Wednesday, August 19, 2015

DIY Bookbinding

For my next project I am going to attempt to do my own bookbinding.  I'm going to start off with using simple materials, but hopefully one day I can make an awesome leather cover drawing or journal book like the one pictured above.

There are so many DIY Bookbinding tutorials out there, each with slightly different methods of making books.  I'll try some of these methods out - but I was surprised to see that I could not find any templates for making a book.  So after enough study on making book bindings, I am going to start making mine first by making some templates.

Since standard letter size paper (8.5" x 11") is very easy for me to get, I'm going to make my book pages 5.5" x 8.5" - which is letter sized paper folded in half.  I created a template in Adobe Illustrator of a letter sized page (landscape) with dotted fold lines going down the middle.  The red circles indicate where hole will be punched later for stitching.

(FYI all my templates are printable if you wish to use them.  Simply click the image to enlarge, then right click to save the template).

Next I created a template for the spine and front/back cover backers.  Since the front and back covers are the same size, I only needed to make one template for both.

*UPDATE:  Making the spine template should be done after you've made all your folded pages.  The thickness of your spine should be the same as the thickness of all your pages together.

Lastly I made a template for the paper or fabric that the cover will be made out of.  This template is about 1" larger on all sides from the size of the cover backers.  The corners are at a 45 degree angle so it will be easy and neat to fold the cover material over the cover backers without bunching.

With my templates done I printed them.

The template for the cover material needed to be printed on 2 pages.  Using a knife, ruler and some tape I cut the pages and taped them to be one sheet.

Next I applied some transfer tape onto the back of the template.  

Then I peeled away the tape backer and laid down some cardboard/chipboard on top of the template.

Then I flipped it over and trimmed the template to size.

Transfer tape is a double-sided tape that is not usually found in the chain arts & crafts stores.  It can be found in serious art stores and can definitely be found online.  I order mine from a place called Taperite.  If you can't find this tape, or simply don't wish to pay the money for it, you can used regular white glue or rubber cement/contact cement to attach the paper to the cardboard.

Next I repeated the steps and mounted the cover & spine templates to cardboard.

Lastly I folded the pages template in half.  If you see half red circles going down the middle you did it right.

With my templates done it's time to start using them.  The first part to making this book will be to make all the pages.  For this I'm using letter sized paper from my printer.

I started folding 6 sheets at a time.  Folding these pages is really easy if you have an edge to a table or wall to push the paper against.  My art table has a lip at the edge that I can push the paper against.

After a few minutes I had 6 bundles or 6 pages - 36 sheets of paper in all, making a 72 page book.

Next I found my awl in my workshop.  I found this awl one day a few years back, and I've never used it before.  So I used my belt sander to sharpen the edge and give it a nice point.

I then folded my page template in the middle of my pages, 6 at a time, and used the awl to punch a hole in the red circles.

Once all the holes were punched I removed the template to make sure the holes went right on the fold line - which they did.

After a few minutes all the pages had the holes punched, and each bunch had the holes lining up correctly.

Next I used some thread and a needle to start weaving the pages together.

I'm not the best at sewing, but I did manage to get it all together.  Then I added large paper clips to each side to keep everything together for the next step.

In other tutorials people used binding tape, canvas, white glue, hot glue and glue sticks to bind the pages together.  For my first attempt I decided to use more transfer tape with card stock.

I cut the tape/card stock to slightly less than the height of the pages. 

I cut 3 pieces from the card stock, the biggest piece attaching to the center of the pages...

...and folding over each side.

The 2 smaller pieces were attached where the paper clips were.

With the pages together I next started on the book cover & spine.  For this I decided to use a green velvet fabric I had.

Using my template, I traced the shape onto the back of the fabric.

Then I cut it out with scissors.

Next I used my cover & spine templates to cut out some cardboard.

Next I applied glue to the cardboard and attached it to the fabric.

I then placed a bunch of stuff on top of it to hold it all in place until the glue dried.

When the glue was dry I folded over the flaps and glued them in place.

Truth be told, the glue did not stick to the fabric as well as I would have liked.  I applied glue to the spine of the pages, and attached it to the cover and clamped the whole thing to try and fix it.

I was hopeful that the clamps and glue would work, but it really didn't.  Plus the transfer tape on the spine didn't do a good enough job as some of the pages began to shift.

The cardboard spine was also somewhat bigger than the pages.  My first attempt at a book did not go well, so I set the whole thing aside and we'll revisit it later.

I watched more video tutorials and started seeing a lot of the mistakes I had made.  So I began from the start once more.  This time I made 5-page bundles.

My hole punching template is still good, so I used it once more.  This time I placed a few pieces of scrap crafting foam underneath so I could make bigger, deeper holes with the awl.

After a few minutes I had 5 bundles (also called "signatures").

Next I had to go out and buy some new material.  Mostly I needed a thicker thread and needle, but I did get other stuff too.

Once I got my new needle and thread I used pliers to nick off the tip, so I won't prick my finger too much.  I then began binding the book.  This thread was much stronger and the bigger needle without the point worked so much better!

After each signature was threaded, I tied it to the signature below it.  I made sure the knots were tight this time.

After a little while I had a new stack of pages.  This book will have 8 signatures of 5 pages each = 40 sheets of paper/ 80 pages.

Making signatures and threading them became my hobby for this particular evening.  In addition to the 80 page signatures, I made a 60 page bundle and a 100 page bundle.

With my bundles all sewn up it was time to glue on a backer to the threaded area.  I cut a piece of card stock to match the width of this stack.

I then applied a liberal amount of white glue (PVA glue).

Using a brush, I spread the glue evenly.

Then I pressed on the cardstock and added large paper clips to hold everything in place.

I set that bundle aside and began working on the cover.  My earlier templates still work fine, except I had to make the spine thinner to match the 80-page bundle.

I then glued the cardboard to a large sheet of blue oaktag (poster board).  I bought this poster board at the art store.  I am not going to use my template from before as it turned out to be too small*.  For this step I can eyeball the measurements and cut.

*Even though my template was a little too small, the downloadable template at the start of this page has the corrected size - so it's ok to use.

I was also looking for a bone folder tool at the art store to help with folding, scoring and brandishing the paper, but couldn't find one.  I settled with an inexpensive pack of clay-working tools which seem to get the job done.

Next I cropped the corners and folded the edges.

With the edges folding nicely I added glue to the bottom/top flaps...

...then I glued the left/right flaps.

Once everything was in place I flexed the book cover to make sure the whole thing opens and closes properly.

Next I used some decorative paper I bought from the art store...

...and added transfer tape to the back of it.

I then attached it to the inside of the cover.

When the bundle of pages dried I added transfer tape to the first and last pages.

I attached the last page to the back cover of the book (not the spine!)

Then I attached the front cover and pressed down n the book to make sure everything adhered correctly.

The first and last pages covered up the decorative inside covers, so I simply cut more decorative paper and attached it.

First book done!  Woohoo!

I wound up using the same techniques to make the other 2 books.  The 100-page book used blue, red and green oaktag on the outside with decorative paper on the inside.

The 60-page book used red oaktag with different decorative paper.

Then I decided to go back to the very first book I made (the one with the green velvet fabric).  I removed the fabric, and glued the spine.  The glue did a good job, where as my earlier method of strips of paper with transfer tape holding the pages together did not do as well.

I didn't have enough of one type of decorative paper left to cover the entire book, so I used pieces of what I had left.

And now I have 4 new books to use as journals, sketch pads or as nice gifts.

As the days followed, I made more and more books.

In the image below, the book on the left has pages made of cardstock, and on the right the pages are made up of colored construction paper.

The cardstock book will be great for sketching, but the construction paper wouldn't be too great for either writing or drawing.  So I decided to go out and buy some rubber stamps - something I've wanted to play with for a while.

Construction paper works well with stamp ink!

I admit that I had a lot of fun playing with the stamps in this book.

I'm going to have to get more stamps!

My girlfriend liked the books I had made and wanted one, so I went out and bought a 12x12 pad of decorative scrap book paper.  I used this nice design for the cover.

The inside pages were made from a combination of regular white paper mixed with purple construction paper.

I used my stamps in the inside covers.

I hope she likes it!

As mentioned earlier, I looked at many sites and videos to learn how to make these books.  By far the most helpful videos were made by "Crafty Loops" on  You can watch the first of her many videos by clicking here.

Thanks for reading!

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