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Phased Box Construction


The phased box was developed to house deteriorated and otherwise damaged library materials. Conceived as a temporary housing, it is designed to enclose damaged books compactly, along with any or all loose parts, until proper conservation treatment can be obtained.

The phased box is an economical, easily constructed, and sound housing that has been used successfully by many institutions as a permanent protective housing for items other than books.



Craig Jensen
BookLab Inc.
8403 Cross Park Drive, Suite 2E
Austin, TX 78754 USA
Tel (512) 837-0479
Fax (512) 837-9794

Patricia Tweedy (retired)

Photographs: Craig Jensen
Illustrations: Patricia Tweedy

Publication: 1992


The box is constructed of two pieces of .060in pH neutral board. The boards are adhered together to form a cross-shaped structure that is folded and wrapped around the book. The enclosure is held together with rivets and heavy thread (Fig. 1).

Figure 1. Finished box.

Materials Tools Supplies

  • Adhesive/glue brush
  • Board creaser
  • Board shear or board cutter
  • Bone folder
  • Corner rounder
  • Hammer
  • Hole punch (1/8in diameter)
  • Jog box for book measurements or a piece of board or book measuring device or machinist’s dividers
  • Pencil
  • pH neutral board, .060in
  • Polyethylene washers
  • Polyvinyl acetate adhesive
  • Prewaxed heavy thread or light cord
  • Rivets
  • Scissors


Laying Out and Cutting Vertical Section

  1. Using a shear or cutter, cut two adjacent sides of a sheet of pH neutral board to square the board (90º corner).
  2. flap i. Place the book to be boxed in the squared corner of the board and lightly mark the length and width measurements of the book with a pencil (Fig. 2).

    Figure 2. Diagram of vertical section.

  3. wall i. Using a book measuring device, a jog box or simply a piece of board placed on top of the book, determine the maximum thickness of the book. (This will often be along the spine of a book but may occur at the fore edge in the case of warped boards.) Add this measurement to the flap i length mark. Use a pair of machinist’s dividers to record this measurement and leave the dividers at this setting; adjustments are noted later in the procedure (Fig. 3).

    Figure 3. Maximum thickness measurement is added to FLAP I mark.

  4. vertical baseboard. Using the book to be boxed as a measuring device, add its length at wall i, including an extra 1/8in on each end (Fig. 4).

    Figure 4. An extra 1/8in is added on each end of the vertical baseboard dimension.

  5. wall ii. Open the machinist’s dividers to accommodate one more board thickness and add this measurement to the baseboard length mark.
  6. flap ii. Using the book to be boxed as a measuring device, add its length to the wall ii mark.
  7. With a board shear, cut the width measurement and then any excess off the length (Fig. 5). This cutting sequence is the most economical in a majority of cases.

    Figure 5. Vertical section is cut with a board shear.

    Laying Out and Cutting Horizontal Section

  8. flap iii. Using flap i as a measuring device, mark the length and width in a square corner of another sheet of board (Fig. 6).

    Figure 6. Diagram of horizontal baseboard.

  9. wall iii. Open the machinist’sdividers to accommodate an additional board thickness and add this measurement to the flap iii mark.
  10. horizontal baseboard. Using flap i as a measuring device, add its width to the wall iii mark, including an extra 1/8in clearance.
  11. wall iv. Open the dividers one last board thickness and add this measurement to the baseboard width mark.
  12. flap iv. Using flap i as a measuring device, add its width to the wall iv mark.
  13. With a board shear cut the length measurement and then any excess off the width.

    Creasing, Corner Rounding, and Adhering

  14. With a board creaser, make a crease at each of the wall and flap marks (Fig. 7).

    Figure 7. A crease is made at each of the wall and flap marks.

  15. With a corner rounder, round all the corners on the vertical and horizontal sections (Fig. 8).

    Figure 8. All of the box corners are rounded with a corner rounder.

  16. Fold the board in on all creases with the raised side of the crease to the outside (Fig. 9).

    Figure 9. Raised side of crease is on outside of board.
  17. With polyvinyl acetate adhesive and a glue brush, apply adhesive to the underside of the vertical baseboard and center it over the horizontal baseboard (Figs. 10, 11). Using a bone folder to exert pressure, make sure that the bases adhere tightly to one another. Weight the boards and leave until the adhesive sets.

    Figure 10. Adhesive is applied to the underside of the vertical baseboard  
                     which is centered over the horizontal baseboard.

    Figure 11. Orientation of vertical and horizontal baseboards.
  18. Fold in the flaps sequentially, starting with flap i, and check for a good fit.

    Applying Fasteners

  19. On the flap iv edge make two pencil marks where the two tie strings will be fastened, approximately 1in from the fore edge and at least 1in from the top and bottom edges. Open up the box and punch holes at these marks (Fig. 12).

    Figure 12. Holes are punched on the FLAP IV edge.

  20. Tie a 9in length of heavy, waxed thread to the rivet posts and feed the long end of the thread through the inside of the punched hole in flap iv to the outside.
  21. Attach rivet caps and hammer the rivets shut on an anvil or other hard surface (Fig. 13).

    Figure 13. Rivet caps are attached through punched
                     holes to secure thread to FLAP IV.

  22. Fold the flaps shut sequentially, starting with flap i. Using the tie strings as a reference, mark on wall iii the positions for the fastener buttons. Open the flaps and punch the holes (Fig. 14).

    Figure 14. Tie strings are used as a reference, and positions are marked for fastener buttons.

  23. Attach the buttons on the rivets and hammer them shut (Fig. 15).

    Figure 15. Rivet caps are attached through punched
                     holes to secure buttons to WALL III.

  24. Enclose the book to be boxed in the phased box and check to make certain that the fit is precise (Fig. 1).

Adapted From

Jensen, C. and P. Tweedy. April 1983. The phase box: A construction procedure. Conservation Notes 4:1 – 4. Materials Conservation Laboratory, Texas Memorial Museum, University of Texas at Austin.

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