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Workbench Chat, by Nigel Gordon

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I like most of what Nigel has written, but this is one of his best, IMO. The first time I read it, I missed a lot of stuff; on subsequent passes, I kept discovering new gems. Bravo!

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42 minutes ago, ChrisR said:

This is a truly mesmerizing tale, with a story wrapped inside a story. Wonderfully crafted, it leaves me wanting only a video of the whole process Mr. Timpson guides Rick through! Thank you.

Glad to oblige, have a look at:



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A lovely film worth watching just for the aesthetic of the technique.  In my younger years I bound a few books, hobby bindings first to learn the steps and then to re-cover some heirloom books like old family bibles and keepsake volumes.  I never had a set-up like this binder's shop; his tools alone are worth a small fortune and are as well very hard to locate nowadays.  His work is exquisite, and watching him underlines the extent his even temperament plays a part in the outcome.  I am full of admiration.

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3 hours ago, Cole Parker said:

It's amazing how much time goes into binding just one book!  I have to assume the job is done much differently these day when machines substitute for craftsmanship.

Books much have cost a fortune when this was how they were assembled.



A question one of my beta readers asked was could a book have been hand bound in the time allowed for in the story, just over a couple of hours. The answer to this is that for a cloth bound book with a simple gold blocked lettering on the spine, then yes. I am part of a bookbinding group in Leicester and new comers to the group usually leave the first session with a bound book. Each session is three hours.

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I was wondering the same thing as I watched the date marker showing the passage of months! 

But even if a book can be bound at the rate of a few per day, methinks Tom Clancy and company would be a bit put out. Sadly, as books vaporize into e-books, this magical skill will likely fade even more into a quaint hobby.

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12 hours ago, ChrisR said:

Sadly, as books vaporize into e-books, this magical skill will likely fade even more into a quaint hobby.

I am not so sure. There is now a growing market of people who want hard copies off their favourite ebooks. Spent a few hours last night reformatting an ebook into a pdf file, then used Bookbinder 3 to generate the signatures, which I printed off. This morning I sowed the signatures together, this evening I will make the case binding for it. My friend is calling round on Sunday to pick it up. He is going to have a nicely bound hard copy of an ebook. I know a number of bookbinders who have done similar jobs.

There is also quite a market starting to build up in putting decent bindings on Print On Demand books coming out of Amazon and the likes. I have done two in the past month.


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I first read a draft of this story about two years ago, I think Nigel was intending it for a Christmas story. Liked it then. Like it even more now, the detail he has given into bookbinding is fascinating. There is a lot more to this story than I remember from reading the original draft. Would not say it is a better story, but it is a more involved story. Have read it a couple of times now and each time I have found something new.

Nigel, usually has a twist at the end of his stories, I had half expected it but the nature of it took me by surprise. It was not in the early draft I read though I think he must have had it in mind from the start.

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Definitely a remarkable story.  I would have liked to learn more about Mr. Timpson's background and life journey . . . i.e., what led him to his current craft, where (and from whom) did he learn it, etc.  Not essential to the story, but I can't help being curious.  

I have to confess that most of my reading is in electronic form these days.  Physical books take up more room than I have available.  Moreover, I have really become spoiled by having a whole library of things to read available on my phone or iPad wherever I happen to be.  Nowadays my physical book collection has largely been winnowed to things that are not available electronically.



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