Thursday, May 5, 2011

Book Binding, Part Three: Preparing the Cover

To me, this is the most exciting part, because you can be really creative with what you do to the cover.  You can cover the outside with fabric, vinyl or paper, emboss the cover (that's a future post), decoupage it... Whatever you want to do!  I'm going simple on the first one, we'll get into more advanced stuff later on. **Note: Using fabric for a cover is a little trickier than using paper, since glue can seep through.  You might have to use an alternate method of adhering the fabric to the book boards, but I haven't done much with fabric yet, so I'll have to fill you in later on when I venture down that road.

I'm using a sheet of scrapbook paper for the cover on the outside this time, because I have some lovely scrapbook paper on hand, and it's big enough (12" by 12").

Before we start cutting the paper, let's get the book boards ready.  As I said in part one of this tutorial, I use whatever I have handy, cereal boxes, chipboard, whatever.  I'm tempted to call up an acquaintance of mine that runs a framing shop (as in picture framing) and asking them for their cast off mat board scraps.  I would not use corrugated cardboard, though, you need the density of a solid material.  When I use cereal boxes, I glue the printed sides together and stack books on top so that it dries nice and flat, then cut it out carefully when it's dry.

Measurements for the book boards should be as follows:  The front and back cover should be 1/8" wider than your book blank (that's what I'm calling all the signatures that are all sewn and glued together), and 1/4" taller than the book blank.  The spine will be the same height as the front and back cover, and 1/8" narrower than the thickness of the book blank at the spine.  (Remember when I told you to measure that?)

For the example, our book blank is 8 1/2" by 5 1/2".  So, the covers need to be 8 3/4" by 5 5/8".  My book measures 1/2" thick, so the spine piece is 8 3/4" by 3/8".  That wasn't so hard, now was it?

Now to cut the paper for the cover.  I did a little illustration to help explain:

It usually works for me to glue the book boards to the paper about 1/2" from the bottom left and then cut the excess paper off, but that's just how I work.  I like to draw a thin pencil line 1/2" up from the bottom and left side to line up my pieces, keeping them straight and even (especially if you're using a patterned paper that will look bad if it's crooked).  The 1/8" gap between the spine and the front and back pieces are to allow the book to close.  If you don't leave the gap here, you'll run into all sorts of problems.  If you're using really thick book board, you will need to leave a larger gap.  Test it out with a few scrap pieces of your book board and then try to fold it to a 90 degree angle.  On the flip side, if you leave too big of a gap here, it will look sloppy and bunch up on you.

This is one of those instances where I'm going to tell you to use a glue stick.  Right now, we just want to hold the book board in place on the paper, but don't want the paper to bubble like it tends to do with "wet" glue.  We're going to use white glue later on when we fold the flaps over, and that will hold everything in place permanently, so a glue stick is just fine right now.  Stack your heavy books on top again and give it a few minutes to dry.

While that's setting up, I have a confession to make.  I forgot a step to mention in the previous posts.  I'm sorry.  You forgive me, right?  That's good.  After the glue is dry on the signatures that you have stitched and clamped, there is one more step to prepare it completely.  We need to add a piece of fabric to the spine.  I'll be honest, I don't know what the proper type of fabric to be used should be made of.  I don't even know why exactly you do this, but I imagine it adds a lot more stability to the spine so that it's not only glue holding most of it together.  The type of fabric I use is just an old cloth diaper that I have cut up.  (Don't worry, it's clean and has not been used on baby bottoms.)  I would stick to thin cottons, no synthetics, and no bright colors or prints.  Cut the fabric to a height that is 1 inch shorter than the spine of the book.  We're going to trim the excess width later, so a little extra on the sides is fine.

Now that the glue is dry on the spine of the signatures, glop on a bit more glue, gently pat the fabric in place, and then glue it some more.  The fabric needs to be fairly saturated at this point.  More waiting for glue to dry, and this one is going to take a while, give it several hours / overnight to dry.  Meanwhile, you can finish the cover...

So, now the book boards are glued down with the proper gaps in between, we can start trimming the paper to 1/2" all the way around.  Now for the 45 degree angles.  Take your time and do this part carefully, so you'll have a nice mitered corner.  If you look at the illustration above, notice that the very tip of the book board does not touch the edge.  The distance between the very tip of the book board and the edge of the paper should be about the same as the thickness of your book board.  In my personal opinion, a little extra is easier to "pretty up" later than if you cut it too closely and have a gap. 

Start folding the paper over the board (if you're using cardstock, you will want to score it a little bit to get a clean fold) and look at it to make sure your corners line up nicely, making any more minor adjustments to your cuts if necessary.  Use your paintbrush to apply a thin coat of white glue to the paper and fold it back in place.  Wipe up any excess glue so that it doesn't stick to the books you're about to stack back on top to hold it in place while the glue dries.  (I didn't say bookbinding was a quick process...)

We're just about done!  Next up is the tricky part, putting it all together!

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