The art of book binding is an ancient craft, but actually it is not very difficult to do and with almost no practice you can get really awesome results. If you are on the lookout for fun craft projects or quick ways of making nice presents and gifts, then this could be the project for you.
I know that there are other Instructables on the art of book binding but this project is meant to be a simple quick project that will give a very acceptable finish, and a book that looks like it has been professionally made, yet without the need for any special equipment.
All you will need is:
Minimum really is about 32 A4 or US Letter sized sheets, to make a half A4 (half US Letter sized book), although smaller books can be made as can ones with more pages. You can use tracing paper, thick or thin paper and of course colored or even preprinted or written on paper.
You will need PVA (Elmer’s White glue) or a rubber fabric adhesive (in the UK that is called Copydex, perhaps someone could tell me what it’s called in the US), (a glue gun if you have it, would help with one of the stages, but is not mandatory).
Some stiff cardboard or corrugated (fluted) cardboard
Some fabric or leather
Any old stuff will do for the cover. I have used the fabric from some old pairs of trousers that were being thrown out (actually nothing gets thrown out in my house, just put to one side for later use). But you could use a bit of leather, some old curtains, cushion covers…etc etc, I’m sure you get the idea.
Step 1: Stack Your Paper Neatly in (at Least 4) Piles of 8 Sheets
You are going to be binding your paper in eight sheet folios. Of course you could do more or less. I have found eight sheets to be a good number. because you are folding it in half each sheet is going to make four pages of your book, so this eight sheet stack is going to make 32 pages.
Your book should have at least four of these eight sheet folios which will therefore make 128 pages. (Apologies to all the maths wizards out there).
You can use just plain paper or paper upon which you have already printed a header and footer (remember to get this the right way round and remember that there will be 4 headers and four footers per sheet of paper.
If you want to mix in different papers then remember that they will appear further into the book as well. (don’t worry, this all becomes obvious as we go through the project).
Step 2: Fold Each Stack in Half
As neatly as possible and keeping the paper as lined up as possible, fold each pile of eight sheets in half cross-wise.
Step 3: Unfold the Paper and Turn Over
Making sure you keep the paper nice and straight, unfold each stack of eight sheets, and turn over.
Step 4: Staple the Pages Together
I have a long arm stapler (“bully for you”, I hear you say), but if you don’t have one of those, then no worries, just do the following:
Open out your stapler
Place the upturned paper stack on top of an eraser (positioned where you want to staple - which will be about two inches (5 cm) from the edge of the page exactly on the crease) and slowly but firmly push down on the stapler until you have stapled through the pages.
Turn the pages over, pull off the eraser and then fold over the staple ends with the blunt end of a dinner knife or your thumb nail, being careful not to break it / stab yourself.
Repeat at the other end of the crease so that each page has just two staples in it.
If you, like me, have a long arm stapler, simply staple the eight sheet stack in two places… I knew there was a good reason for borrowing that thing from work.
Step 5: Glue the Binding Onto the Folios
You are now going to make the heart of the book. You have made at least four of the eight sheet / 32 page folios and they need to be stuck together.
Firstly , cut a piece of thin fabric to the same length as the page height and about five times the thickness of all the folios held together.
Hold the folios tightly together and all lined up. Either get a friend to help or clip the folios together using giant paper clips or bull dog clips (or even a rubber band I guess).
When they are all nicely aligned apply glue to just the spines of the folios. You can use white glue for this (this was what white glue was originally made for BTW) but you must be careful not to let it drip down in to the gaps between the folios (maybe painting the fabric would be better.) Alternatively you can use hot melt for this part. Again, hot melt is used in industry for book binding, so it is perfect for the job.
Before it has a chance to set, quickly turn over the wad of folios and glue them to the piece of fabric so that some fabric sticks out each side (i.e. so that not all of the fabric is glued to the pages)
Step 6: Trim the Bound Folios
As Fugazzi has pointed out, you may be able to get your bound pages trimmed by a proper guillotine at your local one stop print or copy shop. Failing that read on…
If you want (and you don’t have to) you can trim the folios a tiny bit. Beware that the first time you do this you might end up making more of a mess of the edge of the paper than if you just left it. It takes a bit of practice and a sharp craft knife or scalpel (definitely NOT something for children to do on their own).
If you want to trim, then the most important edge to trim is the edge opposite the binding, because when the paper is folded over all the pages get to be slightly different lengths depending on where they are in the folio stack.
The trick is to hold the rule very steady and take many repeated cuts being careful to cut in the same groove and try to make sure that at each cut the paper on at least one layer is cut from edge to edge. (BTW I know that the drawing I have done to illustrate this step does not show this method of trimming multiple sheets, but it is meant to be a bit figurative anyway).
If you have access to a proper guillotine that can cut through paper stacks (i.e. at work or at school) then this is the time to use that, it will give you the most awesome finish).
Trimming is by no means necessary.
Trimming or not, you have now finished the paper part of the book and it’s time to move on to the cover…
Step 7: Mark and Cut Out the Cover Boards
Place the bound folios on a piece of stiff card so that the bound edge lines up with one straight edge and then draw round the paper allowing about a quarter of an inch / 5 mm border on the three other edges.
Cut the card out and then cut a duplicate.
Corrugated card is fine as the cover, as is thin foam core (foamboard), but the best kind of card is the stiff card that is used as the backing for drawing and sketching pads.
Step 8: Make the Book Spine
Loosely assemble the bound paper and the covers. Pressing them together, measure their combined thickness and mark off on a piece of scrap card.
Cut the spine so that it is the thickness of the covers and the paper together and the same length as the height of the book covers.
Step 9: Mark and Cut the Material
Position the book covers and the spine on the reverse of your chosen fabric or leather and mark out so that there is a border of about one inch (25 mm) all round.
Cut out the material.
As already mentioned, you can use any material you want really, although very thick material will be difficult to fold and glue (but hey, who knows how patient and skilled you are?).
Actually, I used material from a pair of my ex-wife’s linen (Toast) trousers, thought I might give her the book as a Christmas present in an ironic sort of way… don’t worry only joking and she had thrown them out anyway…
Step 10: Glue the Cover Board and Spine in Place
Using white glue or rubber solution glue, smear an even coating over the boards and place face down on the wrong side of the material (i.e. the side of the material that you don’t normally see, which has the pattern the wrong way round etc. etc).
Make sure you stick them neatly in a row so that they are aligned with each other and straight and that there is a gap of about one or two thicknesses of the card you are using between the spine and each of the cover boards.
Step 11: Finish the Edges of the Cover
Smear an even layer of white or rubber glue round the edge of the boards and fold the material over the board to cover the edge. Work on one edge at a time. Do opposite ends first and then fold the other sides over on top so that all the folds go the same way. Make a neat job of the corners. If you are using thick material, you may well have to cut away some of the material that is going to be hidden under the fold-over to stop the corners getting too bulky.
Step 12: Glue the Paper Into the Covers
Things are starting to shape up now.
Smear some white glue (or rubber solution glue) in two stripes down the middle edges of the cover boards being careful not to get any glue on the spine board.
Then place the bound paper wad so that it is centrally resting on the spine board and ONLY the thin cotton “wings” are glued to the cover boards.
The spine should NOT be glued to the cotton-covered bound paper wad, although you should make sure that it IS properly glued to the cover boards right up to their edges, because this is the join that makes the book strong and stops the page block falling out of the cover.
It is best if you wait for this part to dry before moving on to the next step. It is probably a good idea to leave the book lying on its back with the paper was supported by to food cans while it dries, because, if you leave it to dry closed, bits of it might stick together that you don’t want sticking together.
Step 13: Cut Out Your Lining Paper
Your book is nearly finished. Functionally it is already a hard back book, however the next step will make it look like a real book and cover up all the bits of folded over material.
For the lining paper you can use almost any type of paper. Traditionally marbled paper was used. Now you can make this yourself (hey, I feel another Instructable coming on already) or buy it in sheet form from most good craft shops, or download a sheet of marbled paper from my site (where you’ll see loads of other projects just like this). Or alternatively you can use a bit of old gift wrapping paper, or even just plain old brown packing paper. Be as creative as you can. The lining paper is like the lining of an expensive suit… hidden until it is revealed by someone opening it…
Ideally, you want the lining paper to be a fraction smaller than the paper wad’s height so that you can line it up neatly and twice as long as the paper wad’s width so that it covers the inside of the hard cover. (See next step).
Step 14: Glue the Lining in Place
Fold the lining paper sheet in half crosswise.
Smear the inside of the cover and the first page with white glue or rubber solution glue.
Carefully place one half of the folded lining paper on the glued first page so that it lines up neatly with the edge of the paper. Then making sure that it goes in to the corner of the join between the paper and the cover, fold the liner out and glue it to the inside of the cover so that it covers up all the folded over material and the inside of the cardboard covers.
Repeat for the back of the book.
That’s it… you’re done!
If the first paper goes a bit wrinkly as it dries out, wait for at least a day for it to dry really thoroughly and then iron over the page using a medium hot iron. It won’t get all the wrinkles out but it will make the page a whole lot flatter and just try to use a bit less glue for the next book.
Step 15: Experiment and Make Loads of Different Books
Make books as presents, make them for school, make them for friends. Keep a pictorial journal, you never know, one day you might be famous, then think, how cool would it be when they unearth your journal, which is not only full of angst and perceptive youthful insights into the unfairness of it all, but is also embodied in a book that you yourself made and not some cheap (or expensive) notebook or diary that you bought from the store like millions of other people.
I have made a couple more so far. I made the jeans one with a pocket after my niece, Josie suggested that I use the pockets from the trousers for pens and stuff… neat I thought, and it seems to work rather well.