A no messing around guide to the coolest things to eat, drink and do in Vancouver and beyond. Community. Not clickbait.

A Look Inside The Strange Box Of Tools Wielded By Bookbinder Emilie Crewe


by Grady Mitchell | Tradecraft takes Scout readers into the workshops, kitchens, and toolkits of Vancouver’s most talented crafts-people. From trusty pencils and custom-built machines to good luck charms and bespoke chef’s knives, this new column aims to get to the bottom of every creative attachment. No laptops or cellphones allowed!

Today we visit Emilie Crewe, an apprentice bookbinder at Old English Bindery in North Vancouver, where she’s being trained by master binder Richard Smart. The books they work on are not your beat up, dog-eared library versions, but more of the ornate, leather-bound, rich-mahogany-smelling variety. Check out Emilie’s toolkit below, and some more photos of their process while re-binding a first edition of Thoreau’s Walden further down.

1. Finishing Stove and Finishing Tools | “These tools are rested on a hot plate that bring them to an appropriate temperature for leather tooling and gilding. Each item is handcrafted by a toolmaker, and many of the finishing tools at the bindery are antiques that have been passed down through generations of bookbinders. Richard Smart, master bookbinder and owner of Old English Bindery, is a third generation craftsman. His father and grandfather were well-known bookbinders in England, so some of these tools were also used by them.”

2. Workbench Tools | “An assortment of workbench tools: try square (for finding right angles), sponge, thread, needle, large iron weight, straight edge/ruler, dividers (measuring compass), scissors, band nippers (used to form the raised bands on spines), brush, small iron weight, brush/broom for leather dying & staining, bone folders (they’re real bone!), surgical scalpel, glue brush, pencil & paintbrush hammers for rounding/backing spines, assorted paring knifes for leather & paper. There are many different processes in crafting and repairing books. Some tools come in handy throughout several stages, whereas others are used for a very specific purpose.”

3. Gold Leaf | “This is the gold leaf that is used for gilding. Once a book is ready to be finished with gold, the leather will be primed so that the gold sticks (different primers are used depending on the materials that you are working with). The knife is used to gently lift the gold out of the package, and to cut it if need be. This part is delicate and you have to make sure not to laugh or sneeze, as the gold will definitely blow away!  The suede allows a nice surface to clean the knife, because if any oils are on the blade, the gold will stick.”

  • OEB_gold-tooling
  • OEB_ship-tool
  • OEB_Richard-Smart
  • OEB_Richard-Smart_2
  • OEB_walden
  • OEB_finishing-rolls