John Jacques & Sons Paper Cutter

Fake it ’til you make it.

Build it and ______ will come.

Putting the cart before the horse. 

I bought a John Jacques & Sons industrial era paper cutter before I have a studio to put it in. I’m building the studio before I’ve convinced myself I’m an artist of some sort who can use a studio.

At least I’ve been here before in the creative process and have some faith that this is just the weird way I get my work done. Backasswards with gusto. (How lucky am I that my supportive husband encourages the design methodology process of brainstorming and reiteration?)

The construction company will be breaking ground on the studios next week. They will be excavating the basement which starts the process that will probably take a year to complete. The dilapidated barn that was there has been gone for almost a year. I have been visualizing the new creative space for longer.

Last month, I followed a Craigslist lead and purchased my first large machine for the studio. I have wanted one of these lovely paper cutters since I first used one at the Cincinnati Museum Center Preservation Department twenty-so years ago. It was delivered from a studio in San Francisco by four hulking men who were impressed (and slightly challenged) by how much the thing weighed. The machine is currently sitting in a spare garage waiting for its new home to be built.

There is nothing like cutting board or paper with one of these long, cast-iron metal arms with a counterweight. The modern day versions might get the job done, but it’s not the same. And I don’t believe the modern versions do always get the job done. The dinky paper cutter I bought earlier on for my work would not cut board at all without mangling it. It did not have the power of a real, quality paper cutter. That foot pedal and clamp makes a difference.

Like with a lot of things related to books, there is something sensual about using one of these machines. It might be the cold, hard metal cast-iron handle with it’s decorative design or the clean, crisp sound the blade makes when it cuts paper.

I was looking forward to being able to use the machine before moving it into the studio and hearing this intoxicating sound more frequently. Except, the first scrap of paper I placed under it did not come out with a clean edge. When I tried the board, it didn’t even cut through and mangled it.

The problem: my paper cutter’s blade needs to be sharpened. papercutter5

I discussed the matter with a knife sharpener at the local farmer’s market. He laughed at me. He said it needs an industrial-grade grinder to be sharpened. He went back to his kitchen knives.

Apparently the class I took at the SF Center for the Book on knives and sharpening your binding tools is not going to help me with this size of a blade. My teacher from the Center recommended a company out of Pennsylvania called Bindery Tools & Equipment. I will have to contact the owner to see if he might be able to stop by the next time he is out west and sharpen the blade. If not, I may have to detach the blade, pack it up, and ship it out to someone who can sharpen it. My teacher provided me with some reading material about how to adjust a board shear so I will have to do more research and experimentation before being able to use this tool effectively.

papercutter4Also, it came with this tool and I have no idea what it is for.

Still moving forward, even if it feels a little more like spinning slowly in a few different but related directions.



7 thoughts on “John Jacques & Sons Paper Cutter

    1. I did not figure out what the tool was for. It was not the brake for the counter weight. I had to order a new one of those from Paul Brubaker’s shop out in PA which has been a big help in slowly restoring this paper cutter.

    1. Thank you for the recommendation. I found a place closer to home called Sartor Saw Works in San Francisco. I need to take the blades up there to check, but if they aren’t able to handle it, I’ll look at LA Grinding.

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