Bookbinding Tools: The Good, the Great, and the Beautiful.

Bookbinding Tools: The Good, the Great, and the Beautiful.

It's true, we make everything by hand here at Transient Books.

Our tools reflect our work, our personalities, and our 14+ years here in the studio. Ever wondered what we use to bring it all together? Take a walk through our day...

Nothing quite like 'em. Always glad to have a pair in working condition.
(Your books are made by me, Alex, my husband Magu and our faithful helper, Carolina Herrán.)


The binder's essential item. You can never have too many. They fold, they crease, they lift, they press, they smooth out, they feel lovely in your hand. They really are made out of bones.
Except the last 3 on the right, which are made out of teflon and have the wonderful trait of NOT burnishing the paper or canvas.

We really do poke holes in the pages by hand before sewing them. You can fake a lot of things in a bookbinding studio, but you can't fake a bad or missing awl...
The second one from the right even has interchangeable tips, and was made by R. Wieking, an outstanding artisan from the Pacific Northwest.

CRADLES, DIGITAL CALIBRATORS and SAND PAPER (Strange Bedfellows, part one)
Cradles for punching holes can be invented from very thick phone books, they can be made by hand out of binder's board and binding canvas...or you can use a lovely handmade, wooden one*. One our favorite tools, it never has a permanent resting place in the studio. It migrates from task to task, light weight and good humored.
Sand paper sponge, terribly versatile!
Digital calibrator: yes, you can get by without it. But goodness, they're fun.
*Made by R. Wieking as well.

Mini clamps, sharpening stone, brass corner, leather finger protector, dental tools and scalpels (I'll leave those up to your imagination, but we use them non stop on a regular production day), pliers, letter openers, and a wheat paste brush...


Truly, you can never have too many. Our collection is three times as large as what you see here, and we use them all, everyday.
Folks ask me regularly why I live in Argentina. If you really, really want to know, it's because they use the metric system here. Who invented 17/32 parts of an inch? 1.3 centimeters is so much kinder to the eye and brain...

Brass spacers (the most multi purpose tool in the studio*), mechanical pencils (the only tool the gnomes who live in the shadows steal relentlessly), a great collection of erasers for lifting stains, X-acto knives and white pencils for marking dark papers and canvases.
*Brass spacers: the standardized sizes means you can use them for instant measurements. Plus they're heavy, and make great weights. And, you can use them to scratch your back.

The interesting thing about working with your hands are the relics folks give you with the introduction, "Maybe you can use this for something?" Back in 2000, our neighbor Mercedes gave us a piece of train track with Eva Peron's name engraved on it (yes, we are physically located in Argentina). It's our favorite solution for piecing together clam shell boxes, which need to dry under heavy weight. Can't imagine our studio without it.

It took us years to work up to the big tools. In part because of the cost, and in part because they're not so easy to come by in rural Argentina. Bessie trims book blocks, cuts reams of paper, effortlessly works her way through every stack of dry pulp we throw at her, and gives us occasional nightmares when we think about her, and our children's little fingers.

She's been a part of the family for a little over a year now. She showed up on a truck from Buenos Aires, and it was exactly then we realized somehow we had to get her down to the binding studio. Let's hear it for a lazy Thursday afternoon, and great neighbors!

(Notice the truck slinking away in the background...)

Through the woods and down the slope...

And into the studio she goes.

HOSS also scares us half to death when we think about his big arm, that counter weight, and our children's fingers. (Yes, we have lots of safety measures in place, but all the same...) He was built in Buenos Aires, and actually is sold to folks who need to cut sheets of tin. Turns out, it's a great solution for cutting binder's board. The trimmings on the floor are our dog's favorite nap spot, and also are what we use to start the wood stove in the wintertime.

Perfect for the amount of PVA glue we go through on a normal day.

All shapes, all sizes. Always smooth. Ribbed with metal for the french grooves. We use them as binding frames. We use them as weights. We use them as presses. Can't have enough of them.

Another lovely creation by R. Wieking. We love it for sewing the larger book blocks. We love it because it's beautiful, it's useful and it makes us feel good.

On any given day, I tend to be on the computer more hours than I would like: designing covers and content, answering client emails and attending to the website. Anymore, running a binding studio means we have to be pretty technologically savvy, more than I ever would have imagined. My bit of rebellion on this front is my office from my childhood, and it still works, 3 decades later.

Missing are photos of the hand saws, cutting mats, book presses, needles, hammers, and a myriad of other implements of construction.
Present is our love for making books, and our joy that you have stumbled across us. You can see what all of this turns into HERE. Enjoy!

Back to blog