Showing posts with label fish leather. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fish leather. Show all posts

Friday, October 18, 2019

Salmon Parchment Tests at UICB

A short video of the testing process on my salmon parchment conducted recently by Tim Barrett at the University of Iowa Center for the Book Research and Production Paper Facility.

So, how did the tests go? Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Bookbinding Materials wrote, "salmon skin is strong. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly strong it is."

University of Iowa Center for the Book
Research and Production Paper Facility
October 17, 2019

P. Verheyen provided samples of goat skin parchment and fish skin parchment, both of about the same thickness.  An MIT Folding Endurance tester and an Elmendorf Tear tester were used to gather the reported data, although both are designed for evaluating the mechanical properties of paper, not parchment.  The two related TAPPI standard procedures used were T 511 and T 414.1

The following important exceptions to the specified steps occurred during the tests:
  1. None of the specimens were pre-conditioned or conditioned nor was testing done in a temperature and humidity controlled room. RH varied between 30 and 42%.
  2. Only two strips of both parchments were subjected to fold tests and 13mm wide strips were tested rather than the specified 15mm wide strips. 
  3. One ply of each parchment was used for the tear testing. 
  4. Three fish skin parchment tear tests were attempted and all were disqualified because the required tears across the full width of the specimen were not possible due to the strength of the material.
Below the results for goat parchment and PC4.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Latest Salmon Parchment

Used my last piece of salmon parchment to have it tested for fold and tear strength, so had to make a new one. Note the translucency! So glad Wegman's has salmon fillets in a family size. Good to have Fritz Otto around to hold it up for photography...

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Fritz Otto Goes Fishing 2

In the last installment, Fritz Otto Goes Fishing, our hero prepared the fish skin for making parchment, but also trying something new, egg tanning. We're following Nienke Hoogvliet's instructions from her book Fish LeatherReady? Here we go! Fritz Otto is glad @bookbinderbarbie left copies of her notes.

Taking one of the haddock and stretching it out to make parchment.
We'll compare with the egg tanned haddock.

All right, that's done. Now to let it dry.


Now, on to the egg tanning!

Why do I always get the grunt work?Beat the egg, oil, detergent mixture until smooth.

Next, tamp the haddock and salmon so that they are not dripping wet.

At least I didn't have to drop the skins into the egg/oil
mixture to then massage it into the skins until warm.
That looked totally gross!

But, wait! I get roll up the slimy skins so that they can sit for about 15 minutes.

Now we hang them up to drip-dry.
When dry, they'll still feel oily/slippery, and we'll need to massage and work them to
loosen up the fibers in the skin. We do that for a week.

Here they are a week later. Time to rinse in soapy water until they
feel soft and not oily/slippery.

Rinse, and rinse some more...

Let drip-dry. We tamped with a paper towel again, too.

Then, dump them into a more dilute mixture, work in, and set out to dry.

We smoothed them out to dry on a piece of plexi-glass,
scale-side down. That gives them a shinier appearance.
When they were dryish, we worked them back and forth
over a smooth dowel, always with the flesh side to the dowel.
Finally, we worked it like leather before paring.

Take out the pins and liberate the haddock parchment. Next we'll compare.

Comparing the haddocks – parchment at the bottom, egg tanned at top.
The egg tanned is like parchment, but much shiner and more
transparent. Not sure how we feel about that... The whitish patches are
fleshy stuff that will need to be scrapped off with a scalpel later.
The haddock is much more thin-skinned than the salmon.

See what I mean by transparent and shiny?

And here the egg tanned salmon. Less translucent than the salmon parchment that was made
 when @bookbinderbarbie was here over a month ago. Softer too, but not supple like leather.
Still. looks and feels really interesting. Wonder if we'll make anything with it?

Click here to see where this fishy adventure started.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Fritz Otto Goes Fishing

Thanks to Fritz Otto, I'm able to dive into another round of making fish skin parchment and leather. Have three skins in this batch, one coho salmon, and two haddocks. He'll make parchment from one of the haddocks, and then "we'' egg-tan the other and the coho following Nienke Hoogvliet's instructions from her book Fish Leather, a by-product of her RE-SEA ME project. Will be nice to have two identical species to compare.

A few weeks ago, Fritz Otto skinned the fillets we got,
freezing the skins until we're ready. This is the coho.

The skins were rinsed in unscented/un-dyed dish detergent to help remove oils.
This process was repeated a few times, the skins kept in the refrigerator in-between
to prevent decay.

Next I showed him how to remove any remaining fleshy bits
from the skin. 

He used a scalpel and scrapped away...

Tiring work he just wanted to hide after.
He said it was kind-of gross.
I gave him some space...

Reading up from Nienke Hoogvliet's instructions from her book Fish Leather
The skins are soaking in a Mason jar with the dish detergent again. Tomorrow we stake out the one haddock to make parchment, and then start the egg-tanning. Looks straight forward.

See Fritz Otto Goes Fishing 2 for the next steps.

Monday, August 5, 2019

A Fish Skin Rug

I was recently made aware of Studio Nienke Hoogvliet, "a design studio for material research, experimental and conceptual design based in The Hague, The Netherlands. The studio was founded in 2013 with a focus on "raising awareness of social and environmental problems in the textile, leather and food industry."

In her project SEA ME she researches how seaweed can contribute to a more sustainable textile industry. RE-SEA ME focuses on the applications of fish skin. She also published a book describing her method of preparing skins without chemicals. Based on the video this looks like she is making parchment, a topic dear to my heart. The book costs $75 including shipping to the US. Can't wait to get my copy and wish I had a rug like she made. Perhaps I need to make my own.

RE-SEA ME is the continuation of SEA ME. To show the duality between plastic waste in the oceans and the sustainable materials the oceans have to offer, Nienke continued her search for materials out of the sea. She discovered that fish skins are a waste product of the fishing industry, while you can also make them into beautiful leather.

She went to fish shops to collect their waste and discovered a way of tanning the skins without any chemicals. By using an old technique, that requires a lot of manual labour, she created a strong, sustainable and beautiful material that can be used like regular leather. To show the abilities of the leather, Nienke designed a small stool with fish leather seating. To continue the SEA ME collection, she also designed a conceptual rug where the fish leather is sown into a discarded fishing net.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Bookbinder Barbie Visits Syracuse

So, @BookbinderBarbie is a real thing. In some ways she is becoming an "influencer" and a meme for the bookbinding and book arts set online, at least I hope she will become. We could all use a lighthearted ambassador that makes what we do accessible to the "masses," at least I think so.

She was started by North Bennet Street School Bookbinding (NBSS) students a year ago, and has been sharing her experiences in that program and during her travels ever since. This summer she is visiting binders, conservators, printers, artists, and many others throughout the US, before heading back to start her second year at NBSS. Think of it as a series of intense, short-term internships.

Bookbinderbarbie on Instagram

I was fortunate to have her visit this past week, and we had some great experiences in a few short days. She got here late because Air USPS "lost her," then decompressed for an evening by looking at some books including one about her in a past life, and playing with the trains. Next day we headed across Syracuse to see some sights and visit Boxcar Press and the great people there. That evening, I taught her the stiffened paper binding (Steifbroschure) and we made a 1/4 fish leather binding with sides covered in hand printed cloth made by an artist in Venice. This was a prelude to making her own parchment from salmon the next day. That next day she got to go to work with me, and while I was doing my thing with spreadsheets (she wasn't interested) she received a personal tour of Syracuse University Libraries' amazing Plastics Collection from Courtney, the curator. She was an instant fan!

After we got home it was time to make that parchment. Below a few photos, embedded posts from with links to the others from Syracuse. To see all her adventures, you know you want to, scroll through her Insta feed, better yet follow for there is much more to come.

Richard Minsky Nice to see Barbara Slate's Marvel Barbie comic.
It's been 25 years since Barbie taught at the Center for Book Arts.
Looks like a new bookbinder Barbie may take that position ❣️
Barbie #43, July, 1994.

Making a 1/4 fishskin case binding with printed cloth sides.
Barbie came with her own tools.

The stiffened paper binding (Steifbroschure)
More under

Syracuse's own Niagara Mohawk building, an art deco gem.

I got to go shopping for a delicious meal in advance of Barbie's visit. Yum!

Stretching out the salmon parchment.

Inspecting the stretched out skin.

A full step-by-step description of the process can be
found under

Finally, looking at some books, here the Boss Dog Press edition
of Ernst Collin's Pressbengel that was translated
by Peter D. Verheyen as The Bone Folder. 
Download the text laid out for binding in the left sidebar,
make some fish parchment, and bind your own copy.
Make sure to share pictures.

Links to all the posts from Syracuse:

I can't wait to see what Barbie does next and how she grows as an emerging professional. Perhaps she'll tell her story in a journal article or blog post somewhere. I know I had a wonderful time hosting her, and know all the others she visited did as well. What a great way to spend the summer. Made me feel young again.

Related, perhaps other programs and individual book artists could adopt this concept with their own Avatars, and then they could all converse and grow together as practicing binders and book arts professionals.

Oh, Twitter seems to be enjoying her, too.

Some tweet reactions!

Friday, May 18, 2018

More Fish Parchment | Mehr Fisch Pergament

After making the parchment from Salmon a year ago, I got to do it again.... Here a more detailed "tutorial" than the last time. Now, go out and make your own.

Nachdem ich aus Lachshaut vor einem Jahr Pergament gemacht habe durfte ich es wieder... Hier eine mehr detaillierte Anleitung als beim letzten Mal. Jetzt macht eure eigene. 

My wife went shopping and brought fish home - I got the skin...
Meine Frau ging einkaufen und brachte Fisch nach Hause - die Haut war für mich

The skins before freezing (top, lane snapper & bottom, sea bass)
Die Häute vor dem Einfrieren (oben, Schnapper & unten, Wolfbarsch)

Fischsicle - Time to get started by thawing
Fisch am Stiel - Angefangen wird mit dem Austauen

Next steps | Nächste Vorgänge

Rinsing fish skin in cold water and unscented dish detergent to remove oils... I left it overnight in the refrigerator, then rinsed in cold water, and repeated several times over the course of 2 days.

Die Häute wurden in kaltem Wasser mit unparfümierten Geschirrspülmittel gewaschen um Öle zu entfernen... Ich ließ es über Nacht im Kühlschrank, spülte mit viel kaltem Wasser und wiederholte das Ganze 2 Tage.

After soaking in the dish detergent, I scrape the remaining bits of flesh off of the skin. What remains will be scraped off when the skins are dry.

Nach dem Geschirrspülmittel habe ich Fleischreste mit einem stumpfen Scalpel vorsichtig abgekratzt. Was danach bleibt wird nach dem Spannen und Trocknen abgekratzt.

After scraping, the skin is soaked in the refrigerator overnight in a slurry of cold water and kaolin to absorb odors. This is repeated again.
[I have stopped doing this, instead doing more changes of the soapy water]

Nach dem abkratzen der Fleischreste wurde die Haut im Kühlschrank über Nacht in einem Flüssigschlamm aus kaltem Wasser und Kaolin (Porzellanerde) getränkt um Geruche aufzusaugen. Dieses habe ich wiederholt.
Ich mache diesen Schritt nicht mehr, sondern wiederhole mehr Geschirrspülmittel und Wasser Bäder.]

The skins stretched out using tacks stuck into foam core board. There is a layer of Hollytex and folder stock between the fish and the foam core.

Die Häute werden mit Reißzwecken auf eine Hartschaumplatte gespannt. Zwischen Haut und Hartschaum sind noch ein Stück Hollytex und dünne Pappe.

The stretched skins | Die gespannten Häute

The stretched skins | Die gespannten Häute

The stretched skins | Die gespannten Häute

In the final step, the skins are scraped down from the the verso to remove the last vestiges of flesh. I'll also degrease by wiping with denatured alcohol or acetone.

Im letzten Arbeitsgang müssen die letzten Fleischreste entfernt werden. Ich werde auch mit Alkohol oder Acetone entfetten.

Fleshy fibers | Fleischliche Faser

The "scale" side | Die Schuppenseite
The colors on the colorful fish faded
Die Farben an dem buten Fisch sind verblasst

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Noch mehr zum Fisch | More Fishiness

Beim stöbern in meiner Fachliteratur, vor allem meiner neuen Heftlade (Herausgegeben von Ernst Collin für den Jakob-Krause-Bund), fand ich einen Aufsatz von Paul Kersten, "Kurioses Einbandmaterial," (Bd. 1, Nr. 1, 1922 (9-13). In diesem besprach Kersten kurz die vielen im Allgemeinen unbekannte Materialien tierischen Ursprungs die Buchbinder verwenden. Unter diesen war auch Fisch. Als erstes erwähnte Kersten den Aal den wir zuerst von "Fips" kennen lernten. Kersten zitierte Zeidler eines der frühsten deutschen Fachbücher zur Buchbinderei.

While leafing through my reference collection, in particular my new copy of the Heftlade (published by Ernst Collin for the Jakob-Krause-Bund), I found an article in German by Paul Kersten about "Curious Binding Materials,"  (Vol. 1, Nr., 1, 1922 (9-13) in which Kersten discussed a number of what he considered highly unusual and large unknown animal-based materials binders might use. Among these was also fish. Kersten began his mention of fish starting with eel skin, a material we first learned about from "Fips."

"Fips mit seiner Aalhaut | "Fips" with his eel skins

Johann Gottfried Zeidlers Buchbinder-Philosophie Oder Einleitung In die Buchbinder Kunst (1708) beginnt Ende der Seite 121 mit der Beschreibung von Aal als Werkstoff mit grosser Festigkeit der sich auch sehr leicht zubereiten läßt – Abziehen, aufspannen, trockenen, und fertig. Halt so wie "Fips" es machte (und ohne Entfettung). Wegen der größe der Haut (schmal und lang) lassen sich damit aber nur kleiner Bücher binden... Ein in Aalhaut gebundenes Buch konnte Kersten auch nicht finden.

In writing about eel, Kersten cites Johann Gottfried Zeidlers Buchbinder-Philosophie Oder Einleitung In die Buchbinder Kunst (1708), one of the earliest German binding manuals. In that, beginning on page 121, Zeidler describes the strength of the skin, and its ease of preparation - pull off the skin, stake out, and let dry, just like "Fips" did, but without degreasing. Because of the size of eel (long and narrow) it was really only suited for smaller books. Kersten also mentions that he has never seen a book bound in eel skin.

Kersten zitiert Zeidler zur Aalhaut | Kersten quotes Zeidler on eel skin.
Kersten beschreibt auch andere Fischarten, unter denen Kabeljau, daß er mit Kalbpergament vergleicht, "das haltbarste aller Einband-Materialien ist."

Kersten also mentions other kinds of fish, among them cod, that he compares with calf vellum, the most durable of all binding materials.

Kersten über Kabeljau | Kersten on cod

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Bone Folder Design Prototypes

While waiting for the Boss Dog Press to complete the printing of the fine press edition of my translation of Ernst Collin's Der Pressbengel (as The Bone Folder), I decided to experiment with some design ideas on the sheets I offer for download. While the format of these is 8.5" x 11" folded in half, the fine press edition will have a trim size of 9" x 12."

N.b. The Boss Dog's printing is almost complete, and will have been more than worth the wait. Like a fine wine or beer.

Binding 1, Dorfner/de Gonet style:

The design is a play on the question and answer dialog of the text. Sewing supports are vellum back with pared leather to give a more 3-dimension effect. Leather on spine is natural Niger leather and on boards is Harmatan with chagrin for the low relief onlays.

Top edge in graphite with hand sewn endbands. The image also shows the open joint structure of the Dorfner/de Gonet style

Collaged doublures and flyleaves with dilute colored paste washes. Base of the collage is Collin's original text in German, with onlays from articles and books on topics referenced in the book that were written by Collin.
I was inspired to try this by some of the work of Mark Cockram, but mine pale in comparison... Still, I think they work here.

Binding 2, Danish millimeter style:

The Danish millimeter is best described in English by John Hyltoft who presented on it at the Guild of Book Workers 1995 Standards conference (starts on PDF page 33). See his presentation handout here.

Spine covered in salmon parchment with pastepaper boards, invisible salmon parchment corners.
I describe making the salmon parchment here. It was very nice to work with and I still have lots...

Pastepaper doublures and flyleaves that continue the dark to light progression from the cover.
Top edge in graphite with endbands of pastepaper wrapped around a thread core.

Detail of salmon parchment and pastepaper at spine.

If anyone who downloaded the sheets would like to share their binding, send me an email using the "contact" link at top right. I'd love see and perhaps even share...