Book binding

6 common mistakes to avoid during book binding

I love making books by hand. It’s a recent hobby that I’ve picked up, and I thoroughly enjoy the the sense of peace I get from making something with my hands. In today’s virtual world, it offers a nice break from the screen.

As with learning anything new, I’ve made a lot of mistakes as I’ve been learning this craft. I’ve made ~15 books by now, and so far, here are a few mistakes that I think are common and can be avoided with practice:

  1. Sewing the text block so tight that it stops being a square or a rectangle – One of my recent projects was a hard bound leather journal. I sewed the signatures so tightly that the final text block was completely misshapen. This has a ripple downstream – not only does the journal look bad, but the spine was all misshapen, making it hard for me to bind the book well.
Misshapen spine

2. Not cutting a long enough piece of thread for sewing the signatures – While it’s not a big deal to attach another piece of thread when you run out of thread, I find it vastly annoying, especially when trying to make the knot go through the signature holes. Easily avoided mistake.

3. Cutting the hard bound covers to be much bigger (or smaller) than the book – The boards need to be just 0.2-0.3 inches out. If the hard cover is much bigger, the books feels unwieldy and it looks terrible.

My board is much bigger than the book – I had to glue additional leather to cover the inside. Looks bad!

4. Being hasty and glueing end pages to the book board, before folding in the book cover: This has happened a few times to me. Everything would be going fine, and then I’d realize that I’ve messed up the order of doing things, resulted in something like the image below.

Leather on top of end pages 😦

5. Trying to make a leather journal too soon: There’s nothing wrong with this per se. But leather is much harder to work with, and your end product can easily end up looking bad because of lack of knowledge of how to work with leather. Starting with the basics and learning how to make cloth bound books first is a better way to first learn the fundamentals, and then moving to leather bound journals.

6. Using paper instead of cloth as “mull” to strengthen the text block: I’m a big fan of Sea Lemon, and follow this Sea Lemon video for making text blocks almost to the T. However, I don’t like their idea of using paper to strengthen the text block – paper makes a noise every time the book folds, and I find that it makes the book feel “cheap quality”. Instead, using cotton or linen for the purposes of mull works very well.

I’m sure I’ll think of more mistakes. For now, I’ll leave you with these 6 🙂

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