Book binding

10 resources for book binding beginners

Book binding might seem simple from the outside – after all, how hard can it be to make a notebook? But as with any other craft, as you start getting into it, you start to realize the number of small little details that go into making a high quality, long lasting, and beautiful book. And if you start to think about a book’s binding as an art form in and of itself, there is literally no end to what you can do.

As a beginner in book binding, I’ve found the following resources incredibly helpful in figuring out what to do. There is no right or wrong way over here, and you should feel free to experiment. This list is meant to be more of a guide, rather than a prescriptive how-to.

My first coptic stitch binding
  1. Online beginner course in book binding: There are a lot of videos on Youtube on book binding. However, I think it’s helpful to learn some of the basics in one place, as the information online can feel a bit unstructured. I took this particular course on Udemy, and found that it gave me a good grounding in the basics – what’s a signature, some of the basic types of binding (coptic stitch, long stitch), what are end pages, etc. After taking this course, I then started googling other types of bindings to try out, based on my interests.
  2. Book binding tool kit: The course above introduced me to the types of tools and materials I would need, such as an awl or waxed thread. Once I had the list of materials from the course, I found a number of book binding toolkits on Amazon that are fairly cheap, and gave me everything I needed in one place. I ended up buying this toolkit. I had to buy a binding board separately, as well as material for the book such as paper and leather.
  3. List of bindings to try out as beginners: For beginners, I think the following binding types are great starting points. I’ve also linked to videos or articles for each of these binding types that I think are good tutorials:
  4. Etsy for fun book binding materials: Etsy is a great place to find affordable and beautiful binding materials. The sky is the limit in terms of what you can use. I buy scrap leather for book binding from Etsy.
  5. Old illustrated books for end pages: End pages are the pages that you attach at the front and end of your book. You can have a lot of fun with end pages, and I find old illustrated books as a great place to find pages that can be reused as creative end pages. Plus, it gives me joy to reuse something that I might have thrown otherwise. For example – The book below has end pages from a book on Japanese contentments.
Creative end pages

6. Inspiring content on book binding: As you immerse yourself in learning a new craft, I find that it’s helpful to keep yourself inspired and curious. I’ve found the following channels super inspiring as I learn this craft myself:

  • Peg & Awl (amazing hand made products)
  • Stopan (book binder based in Bulgaria who does traditional book binding)
  • How to make books (book on book binding!)
  • Learn about Book Art – How book making is an art form in and of itself

7. Un-making old books: This is sort of like reverse – engineering any product. Taking apart an old book and seeing what it’s like on the inside can be hugely informative. I had a lot of questions around how to make the spine of a book (something I still struggle with), and this exercise helped. This video series is helpful if you don’t want to disassemble a book yourself!

8. Old linen shirts as a substitute for “mull”: As you go into book binding, you’ll hear about something called “mull”, which is essentially a material used to strengthen a book’s binding. I find that old cotton or linen shirts work just fine as a substitute for mull. Atleast for beginners!

9. Selecting paper for your first book: You can use pretty much any kind of paper. So far, I’ve found the following types of paper helpful:

  • Cardstock for end pages – end pages are typically a bit heavier than the inner pages of the book. I use this card stock (100 lb/270 gsm heavyweight)
  • Text weight paper fo the inner pages

10. Think about how you can make your books “your own”: Once you start getting a hang of book binding, start thinking about how you can add your own twist to your book. What makes your book uniquely yours? For example – inspired by Peg & Awl, I tried adding some detail on the inside of one of my journals. But I’m yet to find something that I can do to make a journal “uniquely my own” and different from the rest.

Blue and white detail on the inside of a pink journal

11. (Bonus!) Don’t throw away the scraps from your book binding projects: As you cut up paper, leather, cloth for your books, you might have a tendency to throw away any remaining scraps. It’s not a bad idea to retain some of the scraps, as you might find other uses for them later. For example – I’ve used portions of cut-up book board to bind smaller books later, or remains of cut up leather to create “fake cords” on hard bound journals. You never know! 🙂

The spine for the book below has “raised cords” on the spine. I created these using leather left over from a previous book binding project.

I hope this list helps! I’d love to hear about your adventures in book binding too – leave a comment below or drop a note through my contact form!

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