Growlygracepress's Blog

I love ploughs and I can’t deny it.
October 16, 2019, 7:45 am
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Some random shots of ploughs.


The plough is hiding behind the kitchen roll.


The plough is on the floor leaning against the bench.


Cute tool resting on a plough.


Plough, bike, Leatherman, Book with Jane Jeffery’s funny animals on it and some broad beans.


little books and plough


A tub with the ‘old’ plough in the back ground.


Just a plough looking handsome.


That’s a bit proper.


‘But I want a lot of things baby…..’
October 11, 2019, 7:37 am
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When it comes down to it at this moment right now. I want paper to make book blocks from, I want paper to paint on to make endpapers, I want paste to paste on leather on lays, to paste out cloth joints and to make a paste wash to clean the leather covers.

I have bought goat skins and calf skins.

I am working with my vertical plough and it’s fine. I do not have a lying press attached to my bench and that is making me irritable. When I stand at my bench behind me is a pile of wooden equipment which needs either attention, to be sold on eBay or put in to ‘play’  which in my world means drill holes in to that and screw it on to the bench.


Not having a press on the end of the bench makes me jittery. Look at this bad boy not only can I plough but I can saw cut for sewing and I can colour the edges of books.


I know that I am putting off buying paper because I have to decide on what paper to buy and that means deciding on how to treat the edges. Do I plough them or do I cut them by hand to get a ‘deckle edge type thing’ but it I use a plough I can hand colour and wax the edges and make the book handsome.

I’ll order in some paste.

I have to collect some shoes from the cobblers and I’ll take my cobblers knife and my leather paring knifes and get them reground.

It’s relatively to make decisions about what to buy in the course of writing this I refined what I am going to buy.

I fail at getting technicians to carry out a repair to my specifications. ‘Fix this tool / equipment so that it works the way it is suppose to’ and I find that ‘they’ will walk away from it. One of the reasons why bookbinding equipment is / was expensive is that it was designed for ‘trade’ that’s why it’s big and heavy and strong it was expected to last years and years.  This is not like a £250 dish washer form John Lewis. It’s my plough and press and we are in a relationship and it’s complicated.

I am going to buy some sandpaper and some wax and apply some first aid.



The most important thing I have learnt this or any other week.
October 9, 2019, 7:58 am
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At this time of the year on the allotment I am planting stuff for February and March and I am clearing out the green houses and polytunnels putting stuff on the compost heap and bagging up weeds and plants that have blight or club root and I am taking them to the council tip to be incinerated. So I have big bags of this stuff on every corner of the allotment and being a good girl I close the bags off with a cable tie except for the couple of bags where I left them open all the better to cram more blighted tomatoes in to and yesterday….. I picked up a bag to move it off the garden when a rat jumped out and touched my hand as it made it’s escape and it happened in my heart beat as my brain processed what my eyes seen and my hand felt and swear really loudly and then I realise I am totally safe and it’s only one rat and it’s gone.

I will never ever leave an unclosed bag of rat bead and breakfast ever again.

I am the captain of my bench.
October 9, 2019, 7:33 am
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I have established my bookbinding practice and I am at my bench making books and progress. I have identified the areas of concern and it’s principally around technique and poor execution and that’s about ‘good enough’ and I don’t want to be ‘good enough’ I want to make first rate work. I want to make books that are fully leather bound and are decorated with leather onlays and the onlay has to be so fine on the cover that if you run your fingers over them you cant feel them.

To get this right it means several techniques need to be perfect.

The leather has to be pared very, very thin. It needs to be so thin that if you hold it up to the light it’s nearly transparent. So thin that the onlay appears like it has been painted on.

Another way is to back pare the leather on the flesh side so that the onlay is ‘received’ and fits snugly in it’s place. Thing about this is I need to make a ‘die’ where I want the onlay elements to go, then I need to place a paper onlay glued on to the flesh side wher indicated by the die ( the die is made with thin board, leather is dampened, a layer of cling film is used to protect every thing, the die placed on the leather it’s given a quick nip in the press, the positions of the onlays are revealed, paper onlays are pasted on, the leather is pressed again, allowed to dry and then you can pare the leather down. Cover the book and place the colour leather onlays on the boards and if the bookbinding Gods are smiling on you and the pasted papers have not fallen off you lift them and put down the leather onlay. Stick it in the press and nip.

This is all well and good for one book but I like to make a series of ten and because I am binding in account book style it means that I am essentially going to fight on the leather to the book and I am going to use a hammer to cap the head and tail and I am going to mould the leather and create a really tight grove. And I have a spring on the spine.

So does the client need ‘account book’ style or can I ‘get away’ with a flat back and just case the book?

Flat backs, case edition meh!

the handsome book.
September 26, 2019, 9:23 am
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I think that in making a book my responsibility is to use my skills to make the book as handsome as I possibly can. The cover is one thing but the endpapers are a gift. I used to always have black laid paper and I would also have a book cloth strip for strength. I have placed the cloth strip behind the coloured sheet. I also like the endpapers to be different at each end. I paint with intense inks on to a good 50% paper and it’s 300 gms which is a bit to heavy as I am going to paste it to the first and last leaf of the block and it’s 220gms.

Things I am looking to change in bookbinding is a new source of paper to bind. At one time paper was the easiest thing in the world to buy. Pick up the phone and talk to the paper merchant and paper would arrive. In fact the paper merchants would phone you regularly just to update you with new papers. But now paper firms are online and the companies have closed down or joined up with others and have new names and worse of all they don’t want to sell small amounts of paper. My local company was happy to sell me 5 reams of Sra 2 and a sales rep would drop it off.

After I tackle of horror of the paper merchants I need to have the guillotine repaired. Again it was easy I would go to the ‘saw doctors’ at the top of Westgate Hill Road beside the Big Lamp and it used to be a bank and I would watch them sharpen the blade with incredible machinery they charged me a few quid and I was good to go. They closed down ages ago.

Now the blade needs to have a new section welded to lengthen it. It actually needs a new blade but it’s very old possibly Victorian and I cant buy one of the shelf nor can I find a company that will make me one for sensible money.

These are not massive problems and if you throw enough money at a thing it will get solved. I am just dragging my feet.



what if I make a book every day?
September 13, 2019, 11:06 am
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I had this sudden idea the other day and it’s this one of my better ones ‘what if I made a book every day’ if you stick to smallish books and have a stash of goatskin and had tons of ideas then would it not be worth the time and effort just to bash them out.

I’ve been doing this three days running and working with a book that has got boards and springs and I have prepared all the cut outs and prepared the leather I can get the cover and designs on in just over two hours.

Part of this new thinking was when I was on my allotment a couple of weeks ago I was struck by the thought that I could easily turn my back and walk away and not come back.

There is nothing to fear about a ‘new thought’ from ‘apparently nowhere’ sometimes allotments are unhappy places people get ill and die, plants don’t perform the way you want them, sometimes it’s hard bloody work staying on top of things and the summer can be ‘short’ and don’t get me started on the politics.

I am going to be more effective on the use of my time on the garden and the bookmaking is coming first. I can be at my bench at 7.30 bind up a storm go off do a bit at the garden and in the afternoon do a bit of preparing book materials, sewing blocks, cutting up stuff.

The other thing I am going today is review all my thoughts and ideas about the teaching of bookbinding, the materials, the tools, the actual practice and how to get better.

You might not need a sewing frame….


back at the bench
September 11, 2019, 9:12 am
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Lots and lots of things happened to my bookbinding the biggest thing was I got a massive great big allotment and I really got stuck in to it. It seemed a lot easier.

Years ago I would get commissioned by artists to make books and it would just tick over I would make the books that I wanted and it was fine. I did some sales in shops and in esty and I didn’t need the money because I am a wife and I do the house, dog and garden thing and occasionally I would get a teaching gig and it was fine. Still is fine.

In the garden I discovered that I really liked the growing to scale I would grow massive amounts of broccoli beds and beds of it. Ridiculous amounts of cauliflowers. I counted 95 tomato plants and I lost 40 of them to blight. Didn’t care about losing them. I will try again next year.

In bookbinding I found out that I rather liked making loads of books at once. I was making groups of books and I would not finish them because until the leather goes on its just paper, glue, boards and linen thread. Costs next to nothing. The leather is where the money is and I could not use the leather on books that were not going to be sold.

But I started again and I put calf leather on this little book and fact is it’s a little bit rough I need it to be a little bit smother. But it’s going in the right direction.

So I am going to go have a quick look at the tomatoes then I am going to make some more books.