Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Custom Fitting A Box To House An Object

Our library collections hold books, but also other three-dimensional objects. These items (and even the books) are not always regular shapes that fit into commercially made housing. Sometimes we need to either build a box from scratch or adapt a purchased box to house these items. For example in 2012, we created housing for a collection of canes that required some adaptation to their rectangular boxes. There are many ways to adapt a box to hold objects, and a variety of materials can be used: Ethafoam, Volara, archival corrugated board, Tyvek, archival tissue paper, among others.

Recently a wooden cross from World War One needed special attention to house it safely. I documented the steps I took to adapt a commercially made box and have included a diagram to illustrate the mathematics of the interior boxes.

I started with a commercially purchased box that was slightly larger in all dimensions than the item.

My goal was to create a recess for the cross within the box by making interior boxes of archival corrugated board.

These interior corrugated boxes are designed to fill empty space to create the recess. They are glued shut and maintain stability by including a top (as well as a bottom), though the top isn’t strictly necessary. I calculated and constructed them based on the methods used in Andrea Krupp’s great instructions for the corrugated clamshell box, which I learned from Hedi Kyle.

When designing these interiors keep in mind where and how the item is stored (horizontally or vertically), how frequently it is handled, and how it can be removed from the box.

To create the interior corrugated boxes here are the steps I took.

1) With the cross in place, I measured the four quadrants of empty space on the box bottom. I subtracted ¼ inch from the length and ¼ inch from the width of each of those rectangles (this gives some breathing room to the cross for removal). Using the dimensions of the box bottom I adjusted my calculations so the two boxes on the left side were equivalent to the boxes on the right side boxes (as mirrored pairs). This simplified things by requiring only two sizes of boxes. I now had the length (L) and width (W) measurements. I then measured the large outer box depth for the thickness (TH) measurement. This should be very slightly lower than the box side, but keep in mind any additional layers of material (Volara, paperwork, etc.) that need to go over the top before the lid goes on and account for that in your thickness measurement.

Consulting the diagram I have drawn out while reading further might be useful.

Definitions used on the diagram:

L = length
W = width
TH = thickness
BT = board thickness
Solid lines = cut
Dotted lines = score/fold
Grey areas = cut away/remove
Tab = 1 inch

I chose to create a 1-inch tab for gluing my box together. Smaller boxes could certainly be made with thinner tabs.

Using my measurements (L,W,TH) and 1/8 inch archival corrugated board, I cut a rectangular board based on these formulas:

Height of board = 2TH + 2L + 1Tab + [4BT or 1”]

Width of board = 2TH + 1W + 2Tab + [3BT or 1”]

2) Then using the cutting and folding diagram I measured and drew out my box onto the board and cut.

A few tips:

Start measuring and marking lines from the same square corner (both horizontally and vertically).

It is easier to bend with the corrugations so keep that in mind when choosing which way to orient the board, though either way does work.

I used a scrap of board as a jig to mark my BT (board thickness) as I drew these lines out. You could laminate multiple pieces of board together to create a jig for easier measuring.

As you see on the diagram I have added a board thickness to each dimension (W, L, TH) to account for the walls and folds. I didn't add the board thickness to the three most exterior tabs since those tabs needn't be a precise size.

3) Once the box is cut out gently score the lines with a bone folder, and fold them up. Then the tabs need to be delaminated before gluing them down.

This board is made of three layers: flat paper, corrugated paper, and then another layer of flat paper. The corrugated paper in the middle of the tabs will be cut away and the two flat layers will be glued to the adjacent side, one on the interior and one on the exterior making for a strong and square attachment. You will be separating seven tabs: the four to create the box bottom and the three to attach the top to the sides.

4) Gently using a microspatula and/or an awl separate the layers.

You can also gently use your hands to pull these layers apart once you get them started.

5) When they are separated carefully bend the flat layers aside and cut the corrugated piece away.

6) Lay waste paper under the two tabs and apply glue, then fold up the side to create the 3D box and press into place. Do this to all sides of the box creating the box bottom.

7) Now prior to gluing down the top cut away two small areas in the interior tab coming off the top.

This will allow the tab to set inside the box without hitting the interior side tabs. Glue up all interior tabs (even though they may not adhere) and the exterior tab coming off the box top. Close box and press. Then glue up the remaining exterior tabs on the two sides and press.

Here are the first two boxes in place to check the fit.

After the four corrugated boxes were made, I set them within the big box. I checked the fit of the cross within the space to make sure all was as it should be. Then I cut Volara to fit into the recess so the cross was laying on something softer than the board. The friction between the Volara and the cross helps hold the object in place.

8) Once the parts were cut, assembled, and the fit tested, I first glued the corrugated boxes, then the Volara, into the box bottom with PVA.

I weighed down the corrugated boxes to ensure good adhesion.

After everything was dry the cross went into its new housing ready for the shelf.

Interior compartments can be constructed in all sorts of ways and materials. They can be adapted for use in basic or deluxe boxes. This is one method, and if you have another you would like to share, we’d love to hear it!

Written by Stephanie Wolff

Friday, February 13, 2015

Sarah Smith to be University of Otago 2016 Printer in Residence

It is my pleasure to announce that Sarah Smith has been selected to be the 2016 Printer in Residence at the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.  Sarah is the Book Arts Special Instructor in our Book Arts Workshop, and during Spring Term 2015 is teaching a class in Dartmouth’s Studio Arts department.

Sarah will begin her 6-week residency in Dunedin in August 2016, and will be located in the Otakou Press Room in the University of Otago Library. This prestigious residency has run since 2003, and includes the production of a limited edition book. For more information see:

You can see examples of Sarah’s work here: http://olfactorypress.com/home.html

We look forward to this residency strengthening a growing partnership between the Otago Book Arts program and ours. Please join me in congratulating Sarah on this honor.

David Seaman
Associate Librarian for Information Management

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Hiking Beaver Brook Trail in the Winter

On the north side of Mt. Moosilauke along the Appalachian Trail there is a ¾ mile long cascading waterfall I very much enjoy hiking alongside, especially in the winter months.

The Beaver Brook Trail begins in Kinsman Notch off Rt. 112 (Kancamagus Highway) at a large parking area a half mile west of the Lost River tourist attraction. (A $3 fee can be paid via envelopes available at the trail head). As you head out along the easy grade part of the trail it begins by crossing small feeder streams at 3-4 spots prior to the warning sign at the base of the soon to be much steeper trail (the second 2 streams are crossed on bridges where a beaver pond near the lot can be viewed to the right).

The Warning Sign on Beaver Brook Trail.

The final 3 tenths hike from the sign to the base of the falls rises and hovers over the lower stream bed while clinging to the side of the steep side hill.

Steep trail above the lower stream bed.

Once at the base of the falls you begin a very difficult and, in the winter, very slick climb alongside the falls.

The author takes a rest at the falls.

I have climbed this area without ice spikes, but find it far easier and more enjoyable with them, especially near the top of the falls where there are man made stairs that can get a tad iced over.

Amazing iced stairs at the top of the falls.

At the highest point of the falls is a sitting spot with a wonderful view to the north along the top of the Kinsman Ridge of Mt. LaFayette.

A view to the north along the top of the Kinsman Ridge of Mt. Lafayette.
All along the trail you never stray more than 30 yards from the stream, and there are dozens of great spots for pictures, resting and just plain site seeing. For me, the winter brings out a naturally formed beauty with the frozen falls, the hidden water beneath them gurgling and shaping the ice from below. 

**Caution is always a must as the thickness of any ice over water can’t be judged from above. 


Written by Brian Markee

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

"The Dartmouth Brut: Conservation, Authenticity, Dissemination"

The Dartmouth Brut (Rauner Codex MS 003183) is the focal point for the latest issue of Digital Philology:  A Journal of Medieval Cultures, edited by Professor Michelle R. Warren, Professor of Comparative Literature.  A conference on the Brut was held in 2011 at Dartmouth College and the presentations are reprinted in the journal, including the photo essay, "The Dartmouth Brut: Conservation, Authenticity, Dissemination" co-authored by Deborah Howe, Collections Conservator, with Professor Warren. If you have ever wondered about the considerations that go into conservation treatments this essay highlights the types of problems to be solved and the collaborative decision making that guides the conservator's treatment solution.

The article in the Fall 2014 issue may be found at: http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/digital_philology/toc/dph.3.2.html

Congratulations Deborah!

Barb Sagraves

Head, Preservation Services

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Book Arts Workshop Survey

Dear Book Arts Participant

In order to better serve our constituents, we have prepared a survey to gather feedback about the Book Arts Workshop. If you have a moment, please fill out this survey. We appreciate your input.


The survey will be open from January 15, until February 5, 2015.

Thank you,

Sarah Smith
Special Instructor
The Book Arts Workshop

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Making of a Multi-Color Linoleum Block Squid

Students and community members can learn how to carve and print relief blocks here in the Book Arts Workshop. Usually we work with linoleum blocks, but wood, rubber (more for rubber stamping than running through a press), Sintra board and other relief printing materials are fair game as well.

This image of a sledding squid came about as a drawing in my sketch book, then became the idea for a simple holiday card. Of course nothing stays simple and it soon became a three-color, three-block linoleum relief print. Here’s a little about how it was created—at least the printing process—where the idea came from is hard to say.

1) The Sketchbook Drawing

Here’s the drawing as it appears in my sketchbook.

2) Draw on Block

First I drew the image in pencil onto a 3 x 5 mounted linoleum block—remembering it had to be backwards or wrong-reading, so it could be right-reading in the print. Since this is a view of a ski hill near our house, I wanted it going downhill to the right—like my view (seems I drew it going the wrong way in my sketchbook!).

Once I had what I wanted, I went over the drawing with ink.

I use a dip pen and ink to draw on my blocks because I like the thick and thin quality of the line, which I follow when carving. A sharpie works nicely too. Best to use a regular tip Sharpie rather than a fine tip because you’ll want to have thicker lines to carve. Very thin lines will be weak in linoleum—and not very forgiving if you don’t have a steady hand.

3) Tone Block

Toning the block makes it easier to see where I've carved or not. A thin layer of ink or paint works nicely. There’s drying time involved with ink or paint (oil paint anyway). This time I used a marker that was handy. I ended up liking the color so much that I matched my first print color to it! In this photo you can see where I began carving the block after the toned color dried.

4) Carve Block

I carved the first block making a few decisions and edits to the drawing along the way—carving the lines in the sky, adding the trees at the edge of the hill and other small things. Because it’s a relief print, I cut out all the areas that I didn't want to print. You can see in this photo I still had some carving on the sled and the snow to do, but it was almost done.

You can use linoleum carving tools like the ones Speedball sells or you can use wood carving tools. For something this small I like to use my set of Dockyard Micro Carving Tools. You can get them online from Woodcraft. Any set of small wood carving v and u gouges should also work well. McClain’s in Portland OR has some really great tools especially for print-makers. Here are the Dockyard Micro Carving Tools.

5) Print First Color

Once my block was carved, leaving the surfaces I wanted to ink and print raised, I printed a proof with my first color.

To print the block I locked it up on the bed of our Vandercook SP15.

I cut my paper so it would be over sized. It’s easier to print a larger sheet of paper on the Vandercook, so I didn't want to cut my paper to the finished size before printing.

After I printed a proof and carved a few unpleasant stray bits off my image I printed the run of my first color—the dark blue-green.

Usually I would print light colors first, then dark, but after Gaylord Schanilec suggested printing dark to light during a wood engraving class I took with him at Oregon College of Art and Craft this past summer, I thought I’d try it with my linoleum block. The idea is that the build up of inks will create a richer black or dark ink. This works best with transparent inks.

6) Transfer First Block Image to Second Block

When I finished printing the first run and before I cleaned the ink off the block and press I transferred the inked image onto a blank linoleum block of the same size. This would be my guide for carving the block for the next color—the light green-blue. To do this I ran the press over the block without paper, thereby printing the block right onto the mylar we always have around the cylinder of the press as the draw-sheet and part of the packing.

Then I removed the first color block and put the blank block in its place on the press bed. I ran the press over this block, transferring the ink from the mylar to the uncarved block.

I carefully took the inked, uncarved block off the press and set it aside to dry over night.

7) Carve Second Color Block

With the image transferred onto the new block, I traced with a sharpie where I wanted my new color to be in relation to the already printed first color. In other words, I traced around the snow, the cloud, inside the squid’s eye and just delineated everywhere I wanted the new color and where I didn’t want it. Then I carved just as I did before to create the block for the new color.

In this photo you can see this step as I did it for the third color block.

Here it is printed by itself so you can get an idea of what I carved and left raised to print.

The ink is a rubber-based ink with quite a bit of transparent base (or transparent white) mixed in with color I made. The transparent base is like the ink without the pigment-just transparent goo. This makes for a lighter, transparent color.

8) Print Second Color

I set up the second block in the same exact position on the press bed as the first block. I had to break down the press in between runs, so I made careful notes and measurements of where everything was before taking apart my lock-up. It also helps to take pictures to make it easier to rebuild the lock-up. With everything in place I made a proof—admired my work and removed the unwanted bits. Once I had what I wanted I printed the second color.

9) Transfer First Block Again

To prepare for the third color block I transferred ink from the first block onto another blank uncarved block. The block that prints the darkest color and most detail is called the “key block”—in this case it was the first block. I wanted to use the key block to guide me in my carving for the third color because it had the most information or detail. I think for this print the second block would have worked well to transfer from too, but that’s not always the case.

10) Carve Third Block Color

Once I had the image on the third block, I was able to carve away everything but the squid where I wanted the pinkish color to be. Here’s a picture of all three carved blocks.

I considered leaving some block raised under the squid so there would be a pinkish shadow under him on the toboggan, but decided against it. I think the quid “pops” more without it. I also debated on whether I wanted to have his suction cups pink or white. To make them white I would have to carve out those little spots again, like I did on the first block. In the end I decided to carve just a tiny bit of those spots out, so there would be a small white highlight on the suction cups. When the blocks are registered perfectly (lined up perfectly) these highlights work great!

Here’s what just the third color block looks like printed by itself.

You may be wondering how I got such a fabulous squid-pink. Again I used transparent base to make a transparent color. I also used a bit of Rhodomine red, Pantone yellow, Irish Mint green (we have a lot of dark green here!), a good amount of the mixed light blue I used for the second block and probably some other things. It was a bit of a potion, but just what I wanted.

11) Print Third Color

Having gotten everything set in the same place again (block, paper, paper guides, furniture), I printed the third color. I’m particularly excited by the highlights and areas where all three colors are visible. All in all it looks like a happy squid.

Written by Sarah Smith

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Preservation Services, the Digital Production Unit, and the Book Arts Workshop will be closed from December 23 until January 5. 

For your pleasure we offer links to our most popular blog posts in 2014: