Hello MA Book Design students, and welcome to the London Centre for Book Arts.
Based in what was once the heart of London’s print industry, the London Centre for Book Arts (LCBA) is an artist-run, open-access studio offering education programmes for the community and affordable access to resources for artists and designers.
The Centre’s mission is to foster and promote book arts and artist-led publishing in the UK through collaboration, education, distribution, and by providing open-access to printing, binding and publishing facilities. The unique facilities at LCBA are available to everyone regardless of background, education or experience.
After several years of planning and acquiring hard-to-find equipment and machinery, we established the studio in October 2012, becoming the first and only centre of its kind in the country. LCBA was founded and is run by artists Simon Goode and Ira Yonemura.
Here’s a short film to introduce you to the studio and the sorts of things we do here:
The facilities at London Centre for Book Arts include a comprehensive range of tools and equipment for bookbinding, letterpress printing, foil blocking, reprographics & publishing, and other processes. All of our equipment is available for use by qualified studio members and Studio Pass holders – find out more about studio access.
Letterpress We have an extensive collection of letterpress equipment and type. Proofing presses can print from metal and wood type; linocuts, woodcuts and wood engravings; polymer, magnesium and zinc plates, and most other relief surfaces.
There is a range of metal letterpress type in various sizes from 6pt to 48pt, and wood type from 6- to 24-line. Faces include Gill Sans, Perpetua, Baskerville, Ehrhardt and Bodoni.
The studio also houses a large range of borders and ornaments, and a wide variety of image blocks, halftones and clichés. All of the inks we use at the studio are oil based. It is possible to mix Pantone colours using the inks we have. We also have special inks, including fluorescents and metallics.
Bindery The bindery houses four bookbinding nipping presses, a board cutter, and a range of wooden bindery equipment, including laying and finishing presses. There is a huge range of bookbinding tools available, including bone folders, knives, backing hammers, backing boards, gilding boards, burnishing tools, type holders, and brass type for blocking in a range of sizes.
Foil blocking Used to print and emboss onto book covers and other materials. The studio houses four foil blocking presses for printing from magnesium plates or brass type.
Print finishing and publishing As well as facilities for traditional bookbinding and lettterpress printing, the studio also houses a range of equipment for print finishing and small-scale publishing. We have a large powered guillotine, perfect binding machine (for paperbacks), coil and wire binders, electric paper drills and various other bits of print finishing equipment.
Risograph We also have two Risograph duplicators, which can print up to a maximum sheet size of A3. Colours available are Black, Blue, Bright Red, Burgundy, Fluorescent Orange, Fluorescent Pink, Green, Medium Blue, Orange, Purple, Teal, and Yellow.
LCBA Library We have a reference library available to members which contains books on all aspects of book-making, all types of printing, bookbinding and book production, artists books and publishing, independent publishing, etc.
A look at the different types of book it is possible to make both at home and at LCBA. Once you’re familiar with the types of book structure it is possible to make, start thinking about how different books can complement different uses, structure and content.
When making your own books and publications, and other works from papers, it is worthwhile to collect a range of tools and materials for your own personal use. I use my tools every day, and over the years they’ve paid for themselves many times over.
Tools and Materials from the LCBA Shop MA Book Design students receive 10% discount on books, tools and materials from the LCBA online shop. Use the code RDGMABKD at checkout.
Here is a run-down of the tools we use at the studio, and what they’re used for.
Bone folder A long and thin tool usually made of cow bone, used for folding and scoring paper. A typical bone folder will be pointed and thinner at one end. I tend to use a bone folder that is 15cm (6in) long and pointed on one end. Most bookbinders will have an assortment of shapes and sizes for different projects. Folders are also available in other materials, including Teflon/PTFE and bamboo.
Awl, bodkin and pin vice An awl or bodkin is a tool comprised of a handle attached to a needle-like shaft, used to make sewing holes in paper or board. The common bookbinders awl (top left) has a round wooden handle and a 5.75cm (2¼in) needle. A pin vice is an awl-like tool with a handle and chuck into which you can attach interchangeable drill bits, needles or pins.
Brush Brushes are used to apply glue or paste. You would ideally have a selection of brushes of different sizes and materials depending on your project. Typically I would use a hog-bristle bridled (bound round with wire) brush with a 3cm (1¼in) diameter and 15cm (6in) long wooden handle. If your brush has metal bridling or ferrule (the band that attaches the brush to the handle), it will discolour or rust over time, so it’s important to keep your brushes rinsed and dried after use.
Clipt-point shoe knife Most commonly used by cobblers, the clipt-point shoe knife (bottom) is used by bookbinders for slitting paper. A handy, general-purpose knife for any studio – I use mine every single day. If you have ine, an old butter knife works well (top).
Rule Used for measuring and marking. I would recommend having at least two steel rules: one short (30cm/ 12in), one long (60cm/24in); and, if possible, one clear gridded rule. Make sure to find relatively heavy rules to reduce the likelihood of slipping. I have a lovely stainless steel rule made in Japan, which has really clear markings and a nice edge.
Engineer’s square and try square A tool used to mark and measure the accuracy of a right angle. Both the handle and blade of an engineer’s square is made of steel, whereas the handle of the try square is made of wood.
Set square, or metal triangle Steel or plastic set squares or metal triangles are used to mark and measure the accuracy of a 90- or 45-degree angle.
Spring divider An engineering tool used in bookbinding to accurately measure and mark repetitive lengths. A 10cm (4in) divider is a good, all-purpose size to have.
Scalpel A tool made up of a handle and interchangeable blade used for ﬁne cutting. There is a wide variety of blade shapes and sizes. My most commonly used scalpel is a Swann Morton no.3 handle with 10A blade. Alternatively, you should ﬁnd a scalpel or craft knife that is easy to handle, cuts with precision, and has replaceable blades. Please, don’t use a plastic handled knife–they’re rubbish.
Cutting mat A perfect surface for cutting onto using a scalpel or sharp blade, these mats are self-healing and most have a grid, which can come in handy. Use a cutting mat that is much larger than the book you are working on; A3 or A2 is a good size.
Scissors and shears In the bindery, scissors or shears are typically used for cutting thread, cloth, and paper. It’s nice but not necessary to have a range of sizes and styles.
Needles Once you create the sewing holes with an awl, needles are then used to sew the paper together to make a section. The sections are sewn together to create two-section or multi-section book bindings. The most commonly used in our bindery is the number 18 bookbinding and saddlers’ harness needles. Both types of needles are an ideal size for use with linen thread, with a polished eye to prevent thread from breaking. Saddlers’ harness needles have a blunt tip that prevents accidental piercing when sewing sections. Alternatively, you can use a darning or beading needle.
Backing hammer Not used that often – but good to know about. A backing hammer is traditionally used by leather workers and cobblers. The head of the hammer is wide, and smoothly rounded and heavy. A backing hammer is used for rounding the spine once the book is glued, and for flattening knots and folds.
Bulldog or Foldback clip Not the most high-tech tool, but very useful when holding together stacks of sheets when sewing – especially in stab bindings.
Weights and pressing boards At the studio we have nipping presses to press sections and books to help keep everything as flat as possible. If you’re making at home, in place of a nipping press you will need some weights and a couple of pressing boards made of MDF or wood. The weights can be anything that is relatively small and heavy, such as a house brick, a jar or tin filled with pebbles (I have an old-fashioned iron and antique weights that I picked up in an antiques shop). Make sure that the weights do not leave a mark by wrapping them in clingfilm, paper, or bookcloth before using. The pressing boards should be perfectly flat and smooth, and at least 5cm (2in) bigger on all sides than the books you intend to make.