Communion Of Dreams


Against the grain.

Typically, there are many ways to accomplish a given task. Usually, some are better than others. Maybe they’re more efficient. Or less expensive. Or just work better.

And usually it seems like I always manage to find all the worst ways before finally stumbling on one of the better ones.

* * * * * * *

*against the grain 

1. Lit. across the alignment of the fibers of a piece of wood. (*Typically: be ~; Cut ~; go ~; run ~; saw ~.) You sawed it wrong. You sawed against the grain when you should have cut with grain. You went against the grain and made a mess of your sanding.
2. Fig. running counter to one’s feelings or ideas. (*Typically: be ~; go ~.) The idea of my actually taking something that is not mine goes against the grain.

* * * * * * *

We got the proofs back from the printer! Here’s some pix:

Cover sheet.

Text pages.

* * * * * * *

grain [grān]

(materials)

  • The appearance and texture of wood due to the arrangement of constituent fibers.
  • The woodlike appearance or texture of a rock, metal, or other material.
  • The direction in which most fibers lie in a sample of paper, which corresponds with the way the paper was made on the manufacturing machine.

* * * * * * *

Typically, there are many ways to accomplish a given task. Usually, some are better than others. Maybe they’re more efficient. Or less expensive. Or just work better.

And usually it seems like I always manage to find all the worst ways before finally stumbling on one of the better ones.

But fortunately, I was taught early on at the University of Iowa Center for the Book about the “grain” of paper, and how it makes a crucial difference in how a book works. This was something which actually took papermakers and printers a while to figure out, back when new mechanized papermaking techniques were developed. That’s because typical western hand-papermaking didn’t really impart much of a ‘grain’ to paper used in printing presses for the first several centuries.

But back in the middle of the 19th century papermaking was mechanized, and this left a distinct alignment of the paper fibers. And that changes how this paper behaves. Simply put, you have to make sure that the grain is aligned with the spine of the book, or the paper doesn’t drape or move properly, leading to the book being mechanically ‘unfriendly’ to the hand. Most printers these days know about this and pay attention to it, but every once in a while someone will try and cut corners and use paper stock with the wrong grain orientation, and the consumer will wind up with a book which feels very stiff and hard to open/turn the page. As a bookbinder, this is something I *very* much have to pay attention to for small edition binding, and I always caution clients about it, since most normal people don’t have any idea that paper grain matters at all.

So the first thing I noticed when I took the proof sheets out of the box was that the grain ran the wrong way.

Oops.

Turns out it was just a small miscommunication with the printer, and they’ll make sure to have the actual printed sheets for the book with the grain running the right way. My Good Lady Wife just talked with them, confirming that and giving final approval for the print run. The sheets should be ready for us to pick up the end of next week. Exciting!

Jim Downey

PS: Just a note – the usual convention with paper is to mark it “grain long” or “grain short” on the wrapping for a ream. Sometimes this is also indicated by underlining one of the numbers in the dimensions.

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