Friday, June 17, 2011

Carving out Letters in Bookboard

It takes forever. 

This was a commission during the busy Christmas season. It was a portfolio for a writer in New York. 

For those interested in the process, I drew the letters on in pencil, used my scalpel and xacto knife to carve out the letters and then I tooled in the leather to the letters when I covered the board. The letters are about 1" tall and the lines of the letters needed to be slightly bigger than the thickness of my bonefolder so I could push the leather down into them. 


robssurfreport said...

Wow, that turned out really nice. I never thought of actually carving the bookboard itself . . . this is really helpful for some of my own ideas - although I may hold off on monogramming!

It looks like you really captured the fine detail of the letters when working the leather; is the bone folder the only tool you used to do that?

Cynthia Schelzig said...

whoa...patience is a must have nerves of steel to do work like that:)...looks beautiful on the end product.

Karleigh Jae said...

Rob, Thank you and if you ever try carving out the board, I'd love to see pics :)

The bonefolder is the only tool I used on those letters to tool the leather into the board. I've thought about trying other tools for embossing but I've never had to. The bonefolder works great. I have about 4 or 5 different bonefolders I use though, each being a different shape, size and thickness. My currently favorite is a pear shape 5" tool that is fairly thick (being new).

Cynthia, I've never considered myself patient. However, everyone has something that they're patient with and I suppose doing inset and raised designs might be one of mine. I wouldn't have been so patient if it were more than three letters. :)

Blue Roof Designs said...

It sure does take forever and it's blistery work!

I find that an X-Acto knife works best for carving. I tried to carve using my Dremel and it just barfed up board fuzzies - it didn't produce any clean work.

Karleigh Jae said...


Yes, that's what I've discovered too. The dremel makes it too smooth to get those crisp edges that are needed for the inset letters. I love my xacto blade. I found that it's nice to switch off between the scalpel and the xacto because the scalpel has a thinner blade than the xacto and can cut crisper, so I start and finish with that and use my xacto in between for the need of a sturdier blade during the "digging" part of it.

Lizzie said...

That was a lovely piece of work, Karleigh-Jae! I do love to see what other people can do - there are so many varied and clever skills out there! The letters turned out really beautiful. A very simple method, that worked so well, even if it did require a lot of time and patience. I think I'd like to try something like this - it's given me an idea, that I want to combine with a couple of other "thinks" I've been having...

Had to laugh at Elissa's "barfed up board fuzzies"! So funny!

robssurfreport said...

I started work on a board last night, and I was using a disposable scalpel, which is wicked-sharp. I was havingtrouble actually getting width in the lines, and I was trying to do a beveled / v-shaped cut to build in some depth. Finally, frustrated at the exactness of it, I slid the protector back over the blade, flipped over the scalpel, and started using the end of the handle to deboss the line I had made. It worked well, sort of like a thinner bone folder, and I ended up with nice lines that are deep enough and very clean.

I imagine that lighter-weight leather would work best for this type of work, wouldn't it?

Karleigh Jae said...

Rob, I always try to do 90 degree cuts and I start very softly, just scoring the board before trying to go in deeper. I'd like to see what your disposable scalpel looks like and a photo of your progress. After getting the cuts into the board, I always take my bonefolder and press down the edges and make it all clean and smooth before I add the leather over it.

I use lambskin which is .08-1.5 oz thick. I've used upholstery leather before which is about 2.5 oz and fairly thick. It embossed well but it hurt my elbow doing it. I'd do it again though cause it was super nice.

The thinner you go, the more mistakes you'll notice through the leather, even just glue blobs or glue brush strokes. So it's best not to go too thin with the leather.

robssurfreport said...

I put some pictures here.

At the very least, I'm going to have to find something to get into the corners of the lines with, or actually go for the 90 degree cuts, because the back of the scalpel is rounded so the lines don't quite meet. And I had ordered some .6-.7mm royal blue lambskin; I don't know how the conversion works, but I think that's in the range you specified, do you think?