Last updated: 10 July 2016

A method of binding single section hand written books using commonly available materials and without using specialized bookbinding tools and equipment.


Introductory Notes:


Marbled end paper - 1/8" square - recto first page - illuminated Versal letter

* Bookbinding protocol requires page one be Recto (Right hand page) versus Verso (left hand page).
* Sewing on tapes is not really necessary for this kind of binding -- the model section is sewn onto Artist canvas instead of tapes.
* Section (also called Signature) is a gathering of folded pages that are sewn together as a unit.
* Case binding wherein the "case" is made up separately from the Bookblock.
* Cloth, Paper or Leather can be used to cover the boards.
* I used 8.5" x 11" standard American size paper for the model pages due to its wide availability.


Equipment list

* Paper make and type is optional. Weight should be such that the sewn-up sections are not too thick and yet are thick enough to avoid excessive "see through".
* All paper and board material must be checked for correct grain orientation.
* Artists canvas or similar material (acid free) can be substituted for traditional mull.
* Mull -- traditional open mesh cloth used for backing sewn-up sections (folded around).
* Standard 2ply artists mat board is ideal for this type of binding being acid free and light weight.
* #16 Carpet thread obtainable at fabric shops is plenty strong enough and wear resistant.
* Sewing thread should be run though a block of bees wax (obtainable at fabric/craft shops) for ease of sewing.
* 5" Dollmaker's needles (obtainable at fabric/craft shops) make sewing up sections easier for many people.
* PVA glues work very well although many craft binders prefer regular hand mixed wheat paste.


Sewing frame and presses are not needed

* Specialized Bookbinding tools are not required for Craft binding single section hand written books.
* Several smoothly sanded pieces of 3/8" thick plywood (approx. 9" x 12") make excellent pressing boards.
* Use protective wax paper sheets between pressing boards and glued material surfaces.
* Heavy books are a good substitute for a Bookbinder's press.
* Use high quality Artist's paste brushes to avoid loose bristle contamination.


Artist canvas is used for mull

* I think the "time honored" triangulation page margin layout method is unnecessarily complicated for simple single section hand written book production. I prefer the proportions 2 (side margins), 1.5 (top margin), 3 (bottom margin), which closely approximates the "time honored" triangulation proportions anyway.
* Square -- the protective allowance between the section page edges and the case edges.
* A generous hinge allowance is necessary to permit full opening of the finished book and to prevent strains in opening and closing.


Main body text writing is usually somewhat formal

* Any small size writing hand that is easily readable can be used


Measuring and cutting square must be done with great precision

Patterns and Templates (depicted below) should be made up and used throughout the book production.

Making the Bookblock
* Writing base lines are laid out and drawn on the unfolded pages using a soft pencil.
* The pages are numbered (a mock-up of folded pages aids in visualizing page numbering sequence) and the writing accomplished so that pages with errors can be easily replaced. Pages can be reproduced at this time if desired
* Add two colored sheets of paper (end papers) cut to match the section papers.
* The section pages (plus the end papers) are gathered together and sharply and exactly folded into a section.
* The sewing holes are pierced in the fold and the section sewn up.
* The section foredge is trimmed using a metal ruler and sharp (X-acto) knife.

* You may wish to reproduce the pages for the subsequent making of additional books -- that is what I did in order to provide my students with models, one of which I feature on this web page. You can literally become your own Publisher -- a neat way to provide copies of personally hand-written and bound books to family members and friends as especially meaningful gifts.


Positioning & pasting section & end papers should be done with great care

Making the case
* The boards are cut to size and the sharp edges sanded.
* The boards are positioned to pattern on the spine cloth and glued down (including the turnovers).
* After pressing and drying, the board covers are glued onto the boards in a similar manner.
* The case is now complete and, after pressing and drying, is put to one side.

* The Bookblock is very carefully positioned in the case and glued to the back board first with the book open and then to the front board with the book closed. Great care should be exercised to prevent glue getting on to the board covering material.
* After pressing and drying the book the label is made up and glued on the front board.
* The book is flexed and checked for ease of opening and closing.


The Colophon is the personal province of the Author/Bookbinder

* Colophon -- the statement at the end of a book that explains how and why the book was made together with important information relating to the content.
* The Colophon is always written on the last Recto page of the (final) section.


Page layout for writing

Bookblock positioned in Case


Here is an outstanding online resource, specifically relating to single section craft binding, that provides wonderfully detailed and illustrated information relating to techniques and methodologies such as paper selection, measuring, folding, cutting, sewing, pasting, etc. - and general step by step binding procedures. May be downloaded as a PDF.

Good quality wallpaper makes excellent board covers. Stores that carry wallpaper are constantly discarding those familiar sample books and are usually forthcoming in letting you have some. The sample pages are of sufficient size to make up board covers for small books. The material is very tough, wears well, is acid-free and takes glue very well. There are usually several pages with very nice surfaces and designs in each sample book. Here is the wallpaper board covering made up by one of my project students:

Layout template for making a small book -- 5"x7½" pages -- 4 7/8"x 7 3/4" Boards -- 6 1/2" mull -- 1/8" square -- 1/4" hinge allowance -- same process and methodology.

Bookblock positioned in Case

Various templates

(Particularly relevant to craft binding single section hand written books)



Go to the home page