Christine Cox

Archive for the ‘General Art’ Category

Cleaning a Dried Out Glue Brush

Bookbinding: Cleaning a Dried Out Glue Brush
(Previously published in The Muse zine)

I’ve heard it so many times, “I forgot to clean my brush after using PVA (synthetic adhesive). Now I have to throw the brush out.” No you don’t!

  • The first thing to try when your brush is stiff from glue is to simply soak the brush in a dish of cold water (hot water may expand the metal ferrule on your brush, causing the bristles to fall out — a great tip for painters too). Soak it for an hour or two (or overnight if you have a lot of adhesive to contend with). This will reactivate the PVA so that you can clean the brush normally. Once the adhesive is out, use a brush cleaner (a cake of brush-friendly soap in a deep jar) to get rid of any globs hiding in the bristles.
  • If soaking the brush in water doesn’t do the job and the bristles are still stiff, try this excellent technique.
    Put a little white vinegar (maybe a teaspoon or so) in a glass and then fill it to the bottom of the brush’s ferrule with hot water (I know, I know, I just told you not to use hot water, but we’re desperate here). Hot tap water is fine. Put the brush in and let it soak for about 30 seconds. It will come out soft and supple.
    Now you have a brush with vinegar (3% – 6% acetic acid) in it. Any binder worth her salt knows that one of the most important things about bookbinding for posterity is to keep the pH as neutral as possible. To neutralize the acid in your brush (raise the pH), dump the water/vinegar out of the glass, rinse the glass and refill it with cold water. This time add just a little baking soda (a base). Use the glue brush to stir the neutralizing solution for about 30 seconds, pressing the bristles against the side of the glass to open them up and let the baking soda into the interior bristles. Rinse the brush thoroughly, again opening it up and rinsing the inside. Your brush should be ready to go back to work.

Sponsored by:

Volcano Arts

Spraying Polyurethane

I’ve been using spray paint for years, but I’ve avoided polyurethane sealant spray. It’s a whole ‘nother beast and I could never quite get it laid down right. It’s thicker than spray paint so my efforts tended to look spotted or to have drips. Unacceptable!

I recently spent 2 days practicing on small pieces of metal, and, sisters and brothers in art, I’ve done it! I now feel very good about my polyurethane spraying abilities.

Notes from the field:

  • Use a raking light so that you can watch the polyurethane land on the piece. You’ll be able to see the wetness of the spray as you apply it, allowing you to spot fix anything missed. Watching the spray hit the piece will also help you judge the correct distance and speed.
  • Ignore that 12″ to 14″ instruction on the can. For the small pieces I just finished, spraying from 8″ was about right.
  • To get rid of dust, use a can of pressurized air on the piece right before spraying the polyurethane.
  • The room needs to be 70 to 90 degrees (and well-ventilated). This helps the polyurethane self-level. I rigged up a little heat lamp over my spray station.
  • Wearing an OptiVisor is a necessity when spraying small pieces. Tiny surfaces mean no room for errors.

Happy spraying!

By Christine Cox

Sponsored by:

Bookbinding, Metalsmithing and Glass
We have the tools and supplies you need for your projects and classes

Amazing Awls

Besides being one of the first tools created by humans, the awl is amazing for its usefulness. The earliest were made from wood, stone, obsidian and bone. Before that they were probably used as found in nature, in the form of talons or teeth.

Grotte de Tarté

A few uses:

  • Punch holes in the pages before sewing a book
  • Check the depth of etching on a piece of metal
  • Push eyelets into tight holes
  • Dig small items out of tight spaces
  • Precisely scratch off resists
  • Sgraffito in enamels
  • Untie knots in threads
  • Push “reset” buttons on small electronics
  • Clean out a seam before soldering
  • Scratch words and designs into polymer clay and PMC
  • Point during demonstrations
  • Poke holes in leather
  • Hold jump rings in place while making chain maille

Sooner or later the question becomes “why don’t you own one.” You’ll need one for every room!

Get yours from Volcano Arts

Historic photo of awls by: Didier Descouens – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

3rd Century: Earliest woodblock-printed fragments

Bookbinding, Miniatures, Writing and Paper
(Timeline project)

From some time before 220 – Earliest woodblock printed fragments to survive – silk printed with flowers in 3 colors (China)

This post is part of an ongoing series on bookbinding, miniatures, writing and paper since the year 1. Please consider it a kick-start for your own private timeline and a springboard for further research. See my blog for the rest of the series.

2nd Century: First Batch of “Modern” Paper

Bookbinding, Miniatures, Writing and Paper

Year 105: Han Emperor Ho-Ti’s chief eunuch T’sai Lun invented first batch of “modern” paper. The paper was called T’sai Ko-Shi, meaning: “Distinguished T’sai’s Paper” – It’s a felted material formed on flat, porous molds from macerated vegetable fiber (probably bamboo). He is revered as the patron saint of modern papermaking (China)

This post is part of an ongoing series on bookbinding, miniatures, writing and paper since the year 1.

On Paper: A Book Review

On Paper: The Everything of it’s Two-Thousand-year History
By Nicholas A. Basbanes

This book took me by surprise in several ways. When it arrived I was disappointed to see that it was written by a journalist. I had been expecting a scholarly history of paper written by, say, a hand paper maker; someone with an artistic love of the subject.

My fears were quickly allayed and I have to admit that I’m so glad Mr. Basbanes took up the topic! He used his journalism skills to seek out all kinds of information that I didn’t expect. Yes, there is the very well researched and written section on the history of paper, but there is so much more substance to this book. The author discusses the people involved in papermaking, the inventions of machines, the evolution and uses of paper. He covers the past, the present and the future of the subject and the techniques in making it.

I was satisfied with this book both as an artist who uses paper in bookbinding, and as a curious human who loves receiving the answers to questions I hadn’t thought to ask. My biggest surprise was that it made me cry. Yes, it’s a non-fiction book about paper that had me bawling through the final chapter. I don’t want to give it away, but let’s just say that this book brought home the 9/11 attacks and the human impact like nothing else that I had seen or read before.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys paper, history, or just a good read. You’ll come away with a greater appreciation of the subject and its affect on our culture.

Purchase the book from Amazon from this link:
On Paper: The Everything of Its Two-Thousand-Year History (Vintage)

Happy 4th!


Here are 2 hot publications for your Independence Day consideration.

The first is a great article from The Public Domain Review showing representations of fireworks from past centuries.

The next is a 1785 manuscript showing how to build fireworks. It can be read online or downloaded as a PDF.

Both were fun reads in anticipation of the displays of patriotism scheduled for the day.

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