Beginning Bookbinding

Last fall, I stumbled across a hobby that has completely taken my spare time by storm. I’m not even sure, now, what started it. I suddenly had this desire to bind a book. I’ve always had a love for books. I have many of them! But I had always shied away from actually making them because all of the hand made books that I had seen are very crafty, not very durable and not really anything that I would pick up and page through or read. They mostly looked like scrap books and involved craft store papers and oftentimes yarn or tassels. But one day I came across this video.

Kristin made it all look so approachable! I then ordered a DVD from the library and spent a good amount at Hollanders online store on book-making supplies before I felt ready to go. For me, though, I didn’t want to make a sketchbook or a diary and I certainly didn’t want to write my own book. I wanted to bind a classic book that I didn’t already own, or perhaps a book that I had in paperback, but didn’t have in hardcover yet. I quickly came to the perfect fit.

Drawing Down the Dragons

James A. Owen is a great author and a really inspiring guy. He recently produced an ebook that talks about his life, challenges, and how he overcame them. It is inexpensive and he often gives copies away for free. I loved reading it! But, at the time, it was only available as an ebook. (for those interested, it is now available as ebook, paperback and hardcover, along with lots of other extras at his website. Well worth the purchase!) If there is no hard copy offered, i thought, this might just be the perfect book for my first binding project!

So, with the materials that I ordered and Larry Withers’ bookbinding DVD, I got to work. The result was… Well, a good first try! I imposed the ebook PDF that I had bought from James Owen’s website using the software Cheap Imposter for my Mac. Imposition is the process of taking a document in linear fashion (page 1, 2, 3, etc.) that you might read on your computer or print at home and moves the pages around so that after you print it on both sides of the paper, stack the sheets and fold them, they are still in the right order.

Cheap Imposter did the trick, though I didn’t realize that the free version printed the pages at 70% of their original size. I printed the pages out in color on my home inkjet printer (double-sided) and set out organizing the pages and folding them. Once I got the pages done, the rest of the binding went pretty smoothly.

Eventually, I wanted a dust jacket for the book, so I grabbed the pages with the cover from the PDF file and expanded them so they would work on the dust jacket.

Now, this was my first binding project, and, although I was generally pleased, it was important to me to review what I did wrong in preparation for my next project. So, what did I do wrong?

1. I printed on 22 pound, bright white, 8.5 x 11 paper paying no attention to the grain or the thickness required of the paper. I think that the paper was whatever I got from Walmart. It ended up not being as opaque as I would’ve liked and the pages bled through the paper. It wasn’t a huge problem reading it, but it is noticeable. Worse was that I bound against the grain of the paper. The result that the pages buckled a little and, instead of opening nice and smooth, they were stiff.

2. The paper on the dust jacket was also too thin.

3. I got a little messy with the glue on the cloth binding.

4. I learned that when my only tools for cutting are a razor blade and a ruler, my pages tend to turn out a little uneven.

5. I used only PVC glue on the binding and I wonder if the binding is stiff as a result.

As a whole, I was pretty pleased, though. And I was off on a bookbinding extravaganza!

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