Cuts Both Ways

Bone folders make me shiver. And not just because it’s Halloween season, and skeletons and all that. I know it’s because whenever one of them shows up, it means a standard score won’t work on the designated printing press, for any number of reasons, and Shop Boy is going to have to finish the job by hand. Usually into the darkest hours of the night.

Which is why I was somewhat less than friendly to the dude selling the hand-carved bone folders at the book sale portion of the American Printing History Association conference that Mary and Shop Boy attended at the University of California-San Diego. Nothing personal. But his wares were giving me the willies. I didn’t mind telling him so.

Trouble is, Mary heard me too. “Oh, he’s so good with a bone folder,” she told the craftsman, Al Rodriguez ( “We had a contest: The winner got to finish the job.”

And has gotten to do every bone-folding job since. Guess who “won.” Total set-up.

She made me buy one of his bone folders. A real beauty, if you’re into such things. Sleek. Whittled out of an incredibly light bamboo, it looked like it’d be perfect … for keeping me up all hours of the night. I cursed under my breath and handed the dude 10 bucks. Figured I’d, um, lose the sucker in our luggage on the way back to Baltimore. Worth 10 bucks to dodge the next folding session, you know?

Then came this:

Don’t let the color fool you — it’s an orange. A California orange. Swiped, ahem, from a “lime” tree on the grounds of the impossibly landscaped Estancia La Jolla. (Travel tip: Stay an extra couple of days and the rate plummets. Shhhh! Just do it. Awesome getaway. Swear to god … go there. I’ve said too much.) OK, we’re easterners. The “lime” trees with the lime-green fruit are actually a disease-resistant lemon tree. And the identical-looking other trees with the lime-green fruit are orange trees.

I didn’t ask questions. Mary doesn’t like the taste of most tap water. Shop Boy needed to doctor it. “Lime” sounded perfect. Only problem was, there was no knife in the room. A request for a corkscrew — which usually means a gadget with a blade for cutting the foil that seals the bottle — brought only a plastic handle with the corkscrew part. Didn’t cut it. Literally. So now Shop Boy faced a quandary. Go down to the front desk and say that I didn’t need the corkscrew-corkscrew but rather a blade to slice up the fruit I’d stolen from the Estancia’s beautiful grounds. They’d have strung me up, and Shop Boy wouldn’t have blamed them, to tell you the truth. (Picture it: Mary sneaking a wooden bone folder in a cake past the metal detector at the prison so that I could — over the course of 20 years of late nights — tunnel my way out.)

Or, I could fake up a cutting tool.


Bludgeoned the fruit a bit as I jabbed it with the bone folder, slicing a jagged circle around and then through the orange, which soon enough bared its guts. I bled it dry into our water glasses.

Looked a bit like a Jack O’ Lantern at Veterans Day when I was done. Sad.

But Mary was happy.

And I think I’ve got my Halloween costume all picked out for this year:

Hockey mask.

Bone folder.

Kinda gives you the willies, admit it.

3 Responses to “Cuts Both Ways”

  1. a fine press (@aFinePress) Says:

    so, where’s the picture of the bone folder?

    • Shop Boy Says:

      Yeah, kinda lame not to include that. Will do soon. It’s back at the printshop. By a guy named Al Rodriguez, by the way ( — adding that to the story now. Probably cut myself taking the snapshot. — Shop Boy

    • Shop Boy Says:

      Up now — looks kinda like a surfboard in this pose. — Shop Boy

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