Upcoming Workshops: Papermaking and Marbling

Coming up in March, we are holding our Introductory Papermaking and Western Marbling workshops on two consecutive Saturdays.

The Introductory Papermaking workshop will be held on March the 3rd. This course covers the basic materials, equipment, and processes used for making paper by hand. Techniques include basic sheetforming, couching, pressing, and drying, as well as the use of pigments, additives, and decorative inclusions. We concentrate on using commercially-available pulp, but also touch on recycling and use of raw plant fibres.

The Western Marbling workshop will be on March 10th. In this course, you will practice the techniques of western-style marbling, also sometimes called Turkish marbling or ebru. We will be using acrylic paints and either carragheenan or methyl cellulose size, but other materials will also be discussed.

Both workshops will run from 9am to 4pm with a 1-hour lunch break, and will be held at our store in New Dundee. We still have spaces available for both workshops, so if you’re interested, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

Posted in Hand Papermaking, Marbling, Our own courses and workshops, Past Events, Us

Estimating Dry Weight of Composition Material

While trying to remelt some old composition rollers recently, I found that some of the material wouldn’t melt. Neither higher temperatures nor additional water helped. All I ended up with was a lumpy soup, from which I strained the lumps and let the liquid portion set in a measuring cup.

I was curious as to how much of the original 250g of composition material I has managed to recover, but the sample in the cup contained quite a bit of extra water.

I had two choices: let the sample air dry until it no longer lost any weight, or sample the weight through a period of consistent drying conditions and use the changing weight to estimate the final dry weight.

The second method might require less time so I decided to try it. I cut off a about quarter of the hardened composition material and placed it on a piece of aluminum foil on the pan of my precision scale, which has a resolution of 100μg. The scale has a glass enclosure which I hoped would provide a consistent drying rate.

(warning: Math ahead!)

Read more ›

Posted in Composition ink rollers, Equipment Acquisition, Repair, and Maintenance, Kevin, Testing Equipment

A Book Arts Fair Rises from the Ashes

boundbookartsfair-lgeMuch to our dismay, we found out a month or so ago that there would no longer be a Book Arts Fair at OCAD University in early December. This marks the end of over 30 years of fairs at OCAD U, or as it was known back then, just plain OCAD (Ontario College of Art & Design).

However, many of the alumni of this annual fair will be at a new venue this year, with hopes that the new event will become an annual one.

The new fair will be held this year on Saturday, December 2nd, from 10am to 5pm at the Great Hall of the Arts and Letters Club, located at 14 Elm Street in downtown Toronto. This is just West of Yonge Street, between Gerrard and Dundas.

Vendor space is tighter than at the old fair, but we’ll be there with our selection of handmade and marbled papers, along with bookbinding and marbling supplies.

Come out and see us, maybe buy a book or two!

Posted in BOUND Book Arts Fair, OCADU Book Arts Fair, Past Events, Us

Casting Composition Brayer Rollers—the Motion Picture

img_0402I’ve posted on YouTube a video of near-epic length showing my bumbling through the casting of some small composition rollers for a Kelsey hand brayer. The rollers are about 6×1⅜″ on a ¼″ core.

I had originally intended to re-melt the old roller material to reuse it, but much of it proved resistant to melting. About ⅔ of it would not melt down, and in the process of trying to get it to melt I had added so much water that the melted ⅓ was too watery to use. It seems something had altered the gelatin at the surface rendering it insoluble at any temperature. I don’t know what causes this problem, but I have several theories on this and I currently have some samples stored under various test conditions.

Instead I used some fresh composition material from Tarheel Roller. They don’t cast composition rollers any more, but they still have some of the material available. Even this fresh material seemed to have some part that would not liquefy when heated, forming a bit of a lumpy melt. A durometer test on the material reads 5 on the Shore A scale, or 58 on the Shore OO scale, much softer than most rubber compounds.

In the end I had two rollers that would work in a brayer, but might not be have been accurate enough to be used as form rollers in a press.


Posted in Composition ink rollers, Kevin Tagged with:

Fate of the Turtle Nests

It’s been months since some snapping turtles laid nests in my yard, and I can finally report on how things turned out.

A few weeks after the eggs were laid, I found some evidence of digging at one of the nests, so I placed a scrap of lumber over it for a few weeks and that was enough to discourage the digging.

On October 2nd, I found that one of the nests had a tunnel leading out of it. I pulled off the roof of the nest and cleaned it out, finding most of the eggs empty:
hatched-nestSo it looks like these turtles hatched and most got back to the creek (or perhaps were eaten en route if a predator was watching at the right time).

The other nest seemed to be showing some surface digging again, but not very deep. Unfortunately, the next day I found that this second nest had been dug up and raided, perhaps by a raccoon or skunk:


The raided nest with eggshells scattered about


Close-up of the nest showing the hole dug from above. Some rain has obliterated some of the digging marks.

For this nest, the eggshells were scattered over an area of almost a metre. The hole was also clearly dug from above.

A few days later, I found this along part of the driveway, next to the corner of a building:

dessicated-babyThis baby didn’t make it to water in time, and baked in the sun leaving these desiccated remains.

So one nest out of two survived, and some unknown number of the babies from that nest made it safely to water. It took about 15 weeks from when the eggs were laid to when the nest was vacated.

Posted in Fauna, Gardening Tagged with:

Tororo-Aoi Pods Ripening

img_0364The seed pods on my tororo-aoi plants have started to mature. As this happens, they turn brown, dry out, and develop splits along their five lengthwise ridges. The seeds inside are probably dry and ready for storage for next spring. In the spring I will probably test germination of these seeds, the (by then) year-old ones I bought, and also fresh ones from Richter’s.

Each plant seems to have typically produced five pods, and while the bottom ones are maturing, the topmost ones are still green. The plants grew a single stem, with only feeble attempts at making side shoots. A review of tips for growing okra (a close relative) implies that allowing the pods to mature will cause the plant to stop flowering. Next year I’ll try picking the pods as soon as the flowers drop to see if I get more (immature) pods and/or a bushier plant.

The plants I grew from the seeds bought through AliExpress are just developing flower buds now, but this morning, after a couple of weeks of unusually hot late-September weather, there was frost on the rooftops, so it is unlikely that these plants will produce any pods.

I harvested two of the the green pods from the top of the plants, chopped them up, and put them in water to see if they produced usable neri.

img_0366These pods were tough, fibrous, and had very little sap in them. After soaking for a while, the water indeed showed the characteristics of formation aid, but it was not strong enough to be useful. One pod in 500ml (2 cups) of water produced a bit of stringiness and self-siphoning but was not quite enough to feel slimy when you rubbed it on your fingers. It was closer to the consistency one would want in the vat rather than in a concentrate to add to the vat.

Harvesting the pods soon after they form, rather than allowing them to grow to full size, might have given pods with much more sap in them and so stronger neri. This would be something else to try next year, hand-in-hand with picking the immature pods early to encourage more flowers and perhaps more plant growth.

Posted in Gardening, Home-grown supplies, Kevin

Valley Beater available in Bellingham WA

We’re passing on this note about a Valley Beater for sale, located in Bellingham, Washington, which is very close to Vancouver BC:

I am located in Bellingham, Washington, which is very close the US/BC border, just beneath Vancouver and Surrey, so it would be conveniently close for anyone in the Vancouver Area to come down and have a look.I’m a professor of art at Western Washington University and I’m reluctantly selling my beater to help fund my sabbatical project in Germany, where I’ll soon be for one year.


I have a working Voith Valley HOLLANDER Beater. It needs a new diaphragm and I had to dismantle it for transport, but it is otherwise a fully operational machine in good/very good condition. It is complete and comes with a very solid wood table with a 1-1/2” thick plywood top and 6” X 8” redwood legs. The 120V motor works and sits on an equally solid shelf beneath.

I’m asking $1,250 $1,000 [US dollars]

img_8847Some additional information:

  • This is a 1½ pound Valley Beater, serial number 109-E-1428 VS-01971.
  • This beater has a cast iron tank and there is some rusting on the base near the drive pulley, but the interior is in good condition.
  • The “dismantling” consisted of disconnecting plumbing and drive belts, and removing the beater from the table. The beater itself is fully assembled.
  • The beater needs a new diaphragm, but you can make your own or we can sell you one if you can’t get one elsewhere.
  • The seller has owned it about 4 years, and he believes the person he bought it from was the original owner.
  • If you want to import this to Canada, the customs tariff classification is 8439.10.00.00 and it is duty-free (but you’ll still have to pay GST)

If you need additional information or are interested in buying this beater, please contact the seller, Sebastian Mendes, directly at secularhumanist@hotmail.com.

Update: Sebastian may be out of the country, so you should contact his wife, Theresa Smith, at theresaincognita@gmail.com. Also, the price has been reduced to US$1000.

Posted in For Sale, Other people

Tororo-Aoi (and other) Flowers

My tororo-aoi plants have started blooming.

One of the plants, about 40cm tall, in bloom.

One of the plants, about 40cm tall, in bloom.

The flower, about 6cm across, is pale yellow with dark purple in the centre.

The flower, about 6cm across, is pale yellow with dark purple in the centre. They look very delicate but are actually quite sturdy.

So far, only the transplanted plants are big enough to bloom; the direct-seeded ones are just getting to the point of thinking about producing flower buds, and the plants from the seeds from AliExpress are still only 2 or 3cm tall.

The flowers only last a day so you have to check frequently to get a picture. After that they close again, and fall off as the seed pod grows out. The seed pods look like the pods of okra, a closely-related plant.

The flowers and pods are not essential to the production of neri, but they look nice in the front garden. The bed on the other side of the front door has a stand of sunflowers, which grew from a combination of bird seed and seeds dropped from last year’s sunflowers. Beneath them is a thin stand of rose of Sharon seedlings.img_0132

Speaking of rose of Sharon (another more distant relative of tororo-aoi but still in the mallow family), mine are now in bloom:

The pink one on the right grew from seed, perhaps a hybrid of the white and violet ones.

The pink one on the right grew from seed, perhaps a hybrid of the white and violet ones.

They have quite a few more blooms now, a few days after taking the photos, but they’re already past their peak. Being in the mallow family, the sap of these shrubs is also slimy and could be used as formation aid, but because the plant is woody (both stems and roots), extracting any substantial amount of sap would be difficult. Perhaps I should try picking the seed pods before they dry out and seeing if they can supply some slime.

Posted in Gardening, Home-grown supplies, Kevin

Surprise Tororo-Aoi Sprouts

About a week ago I planted the tororo-aoi seeds I had purchased through AliExpress into our front garden. I had previously had no success sprouting them indoors, and decided as a last try to direct seed them where my other seeds from Richter’s had sprouted so well.

Much to my surprise, they sprouted:

20170705aliexpress-seedlings I had planted them in three clusters of about four or five seeds each. At least one sprouted from each cluster, but as you can see, these seedlings appear to be a tasty snack for some creatures.

The larger plants are also being eaten but have not suffered so badly:


It is now early July so it remains to be seen how large these plants grow before first frost. I still have to remember to keep them watered through the summer.

Posted in Gardening, Home-grown supplies, Kevin

Tororo-Aoi Growth

The tororo-aoi seedlings I showed in a previous post have been in the ground for a few weeks now, and, except for the one destroyed by forces unknown, all have grown several true leaves and are 10-15cm (4-6″) tall.

I planted them in the front garden of our house, which gets full sun exposure. The soil also gets good drainage due to the adjacent retaining wall and I thought I would have to water them constantly, but we’ve had regular rain most of the spring. I only watered them a few times during one dry week.

I also direct-seeded a few more plants (including a replacement for the destroyed one) and was happy to see the seeds sprout within about 4 or 5 days. I used the seeds from Richter’s which had sprouted well indoors.

The seeds I purchased through AliExpress did not sprout at all indoors, but to give them one last chance I planted a few in this same bed yesterday. I should be able to see within a week if they are at all viable.

One side of our front garden. The three large plants are sunflowers.

One side of our front garden. The three large plants are sunflowers. The four transplanted tororo-aoi plants are visible just a bit closer to the retaining wall, and three of the new seedlings are visible, one halfway between the nearer sunflowers, one in the shade of the middle sunflower, and one replacement for the lost transplant at the far end.

Seen from the side

From the side, you can see four of the new seedlings and a clear view of two transplants, with the other two hiding behind the sunflower leaves.

Posted in Gardening, Home-grown supplies, Kevin

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