Bookbinding for beginners
As the book world weens its way from paper to digital, more and more people are seeking instruction on hand bookbinding. Whether to repair books in the home library, to create sketchbooks and journals more inexpensively, or to give as gifts. In searching for online sources, easily available to my students, I've collected a number of links, videos, and tutorials to help the beginning bookbinder.
As the Internet is ever changing, please let me know whenever a link ceases to work. I will try to update with new resources when possible.
Parts of a Book
Bookbinding Terms & Tools
Bookbinding, like any trade, has its own language and set of tools. This can be somewhat intimidating to the newcomer, so I'm including a small glossary of terms and tools to get you started:
ACCORDION FOLD: A method of folding a sheet of paper, first to the right and then to the left, so that the sheet opens and closes in the manner of an accordion. Also called concertina fold, or zig-zag fold.
AWL: A pointed tool used to pierce holes in paper for sewing or for punching holes in book boards.
BEE'S WAX: wax used to coat linen sewing thread. This prevents the thread from slipping and sliding within the binding and provides for less wear and tear on a book.
BINDER'S BOARD: also called Book Board, Davey Board, or simply "boards". Used as the covering for hard back/case bound books. (looks like chip board or cardboard)
BOOK BLOCK: the guts of the book, usually consisting of the text block and end papers (everything but the covers).
BOOK CLOTH: general term for any fabric used to cover book boards.
CASE BINDNG: type of bookbinding in which the covers of the book are made separately from the book block and later attached to it by gluing the end papers of the text block to the inside of the cover boards.
CHAIN STITCH: also called a Kettle Stitch. A stitch in a sewn binding that resembles the links of a chain. Ornamental.
COPTIC BINDING: this refers to an historic style of binding which usually uses a chain or kettle type stitch.
CORDS: generally cotton, hemp, linen, or silk. Cords extend across the spine side of the text block and are used in sewing the book block together. They can either be sunk into saw cuts in the sections, (called RECESSED), or they can rest against the sections (called RAISED).
ENDPAPERS: two or more leaves placed in the front and back of a book between its covers and text block. The endpaper unit is made up of the PASTEDOWN and the WASTE SHEET or FLYLEAF. This is usually made up of decorative papers (ie marbled).
FLY LEAF: the portion of the End Papers that is not glued to the inner cover.
FOLIO: The book size resulting from folding a sheet one time, giving leaves half the size of the sheet.
FORE EDGE: sometimes called the FRONT EDGE. The edge of the book opposite the spine.
HEAD: the top edge of the book
HEADBAND: in modern books, this is a decorative element found at the head and tail of a book, sandwiched between the book block and spine. Historically, these were sewn into the book to give added strength to the spine.
KETTLE STITCH: The stitch made near the head and tail of a book sewn on tapes or cords, and which holds the sections (other than the first and last) together.
NON-SEWN BINDING: a binding in which adhesive is used rather than sewing. (ADHESIVE BINDING)
PAMPHLET BINDING: usually comprising of a single bound signature.
POLYVINYL ACETATE: (PVA) a white or clear glue made of vinyl resin that is easy to dilute & spread, and is resistant to mold & mildew.
QUARTER BINDING: A binding having the spine and a small part of the sides (about one-eighth the width of the boards) covered with one material, with the rest of the boards covered with another.
ROUNDING: The process of molding the spine of a text block into an arc of approximately one-third of a circle, which in the process produces the characteristic concave fore edge of the book. Rounding takes place after the spine has been given a light coat of adhesive, and is accomplished by means of light hammering along the spine with a round-headed hammer.
SIGNATURE: folded sections of paper in which 2, 4, or 8 pages are tucked into one another.
SPINE: 1. The collective fold-areas sections of a gathered book after sewing. Sometimes called "back." 2. That part of the covering material of a book which covers the folds of the sections of a book and which is the part usually visible as it stands on the shelf. It generally bears the title, author.
TAIL: The lower or bottom edge of a book.
TEXT BLOCK: The body of a book.
Peter Baumgartner of Papierdesign in Germany has created a series of 6 video tutorials on bookbinding. Baumgartner goes over how to make a rounded back, hardcover book using a sewn tape technique. The process is laid out for you step by step and is easy to follow. He doesn't really go over the supplies he's using, so if you're new to bookbinding you may want to refer back to the materials & definitions portion of this page.
Update: Baumgartner has moved his videos to http://www.mindbites.com/series/1099-bookbinding and allows you to preview the series for free. The entire series is now available for $9.90 via paypal. (Having seen the entire series before he removed them from YouTube, and considering other video tutorials are three to ten times as much, I'd say it's a well worth the price.)
Other Video Tutorials
- Coptic Stitch Demo, part 1
This video shows the basics of one version of a coptic or chain stitched book. This shows how to begin the stitch and add the front cover. These books are great for journals and sketchbooks because the coptic stitch allows the book to open easily and
- Coptic Binding Demo, part 2
A continuation of the previous demo. This one shows you how to add signatures.
- Bookbinding Series by Frankie Rudolfo
Unfortunately, this is not a free tutorial. You can get a glimpse of his video tutorial and decide whether you'd like to pay $39.60 to buy the whole series. Honestly, having seen the series (I was lucky enough to have a local library that carried it)
Online Instructions & Tutorials
- About Bookbinding
The creators of About Bookbinding have digitized a number of books/instruction manuals on bookbinding. There are a lot of links to navigate, but some really great resources.
- How to Make a Simple Hardcover Book
Simple, easy, printable instructions that walk you through the process of creating your own hardcover book.
- Make Your Own Stab Bound Book
Downloadable instructions on how to make your own Stab or Japanese bound book.
- Make Your Own Pamphlet Book
Very easy, downloadable instructions on how to pamphlet bind anything.
- Another Pamphlet Tutorial
This one, by Hey Lucy, has step by step pictures.
- Coptic Stitch Binding
One of the more difficult sewn bindings for beginners, but once you get the hang of it, there'll be no stopping you. This tutorial page has a very nice graphic to keep your stitches on track.
- Hardback (Casebound) binding instructions
From the University of Indiana Libraries. This step-by-step photo tutorial is easy to follow.
DIY Bookbinding Equipment
- Sewing Template
This is the sewing template we saw Peter use in the above videos. It helps you to determine where your holes in your signatures are to go.
- Build your own sewing frame
From Instructables.com, this tutorial shows you how to build your own sewing frame for a fraction of the price...
- Make your own book press
[PDF file]. From TJ Book Arts.
- Make your own sewing cradle
[PDF file]. From TJ Book Arts.
- How to make book weights
From Sic Press, this is a series of short videos on how to make book weights, remove bookplates, clean book covers, etc.
- The Book Arts Web
More information links, online exhibitions, reference material, The Book Arts Web keeps you informed about what's going on in the world of bookbinding.
Where to buy bookbinding supplies
Hollanders has a great selection of papers, bookbinding supplies, books, and more. If you can't get to Ann Arbor, MI to visit their store in person, this is the next best thing. Their prices are about average (not the cheapest, but not the most expe
- Dick Blick
A fairly easy source for basic bookbinding material. They've recently extended their bookbinding materials selection. They're a safe bet for tools, although you may be able to find some of the products more cheaply elsewhere.
- Volcano Arts
More of a specialty shop. They have a smaller selection, but their prices are on par with other binding suppliers. They sell basic to higher end tools (when you want to treat yourself).
- Hollow Punch set
These are great for punching holes in binder's board or thicker paper. You can buy a set for a little more than a single "bookbinder's" punch might cost at a specialty store - just check with your local hardware store.
- Talas Online
Talas leans more toward archival conservation, so a lot of their supplies are for the more advanced bookbinder. That said, they still carry the basics and have very good prices. Talas Online also has a blog you can follow for more information on book