Book binding workshop

In response to the feedback of my tutors, and in order to expand the focus of my degree show piece, I am intending on creating one, or a series of handmade books. While I have had some experience with book binding in the past, having made on on my foundation course, being three years ago my memory is understandably rusty. After speaking to the print room technician I was told there was a book binding workshop running later in the week which he could fit me into. I had already at this point taken out a whole series of books on book binding from the library which I have been finding useful, but books are never a replacement for practical teaching in my experience and I was certainly grateful for the workshop.





We began with an A1 page, which was measured into strips 14.85cm long and 12cm tall (as this divided perfectly into the A1 page). Before cutting them, we also measured half way into each strip and scored it with the bone folder tool in order to form the crease of the pages in a way that is even across all of the strips


After each strip was cut, it was then folded into half to create 4 pages using the bone folder, following the crease made earlier but being sure to line the page ends up equally.



Putting all of the signatures together making sure they are aligned, a mark was then made 1cm in from either edge of the spine of the book on the top and bottom pages. Two further marks are made, each 3.3cm in from the 1cm marks at the edges. These measurements may change depending on the size of your book, but the aim is to create 4 (or more) evenly spaced marks from the top to the bottom of the spine. From these, a line is then drawn across all of the folded edges, making sure that every signature fold has a mark on it.


Pierce holes into each of these marks on each page strip with a sharp tool

20160316_113326The page strips are placed inside each other in groups of two to form “signatures”, creating a set of 8 pages

20160316_113840Using the holes, the two page strips of the first signature are then sewed together by threading in through the bottom hole, out through the second, in through the third and pulling the needle out again on the final fourth hole.

20160316_114633After having sewed the first signature, the second is sewn onto the first. Taking the thread coming out the fourth hole of the first signature, we thread it into the fourth hole of the next one and out the third, in the same pattern as previously. However, rather than continuing down the spine of the second signature, we then move back into the third hole of the first signature, and out the second hole, then moving into the second hole of the second signature, and out the first hole. This is much more intuitive in practice than in reading, demonstrating the usefulness of a workshop over simply reading the instructions out of a book.


This is then repeated on all of the signatures until they are each bound to the one before it


In order to bind the spine, a section of scrim is cut, 1cm shorter than the length of the spine, in this case 11cm


The spine is covered in PVA, ensuring the glue gets in the creases between the signatures



The scrim is then glued down tightly onto the spine and sides, and the pages are left to dry in a press with the spine exposed, or failing that a set of heavy books.


While the pages are drying you can move on to working on the cover. The cover consists of a sheet of grey board, 2mm thick (although larger books may need thicker covers), with each side cut 2mm taller than the height of the pages so that the covers overlap the edges, but also 2mm shorter length as this will be accounted for with the spine. The strip for the spine should be the same height as the covers, but 1mm thinner than the thickness of the spine pages.

They are then laid out onto your bookcloth fabric, making sure they are all in line with each other with a gap in between the spine strip and each cover which is 3 times the thickness of the board. In this case the greyboard is 2mm thick, so I have left a 6mm gap either side of the spine and the covers.

After marking where each board goes, one at a time glue each piece with PVA onto the bookcover, using your bone folder tool to make sure that the cloth is stuck down firmly, especially on the edges of the board.


Cut down the book cloth so that the excess around the grey board is the thickness of a ruler



Fold each edge to a right angle over the corner of the grey board, and then cut it 2mm thicker than the initial fold. This ensures that the corner of the grey board is completely covered by the bookcloth when it is glued down


One side at a time, cover the excess bookcloth in a thin layer of PVA, and using the bone folder to ensure the cloth is tight to the top edge and flat to the inside of the covers. Again using the bone folder, press inside the gap between the spine board and the covers so as to reinforce the crease which will allow the covers to fold.


After having done the two length sides of the book cover, we now remaining shorter sides. Once the cloth has been coated in PVA, be sure to press down the overlapping corners of folded book cloth at the very top and bottom so that it is flush with the edge of the book and with the cloth you are about to glue down. Then, as with the previous sides, pull the cloth tightly onto the board and rubbing down all the surfaces with the bone folder.


If all has gone well, you should have a completed book cover.


Once the spine has dried, and the pages are as compressed and tight as possible, we can then glue the pages to the cover of the book. Line the pages up so that they are pressed against the spine, and then carefully open the book cover keeping the pages where they were. Place a piece of waste paper underneath the top page, so that glue does not seep on the other pages, and then cover the top page with glue and carefully close the book cover firmly ontop of it, holding it in place for the glue to fix. Once that has set, turn the book over and repeat this with the other side, making sure not to glue the spine.


As with the pages, leave your book in a press or under heavy books overnight to set, and your book is complete!


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