Passion for Excellence
Keough Update #14: LABYRINTH SUBLIME
Inspections Continue — April 7, 2011
I recall the maxim “patience is a virtue.” I am being very patient, methodical and sharp while I personally give a thorough, page-by-page, inch-by-inch review of every single set of unsewn pages prior to our project proceeding to the bindery. The task could be overwhelming. Recall all those stacks of finished pages. Yet broken down into smaller goals, I find it manageable. I have given myself a daily quota to inspect 25 of the collated “thirds.” This is the equivalent of eight books checked in a 10-hour day — ten hours being long enough for my eyes. I estimate the time required to inspect all the pages will amount to some 400 hours, or 40 days.
I spent the first week doing a pre-inspection of the stacks of similar pages. Of the 356 unique pages, Pat and I are absolutely delighted with 96% and we’re fine with a further 2%. Many times we’ve told Friesens that we are aiming for perfection, for 100%, and that with such a lofty target, should we reach 98% we’d be content. Well, time has proved that we’re not quite so content. While the lithography of LABYRINTH SUBLIME has met the stated goal, recent discussions have focussed upon those last two percentage points — all of six pages. In the eyes of Pat and myself, three of our images are printed with magenta beyond that which we sign-off on the "approval sheet" while on press back in January. The other three, although glorious with rich, accurate colour, are scratched vertically multiple times. These scratches, which cut into the aqueous coating but not the inks, are clearly visible when I am a) wearing glasses and b) holding the page in a certain angle to a strong light. To our way of thinking, there is no option. These pages must be reprinted. To accomplish this actually means 16 pages need be reprinted, of which 10 are currently perfectly fine, but are part of the same forms (the folded four-pager) as those with issues. Thus, we’re facing the reality of having to go back on press with two sheets (each with four pages on the front, and four on the reverse). We share with you an excerpt from a letter Curwin Friesen, CEO and President of Friesens Corporation wrote to us last week:
We have run into a significant cost hurdle with respect to going back to press for the forms we discussed.
Unfortunately, we have learned that the paper mill is requiring a minimum order of 14,000 sheets — when we only need 4,000. The mill was able to supply us with a smaller batch few months ago only because they had some excess on hand from another rare custom order.
However, given the unique size of this sheet, they do not manufacture for inventory. Therefore, they will not budge on a custom order of 14,000 sheets. Furthermore, the paper will not be available until April 21st at best, if we place a custom order. Friesens has other applications for this paper and cannot use it for other jobs.
So, in light of this new information regarding the paper, I must respectfully ask the questions:
1) Are you prepared to shoulder these extra costs for so few images that already look excellent — but you are shooting for superb;
2) Are you prepared to delay the project by another month at least, plus the added costs of staying in Altona during this time;
3) Are you really prepared to accept the rework if new issues arise — scratching in different areas or other flaws such as paper issues, etc., we may encounter? Your comment was “if we try and fail we will still feel better than not trying at all.” But, given the& rising costs, will that really be the case.
4) Will you agree to use some of the “only use if you must” printed sheets to ensure we hit the 350 quantity of your order.
4) NO! Instead, we are prepared to lower our contracted quantity from 350 to 300 with
no reduction to the contracted quote for the lithography. Indeed the opposite is
happening — the bill is mounting.
Curwin’s observation is definitely the truth: we are "shooting for superb" rather than merely excellent. The delay to await paper, and then to print, coat, trim, fold the replacement pages, is not onerous in the scheme of this project. Nor will it add greatly to time as I will still be inspecting pages through April and much of May. The added expense is high, but again not in the scheme of this project in its entirety. The cost of being in Altona months longer than originally anticipated is both a business cost (delaying the onset of marketing) and a personal cost (being away from my family for too long).
So here I am, at my work station, where I can be found day after day be it a Monday or a Sunday. In addition to wearing white cotton gloves tipped with “pinky condoms,” I have taken to donning a hair net which is why my hair looks flattened. Perhaps being indoors so much, or perhaps missing my husband, whatever the reason, I’m shedding. Consequently, I’ve thrown fashion to the wind in favour of a practical solution to avoid my strands ending up in copies of LABYRINTH SUBLIME.
What am looking for with such close scrutiny? In a few words: pages that are consistently fabulous. Unacceptable pages are replaced with those I approve. Here’s a list of some of the things I check.
– colour consistency of image. Within 800 copies made of each page, there can be slight
variations of colour. My task is to ensure that 300 to 350 copies required for our tomes are
identical to the approval sheet.
– as best I can, I colour-match images that cross over two-pages
– eliminating dots and spots. Sometimes there’s a bright pink spot in an otherwise blue sky,
other times a white dot in the blue of an ocean, or a dark blue spot in a grey sky
– eliminating dull-spots, blisters, dried drips, scuffs etc. that mar the lustre of the aqueous
– recycled content can be visible as dark flecks. A small speck can be acceptable
depending upon location on the page. A larger fleck is not acceptable.
– I minimize the small pits, a minor defect from the paper milling which become noticeable
after aqueous was applied. Previously, you’d be hard pressed to spot any of these pits.
– finger dents and kinks have zero tolerance in this book
– finger prints and hand prints have zero tolerance
– scratches be gone, be they horizontal (from the folder), vertical (perhaps from the coating
operation), diagonal or swirling (caused by dragging a heavy stack rather than lifting)
– grease tick at the centre fold — I remove the grease with total success
– light, vertical track-like mark appearing on most copies of two particular pages. I remove
these marks with a soft cloth
– folding — I ensure that the crease is exactly in the right place. Being off even a smidgen
would be instantly visible on a cross-over image, with a tell-tale white strip visible at the gutter.
– collation — I ensure order and that all pages right side up
– miscellaneous — A decade ago, when inspecting ANTARCTICA we found five book blocks
with blood on the same set of pages. An operator must have got a paper cut, and his
DNA was splattered in our unbound books. Spotting these pages, we replaced them.
This is a big job, one that cannot be delegated. We’ll only be pleased if every copy of LABYRINTH SUBLIME reaches the standards we set for our work. I am actually selecting every page to be bound in each tome.
I am taking a short break mid-way to celebrate Easter with my Pat and our son Glen at home on Salt Spring Island, and the following weekend to host our annual folk dance festival. I’m looking forward to spring, and even here in Altona, there are strong signs of spring’s imminent arrival. Yesterday I saw and heard a joyful robin. This morning as I walked to Friesens, I saw a large flock of Canada Geese overhead, honking loudly as they flew in their V formation. I’m always so glad to see the return of the geese a sign of life progressing as it should. Snow is melting.
Soon I’ll share with you the story of the leather procured for LABYRINTH SUBLIME, the same leather dyed to a custom colour as clads ANTARCTICA.
Very best wishes,