Toning method for solvent-set repair tissue

October 20, 2008

Briefly, to minimize the joint gap that sometimes occurs with board slotting repairs, cover the area with solvent-set tissue after reattaching the board, as described in the BPG article, annual 22, (2003) by Priscilla Anderson and Alan Puglia, This technique can be used alone for very small books with detached boards or for larger books with cracking, but mostly intact joints. Solvent-set tissue is also good reinforcement material for head caps. When used with board-slotting, solvent-set tissue can cover the repair to leave the joint area flush.  I follow the instructions in the article closely, except for the visual refinement of dye toning the tissue. 

Instead of using thinned acrylic paint, which forms a relatively thick film on the surface of the tissue and does not allow for tearing without exposing unpigmented fibers, I now use dye.  I started using Sellaset leather dye from the Leather Conservation Center;  for the initial toning of the tissue. It penetrates the fibers better and allows for greater flexibility of the tissue.   Also, the translucent quality of the died tissue allows for the original leather grain and color to be seen, making the repair more harmonious.  I have since discovered the Levacell direct dyestuffs which would likely be more appropriate for paper.  It has a similar fixing agent like the Sellaset dye. It is important in both cases to fix the dye properly as described in the manufacturer’s instructions. More information on Levacell dye can be found at: 

The dye is applied by pulling a full sheet of Japanese tissue on Mylar through a bath of dye.  I usually start with a dark brown and slowly dilute the bath or change the color slightly to lighter tones in order to stock a range of shades. You can also make colors, depending on the collection; usually reds, blues, and greens. Recently, I heard about a Plexiglas V-shaped trough that I’m told can be purchased overseas. I currently use photograph developing trays, but the trough would require less dye for each use. 

After the solvent-set repair tissue has been applied to the book, it usually requires a final toning to more closely match the shade of the book. There I find that dried paper extract as described in the article Toning with ‘paper extract’ by Piers Townshend in The Journal of the Institute of Paper Conservation, volume 26, (2002) works in most cases. The paper extract saves time by not having to mix colors and dulls the intensity of the dye to more closely approximate the color of old leather.  After the final tint, continue to follow the instruction for application of the solvent-set tissue by applying a coat of red rot cocktail or straight SC6000 to consolidate the fibers of the repair tissue, darken the repair slightly, and add a small amount of sheen to blend with the leather.

Laura O’Brien Miller


4 Responses to “Toning method for solvent-set repair tissue”

  1. vks1 Says:

    Hi Laura

    Thanks for this really useful information on toning. This method of using toned paper would also be particularly applicable for covering gaps at the head and tail of the boards where the size of the back corners has prevented the board from being slotted along its entire length.

    I have been having a look at the possibilities of using solvent based dyes for toning aerolinen, paper and tyvek to create the joint, the results of which I hope to post soon. If anyone has any thoughts about using tyvek as part of the joint structure for slotting I’d be really interested to hear them.

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  4. Apurva Modi Says:

    Prima Chemicals is a large-scale manufacturer and supplier of polymer soluble solvent dye, acid dyes, reactive dyes and pyrazolones for textile, wood stains, inks, leather, paint, fiber and masterbatches. We have 3 units producing oil and water based industrial dyes, colorants and pigments.

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