Personalized Leather Pamphlet, Part III
We currently have our text block ready to go, our leather cover carved, stamped and dyed and we’re left with adding a snap and then sewing the pamphlet together. If you missed the previous parts, the last two posts include: Part I–preparing the text block and cutting the cover; Part II–carving the design and then dying and coloring the cover. Part III will finish it out with putting a finish on the cover, punching the spine holes, setting the snap and sewing the book.
Before moving into snaps and sewing, we need to finish the cover with some conditioner. There are a wide variety of finished you can put on a leather cover including spray varnish, liquid (paint on) varnish, and leather conditioner. For journals where I’ve used acrylic paints to color the design, I use a spray varnish because a paint on varnish or leather conditioner directly on the acrylic paint will smear it. I sometimes use the spray varnish first followed by the leather conditioner. Varnish is available in glossy, satin and matte, depending on what you need for the design. In this case, because I’ve used dyes and permanent markers, I’ve opted for leather conditioner.
My favorite conditioner is the Aussie Leather Conditioner by Fiebing. It’s a simple process–apply a thick slather of conditioner to the grain side of the leather and smear it around, let it sit for a few minutes and then wipe it off with a soft, clean cloth. This leaves a lovely sheet on the leather and helps protect it.
Setting the snap is another technique that I’ll be a bit vague about here. You need a punching tool, setting tools, and snaps, of course. I tend to be rather visual about my layouts–rather than measuring everything exactly, I’m more likely to eyeball it. To figure out where to put the snap, I usually lay the snap top on the leather (starting with the strap or flap) and eyeball what looks best. Then I press down with the snap and it makes a little indentation in the leather so I can see where to punch.
I didn’t take any photos of the setting process. It’s not a complicated process but it can be rather fiddly. Just make sure you’re using a firm surface, a solid hammer and have the snap parts lined up on the setting anvils properly. I think I went through four snaps before I got one to work because I was using a new surface and it just wasn’t providing the proper support for some reason.
Once the snap on the strap is set, you can determine where to set the snap on the front cover by placing the signature into the pamphlet and closing the strap. Make sure you pull the strap firmly but don’t make it too tight or the snap will have a tendency to pull apart when you close the book. When it looks right, press the snap into the front cover and, again, it will make a little indentation on the leather.
Once the snaps are done, it’s time to sew the book. The holes need to be punched first so that it’s possible to actually sew the book (3 holes for this pamphlet). I have sewn signatures before without first punching (by using the need to punch the holes as I was sewing) but that’s not a trick that will work on leather or the really thick pastel paper and 64-page signature.
I got this really nice handmade wooden cradle from someone on Etsy (their shop is empty so I’m not sure if they’re selling them there anymore) and it works well for most of the books I do. If I need a larger cradle or something, I just resort to using an old phone book.
Sewing a pamphlet is incredibly simple. You’re essentially doing three stitches and only need a pretty short piece of string. I think the “official” suggestion for length is two times the height of your book for a pamphlet but, again, I usually just eyeball it. Once you have your thread on your needle, the sewing starts in the center station. Go into the center station from the outside to the inside of the signature.
Run the needle up the page and exit through the first station at the top of the book.
Then bring the needle down the spine and enter into the third/bottom station on the pamphlet.
The final “stitch” is back through the center station but this time you’re exiting from the inside of the signature to the outside of the book. Pull the thread through so that you’ve got a tail of thread on either side of the long stitch along the spine. That way, when you tie it off, the spine stitch is anchored by the tie.
Now, you simply tie it off, cut the ends and your pamphlet is sewn.
The inside of the pamphlet will show two “stitches” along the center page in the book.
Once the sewing is done, you can sit back and admire your work, basking in the satisfaction of having completed a project. And the pamphlet stitch can, of course, be used on just about any kind of material you care to use for a cover and signature. The main concern is to use a material that can withstand some handling since books are made to be used.
Again, if you have any questions about the overall project or would like more details on how I did a particular part, please feel free to contact me for more info.