Shop Talk: Father-Son Duo Carry On Legacy of 130-Year-Old Business

Randi Walle Randi Walle Shop Talk: Father-Son Duo Carry On Legacy of 130-Year-Old BusinessPhotos by Randi Walle.
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Beck & Orr Book Binding has been part of the Columbus community for over a century. The business was started in 1888 by a book binder (Beck) and a printer (Orr) at State & Third. After moving locations a few times, the business has been settled at 3097 W. Broad St. for the last 28 years.

Ron Bowman, who currently owns the business with his son Skip, has been part of the company since 1956. He knew very little about the business before starting, learning the trade throughout his decades with Beck & Orr. Skip grew up in the business, so it was only natural he would work with his father binding books. While at one point Beck & Orr was a Union company with 15 employees, it’s now just Ron and Skip.

The shop on West Broad is filled with vintage machinery, old pictures, and mounds of books. Stepping inside is like taking a step back in time. Photos of the original building on State & Third and of the original employees decorate the walls, reminding customers of the rich history of the company. Much of the older equipment still utilized by the Bowmans has survived multiple moves and a warehouse fire and is still in working condition.

The process used at Beck & Orr depends on the need of the book. They are able to bind a new book, such as a thesis or family genealogy, as well as recover and bind an old book. There are many steps to creating a new cover and spine for a book, whether its for a new book or an existing one.

The board has to be cut, then fitted with cloth or leather. Once the material is glued in place, the cover goes through the ringer machine that flattens it. Letter press stamps are then used to imprint the cover and spine. The final step is gluing the pages to the spine and pressing to secure it.

The process of rebinding an old book involves cutting off the old cover, removing glue residue, stitching the pages together, and gluing a new binding on the book. Sometimes they are able to salvage the original cover and incorporate it with a new spine. Several of these steps are done by hand, or with the assistance of manual machines.

Ron and Skip love to take on new projects and are happy to work with customers to create the book they envision. Whether it is binding a thesis or saving a family heirloom, the book binding tradition has lasted for over a century and has no plans of going away anytime soon. For custom projects and quotes, contact Beck & Orr at [email protected] or visit their website


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