Why Brass?

Tools used for blind- and gold-tooling books are traditionally made of brass. The advantages of brass? High corrosion resistance, a higher thermal conductivity (they heat faster and more uniformly than steel, for example), and it is soft enough to be etched or engraved by the bookbinder, if needed. Also, brass is the only metal that does not stain leather--not as important when working with cloth-covered books, but essential when most books were bound in leather.


Stamps can include letters, numbers, flowers, leaves, lines, and decorative patterns cast or cut in brass. A stamp is fitted into a wooden handle for heating and tooling. Because the pressure required for a clear impression increases with the size of the image, stamp patterns are generally no larger than one inch square. Larger patterns are either blocked with a machine plate or built up using many stamping impressions and/or patterns. Prior to mechanical stamping, elaborate cover designs were created in this way, assembling curves, lines, dots, and smaller decorative stamps into a larger design.


Gouges are arcs that when combined form circles or curved lines. Generally gouges come in sets of increasing sizes (although the angle of the curve remains the same within the set).


Fillets are wheeled tools with an outer edge used to draw long lines. Most fillets have long handles: the bottom of the handle is held and guided by the hand; the top of the handle rests against the binder's shoulder to help ensure stability and a neatly drawn line.


Rolls are wheeled, like the fillet, but the edge is patterned, to create a long ornamented line. It is used the same way as the fillet.


Pallets have a working surface up to three inches long engraved with an edge or pattern, used to work across the spine of a book. The slight curve to the pallet allows the binder to roll the pallet across the curve of the spine with an even pressure to create a clear impression.

Polishing Iron

Polishing Irons may be cylindrical--used to polish the sides--or have an arched surface used to polish the back. Polishing irons are used to crush or smooth the grain of leather prior to tooling, and to create patina on the finished book.


Bookbinders Type is similar to printers type but is heavier and made of brass to withstand the heat needed for tooling.


Bookbinders handheld Cases are set with letters to form a word or words which are then impressed. Binders use more pressure than printers so letters should be set with enough space between the letters to ensure legibility.

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