As winter closes in I’m quickly making sure my winter essentials are ready to go–fireplace in working order, blankets in a basket nearby, a shelf full of books appropriate to the season, and less expected, my trusty book weight. I love the preparations that the changing of the seasons brings, and there’s something about winter that demands more time be spent reading. For me it’s the combination of the cold and increasingly quick transition to darkness, and whether or not you feel the same way I hope you find the time to curl up with many a good book this year, and if you’d like to keep your hands free to keep that blanket wrapped around you as you cozy up to the fire, perhaps a book weight to be your personal page holder would be a nice addition to your own arrangement.
A Quest Began: How a Book Weight Jogs Memories and Delays a Quest Only Lately Having Begun
Last weekend I was putting up Christmas lights and was looking for a timer. I saw clearly in my mind’s eye exactly where I knew I had one–on a shelf in the original Good Made Better workshop. I made my way there (meaning I walked a half block from my house), and as I stepped across the threshoId I made a mental note to patch the rotted spot in the floor before winter sets in, both because what started as a hole about the size of a men’s size 8 shoe is now nearly a 10 (I wear an 11) and because it seemed to me about the size hole a baby raccoon might enter through. Note to self: It’s very possible this is the hole in which they entered last winter. Further note to self: patch the squirrel sized holes in the eves and the siding at the same time.
It would be fair to say the building is in disrepair. My grandpa and his sons (my dad and uncles) actually built it after salvaging the lumber from a one room schoolhouse a couple of miles out of town. It’s two stories, the lower being a garage and the upper built as a sheet metal fabrication shop for the HVAC portion of his mechanical business. This was an arm of his and my grandma’s hardware store, a story (or many stories) for another time. I spent a fair bit of time as a child inventing all kinds of non-functioning things from scraps of metal, and even a few things that functioned quite well.
My favorite was a contraption I fashioned with some scraps of sheet metal and an EMT conduit strap which I strapped to my Game Boy with rubber bands. A flashlight sized to the EMT strap clipped in, and would allow me to play my Game Boy in the car at night. This was probably the single most important thing that had happened to me up to that point in my life. The icing on the cake was a bit of waxed paper cupped over the flashlight lens (also fastened with rubber bands) to reduce glare.
I also recall a live gopher trap which impressed more in looks than function, a live squirrel trap which actually functioned (much to my cousin’s and my astonishment and subsequent horror upon realizing there wasn’t a safe-for-human-use release built in), as well as a miniature version of the carnival game where you use a sledge hammer to hit a thing to make another thing hit a bell. You know the one I mean. I still have that, and in thirty years has gained nothing in the way of satisfaction when struck. The only thing more pointless than the gadget is me having hung onto it for three decades.
At some point in its service life the shop was turned over to my uncle who was beginning a cabinetry business. He used it for a few years before converting the massive (for a small town) Soviet-esque concrete school which had shut down in the 1970’s into a functioning woodshop. It was then used as a metal shop again until my uncle learned a rather important chemistry lesson involving varnish soaked rags and the concept of spontaneous combustion. Ironically, this in the [former school] building where he might have learned [basic scientific principles] in the first place. The shop was again put to use for cabinetry until the charred guts of the concrete behemoth could be made anew into a woodshop. Then, back to a metal shop.
It was during this period where I had my participation in the previously mentioned extracurricular work as well as my first employment. In 2004 the family business that was started in 1952 underwent a dissection and the metal shop was moved to a new location. Here is where the word ‘dilapidation’ takes on a visual definition. It sat in a state of poor repair and over the course of the next six years overachieved in how quickly one would expect degradation to pace itself before I became its caretaker. I patched things over to get me by, knowing it was never a long term solution, and this is how it sits today.
I walked to the shelves where I kept the timer but was distracted as my eye caught an old book weight (the one mentioned in a previous post) as well as what I believe was my first prototype of what eventually became the Bookfellow book weight set. As I turned it over in my hand I was surprised at how little had changed from an admittedly rough prototype to the current Bookfellow. I had tried a more complex curve (think of the shape you drew to imply birds flying in the distance when in grade school–when you were in grade school, not the birds) thinking the curves would improve upon the concept of a page holder if made in the shape of the held pages. Well, that’s bologna. It turned out an unnecessary complication that impeded rather than aided the use of the book weight. Besides cleaning that up and using a metal for a weight that wasn’t pulled off the scrap pile, it’s not too far removed from our current collection of book weights which I’d love to introduce you to.
Book Weights and Page Holders for all Seasons
This is our original model and the one that most closely resembles the old book weight prototype. Made from black walnut with the same hand rubbed oil finish as the rest of our walnut products, it sports either a piece of solid brass or copper to give it the heft it needs to perform page holding duties on even the most stubborn of books. The curve of the Bookfellow book weight is a gentle arc, a profile designed to sit over the spine of an open book and hold the pages close to the spine where it often does the most good. The curve is adorned with two black strips to keep it in place as some books may want to push it around. These are anti-skid strips–tacky enough to stay put but not too sticky to easily move the book weight around as you read.
The base of the Bookfellow can be positioned in two ways (low or high) and acts as an incline to rest your book on. I almost never read a book at a table without it, as the change in angle is so much easier on my eyes. When not being used the two pair together for a nice looking set on your desk or wherever you might choose to keep it.
Curiously Heavy Book Weight
This book weight is my favorite for the “wow” factor it brings. I enjoy watching someone at a pen show pick up what looks like an ordinary, minimally shaped, block of wood. They’re quick to identify something amiss, as their eyes are battling with their hands as to which is correct. They’ll generally ask something to the effect of, “It’s not that heavy of wood, is it?”, or “Wait, how is it so heavy?”. I enjoy the furrowing of brows and the squinting of eyes. At this point I’ll do my best to defer and say something to the effect of, “I inject it with Plutonium.”, or “It’s filled with liquid Mercury.”. I’ve never been good at magic and this is as close as it gets for me so I enjoy ‘having a laugh’ at the bewilderment it elicits.
Functionally, the Curiously Heavy Book Weight works nearly identically to the Bookfellow, albeit slightly lower in overall weight. It sports the same curvature and the same anti-slip pads, and was actually originally meant as an accessory to our Writewell as it fits perfectly in the Miscellany Niche.
Nomadic Book Weight
This is my current favorite book weight for two reasons. First, I like leather and I’ve been wanting to utilize it as a material in our products for years. Second, it’s the most recent, and I have a perpetual case of recency bias when it comes to which of our products are my favorites. I designed this book weight to rid myself of the cringing I would do when packing my Bookfellow in a travel bag.
Walnut is incredibly durable when left alone on or responsibly moved around on a desk, but not so much when banged around in a backpack. Leather, on the other hand, is, and even takes on additional personality for the abuse. It also acts as a wonderful hinge so the book weight can be made shorter and handily packable without losing functionality. No curvature is needed as the leather strap allows the book weight to conform to any shaped book, and in some cases I find it a preferred setup over its rigid counterparts. It is a bit less in overall weight but because the weights can sit outboard of the book spine I’ve found it generally works just as well as a page holder because the weight it has is concentrated where it’s needed. Anti-slip pads grace the bottom of the metal bars as well. When all is said and done (more like read and done) the book weight doubles on itself and snaps together into a handsome little reading tool.
Like almost all of our products, the metals are raw and uncoated allowing them to patina over time. I intentionally do this as I not only love a well designed tool, but I particularly love a well designed tool that shows the characteristics of one that has been used in honor of its intended design.
Honorable Mention–Writewell Reader’s Kit
While not a book weight per se, our Reader’s Kit is a page holder which attaches to the Writewell portable writing desk and accomplishes the same task as our book weights in a different manner. The kit includes two pieces that act together to pinch the book open between the two of them. A brass rest is for the book to sit on and an acrylic page holder sits against the open pages. The brass book rest slides in and out of the Writewell and is adjusted accordingly to hold a book whether small or large, loosely or tightly depending on what it requires to behave itself. Additionally, the acrylic may be left off if it’s a particularly respectable book (Victorian era novels would fit that criteria for me) and lays flat on its own.
A Quest Concluded
As my quest for my timer continued I began to rummage through gobs of those things one saves because it ticks the just-might-be-useful-in-the-future box. Middle shelf–no, not amongst brass candlestick parts, scraps of metal lath or old license plates. Top shelf–not there either, amongst old ice cream buckets (never enough lids for these), dirt encrusted plant pots, or wooden sideboards for a child’s wagon. Bottom shelf–no chance, amongst boxes of old electrical wire and outlets as well as a tiny wood stove I have the best of intentions for (to warm a tiny study existing so far only in a tiny corner of my mind).
It was at this point that I remembered where I had last used it. It wasn’t for Christmas lights at all, but in the chicken coop where a single light bulb hangs to encourage, nay, demand that egg production continues even with waning daylight hours. Without enough daylight, chickens will stop laying, which is unfortunate as we don’t slow our consumption in solidarity.
Fortune favored me this day as I relished in the fact that the chickens were all dead, we’re buying eggs again, and the timer can now be allocated for Christmas lights. All this to light a tree in the former office of a former service station which is now my shop which does not have a functioning office but which does have large (and broken) windows facing Main Street where children walk and adults drive by who might enjoy a bit more Christmas cheer adorning their small town this wonderful time of year.