The bone folder is known as one of the essential tools a person would need to successfully create an aesthetically pleasing and structured book. Before the bone folder, people folded paper with their hands and hoped for the best. Other material that could have damaged expensive papers where used as well. Eventually, the bone folder did develop into the tool we now know. It evolved from similar, yet bigger tools hunters made and used in the past. But what makes a bone folder so great and why is it so important to the book binding process?
A bone folder is efficient because it can do many things, with different materials. People use it of course for working with paper. However, it can also be used with leather, clay, fabric, and relative craft materials. Like we’ve done in class, we use the bone folder to crease, fold, score, and smooth a paper. The thing that makes the tool most innovative though is it is not harmful to the paper, thick or thin. This is because of the material. As stated in it’s name, it is traditionally made out of bone from the a deer, cow or elk; particularly from the leg bone. It is also made from ivory, a material found in tusks of various mammals. Bone folders can be bought in art stores, Walmart, and online. People also make their own traditional bone folders as well. Below is an example from a student at West Dean College in the UK making his own from an antler an antler he found on a trip. You can see more about his process here if you in case you wanted to make you own.
Though the 6" bone folder is the perfect size for most everything, they do come in different sizes allows for an easier time with specific techniques. Some are pointier for getting into tighter spaces, while some are curved at the ends for easier scoring. Try the different shapes of bone folders to see what you like!
Though the material of the bone folder is traditionally bone, these days there are many different materials to choose from.
While bone is great for most people, it eventually gets dirty, gluey, and a little run down. Other materials for bone folders were created with the goal to combat this problem. The first material that is the main alternative to bone is a fancy Teflon bone folder. Despite being an unnatural material, the polytetrafluoroethylene ‘bone’ folder is non-stick and non-contaminating. This material is therefore resistant to glue and it allows for easier cleanup and a long-lasting folder. This bone folder is also great at not leaving marks on where you use it. Because of this, sensitive paper or book cloth will less likely be harmed during the creative process.
The flaw with the Teflon is that it is a bit slippery and bendy, which could be harder to handle overall. With this there is then Delrin. It is also a plastic, commonly used to replace metal when used. This makes this plastic almost twice as hard when compared to Teflon. These two materials are great because they offer a vegan option for those who wish to have one.
These alternatives are just a couple ways that a bone folder can be made. Nowadays, people are finding many interesting ways to make them themselves. Other common ways include using wood as the material for a bone folder. Wood is cheap and with good pace many bone folders can be made if you have adequate carving skills and a band saw. 3-D printing is also a method. Once you buy or create the design you can make as many nylon bone folders as one would need. In my research, there was also a blogger who stated that they used part of a milk jug to create bone folders!
Knowing how to make your own tools specific for specific projects is a necessary skill needed for an artist. Using the bone folder, artists can continue making great books.