1. Spraying the covers.

2. Cutting the ribbon bookmarks.

3.Singeing the edges of the bookmarks.

4. Printing the sheets.

5. Cutting the sheets.

6. Folding the interior pages.

7. The folded interior pages and covers

8. The drill and hole template.

9. Drilling the holes.

10. Aly on the phone.

11. Sewing the interior pages to the cover.

12. More sewing.

13. Dabbing the knots with glue.

14. Letting the glue dry.

15. Applying glue to the ribbon bookmark.

16. Gluing the bookmark to the chapbook.

17. Letting the bookmarks dry.

18. More bookmarks drying.

19. Folding the bookmarks down.

20. Compressing the chapbooks.

21. The finished product.

Back to The Swan River Press
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by Brian J. Showers, © June 2006

There's a reason that I only make these chapbooks once per year. Aside from the fact that it takes me an agonisingly long time to write a story, the physical assembly the chapbooks takes more time than you probably want to know.

Those who do want to know, well, we kept track how long it took us to assemble Tigh an Bhreithimh in September/October 2006. I warn you: this is not for the squeamish.

The first step, after the story is written and after Duane has finished the illustrations, is to format the chapbook. Aly does the majority of this bit because it's too difficult for me. Honestly, the formatting is that intensive. There's probably any easier way to do this, but I'll be damned if either of us know what it is. I'll spare you the gory details, but Aly uses Microsoft Word. Each chapbook is made up of three A4 sheets, double-sided, that's a six page Word file. Each side of the paper has eight chapbooks pages on it (see Photo 4 at the left). Everything works out nicely in the end, but when it's in Word format, it is very confusing and headache conducing. Over the past couple of years Aly's developed a template so it's not as mind-melting as the first time we made them. The formatting, editing, proofreading, etc process can take anywhere from two to four weeks, working on and off. The font we use is 9 pt. Caslon Antique, but since Caslon Antique's commas look like full stops, we have go through the entire file and change the font for commas, semi-colons, and quotation marks (which Caslon Antique has no character for) to 8 pt. Baskerville Old Face.

Once everything's formatted, we're ready to print--we never use a photocopier. The first thing we print are the covers. For the covers we use Canford 150 gram paper. We can get four covers per A4 sheet of Canford paper. After printing, the sheets are sprayed with Windsor & Newton Fixative for Pastels to keep the toner from smudging (Photo 1). Anyone with a first printing copy of The Old Tailor & the Gaunt Man may notice the black on the cover may be wearing slightly. The first printing of Old Tailor is the only edition that we've done where we did not use fixative. We quickly learned our lesson! After the fixative dries, Aly cuts the covers and I fold them.

Next we make the ribbons. We use 10mm double-sided black polysatin ribbon imported direct from the UK (because craft shops here tell me that double-sided black ribbon is, apparently, unavailable in Ireland). We used single-sided ribbon on some of the earlier chapbooks, but switched to double-sided as it looks nicer. We cut each ribbon to a standard size (Photo 2) and singe the ends slightly (Photo 3). This melts the ribbons' edges a little so that they don't unravel.

Cutting and singeing 300 bookmarks: 360 minutes = 6 hours

The printing of the interior pages comes next. We use Adagio 80 gram ivory paper. The ivory paper, along with the Caslon Antique font help to give the chapbooks that quaint and antique feel (I hope). Each chapbook consists of three double-sided A4 sheets. Tigh an Bhreithimh had a print run of 300 copies. That's 1800 prints. This stage takes at least a couple of hours.

We then take the chapbooks home and begin assembling. This is where we started keeping track of hours. Generally, Aly does the cutting (Photo 5) and I do the folding (Photo 6).

Cutting and sorting pages: 750 minutes = 12.5 hours

Each 'signature' (for lack of a better word) is folded individually. All of this folding wears down my fingerprints, so this is also usually when I commit the most crimes. When everything is cut and folded, we compress the pages in a box top (Photo 7). It's normally during folding that we watch the most films. We calculated that folding takes 20.25 hours. That's roughly twelve films, mostly horror. We also sometimes talk.

Folding covers and pages: 1215 minutes = 20.25 hours

The next step is binding. Because the spine of the chapbooks are so thick, before we can sew, we must first drill holes. I do this with a small, flathead screwdriver, the sort that you would normally use for fixing your glasses (Photo 8). I take the interior pages, insert them into the cover, and lay the hole template (an orange card with pre-drilled holes) in the centre (Photo 9). I try to line everything up as best I can before drilling the holes. Drilling isn't so bad, but my hand tends to cramp up on occasion. While I'm drilling, Anna-Lena usually gets a head start on sewing. Or she takes breaks. To see Anna-Lena taking a break, see photo 10.

Drilling binding holes: 510 minutes = 8.5 hours

Right. Then comes the sewing. This is probably the second most time consuming stage (folding being the most). We use GŁtterman topstitch heavy, black thread. Cotton. I know that everyone who owns a copy of these chapbooks will cherish them and read them often, possibly while in the john. So I wanted to use something heavy duty, something that I know wouldn't break under duress (Photos 11 and 12). We snip the knots as closely as possible, and then apply a dab of 'Very Sticky Glue'. Honest. That's what the bottle says. Don't believe me? Click on the link. The act of gluing can be seen in photo 13. We usually let the chapbooks dry for a few hours (Photo 14) so that the pages don't end up sticking together when we compress them later.

Sewing and gluing: 900 minutes = 15 hours

The last major step is gluing the bookmarks to the back cover. Another dab of 'Very Sticky Glue' (Photo 15), a little bit of pressure (Photo 16), and the chapbook is virtually finished. We set them out again to let them dry over night (Photos 17 and 18), and that's pretty much it.

Gluing the bookmarks: 480 minutes = 8 hours

When the bookmarks have dried into place, we fold each one down over the first page and then compress the chapbooks in a box top (Photo 20). Compressing the chapbooks helps them close a little better as well as putting a fold in the bookmark. And that's how they sit for a few days before I post them off to their various destinations around the globe.

Total time to make 300 chapbooks: 4215 minutes = 70.5 hours

That's roughly 14 minutes to assemble each chapbook. And that's just assembly, not counting any time it takes for me to write the story, for Duane to illustrate it, and for the formatting. Divided into eight hour working days, making 300 chapbooks takes around nine full days. Given the repetition involved, one could literally go mad. To date, we've made 1000 chapbooks.

It's a lot of work, but I'm always pleased with the way the chapbooks turn out. They always look much nicer than I expect them to; this is mostly due to Aly's skill and attention to detail more than anything. I honestly enjoy making them, and I hope people like them.

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