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How to bind a hard cover book

Updated on January 13, 2009

Introduction to binding hard cover books

Creating a hard cover for your newly printed book is more difficult that the process of creating a soft paperback cover. With careful attention to the instructions, you can put a hard cover on your home published book. We will start with the materials you need.

In the previous hub, how to bind your book at home, you purchased a bottle of Neutral pH Adhesive to bind your paperback book. You will follow the same binding process for your hard cover book. Instead of a bristol board cover, you will find at your local art store something called Davey Board, which is a thick kind of chip board. To create this cover, you should use 80 weight board for the front and back panels and a thinner 40 weight board for the spine. Next, you will ask the store clerk for book cover cloth and something called a headband, which is the decorative piece of material at the top and bottom of the book. Take a look at other hard cover books and you will see that striped bit of felt at the top and bottom. You can choose what ever color you wish. That also goes for the book cloth. You will also need a strip of canvas about three inches wide and eight inches long. This is called the Super. Look at other hard cover books to see how they are constructed. You will want to choose leaf paper as well. These items are in the book binding section at your local art store.

Below, I have created an illustration showing you exactly how a hard cover jacket for a book is set up with all the measurements you will need for a book that is 8" x 5" with 150 pages. Always measure the spine for exact measurements.

This is a layout for your book jacket

Be very careful to follow the measurements and make sure your book panels are squared.
Be very careful to follow the measurements and make sure your book panels are squared.

Creating your book Jacket

You will create your book jacket first. Lay out the area according to the illustration above. Use a mat knife to cut the board. You might get your art store to cut your board to the size you require for a nominal charge. The key to a good jacket is to make sure the lines of the board are straight and true. Use some 240 grit sandpaper to soften the edges of the board.

You will apply a thin layer of glue with a brush to the front of each panel, wetting down the entire panel and lay them firmly onto the book cloth as shown. Trim the book cloth first according to the diagram. Lay the spine in between, with 3/8ths of an inch space between the front and back panel and the center as shown. Once you have glued the panels to the cloth, you will apply glue to about an inch of top and bottom on each panel and the spine. You will fold up the bottom and top of the cloth over the panels and press firmly so that the glue makes contact. You may use a smooth stick as a burnisher to smooth out the glue and get a good contact. Next, you will apply glue to about an inch inward from the left side of the back panel and the right side of the front panel and pull the flaps over and press them until contact is made and burnish them down to make a good tight fit.

Carefully pick all the panels and book cover without letting them slip and flip the entire jacket over to make sure the cloth is evenly laid out on the panels. Use a smooth stick to get rid of any wrinkles. Use burnisher to press down to create a better contact with the glue. You may want to try this out with a test piece of board and cloth to get the feel if the process first.


Applying the super to the bound book

After you glue on the canvas super, you may attach the headbands at the top and bottom of your bound book.
After you glue on the canvas super, you may attach the headbands at the top and bottom of your bound book.

Attaching the bound book to the jacket

After you have bound the book and attach the canvas super and the headbands, you are ready to begin the process of attaching the book to the jacket. You will be gluing the canvas super to the panels of the front and back and you will use a leaf paper to form a panel cover that will overlap the canvas along the spine.

Once again, It is helpful to study a hardcover book you have at home. See how the leaf paper covers the folded book cloth to about an eight of an inch from the outside on the inside of the panel on the front and back panels. You may use a heavier leaf paper a color of your choosing to match the book cloth. You can find all these materials in the book binding section of your art store. Just ask the clerk. You might even consider getting an additional book on hard cover book binding if you plan to do more of these. I am just giving you a general set of instructions in this hub. You may also glue the inside leaf pages when you bind the book instead of doing it afterward.



Attaching your book to the jacket

This may be the most difficult maneuver. Take each step carefully
This may be the most difficult maneuver. Take each step carefully

Finishing your hard bound cover

After you attach the bound book to the jacket, and the leaf paper is glued in place, you will carefully close the book and take a thick elastic band and stretch it over the part of the book around the left and right of the spine. (See illustration below) This will allow the glue on the super to make contact with the book panels and the jacket cloth in the channels between the spine and the panels to be secured.

You may place the hard cover book back in your jig to press the panels close until the glue dries completely so there is good contact. Wait about four to six hours for the glue to cure before opening your hard cover book.


Pressing your hard cover book in your jig

Allow finished book to remain in jig for at least six hours to let glue set.
Allow finished book to remain in jig for at least six hours to let glue set.

Your finished hard cover book

After your book has dried and you pull it out of the jig, carefully remove the elastic band and open the book carefully. If you followed the steps correctly, the jacket should open and close with the spine and canvas super moving flexible to the bound book.

This is a difficult project and it may take some practice, but once you have created your first hard cover book, you will have accomplished quite a feat. I have created many hard cover books and the process can be used to create a diary or even a cook book of your favorite recipes or even a special scrapbook. You may also use leather or canvas or some other material other than book cloth to apply to your cover as long as glue will adhere to it. There are endless piossibilities. Just use your imagination.

If you have any questions regarding this project or any of the others in the hub series about book publishing at home, please feel free to send me a message and I will try to assist you or answer any of your questions as best as I can.


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      Daniel Samulevič 3 months ago

      Thank you for nice explanation John, but I'm little confused about 1st picture. Does the case board on the left is called Back and one on the right called Front in US? In Europe these are called opposite.

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      kevin oketch 3 years ago

      am seeing a business opportunity here where i stay, but i didn't know how to do it,thanks a lot

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      Minnie 7 years ago

      Thanks so much! I am just getting started in book binding and hope to self publish! This information is just what I was looking for!

    • Jeniferr profile image

      Jeniferr 8 years ago from United States

      I've made a few amateurish looking books in the past but I think I'm going to take the plunge and try to make a hard cover photograph book as a gift. Thanks for the hub, I like the easy to follow graphics.

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      davidspyle 9 years ago

      always amazed by your creativity, ingenuity and practicality!