Trying to decide which is my favourite tool is simply an impossible task, like a father having to say which is his favourite son. Instead, therefore, I chose to write about one that cost me quite a lot of effort to personalize: my band nippers.
Band nippers, version 1
This is the model I made after I saw the beautiful pair of chrome-plated band nippers that Chris Clarkson used at West Dean College. The design is largely based on his notes on the making of them.
They are a pair of modified glass pliers, a type of pliers with a big mouth that is usually used to remove sections of a glass plate that have been scored with a diamond point. I started with these pliers because their jaws are parallel when open about 6-8 mm apart, which is helpful when marking bands. I brazed bronze plates to the jaws and bent one of the arms, to allow my thumb to rest on top of it when scoring a band.
Even though I very much liked its appearance, the tool was quite heavy and cumbersome. Nipping bands does not usually require the use of a great deal of strength, so I decided to try to make a lighter model.
Band nippers, version 2
These are made from a pair of wire strippers. I filed off the cutting jaws, creating the wide parallel ones that I needed. As with version 1, I added bronze plates – but wider ones this time – and slightly bent both arms. I also added two small handles for better comfort. The interesting thing about using wire strippers is they have a screw to adjust the jaws to the specific width of the bands, so that they are all exactly the same.
Obviously the bronze plates are highly polished to leave a good mark on the leather. Unfortunately, I have not yet found the time to chrome-plate my band nippers, which would ensure that they would not stain alum-tawed skins.
Alessandro Sidoti graduated in 1996 from the European School for Book Conservation in Spoleto, Italy, and then spent two years specializing in restoration and conservation of rare books and manuscripts at West Dean College (West Sussex, England), working under the direct supervision of Christopher Clarkson. Since 1999 he has worked as a book conservator for the National Library of Florence and is an expert in emergency salvage techniques for library materials.
Have you got your own favourite tool? Then tell us and the rest of The Gathering’s followers all about it! Just drop us a line with either a finished piece or your preliminary idea, plus a photo or two, and we’ll be happy to share the love.