I was given a great big box of old woodtype sorts that have been sitting on the shelf in my workshop glowering at me to do something useful with so I succumbed today and laid them all out on the Farley.

Most of them had some kind of accent on them and there were way many more vowels than consonants and after scratching my head for a time, I realised that there was no way was I going to make any meaningful words out of them but they would be great for making decorative paper for use as either wrapping paper or for bookbinding projects. Slow going though... Each sheet had to be put through twice as my proofing press isn't quite big enough. Anybody like to give me a bit of time on a Vandercook?


Fun morning spent with talented graphic designer helloimnik getting inky and generally enthusing about letterpress. Managed to come up with a quick inspirational poster. You can read more here.


As usual, I've been neglecting the blog in favour of making recently and I've got fed up of looking at the picture of the elephant shit so it's time to update on recent projects. First up was a poster for a mate whose father-in-law was about to have a 90th birthday party and thought some traditional vintage style posters would be a good thing to send out instead of the usual invites.

Then there's the local Flower and Produce Show in our town where they like to pretend to take it all very seriously as they judge the size of each other's melons and look for runny albumens in the hen-laid eggs but it's really all very tongue-in-cheek and therefore time to break out the wood type and even try my hand at linocuts and come up with a striking poster for the event. Limited edition copies will be sold in aid of Save The Children on the day.

Another mate runs a very successful singing and community choir business and as part of this does a thing called Blokefest where men (clue's in the title) gather together to camp in a field, conveniently near or attached to a pub, and partake of singing workshops and other liquid activities. I made them some posters to decorate the marquee.

Finally I thought it time to combine the bookbinding and letterpress and try and knock up some little pocket notebooks with my own printed covers. I'm going to make a set of three and have done the first one with the covers printed on the Peerless on recycled kraft and hand sewn. Ideas welcome for other lyrics-inspired covers.

The Arab's getting its new rollers and trucks this week so I'm itching to get cracking on that. After all this time and restoration, it'll be great to see it printing again.


Been off the blog for a few weeks as I've been away on holiday to Sri Lanka. We booked it in the dark depths of last February and it made a wonderful respite from the wind, rain and general winter gloom of the UK. Amid all the Buddhist temples, sacred cities, whale watching, gob-smacking landscapes, wonderfully friendly people and general loveliness of the place was the must-see attraction for a paperwallah - The Pinnawala Elephant Dung Paper Factory. 

It's a fascinating place and one of a number of similar concerns in the area between Colombo and Kandy where former working elephants are cared for. This was linked to the Millennium Elephant Foundation which seemed less of a tourist magnet than the nearby Elephant Orphanage. Here's a quick gallery of images and if anyone's interested, I'll be posting loads more general pics of Sri Lanka on my Flickr stream when I've trawled through them all.

Letterpress progress

I posted ages ago that myself and a mate had acquired some old letterpress machinery and were in the process of restoring it. Progress has been slow but we've had a bit of a push recently and managed to get the Arab mostly apart and light enough to manoeuvre and thus start to clean and restore.


I just love the Victorian attention to detail - there's even a full stop!

The aim is to keep the bookbinding and letterpress elements of the paperwallah empire separate but complementary so I'm going to set up an offshoot of this blog to devote to the print side in the next few weeks.

Meanwhile I've also been hitting eBay hard and built up a rudimentary collection of the various paraphernalia required to start printing such as quoins, chases, setting sticks, furniture, lead cutters, type cases and a ton of what is known as "printer's pie" (ie unsorted type) which is keeping me occupied as I sort it.


I also got hold of a lovely old small press called a Charlton and Cropper "Peerless" which doesn't seem to need as much restoration as the Arab and should be in printing fettle in the next month or so. It prints with an 8"x 5" chase so is perfect for postcards, small greetings and business cards.

Travel journal time

Thought it was time for some new input so went along to Simon Goode's fabulous London Centre for Book Arts in Hackney and took part in another of their inspirational workshops. This one was about making a classic travel journal.


Taught by the very talented Benjamin Elbel, we chose our cloths, cut our boards, painstakingly rounded our corners, carefully measured our spine widths, folded over our turn-ins, glued our ends, cased in our book blocks, tensioned our elastic closures, constructed our gussetted pockets and nipped the finished books.


Here's the finished item...

...and here's another I made myself once I got back to my bindery. This one's in black and red only this time I folded and sewed the sheets myself rather than use a bought-in book block.


If anyone wants me to make them one as a gift for a friend, please let me know. You can contact me on make-me-a-book@paperwallah.co.uk.

BABE 2013

BABE signBeen a long time since I blogged but I've been insulating my workshop and making it more habitable and hopefully keeping all my papers from curling and some of my books from warping which has been a bit of a curse recently. All done now so I'm back on the binding and what a better way to get back into the swing than a visit to the Arnolfini in Bristol to the Artists Book event. Fascinating day and had some great conversations with some lovely people and saw some inspiring stuff. Hi to everyone there.BABE 3


Another gift

Eventually I'm going to have to break this pattern of notebook after notebook but here's one I made earlier. This is for a mate who's solidly into quizzes and is a member of our quiz league team. The bookcloth is sepia brown and it has matching endpapers, head/tail bands and ribbon marker. The casewrap is Curwen T Lowinsky Tan from Shepherds. It's half bound with reinforced corners which take far longer to get right than you'd think. I can never seem to get the casewrap positioned absolutely right around the corners - no matter how accurate I think my template is and the likelihood of getting glue on the cloth is heightened immeasurably. I wasn't 100% happy with this one - as well as the slightly wonky half binding, I ended up overtrimming the book block which resulted in larger "squares" (the bit of the caseboard which overhangs the text pages). Tom didn't seem to notice and called it "a work of art". I wouldn't go that far but he was pleased so all good. Maybe I'm too finicky.

Crossword time

Not posted for a while but I've not been completely inactive. Had a few commissions for personalised notebooks and also have been busy making up stock for a local community enterprise which have been selling steadily. Here's one of the commissions done for a friend's wife's Dad (that close eh?) who's a bit of a crossword addict. The observant among you will recognise immediately that the pattern on the front is made up of the Guardian Weekend Magazine Crossword from June 6th 2012 but I'm a bit clueless and don't have all the answers I'm afraid. It was scanned and duped in InDesign and then output on my laser printer onto a laid writing paper sheet to give it some texture. Still a little nervous about doing that as I'm not completely happy that the image is permanent enough but my inkjet printer did not give me a sharp enough image so I'd be happy if someone could suggest a way of fixing or protecting laser toner. I halfbound the book (ie added cloth on the foredge corners) to make it more durable

I also personalised the title page with a pic supplied by the customer posterised in Photoshop and output on my swanky Epson inkjet printer in grey. I am keen that the personalisation of my books is permanently a part of the book fabric and not just stuck on as an afterthought. My title pages are sewn into the first signature of the book and glued to the tipped on endpapers.

From all this....

The component parts of one of my notebooks: Japanese Chiyogama paper (background), then clockwise from top left - 2mm binding boards for front, back and spine; artists' cartridge paper for each endpaper; kraft paper for spine lining; mull to reinforce spine; head and tail band; ribbon marker; folded sections plus printed title page (which can be personalised); linen sewing tapes; linen sewing thread and book cloth for quarter binding.

I could use less material and dispense with the tapes and possibly the kraft spine lining but I don't like to scrimp and I'd hate it if one fell apart.

To this...

The completed book made from the parts above. I'll post some more pictures of the process in the next few days and I'll also show some pics of how it's done in mass hand assembly in China as a contrast.

My other press

As well as the Arab Platen, here's the real essential bookbinding tool - my cast iron book press. I'm using it as a logo device on my business cards and promotional bookmarks.

Back to the binding

It's been some time since I last added to this blog but I've been busy with a publishing trade show in Italy and now that's over I can post some of my recent notebooks. Here's a few more I made - A5, quarter bound with real cloth and Shepherds decorative papers. I exhibited at a recent Made in Bradford exhibition for local crafts people. Much interest and admiration but sadly no sales...

Arrival of the Arab

Thought it was time for a change from pictures of my notebooks.
Just been away for 10 days on a business trip to Hong Kong and China visiting printers and binders, mainly of children's books. I'll post some pictures of how books are mass produced by hand later when I've managed to sort through them all but in the meantime got back early Friday morning to find this beauty in my workshop!
It's an early 20th century Arab Platen Letterpress printing machine - a classic of its kind. I'm looking after it for a mate and we're going to hopefully restore it back to full working order so I can print my title pages etc by proper letterpress. Very excited about it but hoping it won't distract me too much from the hand binding. I've got a showcase exhibition coming up at the beginning of March for handmade goods in our town called "Made in Bradford" so I need to finish at least another 15-20 notebooks.

Watch this space.

Musical Interlude

This one just finished for a friend who has a business running community choirs. It's A5 (210 x 147mm), half bound in durable black buckram with black endpapers and a personalised title page. The case wrap is an old sheet of piano music I found in a junk shop in Pembrokeshire which has just the right sort of creamy aged tone to it.