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Imagine winding your way through the Virginia countryside filled with 19th century homes, old barns and fall leaves lining the roads. It is beautiful, but why is my GPS taking me out here? I checked the address and it was correct. It does take a few minutes to get there, but the Cat Tail Run Hand Bindery is located in northwestern Virginia about 10 miles from Winchester.
When I finally saw their sign beside the road, I relaxed (I wasn’t lost!).

Clamshell box-making workshop at Cat Tail Run Hand Bindery

This bindery is out-of-the-way, but it is a fully equipped bindery which teaches many classes in preservation marbling, binding and box-making. The shop is a sweet little place with prayer flags and a fish pond by the entrance.

Clamshell box-making workshop at Cat Tail Run Hand Bindery

I had two teachers for the workshop: Jill Deiss, who runs the bindery and Dee Evetts, an exacting Englishman (32’s and 64’s of an inch exacting). The workshop was well structured. We were taught a basic activity by demonstration, and then we tried it out ourselves, under the supervision of Jill and Dee.

Clamshell box tray pieces ready to glue

We first measured the two interior trays and then cut out the pieces from 20 point binders board on the board shear. We glued the pieces together and held them in place to dry with weights. Each tray was then covered with book cloth and allowed to dry.

Clamshell box trays completed

Once we had the trays made, it was time to make the case. The case is very much like the cover on a book, with two covers and a spine-piece. When the case is made and covered with bookcloth, it is time to glue the trays into the case and put the whole thing in a press to dry.

Clamshell box in the press

While the case and trays were in the press, we hot-stamped the title of the book which would live inside the clamshell box onto a strip of leather and trimmed it.

Clamshell box label hot-stamped on leather

The label was glued onto the spine of the clamshell box and the box was now complete. Not only did I go through the process of making this box, but I was provided with several tools to help me. I have several small pieces of board with are 1/16″ and 1/32″ to help with measuring the size and space needed in each tray. I also have a model for the trays which shows how to trim and cut each side of the tray and in what order they should be glued down. Overall, this was a very well taught workshop. I learned the proper process for making this type of box and look forward to another trip to Cat Tail Run Hand Bindery next year.

Completed clamshell box - interior

Completed clamshell box- exterior