Upon Book Binding- Getting started and some useful things

Book binding is pretty simple. I do not mean it is necessarily easy or fast, but that you do not need much equipment or knowledge to get started. I think when I first started binding (not much more than a year ago) that this knowledge was a big surprise to me. So, if you are interested in trying your hand at binding, take heart!

Most of what I have learned came from three sources: observation, YouTube videos (such as this one on the coptic stitch style), and this nice book on book craft. With the help of the library, this info is all free.

I once imagined that bookbinding required extensive tools. It is true that the books themselves take certain special materials (you can’t fake nice paper, for example), but the tools required for putting them together is dead simple. I use four g-clamps and a couple well-bound oversize books, shown below. Every book I have ever made was with these four clamps and these two books. Very soon I will be making myself some new presses according to this tutorial, except that I intend to use cutting boards instead of fiberboard.

The only truly essential materials are strong thread (beading thread or linen thread works well), paper, an awl, a cutting board, a cutting implement, book board, and copious quantities of elmer’s glue. I like to order my decorative papers and cloths from Hollanders, and most other supplies like book board, elmer’s glue, and linen thread from Amazon.

The first few times I made books, they were not great looking. There were two primary reasons for this: 1) I did not let the glue dry sufficiently before moving to the next step. Then when I did the next step, the unset material would wrinkle, bubble or tear, and 2) Some papers are really unforgiving and will bubble and wrinkle very easily. Copy paper for example is not designed to be absorptive, and thus takes some skill to handle. I recommend starting with drawing papers or high cotton content papers. These papers will not buckle with too much glue or bubble with too little.

Below are four books I did in the first six months of learning. You can’t see here, but all of them have some little wrinkle or foible here or there. Each was still really exciting; I still had made books! I hope this little discussion is helpful to anyone who is interested, or getting started. I find joy in every book I put together, sometimes to an extent that seems strange. For more pics (of more recent efforts), or if you are interested in my books, check out my Etsy store.

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