Bookbinding Resources

Posted by on August 2, 2007 in craft | 9 comments

I’m so glad people found the pamphlet tutorial useful. I haven’t forgotten my promise to show how to make a real book, with several signatures, but first I thought I’d share some resources I’ve found helpful.

When I started out making books, I sat down with some cute scrapbook paper and one of those tiny little scrapbooking hole punches and just sort of winged it. It wasn’t easy, but that first book was sort of cute. Then I found a few books that explained things really clearly, and I got a few really useful tools, and there was no stopping me. I also went to a workshop sponsored by the San Diego Book Arts guild where I learned a few more tricks.

Booktools2_2 These are my favorite, most useful tools (click the picture to see it larger): my Japanese screw punch was a really generous gift from my brother one Christmas. It has five different bits for different sized holes and can cut through a pretty big stack of paper and thick cardboard. Plus it’s just a really pretty tool, and aesthetics are important too, right? I noticed that the Martha Stewart craft line at Michael’s has a screw punch for a reasonable price, but I have no idea how good it is.

I talked about bone folders in the pamphlet tutorial I use mine to score a sheet of paper before folding and then to burnish the fold and get a nice sharp crease.

An awl is useful for fine papers, particularly if you are going to be sewing with fine thread. I use it with a book cradle (more on that in a minute).

I also really like my paper knife. When I use large sheets of drawing or printmaking paper, folding it and cutting it with the knife gives the edges of the paper that nice hand-torn look. If the paper is deckle-edged to begin with, hand cutting the rest of the edges with a knife is really best, I think. It gives it a more consistent look.

Tapestry needles and linen thread are for sewing everything together, and a good archival glue and brush for applying it are also necessary for covering your covers and pasting in endpapers.

In the left edge of the picture are a couple other cutting tools. A plain old Fiskar’s paper cutter (I recommend the larger 12" one) is handy for smaller cutting jobs, and to slice up book board you really need a mat cutter or utility knife of some sort (that’s the grey handle of my mat cutter). I also have a bigger guillotine style paper cutter, which is great when I’m cutting lots of pages.

Cradle The last, indispensable tool is that black thingy on the right. It’s a book cradle, and I made it myself. It’s quite easy, and you really don’t need any specific measurements to do it. I use it when punching the sewing holes in each book signature (I’ll have pictures of it in action when I post the tutorial). It ensures that the holes go right through the crease, and when you use a paper jig with it all your signatures will line up exactly. I used black foam core board, because it’s what I had. Foam core board is easy to find at a good art supply store. I cut out a rectangle, approximately 6" x 10" and scored it lengthwise, right down the middle. Foamcore is a layer of heavy paper, a layer of foam (duh! that’s why is called foamcore) and another layer of heavy paper. Be careful to cut through the first layer of paper and foam, but leave the last layer intact. Then I cut out a couple smaller rectangles, around 3" x 4" and notched one long side with a 90 degree angle. I glued one about an inch from the end of the long, scored piece, and the other one right at the edge of the other end. One more rectangle was cut to fit at that end and glued in place as well. I just used a glue gun to put it all together. Hopefully that makes sense, but if not, the actions shots from the tutorial might help.

There are a few other helpful things, like a sewing frame and a book press, but there are ways to work without them as well. A couple bricks or even a stack of heavy books will work as a press, and I’ve never used a sewing frame, I just somehow manage to hold onto the signatures with one hand while stitching with the other.

I also want to point out for the sheer purpose of making you jealous, that the pretty papers I used as the background in those pictures are what my sister brought back for me from Italy. I don’t think I really captured how gorgeous they are, but trust me, they really, really are. I need to come up with some special projects to use them. That’s the fun of bookbinding, you now have an excuse start a paper stash.

One place to go to add to your paper stash (and find all the bookbinding tools you could ever need) is Hollander’s. I’ve ordered some really beautiful papers from them, their prices are good and the service is great. Talas and Dick Blick are other good sources for supplies. If you have a good art supply store near you, you should be able to find just about everything you’ll need.

The first book I bought about bookbinding was Cover to Cover. I still refer to it regularly, and definitely recommend it. It’s a great beginning book and has some interesting bindings as you get more advanced. For more technical and creative bookbinding techniques, any of the books by Keith Smith are good. I have a couple of his. They’re a little pricey, and the techniques are more advanced, but if you want to try something different, they’re worth the investment. Pamphletprizes

Whew, that was a pretty long post. I hope you aren’t now bored to tears or completely overwhelmed. I really do hope to finish up and post a new tutorial this weekend. It will be fun!

I wanted to have a little giveaway to say thanks for visiting. I get all bossy and demanding sometimes (tell me what to do with my lamp! go submit my brother’s name to this radio station! show me the books you make!), it’s the oldest child syndrome I guess. So I appreciate you coming back despite the bossiness. I want to send these 4 pamphlets books I made for the last tutorial to someone, and I might even throw in some pretty paper and one of the tools mentioned above (a bone folder maybe?), so leave a comment if you want to be in the drawing. I’ll draw a name next Friday, the 10th.


  1. Wow! Those are beautiful! I looove your style! By the way, my daughter’s name is Lucy, which is sort of how I stumbled onto this site in the first place. Now I look forward to all your cool posts.

  2. Thanks for all the info and inspiration! I am still looking forward to making a pamphlet like in your tut (if things would slow down here a bit) and I even bought myself a bone folder!

  3. After I read your tutorial on how to make those booklets, I went and made a couple for my daughter and I- well, they were both for me, but then she stole one. We really love them- she is constantly drawing in hers.
    I even put that paper cutter back in my cart that I had put back on the self just a few weeks prior to reading your tutorial. So I bought a cutter and can’t wait to use it (hopefully this weekend)! My daughter is requesting something in pink… I bet she would love a couple of those in that picture you have there! *wink*

  4. Not boring at all, in fact very, very useful will be watching out for the tutorial.

  5. Thank you so much for sharing those resources!

  6. I just saw the cover of the book your softie is in over at soozs blog. You made the cover, look like a sweet book and you in great company.

  7. (1st time visitor) I’m looking forward to the tutorial – book-binding has always interested me, but I never knew where to even start looking for supplies and how-to. I’ve bookmarked those links, thanks!

  8. I have tried my hand at this, and so far, it looks, well, OK! nothing fancy, but I really just wanted to do a simple booklet, just like you suggested, just to get the feel for it.
    Now, if I were the winner, it would be a perfect birthday treat for me, as my 54th is Aug. 12!!!!!

  9. Hi Lucy, I just checked back in with your blog and saw some more information on book binding. You are a treasure I’m so excited to learn more and thank you for letting us know what tools would be helpful. I already have quite a few so that’s great. As always thanks for your efforts to share information with us, I also saw that you have a competition, I’m not sure whether I’m too late to enter (it is Friday now) but I sure would love, love, love those little books! Take care Jenni.

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