Downie Allison Downie book repair course

SLLG member, Kirstie Hustler of the Advocates Library, reviews one of Downie Allison Downie’s bookbinding courses which are taught on Saturdays throughout the year at their workshop in Glasgow.

This was the second course I had attended at DAD Bookbinders and I was really looking forward to it. I had given my dad a place on the course as a birthday present so it turned out to be a very enjoyable “Daddy Daughter Day” as well as a day for learning new library related skills.

dad-bookbinding

Take this hammer: book repair in action

The workshop was easy to find and close to the station. There was a cup of coffee and introductions on arrival and then we got stuck in. On this particular day there were four students and two teachers (Karen and Gemma) which ensured everyone had help when they required it. The atmosphere was friendly and supportive and we were even provided with lunch.

Each person had brought some books which were candidates for repair and we discussed them with the tutors and made our selection. My books weren’t very old (well no older than me) but were definitely well-used and well-loved.

tatty-books

Before…

First of all we had to mend any pages which were torn. This involved cutting paper to match the torn edge and attaching it using heat sensitive tape. I couldn’t believe I was ironing and actually enjoying it.

Using the techniques learned in the beginners class we created new covers for our old books. Some people peeled away the old spines and reattached them to the new bindings.

Another part of the process I really enjoyed was hammering the edges of the pages into a curve and rolling the new cover across a metal bar to create a curved spine. One of my books was an old paperback which was shedding its pages. I made a hard cover for this and it looks great. My other book was a big book of children’s stories and I had brought wrapping paper to use as a facing for the inside covers. I was very happy with the finished effect.

bound-books

…and after

Finally we used a machine to stamp the book titles onto their new covers. At the end of the day we had breathed new life into old books and I really felt I had elevated old favourites into new treasures. I would really recommend you have a look through the scruffier parts of your library and sign up for this course.


Kirstie attended the Book Repair course, held on 28 April 2018 from 10am until 4pm, priced £75.00 including materials and lunch. Details of future bookbinding courses can be found on the DAD website.

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