Growlygracepress's Blog

I choose to build sheds.


“I choose to build a shed. I choose to build a shed in this season and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of my energies and skills, because that challenge is one that I am willing to accept, one I am unwilling to postpone, and one which I intend to win, and the others, too.”

I had to build a shed and my heart would skip a beat as I finished the bookbinding and I would race down to the allotment and work on my shed I was really excited by the process of making something so big and uncompromising, this was not a little book in my hands this was something that if I got it wrong could cause me serious injury. My bones could break.

Yesterday an old allotment man laughed at it and told me it was a waste of shed felt. I agreed with him totally and explained that I was interested in learning how not to make a shed and I considered myself well taught further more when I remake the new shed in the late Autumn I will be stronger. I pointed out to him that I was also teaching myself everything I am going to learn about erecting a greenhouse by getting this one wrong and I own all this knowledge myself and I am indebted to no one.

I don’t have a cement mixer and I don’t to negotiate involvement with some one who does. I want no chains of obligations.

I built a structure that will contain my tools and materials and keep them secure and dry. I am totally responsible for it.
The shed felt cost £15 and nails and screws cost £15.

bookbinding workshops by the pound
October 9, 2014, 8:16 am
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If you wish to see me do my bookbinding workshops then you have a choice of two the first one is at Newcastle Arts Centre on the 8th of November which is all day the next one is just a short one at the Baltic on the 5th of December.

These workshops will be centred around traditional craft bookbinding techniques and materials. That means it’s linen thread, bees wax, kraft paper and scrim as usual the mantra is ‘say no to exposed spines’ In the full day we will start with making pamphlet stitched books in three and five hole stitch, then we put a cover on, we strengthen the spine and we make belly bands, stick on labels and make covers. We are warming up and playing with tools.

Then we make case editions, that means sewing on to tapes. The only difficulty people have here is sewing the second signature, the kettle stitch and adding a new length of thread. I think it’s important that people establish a good understanding of sewing so I take time and with each person and sometimes they can’t get it at all so for them we go back to pamphlet sewing.

We are playing with tools and materials and we are making books handsome.

The second workshop at the Baltic will just be pamphlet sewing as it’s just a couple of hours long.

For years and years I have been threatening to do a handout and I have never got round to it but this time it’s getting closer to reality. One thing I have discovered is the absolute joy of writing while travelling on a train. I was in Durham the other day and the train on the opposite platform was going the Penzance! I was besides myself at the idea obviously I would only do it in a first class compartment but I could write the arse off any project.

So the chances of getting a handout will depend on me scoring to York or Edinburgh train tickets in the next week.
Might try for York.

my other bench on a monday morning
July 21, 2014, 8:07 am
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This is the bench next to ‘my’ bench, I am seriously wealthy when it comes to benches in that I have two.
My proper bench I am striving to keep clean and clear.
On my other bench I am laid out my tools like a surgeon.

a good and useful tool.
May 13, 2014, 8:56 am
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Work goes well if the tools are functioning properly and they need to be sharp. What I like about it is that it is small enough to fit in my pocket.
I need a new pocket knife and I am just starting to look at potential candidates. All my folding knives have silly little blades useless for cutting anything on an allotment.
“Call that a knife?” springs unbidden to my mind.

Getting to ‘know’ tools.
March 27, 2014, 8:23 am
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My niece once told her mum that she didn’t want to go to her regular dance class because she ‘was not very good at the dancing’ in that sad little statement there is everything you need to know about fear, of being ridiculed, of being ‘found out’.

‘Not very good at the dancing’ is a short hand code I use when I realise I have lost the control of the making process and my work is going to be exposed as not good enough.

I have been working with some tools and equipment that I am not satisfied with their performance but it’s me thats not very good at the dancing. To get the best of these tools requires practice, patience and I have to get to know them. This is like working with a new musical instrument and we need to practice the scales to get to know each other.

To condemn a tool to eBay because principally because I have unrealistic ideas about the how it should perform is short sighted.

Presses and ploughs a go go.
March 24, 2014, 9:15 am
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I got way to carried away on Friday morning when I decided to work with all the ploughs all at once. I had never had the chance to work with all of them at the same time and access their comparable strengths and weaknesses.


The down side of this bookbinding rampage is it created chaos and I will have to clear up the whole work room before I can start work this morning.


I have tried to like books that have a deckle edge but they take a lot more work and the result can just be “rustic” as in a bad way.


A good plough but ugly handle.


Look at this bad boy nonchalantly leaning against a wall with nothing to prove.

The bookbinding tools you really need. The Louet Awl Gauge.
February 13, 2014, 12:49 pm
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Sometimes I come across a tool that is just a joy to use. It does the job it has been made for with such deft and you get a real buzz from using it.


This is the Louet awl gauge. It’s available for the good people at Shepherds and the link is to the left. Under Materials.

There is many kinds of bookbinding going on, I make books with blank pages as opposed to some one involved in book repair or conservation where they are going to resew the book using the original sewing stations.


On the other hand I am making a book with new paper. So I want to make the holes for the sewing and tapes in each signature before I sew it up.


Previously I would stick the book block in the lying press use an engineer’s square to mark the spine up and then I would use a small hand saw to cut the book. I used a small saw and a light touch. If I am working on a big series of books they would have been sawn.


Adjust the the screw until you get the measurements right and then mark the holes you will pierce and enjoy the experience.


Yes it’s an expensive tool but you will never regret buying it. If you use it in a teaching session students who have never book bound before take it like a duck to water. I’ve had students come in the next day and say they bought one.


If you do buy one buy the awl that was designed to use for it yes it’s expensive as well but it’s nice in the hand.

All our tools should be this good.

I use a pencil to label the hole I need to pierce and I should have used a bit of tape.


This is the ‘gutter’

Go on you know you want one.


If I was the Louet people in The Netherlands I would seriously think of changing it’s name to something like to “miracle bookbinding tool”.