Friday, March 23, 2012

Bookbinding 101: Bone Folder

A bone folder is your friend. You can probably make books without one, but it's just so darn handy, we wouldn't want to. It performs essential functions that could be done with your hand or some other tool, but it works so well, has so many uses, and costs so little, it's a no-brainer to add it to your tool kit.

It creases pages when you fold them, smooths out leather or paper when adhering them to the cover, creases in leather corners (inside the cover), tools paper or leather when creating embossed designs, burnish edges, make a temporary mark in fabric or leather, or any number of similar uses where you need to flatten, crease, or smooth something out.

A bone folder is traditionally made from bone, but can be made from a variety of materials, including plastic, teflon, and wood. Randy J. Arnold makes beautiful bone folders from wood, including this one made of rosewood, and this one made of ebony. (He also has an etsy shop here.) Note: these are some of the exceptions to the "costs so little" statement made above, but considering that it's handmade with such beautiful craftsmanship, as is the box it comes in, it's a bargain.

We have and love to use folders made with real bone. They don't cost much and have a great feel. Two of our favorites are a 5" taper shaped, and Hollander's 8" (17-20 cm).

Teflon folders are supposed to not mark delicate paper and leather when burnishing, but being a bit pricy, we find the bone to work just fine. Teflon supposedly does not leave marks on paper however, Teflon can mark some papers, so it's a good idea to test before you burnish.

Anything to add to the discussion? Please leave a comment.


Lizzie said...

I bought plastic folders to begin with, but didn't like them. I then found a great little one, made from bamboo, which was my favourite for a long time... until I went to Shepherds Falkiners in London... and bought two great real-bone bonefolders. One is just your basic straight-with-a-pointy-end folder. The other is my very favourite, as it has a gentle upward curve, from the narrow, rounded end, to a broader, slightly pointed end. I use it all the time - like every day. It's so comfortable to hold. A great buy (and wasn't expensive).

As for burnishing - I have found that a sheet of smooth paper, such as the stuff used for backing on bondaweb/wondaweb, is really great for preventing that "shine" you can get when you burnish some papers. I place a smallish sheet over my work, then burnish over the top. The paper is not waxed or coated with anything that can transfer, but it's smooth and very slightly slippy - so the bone folder glides over it and gives a great smooth finish with the paper underneath it.

Kate said...

I LOVE my teflon folder and primarily use it. I find that I'm far less likely to burnish my papers and bookcloth than I would be with my bone folder. I don't do fine leather binding, so that may be where the difference in preference comes from.

Karleigh Jae said...

Lizzie: agree about the plastic folders. And great tip about laying the Bondaweb backing paper over to prevent burnishing. Here in the U.S. instead of Bondaweb, we have Wonder Under (same company?) and Heat N Bond. We'll have to try it!

Kate: the teflon is quite nice for the lack of burnishing. It really excels at that. If we used materials where burnishing was more of a concern, we'd probably have one in our tool kit.

Sonya said...

Hi there KJ,
i am wondering where your ponted folder came from?