Your Perspective: Tacketing

Tacketing Cut-Away Model (click to enlarge).

From time to time, in order to avoid letting our thinking get too narrow and insular, we like to look past the walls of our own lab and solicit the opinions of conservation colleagues on equipment, materials, and treatment methodologies.  While there is an increasing body of conservation literature available, I find I miss the more casual debates that arise from working in a lab with multiple conservators, technicians, and interns.  Since we have just one of each, we really appreciate conversations with our virtual colleagues at other labs and in private practice.

On that note, I’m interested to hear your thoughts about tacketing as a treatment method for reattaching heavy, laced-on boards.  In general, I am a fan of using various modifications to the “Princeton Treatment 305” method for board reattachment published by Brian Baird and Mick Letourneaux in 1994, and there are other methods such as board slotting which offer repairs of comparable strength.

However, I’d like to hear your thoughts specifically on tacketing.  Is tacketing your favorite, go-to treatment? Do you consider the treatment — which is, admittedly, very strong — to be too invasive?  Do you consider it unnecessary in all instances, or appropriate only in certain circumstances?   If you do use tacketing, what is your approach?  Favorite tools and materials for executing the treatment? Please join the conversation in the Comments section below.

Tacketing Cut-Away Model, front and back three-quarters view (click to enlarge).
Tacketing Cut-Away Model. Close-up view of exposed and covered tackets on outer joints (click to enlarge).
Tacketing Cut-Away Model. Detail view of exposed and tissue-covered tackets on inner hinges (click to enlarge).


  1. Board reattachments are the most common treatment in my lab, and I actually never use tackets. My go-to repair is to adhere Moriki on the outside of the hinge and a thinner tissue (often Kizukishi) on the inside of the hinge. Consolidating the leather with Klucel-G first usually makes it possible to work with paste directly on the leather without discoloration. With practice, the Moriki can then be toned in-situ with acrylic paint in methyl cellulose and coated with SC-6000. The strength of this repair comes from the adhesion of the two tissue layers in the joint; thus, the tissue must be carefully boned into (or teflon-ed into) the joint on both sides.

    I don’t use tackets because they’re more invasive and I have yet to find a situation where the tissue repair is insufficient. I can imagine using tackets in an extremely large or heavy book, but those books usually require more extensive repairs when they arrive in the lab, so their problems are solved in other ways. Those books often also need orthopedics (like a book shoe or support) to help them manage their weight; that additional support relieves some hinge stress that might otherwise call for tackets.

  2. I’ve had good success with tacketed board reattachment, although I’ve not done a lot of them. Of course, it has to be the right treatment for right book. I’ve used it on heavier books where I’m not confident that a tissue repair will be strong enough. I’m pretty sure I’ve only used this on tight-back volumes and probably wouldn’t use it on hollow-back volumes.

  3. Great idea and conversation! Let me preface my opinion with the fact that I don’t do a lot of treatment anymore, but I get to QC a lot of treatment.

    I don’t really like tackets accept for a small sliver of candidates (those pesky oversized books with giant shoulders and good-condition paper). They are pretty invasive, and I’ve only seen a couple people able to do them really, really well. When done poorly, they look rather Frankenstein-ish, IMHO.

    We do a lot of tissue hinges (aka Etherington hinges) but honestly I don’t think there are many really, really good candidates for this either. The leather has to be in fairly good condition for the repair to work well…and if that were they case they wouldn’t be in the lab. I also wonder at the longevity of these hinges for items that may be (or become) high use. Didn’t Chela M. recently look back at ones she did several years ago? I thought she found a mixed result (she presented at AIC…I can try to find that paper, I can’t remember the details).

    I do like combinations of the Etherington hinge and the Brock repair (the over-under spine lining attached at head and tail). I think the Brock lends strength, while the tissue hinge maintains a flexible hinge while hiding the damage. The “tart part” as it were.

  4. Great conversation, thanks for contributing, y’all!

    Sarah, I’m very glad to hear about your positive results with the tissue hinge repair. I find the treatment appealing, but have been reluctant to use it on anything other than smaller, lighter volumes for fear the repair wouldn’t have the strength for heavier boards. I appreciate your tips about execution of the repair, and will try using it on bigger volumes now.

    Kevin, you and I seem to have a similar view of tacketing. I generally choose it only as a last resort for very heavy volumes with very heavy detached boards (and, as Beth noted, a robust textblock with good paper), but I do think it can be a discreet-looking repair when the leather is in good condition to begin with, and of course, if it is done very carefully.

    Beth, I’m not familiar with the Brock repair — do you have a citation or written instructions? And yes, I do recall Chela gave a good talk at AIC, but I can’t remember the specifics now — will have to hunt up my notes!

    Confessional: I have a very heavy volume with detached boards I am mulling over right now. I’m reluctant to perform a tacketing repair on it because of the degraded condition of the leather, so I am considering the alternatives. You have given me some good food for thought — thank you!

  5. good discussion, I only wanted to add to the discussion the use of cloth or even non-wovens for repair. Pitt does not do board tacketing. We have done airplane linen hinges when re-attaching boards for larger laced-in books. Depending on what the spine looks like, and if you can get a good adhesion seems to work. We do a ‘v’ cut, part under, part over the board. Moricki for smaller books.


    1. Thanks for your comment, Amy. I really like working with airplane linen because it’s so thin, flexible, and strong. Do you have a good supplier? We have had trouble finding it recently.

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