Silence is my vice.

A seminar by Ian Percival, a man who’s life embodies so much of what is wonderful about tools, making, and what might be termed ‘industrial technology’; a thoroughly inspiring talk. Then a lunch with the other post-graduate students and Ian (a usual Wednesday afternoon thing), during which the talk focused mostly around my book plans. It was nice to hear people’s thoughts – all supportive and encouraging – and apart from a little bit of me feeling funny about being the centre of attention all was useful and raises my excitement level even further. I just want to go and go and go and go; luckily for me, lots of that going will involve not going anywhere nor even doing anything! Like this morning just before the seminar, I sat and had my own little Meeting for Worship, and how nice it was! These pools of silence1 are so essential to me, and my work; this is what Wordsworth meant when he could “see into the life of things.”2

My vice, being a holdfast rather than depravity: The very act of tightening this gives me such a sense of pleasure, of love of the world even. So sure of itself, so solid and strong, with no chance of over-stressing; I feel good using this vice. Its texture, the hemp turksheads on the blackwood, the sweat and grime that are slowly turning both these black, these things make me happy. All of my senses are stimulated by the simple act of leaning forward and heaving on the handle! Every single time – no exceptions – that I come to use my vice so much is evoked, so many feelings of time, and work: My thoughts turn to my grandfather whom I never knew, and who’s vice it was that inspired me to make this one. Decades of his vice giving good service, slowly wearing and shaping itself to how it was used; centuries of this general form of vice being the centre of thousands of woodworker’s working lives. Does – can – the Record #53 evoke these kind of feelings? The handle alone of my vice comforts me and gives me confidance in life.

[As I was looking around for an image of a standard Record vice, apart from the endless advertisments for eBay I discovered the following interesting facts: Record Tools is a division of American Tools which is itself a subsidiary of Irwin Industrial Tools; both the and the domains redirect to And nowhere on the Irwin site can I find any information about Record tools. Hmph.]


“Incarnate Word,
in whom all nature lives,
Cast flame upon the earth:
raise up contemplatives
Among us, men who
walk within the fire
of ceaseless prayer
impetuous desire.
Set pools of silence
In this thirsty land”

James McAuley 1917 – 1976
© Norma McAuley

2. “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, On Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour. July 13, 1798”, William Wordsworth (1770-1850):

“While with an eye made quiet by the power
Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
We see into the life of things.”

Low Brain Functionality (LBF)

This really is dreadful! I am going around and around in circles with this image stuff! There is a promise that the next release of WordPress will include better photo functionality, so I think my best bet is to wait until then, and go now to find a nook in the library in which to read. Sitting on this computer is totally not inspiring me, and I am doing nothing useful. Agh!! Oh my poor brain, I promise you that I will go to bed at 8 o’clock tonight! :)


Yesterday I did interesting things with InDesign and two bits of wood. I read. I chatted with people. I investigated the bookbinding studio. All things that were good and I left campus feeling so very excited! Then: I stayed up too late, and am now too tired…

So back to the PHP I go, with an idea to getting photos incorporated into this site.

Three Things

1. A morning of getting ready for the short, cold days ahead; as the nights grow colder and darker earlier, I find myself in need of more warmth and (some – I have none now) light: pyjamas and bike lights are in order!

2. An interesting scrabble with the university administration (what a funny beast that is) over swip-card re-validation and after-hours access. It seems they were happy to give me after-hours access to the workshop, but not to the intervening doors that stand between it and the outside world. All now is sorted.

3. A review in The Australian entitled “De Botton line on life” (author: Luke Slattery; date: April 3 2004):

How should one live? In essence it’s the Socratic project — the pursuit of an examined life — and is as old as philosophy. Perhaps the single most valuable life lesson a reader can take from de Botton is the core message of his Proust: that attention to the exact details of the everyday confers an incomparable and readily attainable richness.

Co-operation is better than Conflict

Working at the co-op set me thinking (and chatting with a few people) about how utterly enjoyable is work that we do from a sense of love. Fabulous! After a few hours at the co-op I went to the library to continue with Bachelard. I am finding him hard-going, but every so often bits emerge that somehow strike me, and enter my being as worthy of notice. Whilst sitting in the (annoyingly modern and noisy) library I enjoyed greatly the quiet and stillness that came with the simple act of reading. It is partly this experience that is prompting me to work further with bookbinding. (And oh how much nicer to read is a book that opens properly — i.e. sewn, not perfect bound?!)

Book 0.1b Complete

The loveliest thing happened this afternoon: I sat down to sewing the signatures soon after lunch, an lo! 2½ hours later I looked up! It is so nice when work occupies one so; I don’t really care what I do so long as I can experience this feeling sometimes. It didn’t take long once I had finished sewing to complete the book (this binding is a lot simpler than modern styles, requiring no glue). I am very happy with it (and again, I would post a photograph, but can’t), although one thing that annoys me is that it’s blank. It feels nice to hold, and to open; the weight and the texture please me, but if only we could read something from it – I think that the experience would mean something. Prehaps because it’s different and we’re not used to this sort of book, but also it lets us in on the secrets of its materials – like, what they are. If we investigate the inner workings and materials of a ‘normal’ commercially-bound book we expose a great deal of stuff that is just not very nice to deal with, but with a book like this everything is plain to see and all is good. [oh dear, now I’m getting tired.]

Blackened Fingers

I began the morning in good spirits, lying watcing the grapevine outside my bedroom window, and the small bright blue patches of sky between the leaves. It didn’t seem to matter if I got out of bed or not…

I have this morning begun binding a book: A small piece of blackwood from my table (a last year’s project) was lying on my bench, so I ripped it in two and dressed it – all by hand of course. I had planned on testing the lacing techniques a bit before commiting to any one, but in my usual reckless ‘ooh this is fun I want to get on with it’ attitude I didn’t. I am using leather thongs, about 4mm wide and quite soft. I bored the holes for these, and cut the rebates too; I’ve wedged already one board and will go now to sew…

I do not feel very organised about my work yet, especially with things like photography, video and audio recording, and getting that onto this site. I want to reveal my thoughts on this site, but I also plan to present my work as it unfolds – in such a manner that it can be followed without knowing any background…

I have been looking at some of the (seemingly limitless) blogs out there, and am at the moment thinking that this is a rather strange thing to do!

Attaching wooden boards to bindings.

The earliest period from which many bindings with wooden boards are extant is the twelfth/thirteenth century. These often have boards of around half an inch – “in some cases the book is thinner than the combined thickness of the two boards.”1 Early boards had square edges but after the 13th they often were beveled, acute or obtuse variously. Inside edges beveled also, especially in German bindings. The inside back edge would be beveled “so that it follows the swelling in the spine”.

‘Lacing in’:

  • The Stonyhurst Gospel. [Four holes in each of boards and signatures, designated A through to D from top to bottom.]

    “At the start, the threads were twice laced through holes A and C near the back edges of the boards, which were then threaded into the first section, out again at the next holes (B and D) and through the corresponding holes in the boards. The threads were then passed into the second section, along and out again at the starting points where kettle-stiches were made to catch up the first section. This was continued until all the sections were sewn, when the second board was fastened in the same manner as the first. … Grooves were cut in the faces of the boards to accommodate the threads, and V-shaped slots were cut in the backs of the sections to take the stiches.” –p.10

  • All this reading at dinnertime in the library is to decide me on a binding style to begin experimenting with tomorrow. Here it is: I shall sew the signatures on to leather thongs with linen (after the modern style that I learnt at Pritchards2). Then I shall lace the leather to the ~½in. thich boards using either the ‘tunnel’ method or the ‘over the outside edge’ method (sketches of these to be added when I get near a scanner). That sound okay?
  • Here is the sketch! lacing-in.jpg

1: All quotes in this post from Bernard C. Middleton classic work “A History of English Craft Bookbinding Technique”, The Holland Press, 1988, ISBN 0 946 323 135. DDC call #: 686.3MID

2: Which, by the way, seems to no longer exist.

“The Poetics of Space”

By Gaston Bachelard

  • “Imagination augments the values of reality.” — p.3
  • “…they describe [the humble abode] as it actually it, without really experiencing its primitiveness, a primitiveness which belongs to all, rich and poor alike, if they are willing to dream.” — p.4
  • “…the recollection of moments of confined, simple, shut-in space are experiences of heartwarming space, of a space that does not seek to become extended, but would like above all to be possessed.” — p.10
  • When your writing describes place, “the reader has ceased to read your room: he sees his own again. He is already far off…”. Bachelard does not try to describe his garet or his own recollections, and asks us to leave off reading the page and start ‘reading the room’ in which we sit. In doing so we evoke our own past, and come to understand the values of intimacy.
  • If I lacked a personal room of my own, I wonder what space – indefinite and definite – I would make my own?
  • Page 15 mentions a “rather high step”, implying that stairways are not always uniform. In case I ever care.
  • Within our bodies we retain a deep feeling and rememberance of the house in which we were born, or grew up.
  • “The great function of poetry is to give us back the situations of our dreams.” –p.15
  • Our intimate place gives to us a framework for a lifelong dream, a framework that is completed only by poetry.
  • “…childhood is certainly greater than reality.” –p.16
  • I am enjoying the importance that Bachelard gives to the places of our childhood. I relate to that. :)
  • “…childhood remains … poetically useful…” –p.16
  • The rationality of the roof vs. the irrationality of the depths of a house.
  • Did Thoreau’s cabin have a cellar, an attic? Did the pond serve this function, and the hills? What did H.T. see when he lay on his bunk and looked skywards?
  • “The height of city buildings is purely an exterior one. Elevators do away with the heroism of stair climbing so that there is no longer any virtue in living up near the sky.” — p.27
  • P.28 details Bachelard’s penchant for an image of a stormy sea to cope with trafic noise at night in the city.
  • The hut is the simplest of the “human plants” whose function is habitation. when we are lost and alone, do we not yearn for

    “…wreaths of smoke
    Sent up, in silence, from among the trees!
    With some uncertain notice, as might seem
    Of vagrant dwellers in the houseless woods,
    Or of some Hermit’s cave, where by his fire
    The Hermit sits alone.”


  • “…in the silence, we are seized with the sensation of something vast and deep and boundless.” — Henri Bosco in ‘Malicroix’, quoted on p.43 of TPOS.
  • Phenomenology of the imagination demands that poetic image of inhabited space be lived directly, and not reduced to metaphor or simple emotion (p.47).
  • Bachelard seldom comes near describing actual place, forcing me to provide my own imagery – and this is entirely the point! No book ever gives me all I need to furnish a room; I must provide the extras, and these extras are all the more meaningful for my having provided them. The rooms of my own past come swarming in to fill the gaps left by an author, and make me feel more fully the intended image of this space.
  • The soft wax entered into the polished substance under the pressure of hands and the effective warmth of a woolen cloth. Slowly the tray took on a dull lustre. It was as though the radiance induced by magnetic rubbing emanated from the hundred-year-old sapwood, from the very heart of the dead tree, and spread gradually, in the form of light, over the tray. The old fingers possesed of every virtue, the broad palm, drew from the solid block with its inanimate fibers, the latent powers of life itself. This was creation of an object, a real act of faith, taking place before my enchanted eyes.” –Henri Bosco in Le jardin d’Hyacinthe p.192, quoted on p.67

  • The integration of revery into work. p.68
  • Vincent van Gogh to Theo, his brother: we should “retain something of the orginal character of Robinson Crusoe” in all our house. Make and re-make everything oneself.
  • We should never allow the image to be complete. “The imagination can never say: was that all, for there is always more than meets the eye.”p.86 Prehaps this is the story equivalent of technology ‘doing all’ for us. It is neccessary always to leave something for the human.
  • “Beautiful objects created by skillful hands are quite naturally ‘carried on’ by a poet’s daydream.” p.86. Was the beauty in the first place created by that self-same daydream?”
  • “The enterprise and skill with which amimals make their nests is so efficant that it is not possible to do better, so entirely do they pass all masons, capenters and builders; for there is not a man who would be able to make a house better suited to himself and his children that these little animals build for themselves.” Ambroise Pare, quoted on p.92.

Over the Brink

How strange things are! Yesterday I was on the verge of dropping out, the meaninglessness of it all swelled up so – but fret not! an evening of friends and tea, followed by a good night’s sleep, turned it all around. Now the same wrenching division between the high-tech and the low, the wish to go one way or the other, that was causing me such pain, has become the self-same inspiration for continuing and loving it! How can that be? Yesterday I couldn’t stand being suspended in that void, and today I am filled with wonder and a desire to embrace this dichotomy: to draw from it direction for study, and work towards a fuller understanding of what it really means.

I rode my slow bike to school today as a way of reminding me of the importance of the small and the simple; the low-tech and the old; anything that points me to an intimacy with my personal environment… This bike (that I would have a few good shots of if these blasted computers were operating as they should) doesn’t work very well – slow, clunky, hard to start (and stop!) – but as an aid to reflection upon what is important in transport (and indeed all of life, but I don’t want to make this too big a picture) it is supurb. It is okay, and even desirable, to slow down and do things in a (slightly) uncomfortable way, and in doing so I am forced to ponder why people do not like to do things so. We don’t need to get anywhere!

Hmmm, I seem to be faltering in this stream of appreciation of the overlooked; I shall turn to the overlooked to seek appreciation of these thoughts.

The things around us need be noticed in order for us to value them, this is obvious; what I want to get at is that everything around us is capable of admiration, regardless of what it is. I look past this computer today to the wall and the conduit saddleConduit Saddle that is holding the power cable to the wall, and I think: Why is this insignificant little thing there? Where was it made, by what and who installed it? The screw is a countersunk one, but sits proud in the hole designed for a cup-head; this is ugly and unnecessary, and (to skip the leaps and jumps that gets me there) draws my mind to News From Nowhere. This saddle was not made, nor installed, with the thought that prehaps this could be a divine act of worship of nature! Shall every thing we do be an act of love for our environment, society and self? But why not?

What makes work unpleasant? Surely endless repetition, mindless drudgery with no hope for escape – things brought about through greed and the exploitation of others. Think, though, about the materials that one uses and how they make or mar pleasant work; if I strive towards an intimacy with my media, and that same intimacy is going to give me cancer, what then shall I do? Why on Earth would I cover my walls with a substance that I know I find toxic (as evidenced by my emotive wish not to ingest said substance), if I also know that one day those walls should be pulled down and that substance be spread about the land?!

I’m hungry now, and tiring of this: I wanted to write about bookbinding as one point at which the intangible and the tangible meet; I love to hold a book, and I love too to read it. For the former I might easily take a stick up from the ground; for the latter, the ubiquitious A4 photocopied page would sufice – where we can unite the two, there lies my inquiry.