Birch Grove – A Leather Bound Journal with Birch Bark Inlays, Gold Tooling and Silver Fittings


I have a favorite birch grove near my city and every time I walk through it I wonder at how these fragile trees always have fallen brethren among them. When you peek inside – rot, but the bark glows. In the fall of 2019 I went with my new knife from master Mikhail Kochev to look at what I could gather.I’ve always thought to myself that I could use that bark for something.

It had been raining for two days and that day had not stopped either. I needed a tree that had neither fallen too soon nor had much rot already. In the first case, the bark is difficult to remove, and in the second there is a lot of filth on the back. I found one suitable exemplar, about 3-4 strides long. I made a long slit with the sharp knife along the lengthand then 5-6 cross sections to peel off a good amount of bark leaves.

I went home and with a wire brush and boiling water – cleaned and straighten them. For months, they stood drying in the shade while I thought about how they could be used in my books. Recently, I pulled out all the pieces from their rest, cut out all traces of studs and other irregularities. I smoothed the pieces further and cleaned them, then thinned two panels to the thickness of my favorite crimson goatskin.

My father and I teamed up on this book to combine a lot of different materials, but of course left the bark to get thet attention it deserved. The birch bark panels are inlayed in the front and back covers and then encased in 925 silver and shibuichi frames (25% silver and 75% copper).


The book is sewn on three hemp cords, consisting of 16 signatures of 32 pages and with the leaves on the end sheets makes a total volume of 512 pages. The paper is 80 gsm, archival quality, cream colored, smooth and a joy to write with a dip pen, fountain pens or pencil. The endpapers are decorated with hand-made paper leaves, decorated with a linoprint done by the binder. The cover boards are constructed from a 2.5 cm thick piece of millboard, sanded on its ends to produce a groove. They are sculpted and tied to the book body via the three cords. The book edges are sprinkled with a solution of potassium permanganate and red ink.

The book is bound with a fine quality, crimson colored goatskin. Only sumac and other natural materials are used in the tanning of this fine quality range of leathers. These skins are hand polished and finished to show the beauty of the natural grain. The natural character of each skin is maintained, no pigment finishes are added and no grain correction is made.

The endbands are constructed with a single twine core and a saddle-stitched piece of leather over it.

The decoration on the leather is done with with 23.5 carat gold leaf.

The fitted frames are made of parts from 925 standard silver and shibuichi (25% silver – 75% copper). They are attached to the covers by silver nails and rivets. The attachments are patinated and polished to achieve a shine on the different levels of the decoration.

The journal is with dimensions of 15 x 11 x 4 cm or 5.9 x 4.3 x 1.6 inches.

The grove photos are by my talented friend Dimitar Tenev, who was with me that day.

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