Pelican Vigil Book

The following book was done with a good bit of research. I made the book for a friend of mine, Speedbump. He was awarded the peerage of Pelican. It was for his vigil for guest to sign in.

The following images show my original sketch and how I made the base of the raised surface under the leather. I used gesso that consisted of animal hide glue mixed with calcium sulfate. This is a common recipe for gesso used during the middle ages. If you wish to learn more about it,  you can read my document on the making of a Leather Swan Helm Crest. I used a sheet of foam for the template for the words and the pelican. I painted the gesso directly to the wood board for the bow and I carved out some of the gesso for the Pelican to help give it more depth when I went to work on the leather and tooling.

The following images show the sewing of the folios to the spine cording. I used twine for the base cording and waxed linen thread for sewing the folios to the spine. I don’t have all the needed tools that are used for bookmaking. So I “macgyvered” some things to make it work. I also carved holes into the front and back wood boards to “lace” the spine cords through. I used animal hide glue and dowels to set them into place so they wouldn’t come undone.


I also went and hammered the spine of the book to round the folios out. And then applied flour glue to help keep it its shape and strengthen it. I also glued pergament velum to the surface of the spine to help smooth it out and again strengthen the book. I originally applied it to the top and bottom lacing because I wanted to sew in decorative endbands. I sewed the endbands on before gluing the leather onto the book.

I took the leather and dampened it and glued it to the surface of the  front and back boards and the spine. I turned under the leather at the top and bottom of the spine which I had previously cut. I will say I turned them under too far, which I now have learned from. You learn from your mistakes, or at least you hope you do! I didn’t have a press for the book (again I have not proper tools for book lacing or pressing) so I used the heaviest thing I could find. I sandwiched the book between two boards, with some folded fleece to help push the leather into the crevices of the gesso on the book and placed them under my car and used my tire jack to put pressure on the boards and book for a few hours. I also used cording and strapped them over the spin of the book to help make the impression for the spine cords.

I then went back and dampened the leather and started tooling the cover. When I was done I worked on making the attachments for the clasp of the book. I nailed the parts to the book along with punching holes through the cover leather and board to lace the silver wire through (to represent the cord for a bow and to act as part of the catch for the clasp). The hand for the clasp is part of the arms that Speedbump has in the SCA.

I oiled the book and added extra oil to the letters, arrow and part of the bulls eye to make them darker. I rubbed the surface of the Pelican and the babies with rubbing alcohol on a q-tip to lighten the leather and then gently scraped the surface area to lighten it even more. I also took time to cut, skive and glue the leather edges down onto the inside of the front and back boards.  Books of this nature were normally lined with scrap vellum used from the monks that would practice their writing. They were normally glued face down. They didn’t waste very much back then. I used pergament vellum as a substitute. I then wrote out the scroll text from Star Wars Episode IV and make some sketches. I also wrote out a page with part of the script from Monty Pythons Holy Grail with the rabbit scene. Again I added sketches to it as well. When they were done, I glued them down to the inside from and back of the covers.

I learned a lot from making this book. I’ve been meaning to understand how to work with gesso under leather. Some of the medieval leather cases and sword scabbards use this technique. Though I doubt they used a stencil as I had done, but instead painted it by hand like I did with the bow. I hope to spend some more time making another book. I want to take a few lessons from some of the Laurels that teach it. I’m sure there are plenty of things I did wrong or could have done differently that would have been easier. Either way, my friend loves his book, and in the end, well that’s why I made it in the first place. 🙂

Modern Medieval Book

The following book was made for a friend of mines husband for his birthday. It has a cardboard base with a tooled leather cover.



The Brotherhood of Brewers Book

The Brotherhood of Brewers hired me to make a ledger book to store their recipes in. You can see where the folios were sew directly into the spine of the leather cover.