What material should I use for a cover for a portfolio made with chicago-style screwposts?
March 15, 2006 3:36 PM   Subscribe

What material should I use for a cover for a portfolio made with chicago-style screwposts?

I'm looking to make up some portfolio covers, similar in design to these. I've thought of plexiglas, sheet metal and masonite (don't you have to wear a respirator when you cut masonite? I seem to remember something about toxic fumes.) But I have a feeling I'm stuck inside a box and there's a much cooler solution out there.

I'd like it to be durable and easy to cut (I can deal with wood and plexiglas, but probably not sheet metal.) Any other ideas that spring to mind? i'm not wedded to something stiff -- floppiness could be charming as well. And it doesn't have to be readymade - I'm willing to spend an obsessive amount of time on the right technique, so if you have a recipe for a durable papyrus, please let me know. Thanks.
posted by chocolatepeanutbuttercup to Media & Arts (8 answers total)
Might be some good inspiration here: http://www.lost-luggage.com/ stupid flash site, look for the looking glass series binders.
posted by rschroed at 3:50 PM on March 15, 2006

Thanks for the link. Ideas I came up with from looking at it:
cannibalize old luggage
leather over cardboard or masonite
felt over cardboard or masonite
veneer over cardboard or masonite
moss, ferns, other organic materials encapsulated (laminated?) on the cover.

I should add I'm especially looking for recycled materials, although I'm not averse to buying new. I'm looking to put together 3-4 portolios to wow my potential clients and also for when I try to worm my way into a couple of grad school art classes next year. Thanks again.
posted by chocolatepeanutbuttercup at 4:06 PM on March 15, 2006

Unless you pre-junk-it-up by frosting it or something, clear or smooth plexiglas will start looking like trash very, very quickly. Unless you get prohibitively thick pieces, it'll also chip and crack very easily. Pure plastic sheathing is absolutely not the way to go--maybe metal or wood with a plexi inlay?

Note that in the image you link to, the covers of the portfolio have piano hinges running the full length of the spine on each side of the book. "Chicago screws" really refers to the screws going through the bound materials to hold the book together rather than the hinge mechanism. This works great for flexible materials like blueprint sets that are over an inch thick but requires other solutions for more rigid stuff. If you use a rigid material for your cover, you'll have to have the same thing for yours, so as a design/aesthetic consideration remember that whatever material you choose for the cover you'll have to include a couple hunks of metal to be able to open the book. Another option would be covering a rigid material with a flexible one, similar to how 3-ring binders work.

How large a portfolio are you thinking of? 8.5x11 or 24x36 or something else?
posted by LionIndex at 4:18 PM on March 15, 2006

Linoleum either as sheet or tile is easy to work with. You could get it new or as salvage. It will laminate easily and the edges sand beautifully. You'll need to bear LionIndex's caveats in mind, though.
posted by firstdrop at 4:31 PM on March 15, 2006

LionIndex, I'm not quite sure what you mean.
I'm aware that the book relies on piano hinges, but I think I'm not understanding your point ( or maybe not understanding the basic construction.)

The way I see it working is that the chicago posts go through one side of the front and back piano hinges, and the book pages are bound between these.

The other sides of the front and back piano hinges are glued/soldered/welded/bonded to a front and back cover. Are you saying that I'll need more adhesive power to ensure the piano hinges bond to a stiff cover because of the amount of torque involved when opening and closing a cover? If so, I agree, and have thought about some nuts and bolts solutions, epoxys (depending on how heavy the thing weighs) as well as sewing the cover on with different weights of wire.

11 x 17 would the be maximum size -- I still have to be able to afford to print the pages that go inside....

firstdrop - linoleum! yes! great idea - I'll check salvage joints.

Thanks to both of you.
posted by chocolatepeanutbuttercup at 4:57 PM on March 15, 2006

I was being (un)fairly pedantic about the nature of the Chicago screws, and how they actually hold the bound materials together. When we get it done for blueprints, it's basically just a screw going the paper into a receptor that comes through from the other side, and these hold the sheets of paper together. With a rigid cover, you'd just be adding another layer in there, as you've indicated. I wasn't saying you'd need more holding power, I was really just confirming that you knew what you were doing, which is now pretty obvious. My only real point was an aesthetic one, in that no matter what material you use, if it's rigid, you're also going to have metal hinges in the mix so you need to consider that when you think about how the final product will look. Not to knock on plexiglas too much, but trying to attach a hinge to straight plexiglas would look like ass. Don't do it.

Anyway, if you're going for a size less than 11x17, you don't need to get too beefy for your cover materials. Certainly nothing thicker than 1/4", or maybe 16 or 12 gauge metal. I used to frequent a hobby store that sold 1/16" and 1/8" thick birch plywood, which would probably be nicer than masonite. If you're still thinking of metal, you could also buy some flashing at your local hardware store, which would be too flimsy on its own but you can wrap it around some other material, ending up with something Gehry-esque. Aluminum or copper flashing can be easily cut with an X-acto knife. Hobby or art stores will also sell thin brass sheets, but possibly not in the sizes you're looking for. You can artificially add a patina to brass or copper with a chemical bath, if you so choose.
posted by LionIndex at 5:16 PM on March 15, 2006

How about old PC boards? I've seen stuff made out of them somewhere - maybe clipboards, or notebooks, or something like that.
posted by Quietgal at 8:17 PM on March 15, 2006

Thanks LionIndex, birch would be great, as would flashing.

I think I've seen piano hinge portfolios made with plexi covers. They actually looked pretty sharp, but waaaay to expensive for my budget, and as you point out, they'll get scratched the first time you use them.

Quietgal, I've seen those PC board notebooks too - a bit smaller than what I was thinking of (and boy, desoldering all those components must be fun...) but it's a good idea for a small note book - thanks.
posted by chocolatepeanutbuttercup at 4:47 AM on March 16, 2006

« Older So why do fresh concrete pavements / sidewalks...   |   Hong Kong Bespoke Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.