Tag Archives: hand bound

A little bookbinding

I really enjoy bookbinding from time to time, especially now that technical writing occupies the bulk of my time. It’s refreshing to complete something and see its completeness. It can be hard to feel holistic satisfaction from writing; there’s always one more thing to fix. Below are some photos of my recent projects.

The first two are books I donated to my local writing club, WriterHouse, for a charity raffle. The purple and grey book is a perfect-bound notebook with a bone clasp; it contains linen textured paper. The dusky red book has exposed linen tape to allow for a more flexible spine. It contains a slightly warmer-colored linen textured paper. I made a similar book for myself a few months ago–having something beautiful to take notes in is a great incentive for me.

The third book is a copy of my novel draft to send to a friend who until now has been reading from a pdf. I used a red poppy patterned paper for the endpapers–I love the pattern but it’s a slick paper that can be hard to keep flat. I was pleased with how it turned out. The book’s cover is black imitation leather.

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Making Lovely Books

As my blog might reflect, I have a tendency to lurch from one area of interest to the next. Last week, my interests moved again to bookbinding. The pile of lovely paper and fabric sitting in my office called out. (hollanders.com has some lovely stuff.) So I tried a few new things.

The book below is covered with Japanese linen. I used an exposed stitch on the spine, and exposed linen tape. This is the first time I’ve cut a hole in the cover. Appropriately (see last week), I found a Hiroshige painting in the creative commons to use in the hole.

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Next I made a book that closes in the front with a bone clasp. The cover is black imitation suede.

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Finally I did a more formal binding of my Zish and Argo story. It’s a pretty simple binding with only a single 7 page signature, but I’m really pleased with the way it turned out. In the second picture below, you can see one of the spreads. All of the illustrations are digitized watercolor paintings.

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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.