have you ever heard of treasure binding? if you did, you either work in the national treasury or you are a professional bookbinder specialising in the restoration of ancient and extremely valuable books with a fair knowledge of goldsmith's art, or you just know things.
you can read more about this on Wikipedia where the above image is from. it's the "Gem-encrusted cover of the Codex Aureus of St. Emmeram".
anyway, i recently bought a crochet pattern by Heidi Bears for a 3D-dragon made from african flowers. (and just now i bought the hippo-pattern too - they are just so cute!) i haven't made it yet but it looks like you would imagine a regular dragon: four legs, a set of bat-wing-like wings, horns, spikes along the spine, etc. it's adorable. i can't wait to get it started (once i've finished around five thousand other projects) but i'm loosing focus here.
my husband and i were talking about whether or not the dragon should not have a more "african dragon" silhouette since it's made from african flowers - if there is such a thing as an "african dragon". i mean there are chinese dragons and everyone has a pretty standard picture of what those should look like...
this book came to mind:
(sorry about the quality - bad light today.) my sister sent me this book when she was in paris on au-pair and i was at home fighting french-classes. i really tried but not even this book could make learning french more interesting...
for the record: there is an african dragon. the book says so... my husband told me...
then my attention was drawn to this:
and i thought: i want to know how to set gems into my bookcovers...
and i googled. that's how i found the article about Treasure Binding on Wikipedia; and that was all i found. i don't know how many search terms and phrases i tried - both on google and youtube - i didn't find any information at all. no tutorials and not even a blogpost by someone who had done it and wanted to talk about it.
off i was to my crafting table to change this unacceptable state of things.
how the green (plastic) gem in the above pic was set was pretty obvious to me: cover the bookboard in paper, (machine)punch a perfectly sized hole in the appropriate place, push and/or glue the gem into place, secure it/keep it in place by covering the inside of the cover with paper.
i can even feel the gem on the inside of the cover when i run my fingers over the paper.
i tried doing basically the same with thin card board - the kind that is used as backing for sketch blocks. it's only 1 mm thick. it didn't turn out very well - mainly because i had to cut the hole with a cutter knife that desperately needs a new blade and i didn't have any replacements on hand.
i covered the cardboard with a scrap of pattern paper and traced around my gem.
i cut a hole in the cardboard - with my blunt cutter knife. it looks terrible...
i backed the hole with another piece of paper so my gem would have something to stick to. i also ran a white paint marker along the exposed edge of cardbord. (as if that would help cover up the mess...)
i glued in the gem with glossy accents, but any kind of strong glue would work i think. there is actually a special glue that is made specifically for these plastic gems but i have never tried it because glossy accents or multi medium or super glue probably works better. the edge looks terrible but this was more a proof of concept anyway. with a sharp knife and a steady hand it would have looked much better. or with a punch that perfectly matches the shape and size of the gem.
i think the difference speaks for itself:
the yellow one was actually the very first one i tried. this is what it looks like from above:
for this one i used heavy 3mm chip board. i like it much better than the thin card board but i roughed up the edge around the gem too much. so here's how i did it the next time, with more care:
on the uncovered chip board i traced around the gem.
with the cutter knife i scratched only the top layer of the chip board.
with the tip of the knife i lifted and peeled off that top layer.
depending on the material used the piece you want to remove may come off in one piece or in many fuzzy pieces.
i had to cut and then lift off twice until i felt the groove might hold the gem nicely.
(sorry about the blurryness.) when i tried to see if it fit already i noticed i could still see some of that silverish edge of the gem. i didn't want that so i had so work on it a little more.
i kept removing thin layers of chip board with the tip of the knife until the gem fit nicely.
nothing of the silverish edge of the gem is showing any more.
i smoothed out the groove with my bone folder.
i laid a piece of paper on top of the chip board and looked for the groove with my fingertip while holding everything in place. i didn't glue anything yet.
first with my fingertips then with the bone folder i made a dent in the paper.
i carefully molded the paper into the shape of the groove while being cautious not to rough up the top edge too much since that will show when it's all done.
i cut away the very bottom of the dent in the paper while keeping in mind that i could always cut away more if i needed to.
i tried the gem again and it didn't quite fit because of the extra layer added by the paper.
i lifted the paper with the gem and - while gently holding the gem in place - turned it over. see the frayed rim of paper sticking up?
i carefully trimmed the frayed edge and checked again to see if it fit now.
it did fit. i glued the pattern paper to the chip board and smoothed everything out with the bone folder - especially the "wall" of the groove. if you need to you can make tiny little cuts around the edge of the paper to make it fit that "wall" better.
i'm much happier with this than i was with the yellow one. the edge is still slightly tattered but not nearly as bad.
i really like how the gem is sitting in the chip board rather than on top of it.
after that i wanted to try the same thing but with a fabric cover instead of a paper one.
i made the hole for the gem to sit in exactly the same way except for making it a hair bigger. while i wanted the gem to sit snugly in the groove i wanted to cover with paper, i only wanted it to sit comfortably in the one i wanted to cover with fabric. i used ordinary cotton fabric for this, as this is the sort of fabric i like to use for my book covers. since it's easier to mold into shape i didn't have to cut anything out of it. i only had to make the hole a tiny bit deeper.
i'm very happy with the way this works.
of course it does not look anything like the "Gem-encrusted cover of the Codex Aureus of St. Emmeram" but as beautiful and extravagant that may be - it's a little much...
i had to try my gem-setting method on an actual book cover.
i selected, aligned and traced all the gems i wanted to use. i didn't just use round ones this time i also tried drop shaped ones. cutting those was not much harder than the round ones were. the flower shaped ones i have might be tricky but the star shaped and square ones would work well too. i cut all of them, double and triple checking the fit.
i used old book paper for the cover which was thinner and much more brittle than the pattern paper i used for the sample. molding it into shape basically did all the pre-cutting for me already. i only just had to do the fine trim. i was a little concerned about the number of holes i had to consider all at once at first, but the paper always slid right into place whenever i tried to see if it fit or if i had to cut some more.
once everything was cut and fitted nicely i could finish the cover. i wanted to set the gems last so i wouldn't run the risk of smudging them with glue or something like that. i know myself...
this is the final result. i like it...
who knows... this may be the beginning of a new chapter... maybe even a whole new book...