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The Ritual of Oiling: A Bookbinder's Guide to Bonefolder Care

The Ritual of Oiling: A Bookbinder's Guide to Bonefolder Care


For any bookbinder, a trusty bonefolder is an indispensable companion. This unassuming tool, crafted from smooth bone or polished wood, guides paper through countless folds, shaping and scoring with remarkable precision. But like all well-worn companions, bonefolders require regular care to maintain their optimal performance and longevity. Today, I want to share with you the ritual of oiling, a simple act that holds profound meaning for the bookbinder's craft.



The history of bonefolders stretches back centuries, evolving alongside the art of bookbinding itself. Early bonefolders were often fashioned from animal bones, repurposing a natural material readily available. Over time, wood and other polished materials became popular, offering a more durable and aesthetically pleasing alternative.


But regardless of their material, all bonefolders share a common fate: they are tools meant to be used. The constant friction against paper can lead to dryness and cracking, diminishing their effectiveness and beauty. This is where oiling comes in.

The act of oiling is not simply a practical necessity; it's a ritual that embodies the deep respect bookbinders hold for their tools. As I carefully apply a few drops of natural oil, such as jojoba, linseed, or walnut oil, to the surface of my bonefolder, I feel a sense of connection to generations of craftspeople who have come before me.


The oil nourishes the natural bone, restoring its natural luster and suppleness. It fills in minute cracks, preventing further damage and ensuring smooth, effortless folds. It's a small gesture that makes a world of difference.


But the benefits of oiling go beyond the practical. As I work with a properly oiled bonefolder, I experience a renewed sense of joy and precision in my craft. The smooth glide of the tool against the paper feels almost effortless, allowing me to focus on the intricate folds and shapes I'm creating.


Furthermore, a well-maintained bonefolder becomes a testament to the bookbinder's dedication and care. It reflects a commitment to quality, not just in the finished product, but in every step of the process. It speaks volumes about the respect we hold for the materials we work with and the craft itself.


So, the next time you reach for your bonefolder, take a moment to acknowledge its history and importance. Consider the countless folds it has facilitated and the stories it has helped shape. And then, perform the simple ritual of oiling, ensuring its continued legacy in your bookbinding journey.


By understanding the history, process, and importance of oiling bonefolders, you can not only extend the life of this essential tool but also deepen your connection to the rich tradition of bookbinding. And in doing so, you contribute to the preservation of this beautiful craft for future generations to enjoy.

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