2016: Bookbinding techniques learned last year

I spent a term in a London college and these are some of the methods I learned.  It was a very good course and I learned how to do case binding, measuring, how to make your own papers and how to put the whole thing together.

Some of the methods I learned :

Supported Sewing: Supported sewing is the easiest method whereby you use tapes which you sew around.

  1. Start with four pieces of paper larger by a few cm than the text block, have two contrasting colours. Use Canson type paper – not too thick, maybe 120 gsm.  Or make your own using pasted paper or marbled paper.  I make my own using printmaking inks and stencils.
  2. Shave the longest edge off of each of these end papers using a scalpel and a sheet of glass to work on, hold the knife steadily and work from the middle of the scalpel blade not the end.  This method will result in a clean overlap when you glue them onto the textblock
  3. Glue 5mm of the first end paper onto the text block so that the two lay side to side not on top of each other as is done with other methods, then glue on the contrasting sheet and slightly overlap this onto the sheet below
  4. Once dry score the edge and using a metal ruler and bone folder fold over the two end papers cleanly.
  5. The end papers are then wrapped around the section and trimmed to the page size.
  6. PT guillotined each section to avoid using a plough later on – what a palaver!  and how we are supposed to do that with twelve students in the class – still it makes sense if you work from home as you can trim the pages with a sharp knife and metal ruler

Casing in the bookblocks:   Cut the grey card to size with 5mm all round, check that is enough for the foredge.  The grey card is of good quality and not hobby card.  Ours is 2mm but you can also use 3mm.

Lay one side of your cut grey card on the book cloth – this is a thick coloured cloth used for spines and book corners.

Cut a piece of thick paper for the spine the same width as the spine.  Glue down the first grey card and rub down on the back.Glue the second card and lay it on top of the book block on top of the end paper.

Place the spine paper along the edge of the spine, then fold the bookcloth over the bookbloth carefully  as it can get moved too easily. Make sure the second card is correctly placed and in line.  This is the difficult bit!  Glue the spine in the middle of the spine space.

Remove the book block, turn in the top and bottom and the corners, do the corners first, library corners,  make sure you cut the surrounding book cloth evenly. Then glue the end papers and attach one cover, do the same for the second,  put under weights.  Don’t use wet glue, my glue was to wet and the end papers stick,

Below are the two case bound books made so far both with hand printed covers which used paper stencils, string and water based printing inks.

small-book small-book-2

Attaching corners and book cloth

The corners are easy once you know how – you score a line across a small triangle, cut from the large triangle you use for cutting the book cloth corners.  Then you match the paper to these scoring marks and voila!  it works perfectly.We had to cut the book cloth to the correct size : one quarter of the width of the card cover and the same for the back and the spine.  Make sure the book cloth has the grain long.


The mill board covers with the spine and the gap


The spine book cloth

Corners: here are a few ways to attach corners:



Measuring the corners


The finished corners


The paper I printed with printmaking inks for the cover

Adding the boards and spine to the 8 section textblock
Measure the height of the textblock and add 8 mm : 4mm for each top and bottom, cut the board, for the width lay the block on the board and mark the front edge, cut a line there.


The textblock with end papers on the left and the spine and right side card cover cut ready to paste on the covers.

Use a guillotine to make two straight edges to work from with your measuremens.ut two boards, you will now have two board covers:  4mm top and  bottom and 3 mm at the front edge, once the board is placed in slightly from the spine, about 2 to 3 mm. Then cut the board for the spine, the measurement for this spine piece of card is the width of the spine + one card width.  Mine was 1.5cm

Sewing multi section folios.

Last week we prepared the sections : 8 of them, for our multi section bookwork, this week we sewed the pages using straight and curved needles and using link stitches to join the sections to each other.



In the top image the sewing was done with knots on the outside; in the bottom image the glued spine is drying under a weight, this needs to be hammered once dry to flatten the wedge.

My single section bookworks decorated with hand made pasted paper covers

My single section bookworks decorated with hand made pasted paper covers and bookcloth spines

Single Section Bookwork:  Applying the millboard covers, the end papers and the pasted paper covers

This week we practised covering mill board with our pasted papers to make sure the corners were neat.  We made sure the paste paper was the right way round so that it matched the grain of the board and the paper.   We first covered the board, folding in the head and tail first, pinching in the corners and then the side/front piece.

We bone folded the cover using a piece of paper between.  Then we glued the end papers.  We used PVA and Dextrin mix, 50 to 50.  We then pinched the books in the nipping press on a gentle press – for 30 secs.


This single section book using green book cloth and  pasted paper

Preparing the next book: a multi section book

We cut and folded 4 pieces of A2 paper and cut to the bolt, next week we will be sewing them, we have 8 sections in all.

Glueing on the mill board and the book cloth

To strengthen the spine of our single section book/textblock we glued on some shiny material/paper called, we believe ‘calico’, but I’m not sure about that.  We used Dextrin powder diluted in water for the glue, available from Hewitt’s.

We used three different types of glue this week:

  1.  Dextrin to glue the calico onto the spine
  2. PVA to glue the boards to the waste end paper
  3. PVA and dextrin mix to glue on the book cloth to the spine

To glue the calico strip to the spine, measure it just 3 mm short of the height of the text block, mark the centre of the piece of calico, don’t use too much glue, keep it spare.  Attach the calico the the spine both sides and bone fold it down.

Then glue the boards to the waste paper on the textblock.  Mark where you want the board to go on both sides – that is, in from the spine 5mm – mark this line with a pencil.

Place a piece of waste paper between the book waste paper and the first end paper,  using little glue, cover the board and attach to the paper, smooth down repeat for the other board, place under boards and into the press for 30 secs.

Attaching the book cloth to the spine.  I bought some yellow, paper backed book cloth and some red non backed book cloth.  Cut a strip on the grain – downwards – longer by about 15mm at each end to turn in.  The strip should be about a fifth of the width of the textblock. PVA and Dextrin mix : 70 per cent PVA to 30 per cent dextrin mix, runny like single cream,  apply liberally to the book cloth, smoth down the spine with a bone folder to mark the gap and then turn in carefully; add more glue if necessary, place block between boards and nip for 30 secs.  Leave to dry under boards and a weight for ten minutes.

  • First image:  the completed textblock with boards attached and bookcloth
  • Second image:  the calico attached to the spine
  • Next, the spine of the textblock
  • Glues and calico
  • textblock showing the bare spine – no board on the spine
  • Last image – my yellow book cloth

I used red and yellow book cloth for both of my books.

Making a single section text block and stab binding


Single section text  block with five holes

  1. Take five sheets of paper of the right size.  Make sure the grain runs downwards, then take two sheets of coloured paper not too heavy (80gsm) for the end papers. Fold in half.
  2. Arrange the four sheets of plain paper in the middle, place the two coloured sheets on the outside and the last plain sheet on the final outside – this is the waste piece for glueing.
  3. Measure five holes using dividers.  Sew, starting in the middle and finishing in the middle.
  4. Place the text block in the press for a few minutes to flatten
  5. Take two pieces of mill board the same size as the text block, grain downwards.
  6. Cut two pieces of white paper the same size as the mill board and grain down, glue these sheets on the mill board
  7. Smooth evenly and place the cards, paper sides together in the press, then leave to dry.

Paste Painting :using methyl cellulose mixed half and half with acrylic paint. Spread plastic sheet on table, wet both sides, wet both sides of your paper (cartridge).

You need to make the paste a rich colour by adding enough acrylic paint so that it is thick and you can work into it but not too thick that it makes a mess or takes too long to dry.

Brush on with large brush the paste/paint mix and work into it with tools to create patterns.  Leave to dry overnight.  You could work with various coloured layers or even add painted leaves, feathers, etc.