Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Salute to Steel

I know a thing or two about steel. Growing up, my dad worked in the steel industry as a technician. My husband heads up the research lab for the world's largest steel company, so he definitely knows a few things about it. 

No book arts studio is complete without a few hunks of cold hard steel in the tool shed. Whether you need a high degree of accuracy, some substantial weight, or just a true and steady surface to work with, you'll probably find a steel instrument does the job better than most anything else. Here are a few items that I find extremely useful when making books and boxes.

Starting from the upper left corner, a set of 3 angle plates keeps projects with 90 degree angles nice and square. I also use the flat side of these angles to weigh down the interior of my paper boxes so they dry nice and flat. To the right, the steel machinists' squares are also indispensable for making boxes: I use them to make sure my sidewalls are glued straight to the base of the box. At bottom right, the large steel right angle, about 1/4" thick, is perfect for folding signature sheets without having to think too much about it. Place the right edge of the paper against the steel corner, then bring the left edge over to match. Perfect folds every time!

The golden  rectangle on the left/middle is a steel bar that has been covered in bookcloth, for weighing down glued materials. Steel is way heavier than a comparable sized brick, and this particular one is 2" square (by about 6" long), making it easier to fit inside boxes than the covered brick weights I've talked about in an earlier post. 

Where does one obtain these heavy helpers? The angle plates and machinists' squares are from MicroMark. The large steel square is from Hollanders. (Check the supply resource list at the right for links.) Superman (holding a book) is from Krypton, but that's another story. 

The steel bar was the most fun to obtain. Since moving here several years ago, I have been driving by a steel supply business several times a week. One day I decided to go in to see if they could duplicate those sexy, expensive steel weights I've seen at the big bookbinding supply houses  for less money. The guys were very helpful and sent me back to the warehouse to pick out the thickness of steel I wanted, then they would cut it to any length I wished. Well, that may sound simple, except that steel comes in 16 to 20 foot lengths, and even just one of those babies has to be lifted by a crane, it is that heavy! The crane is suspended overhead and runs on tracks that span the entire length and width of the very large warehouse building. So, when they pick up your bar from the great and mighty piles and raise it up above the floor  inventory to bring it to the cutter, you can see it coming for a very long time!  When it finally arrives, the long bar is lowered into a track for the cutter, which is the biggest, meanest lookin' chop saw you ever saw, about the size of my first car. There, they cut the ginormous bar into your little measly lengths. It's all very very loud, and oh what fun to watch the sparks fly! Quite an experience in exchange for a nominal cutting fee, one even Superman can appreciate.

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