So the Super Seekrit Project is seekrit no more: it was bound to hold parishioners' memories of and given to him at his farewell Mass. So now I'll talk about the binding a bit. (1/n)

The request was: make something to hold a quantity of A4-sized pages that would be (mostly) printed out or (a few) handwritten, plus maybe some cards and suchlike. How many and in what assortment wasn't clear.

I think the parish council expected me to pretty up a binder or something.

Books that you want to stick papers into need a special structure. If you just randomly paste papers onto the pages of normal book the book block gets wider than the spine and it won't close.
The solution is called a guarded book. It has a mix of normal and stubby pages.

Here’s an example i made many years ago. Note the stubby page there above the photo.

That compensates for the thickness of the photo, balancing book block and the spine.

So now I knew how to structure the pages: fold each sheet of paper not in the middle, but near the edge, so that there is a mix of full-sized and stubby pages.

To deal with the indeterminate number of pages, I decided to do an exposed-spine binding. That puts the actual sewing of the book near the end of the process, which means you don't need to know how many signatures you need when you start.

So I started with the covers.
Because Nico put so much work into the reconstruction of our church, I decided I would base the front cover design on it. Here's a reference photo and the final cover. (9/n)

The altar was fun. Because the brown leather I was using was thinner than the white background leather, I built the cover up where it was going to go. The build-up included the long horizontal grooves that are a feature of the altar.

Here's a close-up of that altar.
I used a copper metallic wax on the dark brown leather, then added a glossy glaze to give it shine. The concrete altarpiece is represented by a strip of eelskin that I rubbed grooves into.

The other feature that took some extra love was the window. Again, here's a reference photo and the one on the book.
I used some unevenly opaque vellum to give the impression of the contour lines of the original.

Of course, you can't just smack even a very thin piece of vellum (or anything else) on top of leather and expect it's going to stay for the ages.
What you have to do is stick it on, press it with a firm surface on the top and a soft one on the back (so the dent goes through)...

...then after it's pressed, shave down the flesh side so that there's a perfectly-shaped dent in the leather. It's called back-paring, and it definitely takes some practice.

The back cover was less elaborate: it's just an inset of Nico's initials.

About a week and a half before the due date, I got an estimate of the number of inserts. Somewhere in the high 50's, maybe low 60's.
I wanted an odd number of signatures, because I had a plan for the spine. So I played around with multiples and decided on 63 (7x9).

I had a few ideas on stretching or compressing things, but in the end we had 60 submissions (two with accompanying photos that could go on facing pages).
Plus a dedication page and a note from me, then I could leave the first page blank like a flyleaf.

I made the requisite signatures, adding gold-colored guards around the backs.
They were a nightmare to deal with, always falling out of alignment. In the end I used a sewing trick and basted each signature on its own, with thread I would later remove.

I had a complex plan for the spine sewing. I wanted to have a couple of strips of vellum with writing on them at the top and bottom, and couple of raised cords (both for good connections to the covers) plus a number of rows of chain stitches.

Why such a complex plan?
Because I wanted to sew the spine as a calendar of the liturgical year, showing the different colors that go with the seasons.

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