North Bennet Street School Workshops

Yet more study opportunities in New England…

The updated catalogue of NBSS workshops is now online on the school’s website,

Quoting from the online listing:  “Lots of excitement in the Bookbinding arena this spring and summer. Tom Conroy and Shanna Leino join us for toolmaking workshops, Linda Lembke explores the properties of paper, the ever-popular Peter Geraty returns for Edge Gilding and Hot Stamping work, and Hélène Jolis is coming from France to lead a leather decoration workshop.”

One example of the rare opportunities to be found at North Bennet this session includes a course on cutting finishing tools with Tom Conroy.  There is very limited space available so New England Chapter members are advised to check this out ASAP.

Cutting Bookbinder’s Finishing Tools
Saturday and Sunday, March 14-15, 2009
Tom Conroy, Instructor

Brass finishing tools are expensive necessities for the hand binder.  Some tools can be well made by the binder, some are best bought new, and some (whether elegant in body and face or merely adequate) may be acquired used.  By making a line, a gouge, and a leaf tool students will learn all the filing, engraving, and mounting techniques needed for toolcutting, and will gain a basis for judging other tools.  They will understand how to make tools for particular bindings, repair battered or worn tools, or fill in incomplete used sets.  Acquiring, and judging the quality, of old and new tools will be discussed.  The tuition includes a materials fee for some supplies and tools: for the most part, students are expected to provide their own hand tools. 

You may register for this, or any of the other upcoming NBSS workshops, online in the workshops section at  Contact the workshops coordinator, Jourdan Abel, for more information: or 617-227-0155.

Garage Annex School 2009

The following is forwarded from our friends at the Garage Annex School in Northampton, MA.  An interesting line up of workshops for 2009 and a new six week “summer institute.”
We are pleased to announce that the 2009 workshop schedule is now live on our newly revamped web site at  Please visit the site and browse through the workshop program. You may also be interested in our new Summer Institute. 
The subject of the 2009 Summer Institute is leather bookbinding, including design techniques such as leather onlay and dyeing, gold tooling, and stamping. Students will produce full leather bindings as well as a series of models at various stages of completion. This is a six-week, full-time curriculum of study. Students should expect to work some evening and weekend hours. Because the Summer Institute will welcome up to twelve students for the six-week period we have arranged to provide meals and lodging at the residential housing of nearby Williston Northampton School.
The GAS Summer Institute is fully described on its own web page at:

The Plane on the Bindery Floor


The Bookbinder by Jost Amman
The Bookbinder by Jost Amman

The Plane on the Bindery Floor

Woodworking Tools in Jost Amman’s Woodcut of “The Bookbinder” (1568)
Lecture/Demonstration by Tom Conroy
March 10, 2009.  6 PM
North Bennet Street School
Boston, MA

In the first known drawing of a binder’s studio, half the tools are for working wood. Making the wooden boards of a Medieval or Renaissance book took a great deal of skill and time, but this aspect of historical binding technique is often glossed over. In this talk the tools shown in Jost Amman’s drawing will be demonstrated and discussed, with emphasis on the tools used for working wood, the marks they leave, how they differ from modern tools, and related topics like the advantages and disadvantages of wooden boards and how modern sawmill practice results in inferior boards for books. 

The New England Chapter is proud to co-sponsor this event with North Bennet Street School.  For planning purposes RSVP to Jourdan Abel at 617-227-0155 extension 102, or by email at

About the Presenter
Tom Conroy is a book restorer, binding historian, fine binder, and toolmaker specializing in the making and repair of wooden presses. His main benchwork training, after two decades as a self-taught amateur binder, was with Anne and Theodore Kahle at Capricornus from 1981 to 1988. He holds an MLIS from the University of California at Berkeley, and did work there toward and MS in Wood Science and Technology. He has published extensively on the history, materials, tools, and techniques of bookbinding and book conservation, and he has taught workshops all over the country. He is currently affiliated with the Museum of the American Bookbinder  in San Francisco, where he describes his position as “one of the exhibits.”

Maine Media Workshops

I am forwarding the following information of interest to New England Chapter members:

Maine Media Workshops announces Winter & Spring 2009 classes in Design & Books Arts

Now in its 35th year as an international school for photography, filmmaking, and multimedia, the Workshops, located in the harbor village of Rockport, Maine, has introduced a series of classes for book and related media artists. Our lineup of workshops for the winter and spring season include:

Introduction to Bookbinding with Amanda Nelsen
Jan 25 – 31 and Apr 12 – 18

The Embellished Page with Jan Owen
Feb 1 – 7

Books, Art & Technology with Tara Law
Mar 3 – 14

Lettering in Graphic Design with Lance Hidy
Mar 15 – 21

Word & Image
Mar 22-28

Photographic Portfolio Box Making with Amanda Nelsen
Mar 22 – 28

Introduction to Letterpress Printing with Elias Roustom
Apr 5-11

Letterpress Projects with Elias Roustom
Apr 12-18

Apr 26-May 2

Apr 26 – May 2

For complete course descriptions and registration information, please visit the Book Arts section at:  or email to

Thank you for forwarding this information to artists in your community.

Paper Potluck

Saturday December 20, 2008
10am to 4pm
Newton, MA 

New England Chapter members,
Join us for a glimpse of Sid Berger’s spectacular decorated paper collection. Sid and his wife Michele Cloonan have been building their treasury for decades— a day will hardly be enough to absorb it all.  The collection includes a sample dating from 740 from Japan, proto-papers such as papyrus and parchment, a prodigious assortment of marbled papers, including Japanese marbling antecedent to Western marbling, and much more.  He also has a library of approximately 2,500 books on the subject.  This event will also be an opportunity to celebrate the holidays and catch up with fellow New England Chapter members.  A light brunch will be served, and we will be have a potluck lunch.

This event will be limited to 20 people- be sure to register soon as spots will fill up quickly.  New England Chapter members will have priority in reservations.  Directions will be sent directly to registrants. 

RSVP to our Events Coordinator, Christina Amato:

Inspired Design

Inspired Design: The Mentoring Stamp
August 10 through December 20, 2008

Book Arts Gallery, Neilson Library
Smith College
Northampton, MA

EXHIBIT CLOSES DECEMBER 20, 2008.  Last chance to see the set book exhibition based on Lance Hidy’s Designing the Mentoring Stamp, published by Kat Ran Press and bound by members of the New England Chapter of the Guild of Book Workers. Complemented by an exhibition of designs and progressive proofs of stamps by Lance Hidy.

The show was curated by Barbara B. Blumenthal and Barbara Adams Hebard, and has been well received by all.  Articles on the exhibit have appeared in a number of publications helping the work to reach a very wide audience.  Several books from the show have sold, adding yet another measure of a successful exhibit. 


A beautiful catalog is available from Smith College’s Mortimer Rare Book Room.
Please contact:
Barbara Blumenthal

For more information see

Jeff Peachey On the Fine Art of Knife Sharpening

Bookbinder, conservator, and toolmaker, with a dash of the mad inventor in him, Jeff Peachey is certainly a man of many talents.  I first heard of him from fellow bookbinder Jeff Altepeter, whom as a proud owner of many a Peachey knife, had nothing but the highest praise for the quality of his tools.  Consequently, it was with great excitement that I finally met the man in person and bought one of his knives at the Guild of Book Workers Centennial Celebration. After several months now of using a Peachey French knife, I can now count myself as one of the scores of Jeff Peachey fans throughout the bookbinding world.  It was thus a pleasant surprise to find out that he would be teaching a workshop on knife sharpening at none other than the North Bennet Street School where I am currently a student.

In addition to knife sharpening, Jeff also demonstrated the use of his newly improved board slotting machine the Thursday night before the workshop.  He began the evening with a review of the history of board slotting and an explanation of the benefits of board slotting.  These benefits can be broken down as follows:  1) improved operability, 2) strong adhesion on three sides, 3) the hinge is in the center of the board, and 4) the chance of damaging the pastedown is lessened.  He also explored the different kinds of slotting structures with accompanying drawings and schemata.  Finally, we all went down to the basement to view a demonstration of the Peachey slotting machine and a description of its uses and improvements.

The next morning, nine of us gathered in NBSS’ workshop space to begin our knife-sharpening spree. Jeff introduced the workshop with a forty-five minute talk on the basics of knife sharpening and an explanation of the grit systems, sizes, and uses.  He proceeded to then give us a tour of the machines we would be using in order to make and sharpen our blades.  Jeff brought four of his own machines for us to work with, a buffer for general shaping of the blade and rough sanding down of the edges, a 1×42 Vertical Belt Sander, a 4×36 Belt Sander usually intended for wood, and a Grizzley a.k.a. the poor man’s Tormek.   It was with these machines and subsequent micron grits that we were to make and sharpen our knives.  The tour of the machines was then followed by a detailed demonstration of the sharpening process.

To start the demonstration, Jeff spoke to the primary sharpening problems that plague bookbinders. According to Jeff, the solution to these problems can be easily remembered with the aid of the following mnemonic device: BITS, as in B for Burr, I for I wouldn’t round the bevel, if I were you, T for Thirteen degrees, and S for Scratches in the Metal.  To clarify the above, the burr is important in that you need to feel it before moving on to a finer grit.  I is rather obvious but T stands for the ideal degree the bevel should be for leather paring.  Finally, S or scratches in the metal refers to the necessity of ensuring that the scratch pattern creating by sanding extends to the cutting edge—slight changes in the direction of sharpening help to clarify the scratch patterns of each new grit.  If followed, these tips should take care of 99% of sharpening problems.

After addressing sharpening problems, Jeff began his actual demonstration of how to make a knife from blanks (in this case, Starret Red Stripe hacksaw blades).  In his own words, sharpening is “difficult to write down, explain, and is mainly subconscious.  It is usually taught by demonstration, practice and analysis of results.”  Indeed, the majority of the workshop was dedicated to practicing what was demonstrated and learning through doing.  That said, the steps he demonstrated are as follows:

  1. Use the buffing machine to take off teeth and paint from the blank.
  2. Because the blanks are dished out, use the sanding belt to flatten the back of the blade after buffing. You only need to worry about flattening about 1/18 of an inch in.
  3. Once the back is flattened, use sanding belt to create the bevel.  Jeff uses 40 or 60 US grit for this task.  For the purposes of leather paring, the bevel should be at 13°.  Hold the knife parallel to the jig and sharpen.  Before moving on, make sure that you can see and feel the burr and that it extends all the way across the blade edge.
  4. After working the burr back and forth, change to the 150 US grit and continue.  Remember that the coarse grits take the most time and that the angle on the bevel should be checked continuously.
  5. Once done with the 150 US grit and the machines, it’s time to move on to hand sharpening.  Jeff uses microfinishing film to hand sharpen his tools.  Generally, he starts with an 80 micron grit.  Using water, begin sharpening.  Start with the flat side and go the entire length of the microfinish film.  Be sure to hold the knife flat and parallel to the surface in order not to dish it out.  Check that the burr extends all the way across and that the scratches are parallel (bearing in mind the BITS tips!)
  6. Once satisfied, flip the knife over and test for the angle by shifting the bevel up and down and feeling for 13°.  As above, check for the burr and that the scratches are parallel before moving on to the next grit.
  7. Continue to do the same procedure are described above for the remaining grits.  Jeff’s progression of grits for the microfinishing film is 80, then 40, then 15 and finally 5 microns.
  8. The last step is to hone the blade. This is done by stropping both sides of the knife.  Stropping should be perpendicular to the cutting edge of the blade.  Jeff prefers to use green honing compound on horse butt strops.

As stated previously, once the demonstration was over, the rest of the workshop was devoted to the practice of knife sharpening.  It was incredibly exciting to be able to make our own knives and to realize how easy it really was to do so given the right equipment and direction.  As Jeff says, “sharpening is common sense, everybody can do it.”  And given the results of the workshop I attended, this is entirely true.  My thanks to Jeff Peachey for his patience and passion in conveying the finer points of knife sharpening!

Submitted by Alegria Barclay