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Exploring the Art of Dragon Scale Binding

In my quest for unique and captivating bookbinding techniques, I stumbled upon a mesmerizing Dragon Scale Binding in a how-to video by Cynthia Tidler, artfully filmed and shared by Jim Escalante. Intrigued, I delved deeper into the world of traditional Chinese Dragon Scale Bindings, marveling at the revival of this ancient art by master binder Zhang Xiaodong. The beauty of the binding structure, adorned with exquisite design features, inspired me to try my hand at it.

Following Jim Escalante's tutorial, I embarked on crafting a 24-page Dragon Scale Binding, opting for budget-friendly materials this time. The initial learning curve was small, and I've drawn some conclusions about Jim's approach to this intricate structure, ultimately being satisfied with the results of my inaugural attempt.

For the foundation of my project, I chose basic printer paper, the kind you'd find in bulk at Sam's Club. These sheets became the folios of the book structure. While future projects will incorporate higher-quality papers, possibly even traditional Chinese variants, for this experiment, the focus was on the learning process.

The protective outer paper roll was crafted from Antique Endleaf Paper from Talas, known for its pleasant texture, durability, and versatile applications. This medium-weight, 70lb paper, acid-free and lignin-free, served as an economical choice for endpapers, wrapping, interleaving, and lining. Its compatibility with PVA glue made it an ideal companion for the Dragon Scale Binding.

In Jim's video, he utilized the folios to place the hinge materials. In my case, I used the same Antique Endpaper paper for the hinges, positioning them before applying glue and attaching the folios. As I progressed through the project, I opted to place all the hinges first and then attach the folios—a slightly different workflow from the video but equally effective.

Maintaining precision in hinge/folio placement is crucial, especially when dealing with printed images spanning folio edges. Jim's method of one hinge, one folio at a time may be preferable in such cases, and I will consider it in future projects requiring meticulous alignment.

While my practice Dragon Scroll revealed minor flaws, it served its purpose as a learning tool. Future endeavors will demand more precision, especially if artwork embellishes the folios and edges. I am eager to explore Zhang Xiaodong's masterful work, questioning the use of extra hinge material compared to utilizing the folds of the folio for hinges. Further research is warranted before diving into more Dragon Scale Bindings with intricate artwork.

It's noteworthy that the arrangement of folios in this binding structure bears similarity to Japanese stab-binding or pocket binding, where the fold becomes the foredge, and the opposite side creates a pocket-like structure when attached to the binding.

As I continue my exploration of this elegant scroll-like binding structure, I look forward to sharing detailed written and video tutorials on the BOOKFORGE Patreon page. Stay tuned for more insights into the captivating world of Dragon Scale Binding!


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