Measure Three Times - Cut Once!
Copyright Vladimir Kagan, August 29, 2015
Measure Three Times - Cut Once! This was my father’s admonition seventy-odd years ago. It was a lesson that I never learned!
It is the story of my life. I am compulsive and have always cut three times and didn’t bother to measure! - It is how I became a furniture designer instead of a cabinetmaker!
Furniture design is a haphazard endeavor that relies on visual recognition, the ability to draw well and pray that sometime in the future proper measurements are put to each design. Cabinet making, on the other hand is a precision endeavor that takes careful planning, skilled use of tools and most importantly, accurate measurements. If you can’t do that, you can’t cut the mustard and had better think of becoming a designer. And so my dear readers, that is how I ended up being a designer.
Every once in a while, I derive great pleasure of following my Precision Muse and attempt to do something challenging and meticulous. - It is a rare moment of pleasure.
Building the half model of my sailboat was one of those rare moments. I am joining a class this fall at Nantucket’s 1800 House, to build a scale model of a wooden Dory. I can’t wait.
Last week, I inadvertently drifted into one of those challenging moments when I was helping a friend hand-bind a dozen books. I have never done bookbinding, but the prospect had always appealed to me. She had seen the work of a mutual friend of ours: a beautiful small sketchbook of pen drawings of New York City. In her enthusiasm she volunteered to duplicate them for grandchildren and posterity; a task much, much larger than it seemed at the time.
Our friend is a robust 90 years old, full of spirit and jour de vivre. Little did my friend realize what she was getting herself into: scanning 44 drawings, cleaning each in Photoshop, printing over 500 pages onto quality rag paper. This was only the beginning. Prepping jackets and covering them with handmade paper, collating loose pages and a myriad of other steps needed to be accomplished. In desperation, my hapless friend had sought out a friend of hers, an artist and experienced bookbinder to help her – much work got done but it just never got finished. A year later a new volunteer was needed: I jumped into the breach.
My designing juices were fired up with the challenge. I conceptualized that a drilling jig and press was needed to hold the pages and the cover. I launched into the project head-on. But Oooops, “Father were are you?” - “Measure three times and cut once!” A lesson still not learned. I measured only after having drilled three holes haphazardly; built jigs the wrong way, until finally, three days later, I got it synchronized. We had produced twelve beautifully bound books - a very satisfactory result.
First mistake: I drilled three holes without careful measuring
The book-press: clamping pages and cover firmly together
A happy me with my improvised book-press
The beautiful sketches by my friend Sheila
Collating roughly five hundred pages ready for binding
Lesson learned: the road to the finished product has not changed for seventy years: I’m still compulsive, impatient, helter-skelter and slap-dash, but I rejoice in the end product.