After 10 years of working as a bookbinder I finally got me a board shear! Ain’t she a beauty?
(correct answer: Yes, yes she is.)
It’s been a long time needed. Sure, after so much practice with an olfa cutter I can practically split atoms in a straight line or a perfect 90 degree angle, but it can get a bit tiring spending many hours per week hand-cutting boards and what have you when it could take seconds, be effortless, accurate and instantly repeatable.
I really got that “I need a board shear in my life” feeling particularly whenever I had to make laminated boards; which is often, and they feature 3 layers… For what is more cutting things straight by hand is a struggle, especially if it involves many small pieces that must fit together accurately. The clamshell boxes I’ve made in the past 2 years constantly pointed to this essential piece of equipment missing from the bindery.
Fortunately I became the owner of this lovely shear (thank you A. for prompting me to go ahead with the purchase despite the change in circumstances) a very hot summer day couple of weeks ago.
Bringing it to the bindery, and since it was already in pieces (my bindery is a basement so we had to disassemble it to get it in), it was thought best to give it a good cleaning: after all I’d only have to do this once and it would accentuate the fact the shear has a new home.
Upon removing some of the old paint though, which turned to be 50% paint – 50% solidified grime, I discovered to my dismay there was rust underneath several places. I couldn’t just clean it a bit, paint it and call it a day – didn’t feel right for something that may accompany me for a lifetime.
So I went all the way: I removed each and every piece to the smallest bolt and flange; I removed the old paint almost entirely until I was left with the bare cast iron; I removed all the rust I could and converted with chemicals what was left in hard to reach places; And finally I repainted everything, double coating exposed pieces or large surfaces.
I must say, in all modesty, that the process bestowed great wisdom -and several muscle strains- upon me, so I’d like to provide a few tips, equal parts of advice and warning, for those brave, optimistic, or unlucky enough to restore a shear on their own.
To own one in need of restoration I assume you live some place without a supplier properly set up to offer or arrange this (my case), or you bought one cheaply enough to not be deterred from its state.
Here’s my tips on the restoration of a board shear.
Don’t do it!
Seriously don’t. Pay someone else to do it for you instead – that is of course if you can afford it. Professionals will do a much better and thorough job by sand blasting, repairing (if needed) and then electrostatic-coating your shear and save you from a lot of trouble as well.
Is that doubt I sense forming in your mind? Keep reading then…
There will be Dust.
There’s dust and then there’s Dust. Like when you sand some board corner to smooth it out and cough a little compared to everything being black because of paint and rust particles having ingrained themselves so deeply in your skin pores that you feel them clogging your soul.
Here are a few pictures to understand what I’m talking about. And this is nothing compared to the whole picture: there was dust stuck on the ceiling, and pretty much everywhere, and it took me 2 full days of scrubbing and cleaning to get the bindery back to a decent state.
If you somehow still want/have to go ahead and remove the old paint and rust then absolutely do this OUTSIDE. If that’s not an option then use some small room/space where you can separate the board shear from the rest of the bindery. If such a space is available but not in your bindery it’s still worth it to clean the shear there and go through the trouble of moving it two times.
If that’s not an option either then carefully isolate the board shear using plastic sheets. Be-VERY-thorough, I cannot stress this enough: make Dexter look sloppy with his covering.
A few additional tips regarding the plastic sheets:
– Use thick ones for the floor, you’ll thank me later. I did, but unfortunately not for the entire “restoration area”.
– Make sure there are no gaps where the plastic sheets hang from the ceiling or touch the floor.
The sheets should overlap at some points: that way they part easily when you have to move in/out and prevent dust from escaping by naturally adhering one to another by static charge.
– Don’t neglect to cover the ceiling with plastic sheets too. I did: some 6-8 hours of ceiling scrubbing can really make you ponder on your life choices…
Even doing all the above will not ensure the absence of dust outside the secluded space. Moving about will also unavoidably carry a lot of it on the floor.
It still costs
Even though it will be much cheaper compared to a full professional restoration, doing it yourself is not exactly cheap: I had to spend about 150 euros (approx 165$) for lots of sandpaper rolls in a few different grits, several wire and scotch brushes for the sanders, paint, disposable latex gloves and several pairs of nitrile gloves, rust converter fluid, brushes, plastic sheets, scraping chisels, mineral spirits, WD-40 cans, sponges and scotch cloth, surgeons masks, plastic masks and a few other things I don’t currently recall.
Keep in mind that I already own two different types of sanders, a very handy drill and a workhorse of a jewelry polishing machine capable of some hard work, all of which proved useful.
It’s hard work
I’m not talking about the ability to do something tiring for hours on end – which you will. I’m referring to doing something very tiring with the added bonuses of breathing and being covered in dust, holding a sander in place that violently shakes your arms every other second when it meets a ridge or a corner (and there are many), having to hear its racket constantly, carrying around heavy cast iron parts and working in uncomfortable positions.
If you have respiratory, skin, muscle or nerve issues, back or neck pains, then it would probably be best to avoid the whole thing. If you can’t however, be prepared to wear a dust mask, safety glasses, plastic face shield and noise-cancelling headphones non-stop for many days.
It’ll take a while – ask for help
It took me 5 days to remove paint and rust, sanding and painting and 2 days to clean up.
The week mentioned above was not without assistance: I knew this was going to be a lot and had significant help for 2 days.
If you have someone willing to lend a hand don’t hesitate to kindly ask, it will make a huge difference. Consider hiring some help if no friend or relative is available.
Here’s a photo of my charming assistant who, unlike me, was not willing to get intimately acquainted with the dust – hence the full cover. Guess who doesn’t have dust in their skin pores several days later…
Hope this was helpful, or intimidating enough to prove helpful!
My heart goes out to all the people toiling without a board shear for too long: may your crafting life be graced with a mechanical companion soon!
Now you know, use that knowledge wisely when the times comes…
Before closing I would like to thank Kostas Boudouris, a fellow binder, for lending a hand in moving and assembling the shear.
A huge thanks goes to George Balojohn, also a fellow binder, who helped a great deal: he evaluated the working condition of the shear and was willing to labor with me for many hours in disassembling, moving and assembling the shear back together after it was restored.
Both are friendly and knowledgeable chaps, don’t hesitate to get in touch with them for your binding needs or if you’re an amateur with lots of questions!