Our Favorite Bookbinding Tips For Beginners

Hey guys! We’re putting together a series of bookbinding tutorials and guides for beginners and wanted to start with the very basics.

Bookbinding itself is a craft well, as old as books themselves! It seems pretty magical from the outside (sort of like a book) but once you get crafting it doesn’t require all that much expertise at all. In fact, if you guys have any issues at all, just leave a comment or drop us a line and I’m happy to personally walk you through the process if I have extra time!

Personally, I love bookbinding because it lets me connect directly to the books. It goes beyond just making journals or chapbooks (both are fine!), but repairing beloved old books, making keepsakes, or one of my favorites, taking anthologies and rebinding them into smaller books that I can carry around with me.

Plus, there’s something just wonderful about having a physical book with you that bookbinding connects you with. You can’t really bind digital books (unless you print them), and getting to design actually how that book is going to feel in your (or someone else’s) hands is really a magical thing. Some of the best gifts I’ve ever received have been books and I hope some of the best gifts I’ve given have been ones that I’ve bound myself according to a friend’s personality.

Let’s get started with the very basics of bookbinding. Like I said earlier, we’ll have a whole bunch of tutorials so if you’re a bit more advanced than this, don’t worry! In fact, let us know if we left anything out so we can improve the article.

Bookbinding tips and basics

Get started with basic materials before getting too serious

The materials you need are pretty basic:

  • Paper. Any size will work, and any kind of paper will work.
  • Awl. This will let you puncture holes into the paper, boards, and fabric.
  • Bondfolder. Some of them are made of bone, but a hard piece of plastic works well in a pinch.
  • Scissors. Anything works.
  • A ruler.
  • Glue. PVA is preferable (like Elmer’s) or a rubber-based adhesive.
  • A glue gun (optional)
  • Stiff board (cardboard works great)
  • Fabric. This is going to be the cover of your book, you can really use anything at all. Old t-shirts, ribbon, leather, anything you have lying around the house. After a while you’ll get an eye for what to keep and start accumulating little piles of fabric like a mouse.

You don’t need to go out there and buy an expensive set of materials to get started, so get messy and busy with whatever you have at home or the office.

  • Pay attention to have the pages are bound. It’s easy to overlook this because so much emphasis is on the cover and how it looks, but how the pages are held together really impacts so much of the experience of reading.
  • Look at the gain of the paper. The grain of the paper should always run with the spine of the book.
  • Don’t overwork the craft. This goes for all crafts, but instead of laboring over something until it’s perfect, just do your best on the first attempt and move on. You’ll have a chance to perfect your handiwork through repetition of binding multiple books, but when you spend too much time on a single part you can do more damage than if you had just left your first attempt alone.
  • Learn through doing and studying. Anything you want to learn is completely within your ability. Take a look at how books are bound, ask why it was done the way it was. Look at how older books look versus modern. See which older books have lasted the test of time and which have fallen apart. Bookbinding tutorials are available basically everywhere, but they’re only as good as the teacher and you can fall into the trap of relying on their expertise instead of honing your own. You can always look at a curriculum and roughly try to approximate it on your own.
  • The small details matter. How neatly the pages are trimmed, how much glue is applied, that your pages are aligned. These small details will add up to create a much larger effect. Again, don’t overly labor about it, but do each step with intention.

That’s all I have for now! Feel free to get in touch and share your projects!

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