, what are the chords on the sewing frame made of, and how to you get the leather to such a beautiful high shine?

    learning so much by just rolling through your blog. Love it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: