Sunday, February 7, 2016

December/January Sketchbook Bound; More Paper Ponderings

December through January sketchbook
My latest sketchbook is complete and bound. On the front cover is my record-breaking fourth Santa sketched during the 2015 holiday season. The back cover shows the little girl I sketched at Top Pot Doughnuts.

I’ve been using a different paper lately – Canson XL 98-pound Mix Media. The paper isn’t new to me – it’s been my paper of choice for my handmade pocket sketchbooklets for a while – but it has only been the past month or so that I’ve been using it regularly in my full-size sketchbook. You can read about all my reasons for the change in last month’s post, but the primary motivation was to be able to bind more pages per book and therefore go longer between bindings (and save storage space on my bookshelves).

The book shown here is made of three signatures of my favorite 140-pound Canson XL watercolor paper and three signatures of the 98-pound paper, which yielded a 96-page book spanning a full two months. If I had used only 98-pound signatures, I could have bound 120 pages, probably spanning about three months. That’s going a lot longer between books than my previous pattern of binding 72 pages every four to six weeks.

Using thinner paper is definitely giving me more bang for my bookbinding buck (which is measured in my time more than money). Despite that significant benefit, I’m still undecided about whether I want to continue using 98-pound paper as my new standard. Two potential issues I had anticipated – ghosting and the paper’s ability to hold up to light washes and spritzes of water – have turned out to be non-issues for the most part. (Granted, the winter months are not a fair test of how well the paper holds up to washes, as I tend not to use watercolor much. When I start sketching outdoors again and therefore use more watercolor, I might not be as willing to tolerate the lighter paper.)

The real issue is one I hadn’t anticipated at all: Even though I’m stitching five sheets of 98-pound paper per signature (compared to three sheets of the 140-pound paper), the signature itself is still floppier than a signature of the heavier paper. It can bend a bit at the holes when I carry it around in my bag without the leather Stefano cover for support. (When I know I won’t be sketching standing up, I often carry around and sketch in a single signature of paper without the Stefano.) Even though the bending isn’t too severe, it put enough stress on a thread once to break it. Without the cover, it also feels a little insubstantial while sketching.

The 140-pound paper is ideal in almost every way (except the thickness that means I have to bind more often); that’s why I’ve been using it happily for nearly three years. I have three more signatures of 98-pound paper stitched up. I’ll use those up and then decide.

Edited 3/10/16: Spoiler alert: I decided to go back to 140-pound. Find out why.

1 comment:

  1. I can't imagine using the signatures without some kind of strong backing while I work. The sketchbooks, no matter what kind of paper, do take up so much space when you got to store them.


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