Thursday, May 5, 2011

Bookbinding Tutorial, Part One: Getting Started

Since we have decided to tackle bookbinding, I figured it was time to write an article about how to bind a book.  There are a few questions you have to ask yourself before you really jump in.

1.  Do you want this book/journal to be archival quality, or use some recycled materials?  I'm all for using recycled materials, but if you want this book to stand the test of time, you need to shell out a little money to get the "good stuff" that's all acid-free, etc.  This means looking for sturdy web linen binding tape, unbleached linen binder's thread, glue, book board and papers that are all archival quality.  I'm sure if you do a little research on the internet, you can find a good place to get all of these things.  Since I use recycled materials and other make-do stuff I have on hand, I can live with using scraps of ribbon or bias tape in place of the binding tape, embroidery floss for the binder's thread (crochet cotton might work, too), cereal boxes for the book board, plain ol' white school glue and whatever kind of paper I have lying around.

2.  What size to you want this book to be?  Or a different way of asking the question, what size is your paper and how much cutting do you feel like doing?  Most of the paper that I have on hand measures 8.5" by 11".  That's your standard (American) copy/print paper.  (They use "A" series paper in the U.K., I believe.)  Fold that in half, and you've got 8.5" by 5.5".  I think that's usually a good size for a journal.  If you cut the paper in half first, then fold it, your paper will end up 4.25" by 5.5".  That works as a pretty good size for a pocket journal or address book.  Nonetheless, you want your paper to be twice as wide as the finished INSIDE of the book.  Generally, the cover is just a tad larger than the paper on the inside to protect the pages inside.  So, if I refer to a book as 8.5" by 5.5" from here on out, the finished product will be more like 8 5/8" by 5 3/4". (More on all of this later.)

3.  What kind of spine do you want the book to have?  So far, I know two ways of hand-stitch binding a book.  There are so many more that I haven't tried yet, of course.

Hard cover binding that includes a spine uses a few extra supplies, but your stitching along the spine is covered and protected.  You'll need binding tape (it's not actually tape, more like ribbon or bias tape), and the paper or fabric that you use to cover the cover needs to be a good bit wider than your interior pages.

Coptic Stitch binding uses two book boards (covered if you like) and leaves the stitching exposed along the spine.  When I do this, I use embroidery floss that coordinates with whatever I use for the cover.  The beauty of coptic binding is that you don't have to have such a wide piece of paper, it doesn't need binding tape, and you can use all sorts of different materials for the covers themselves, as long as you can drill holes in it accurately.

Our first session is going to be hard cover binding, because that's what I learned first.  We'll cover Coptic binding in a later session.  Some of this will make more sense during the class, and/or when I add pictures.  Please don't be intimidated by any of this!  It's easier than it seems right now, and I'm trying to make the measurements portion as clear as possible.  Some of this takes longer to explain than it actually does to do it.

Quick Steps:
  1. Fold pages in half and burnish the crease.
  2. Nest the pages to form Signatures.
  3. Make a template for hole placement.
  4. Pierce the Signatures.
  5. Measure out, cut and wax the thread.  Thread your needle.
  6. Stitch the signatures together.
  7. Clamp the signatures, glue it up and let the glue dry.
  8. Measure the book's thickness at the spine.
  9. Face trim the pages, if desired.
  10. Measure and cut book board for front and back cover and the spine.
  11. Measure and cut cover material.
  12. Glue the book board to the cover material.
  13. Miter the corners of the cover material, score if necessary and fold it over the book board.  Glue in place.  Stack some heavy books on top to let the glue dry nice and flat.
  14. Attach the fly pages to the book blank (the inside pages of the book).
  15. Glue the fly pages to the cover.  Stack more books on top and let it dry thoroughly.

    Supplies and Materials

    Paper for the pages of the book
    A Bone Folder for creasing the paper cleanly.  An old credit card also works well.
    An Awl for piercing the paper.  I'm sure you could also use a sharp finishing nail or even an ice pick.
    An Old Phone Book.  No, I'm not kidding.
    A Ruler, both for measuring and cutting against.
    A Craft Knife or X-acto Knife, with very sharp blades.  I imagine you can use scissors for most of this, but precision is key in some of the cuts.
    A Pen or Pencil
    A Self-healing Cutting Mat is pretty good.  Mine has a 45 degree angle on it, so I don't need to use a Protractor.
    Some Extra paper, for protecting your work surface and making a template for hole placement.
    Cover Material.  Either paper or fabric.  It needs to be at least a few inches wider than your inside pages.
    Binding Tape.  For my book, I'm using some ribbon I found in my craft stash that is 7/8" wide.  This is the first time I've tried to use it, so I hope it works.  Real Binding Tape is unbleached linen and is 3/8" wide.
    Needle, Thread and Beeswax.  Real binder's thread is unbleached linen.  I've used embroidery floss with success, I'm thinking that crochet cotton will also work.  Make sure you pick something that the color won't bleed later on.  You need something that's not too thin, so don't try to use regular sewing thread.  Consequently, you need a needle that the thread will fit through.  It doesn't necessarily need to be all that sharp, since we'll be punching the holes with an awl before stitching.  The beeswax is a real frustration saver, though an old candle or even a bar of soap will work.  You're going to be working with a pretty long piece of thread, and the wax not only lubricates it, but keeps it from tangling.  Just hold your thread against the wax with your thumb and pull it through slowly.  You'll see that the thread cuts into the wax eventually, which is good, that wax is now coating your thread.
    Glue, I use a combination of a glue stick and white school glue.  **Note on using glue sticks:  I like using a glue stick for some things, since it doesn't make the paper bubble.  However, do not use a glue stick on something that needs to hold strong over time.  It might hold for a while, but after a while, it releases.  When I write the step by step tutorial down, I'll let you know when I'm using regular glue and when I'm using a glue stick.
    Book Board.  Recycling wise, I literally take a cereal box (or something similar), glue the large flat pieces together (glossy printed sides together) and cut it out from there.  Several passes with a craft knife and you're through. Measurements depend on how much you want the cover to stick up over the pages of your book.  I like about 1/8" at the top and bottom and the opening end.  So, for our 8.5" x 5.5" book, the boards used will be cut to 8 3/4" by 5 5/8" for each the front and back covers.  The spine piece will be cut to the same height, by the exact width of the signatures after stitching and gluing
    A Clamping System.  Ideally, you would use two boards and some "C" clamps.  But anything that will hold your pages tightly together while the glue dries will work.  If you just stack some really heavy books on top (protect them from stray glue drips with some scrap paper) that will work.  I actually have two clipboards and spring clamps that I use, and that works well for me.
    An Old Paint Brush for applying glue.

    Getting Started

    Take your interior paper, fold it in half and burnish the crease with your bone folder or credit card or whatever you have.  Fold one page at a time, not a stack.  If you fold a stack at a time, your fold won't be even.  After the pages are folded, take four of the sheets and stack them one inside another (like a little booklet).  This is called a SIGNATURE.  Four sheets is what I learned, but it's your book!  I can see changing the number of sheets in each signature depending on the thickness of the paper.  If I were using cardstock, I might stack three sheets instead of four.  The more sheets you stack, the more the innermost sheet is going to stick out further than the outermost sheet.  (See the drawing below to make this more clear.)

    If you're going for an old timey looking book, leave the edges jagged.  Deckle the edges if you like (the torn look).  If you don't like the jagged look at the edge of the paper, you can face trim the pages.  Line up your ruler and go to work with your craft knife.  Don't try to cut it all at once, make several passes.  Or, head down to a local print shop and ask them to face trim the pages for you.  They should only charge you a few bucks, and you'll have a very nice, even cut.  As far as the number of pages in your book, the total needs to be divisible by 8.  Four sheets of paper folded in half (one signature) = 8 pages in the book.  To make the math easy, 40 sheets of paper = 10 signatures = 80 pages. 

    Here's a little drawing I put together to help explain:

    Now that you have your signatures stacked, it's time to get around to punching the holes.  Take one extra sheet of paper and fold it in half.  Now to do a little measuring.  This isn't a completely exact science, just make sure things are pretty even.  I like to put my outermost holes 3/4" from the edge of the page.  Mark this on the fold.  I personally use three pieces of binding tape on my journals.  If you're going to make a book that's really big, you might want to do more.  Since we're doing three, one ends up in the middle.  The width of the binder's tape is important in this step.  I put together another diagram to help explain the placement.
    The tape should be relatively evenly spaced, and the space between holes 2 and three (and 4 / 5 and 6 /7 respectively) should be just outside the binder's tape.

    Now here's the trick with the phone book.  Open it up to somewhere around the middle and lay it out on top of your self-healing mat.  You'll need to fold your template piece so that your marks are on the inside of the page, then stick it inside one of your signatures.  Make sure everything is lined up evenly, and lay the pages down so that the fold fits into the valley of the open phone book.  Pierce through the template and through the signature (and probably through some of the phone book) with your awl.  Repeat this process for as many signatures as you have, making sure to keep all of the punched signatures facing the same way, in case your template is a little off.  When you stack them all up, you should have pretty straight lines of holes.  Consistency is more important than perfect measurements in this step.  Next up, actually stitching!!

    No comments:

    Post a Comment