Tuesday, January 22, 2008

photo adjustment

For the longest time I was frustrated with images that came out discolored. Especially the white ones. That crispy snow scene or drawing on white paper always ended up gray. This is the one click solution for those who can't or don't want to become involved in more complicated photo manipulation gymnastics.

First, to understand what causes the problem. The camera can only make two adjustments--how long the shutter is open and how wide the aperture opens. Of all the metering and measuring of color and brightness of a particular scene, in the end the camera can only accept one setting for shutter speed and one setting for aperture. It ends up being a game of assumptions and averages. The typical decent photo is assumed to have so much light and dark, which averages a certain amount of gray. To properly replicate this "classic" gray there is one setting for shutter and aperture. The computer in the camera is programmed to calculate the proper setting from its sensor readings of a scene. The game goes awry when a scene is not typical in color or light. In the case of much white, the camera only knows to strive for an average gray, which pushes the white scene into grayness. Light sources cause the same problem. Camera sensors read natural light as cool and light bulb light as warm, but the problem is that the camera doesn't know when it is encountering which kind of light. This is the reason there is daylight and tungsten (light bulb) type films, and digital cameras have settings for inside and outside shooting.

Try to use the camera's adjustments first and use photo editing software for clean up. Most photo programs have an auto adjustment feature, and this feature can solve the majority of problems with one or two clicks. In photoshop I think there is an auto levels, auto color, and auto contrast. In paintshop pro it is called one-step photo fix under the adjustment drop down menu. The above images are a before/after example of one click editing. Image on the top is rather warm because of incandescent lighting. The lower image has been edited and is a closer match to the wood's natural color and canvas backdrop. Now try these simple adjustments on your snow scenes, drawings on white, and objects sitting in front of light colored backdrops.

In a real hurry? Try using the camera's built in flash and see if you can live with the front-on lighting. Colors are usually accurate, because the camera is calibrated to the flash, so it knows what to expect.

Monday, January 14, 2008

library call number

I recently found that I have a library call number. Do a google search for this number:

N7433.4.B535 B66 2005

This is pretty cool. It's sort of permanent. This is a reason I am a strong advocate of participation. Get out and be seen.

Side note. They describe the work as "inaccessible." I lean more towards difficult, but accessible--potential.


I built this cradle from masonite/hardboard and parts of my mother's fence. This construction is lightweight, but sturdy enough for the work I dedicate to it.

Some of my design considerations. All angles are square, so if I'm setting up a project that needs to be square I don't need to make additional measurements. One side of the cradle is taller than the other so it supports smaller and larger sized projects. Note that the stack of paper in the cradle is only a stack of paper to show how I would clamp a book block in place. There is a 6 inch wide piece of masonite on top of the book block to distribute clamp pressure.

Approximate dimensions: accommodates 12 3/4 inch tall signature, short side 6 inches, tall side 12 inches.

Next cradle will fold into a box for carrying bookbinding tools. And maybe I'll make extra ones to sell in my etsy shop.


left to right. mechanical pencil, x-acto retractable razor knife, stainless mess hall knife, bone folder, steel burnisher, Starrett dividers.

These are tools that are always out when I'm working on books. Sometimes when I'm only drawing I have them out just because I like them so much. Other tools like brushes, needles, and pallet knives have special jobs and come out when needed, but the above tools are always at hand. Of particular note is the dinner knife and burnisher. The knife has a long, unserated cutting edge that is sharp enough to leave a clean cut when going through a folded sheet of paper but isn't so sharp that the cut wanders from the fold in the paper. Find the knife you like, and it will make a permanent move from the kitchen to the toolbox. The steel burnisher is from E.C. Lyons's line of printmaking tools. I use the burnisher when the bone folder is too big for a burnishing job. Nothing beats the burnisher for precise scoring of paper and cardstock. Need to insert a dab of glue into a corner or under a loose edge of fabric--the burnisher gets the job (tiny painting knife might do the glue job better, but it is usually still in the toolbox). Be careful when first using the steel tool on paper and fabric. It is not forgiving. The price of precision.

I prefer to buy a tool once. I consider the higher cost of good tools a professional investment. The saying about getting what you pay is especially true for tools. I stamp or etch my good tools with the statement--stolen from eb.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


I've heard stories that explain where rainbows come from and where they go. I have never seen an upside down rainbow. What is the significance of this?

I couldn't get a wide enough view to put this phenomenon in relation to anything. The sun is in the direction of the lower right corner of the image.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

paper tear bar

A good as time as any to talk about the paper tear bar that I use. I have a new shorter version on its way from Takach Press, so I probably have tear bar on the brain. This is my all around favorite tear bar for tearing, drawing, and cutting. When it first arrived a few years back I was a little disappointed, because it seemed a little lightweight compared to the one I used in school. The school tear bar was probably twice as thick with a beveled edge. I like hefty tools. I soon figured out that the secret to the Takach bar is in the folded edge. The cutting edge is ever so slightly lower than the rest of the bar, so as the bar rests on the paper a large part of its weight is concentrated at the tear line. The results are a tear bar that just does not move--even when tearing thin strips of paper.

The only negative I can come up with is something that can be seen in the below photo of the two pieces of torn paper. I made the torn edge on the left with the conventional tear bar. Note the typical "burr" (the reason we tear paper from the back). The Takach tear is on the right. The Takach bar puts so much pressure at the tear line that it leaves a slight footprint next to the paper burr. In the photo what I am calling the footprint looks like a slight shadow next to the burr. Some people may consider this more unsightly than the usual tear. I consider it a reasonable price to pay for the extra stability of the bar. And besides the tear should be on the back of the paper. Book pages don't have back sides, but when it comes to book pages I'm usually folding and cutting paper with a knife, or sanding the edges.

The stability of this tear bar is also useful for cutting binders board, and the raised folds of the bar are a little extra barrier between blade and fingers. The raised folds are perfect for my application of drawing multiple sets of lines. The ridge guides my hand and pencil/pen just a fraction of an inch from the edge of the bar. I have a video I'll post one of these days that shows how I draw the lines.

Post a reply if you have a preferred paper tear bar that you like using. I'm especially interested in finding the source of other quality models out there.

Friday, January 4, 2008

the plan

I made this blog as the sibling to the shop I've set up at etsy. That being said, this doesn't necessarily mean I only plan to cover the topic of books bound by hand which is the current emphasis of the shop. I am versed in other topics as well. And I may be even better at asking questions, so questions will also be within the parameters of the discussion. The disclaimer is this: saying I'm versed in a subject does not necessarily mean I know anything about it. My claim is this: I am an authority on what I have done and seen. Most of the time.

I have no secrets as to how I do things. I will cover processes and ideas as they come up or as others bring them up. Eureka is a common part of my work. The majority of my eurekas may be as simple as finding that something actually works as described in the owners manual or recipe. A eureka is as much a good find, so I am here to endorse and pass along good finds as I run across or remember them.

That is the plan.

In keeping with the plan, I'll go ahead and make my first endorsement. Visit the Bookbinding Etsy Street Team site. Yes, this is about commerce, but this is especially a group of people willing to help one another with advice and ideas. Competitors working hand in hand. It's not a new concept, but its always refreshing to see it in work. You'll find me there too.