Margaret Stead - Could you describe the various leather-working skills required to produce such beautiful results?
Paul Tronson – Preparation is very important, knowledge of the different types of leather, grain direction, surface types etc… all contribute to the finished look. As all my skins are hand tanned, they are a natural colour, so the book is bound in say a plain white calf/goat and the vegetable dyes are added after. This is an example of a 16th century formula I use before paste washes were developed. First I choose a skin and look for any imperfections such as briar marks, scars, scratches, holes etc.
The piece required is cut over size to allow for shrinkage when hot ironing, this done the skin is cut to the size of the book allowing for turn-in all round. The skin is then “pared” on all edges and “bordered”, this is a rolling action between the hands that moves the fat around the skin and makes it supple.
After the book is covered the colours are applied. If gilding is required to the covers, the book is “glaired” (egg albumen) as a whole, if blind tooling is required, a mix of bulls fat and candle wax (tallow) is applied to stop the hot tools burning into the leather and to give a dark burnished look to the tooling, this is removed before polishing with a hot iron and carnauba wax.