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.

O yearning Thought!

I wonder how much of this journalling I should create? Am I to go on and on, putting down my world as it comes by me — as if it were a film and I a critic taking notes — and heedless of the reams of text, the “ocean waste and wide”, that I leave behind? Or am I to endevour towards the brevity of recording only that which I feel will be useful later on? Of course the latter requires I know what will be useful, and I clearly don’t. Thus I feel I must keep on this tack of logging each squall and seagull, each reef of the ocean and reef of the sails, until such a time as I have a clearer idea of what it all tends to. Please bear with me!

When I am reading I am obediently following the author, and thinking on ier [does anyone mind if I sometimes use Spivak pronouns here?] words and this is of itself an enjoyable exercise. It does enable though my mind to be freed on some other level, to go wandering off on fascinating asides (like this paragraph!). With one hand I’m engrossed in “The Poetics of Space”, and this engrossment is percisely what lets me, with the other hand, explore the endless other tangents that come up when I’m reading. There are so many thoughts racing around in my head, rarely caught by me for long, but it is through reading that sufficient of them are quieten’d for the others to be heard.

  • I rather suspect that I could write nothing at all if I did not read.
  • I know I could not read, not properly, if I did not intersperse times of reading with times of making.
  • I should have no chance of making with any integrity if I did not prefix all with periods of still silence.

[By the way: the weird bits in this post, if they’re not mine, are from Coleridge’s Constancy to an Ideal Object.]

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!

What I Did/Read/Thought Today

Hurrying off to uni after remembering the chai & cake stall, I forgot my lunch and the honey (not sweet mate), but managed to prove to myself the wisdom in having a slow bike. [Oh how I wish I could get my digital camera to work with these uni computers!] I got the chai on, retired to the Greens office to help with some ICT stuff and to do a bit of reading (more Bachelard), and headed to Civic Square for a Save The Ridge rally. I would post shots of that too, if only…

Reading. I pay close attention to my body when reading — how I’m sitting, where the pressure is, the weight of the book in my hands, my hands on my arms, where the forces are going. The intellectual exercise of entertaining the author[‘s ideas] is balanced (of course only partially — one still needs to swing from the trees shouting) by the awareness of my physical body.

The first graduate seminar that I’ve been to for weeks. Lenticulars are those pictures that move! Ooh err! (So I didn’t take many notes — eh!) The second talk set me thinking about media-independent replication of art; we’ve been doing it with text for ever, and that’s one of the aspects that draws me to the web-based data-gathering/page layout/hand-binding process: anyone anywhere could be doing similar things in totally different ways, but the ideas captured within the text would remain totally intact (much of why we marvel at digital storage). M. spoke about seating and stools and inspired me about sit/standing postures; I should like that for computeranating…

Enough for tonight!!!

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.