Why it takes 72 hours to make a Soumkine book
The process of making a notebook may seem like a no-brainer. However, it takes us almost three days to produce a Soumkine book. It requires a lot of patience from us, as well as from our dear clients, but we hope that the beautiful results are well worth it.
Today, we want to take you behind-the-scenes in our atelier and show you how a Soumkine book is made – with a mix of careful human hands and not-so-human but lovingly named machines. Here're the steps we need to take on the way to a perfect Soumkine Book.
Day 1. Printing
The first step in creating every Soumkine book is printing out the paper blocks (or signatures), which is done by our two printing machines, Puff and Vasiliy. Afterwards, these blocks are bound by thread and glued together with end-sheets and a book spine. The size of each paper block depends on how thick the notebook should be. For instance, one 160-page notebook contains eight signatures. We usually assemble a batch of a dozen signatures at a time before moving onto the next step.
Binding is where the real magic happens. We use an authentic binding machine from the 20th century, which we call Martina. Martina rescued us in December 2019 when we had to switch from the staples technique to traditional bookbinding, and she has helped us produce books ever since.
After Martina binds the paper blocks, we glue them together with the end-sheets.We leave these book blocks to dry for a couple of hours before glueing the book spines.One important but tedious step that follows is putting thick paper sheets between each paper block and making finishing touches with a special hammer to round up the binding. We can avoid this step in the future using more advanced bookbinding machinery, which we look forward to investing some time down the line.
Day 2. Glueing Covers
After the first cup of coffee (or two), the second day begins with the printing of our original covers and glueing them on top of the bound book blocks.
We then put them under our huge pressing machine, Totoro, to smooth out all the pages and put everything in place. This is quite a tiresome process as we need to move the pressing wheel a lot to get the pressure perfectly right.
Our smaller presses, Thomas, Napoleon and Leonardo, take care of the interim operations.
After Totoro puts these books together, we wait another 24 hours to let the books fully dry. In the meantime, we prepare the packaging that matches perfectly with the books sizes ordered. We’ve made dozens of prototypes to get this right, paying attention to every detail before settling on the right dimensions and designs to get these books to their future homes.
Day 3. Trimming
After the notebooks dry, we release Totoro and put the finishing touches to each book, by trimming the paper blocks and rounding its top and bottom right corners.
Trimming is the trickiest part because if done improperly, the whole book is ruined and has to go to our ‘paper cemetery’, which we repurpose for prototypes and training.
True to our devotion to high-quality paper culture, we take packaging at Soumkine very seriously. We craft every packaging by hand using our own designs, protecting every notebook with a water-proof jacket to ensure that they are as perfect as when they leave our hands into yours
The final step is sending the parcels to your homes. We always include a personalised thank-you card and a couple of postcards to show our gratitude.
Thank you for taking time to read this piece. We hope that it'll inspire you to love the touch of paper in our Extraordinary and Atlantique collections a bit more. We can't thank you enough for your kind feedback and support – that’s something that keeps us going. Thank you!