Using a Makeshift Bookbinding Plough

This weekend I had to work on a small project that is not so typical for me. A friend of mine gave me several books to separate the pages, scan, and rebind them together once again. These are adhesive binding books, so almost no harm is done by cutting off the spine. There was only one problem: I do not have any instrument to trim the book block besides my utility knife.

Utility knife serves its purpose quite well when I need to fast fix some errors made by students at my bookbinding workshops. However, every bookbinder who ever tried to trim the edge with a utility knife knows, that the result would be far from perfect. For my other projects I prefer to use a guillotine cutter at the local fast print shop. This time I decided to experiment and make a simple bookbinding plough.

I had my old lying press and a cheap chisel to start with. I have to confess that I’ve spent more than three hours grinding the chisel with different types of sandpaper. Yes, that was another challenge I’ve created for myself. I do not have any grinding machinery besides the angle grinder, and I’ve decided to do everything by hand =)

Anyway, the result was surprisingly nice. I was able to make my chisel into a nice rounded knife that could be used as a makeshift plough. Unfortunately the quality of the steel proved to be not so good and pretty soon I have discovered several chips on the edge. However, that’s nothing that couldn’t be righted with a strop.

2015.12.14 - Makeshift Bookbinding Plough

After I had my new portable (LOL) bookbinding plough, I needed only about 15 minutes per book for trimming. I’ve positioned every book block with a straight edge in the lying press, leaving only the spine outside. Then I used the surface of the lying press as a guide.

2015.12.14 - Ploughing a Book_DSC5682-ANIMATION

I cannot say that the process was faster than with a utility knife, but the result was almost perfect: I had a nice even and smooth cut. I suppose I’ll use my new instrument both at my classes and for my own projects at my home workshop, when I’m too lazy to go to that fast print shop =)

I’d be glad to find out what instruments and tools you use for your own projects. Please share your ideas in the comments section below.

As a bonus I add several videos. The first one shows a really small bookbinding plough (I love the idea!). Process in the second video is very similar to what I’ve be doing with a chisel. Third one is quite important, because it tells about what you should keep in mind while ploughing. That’s a video by

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