Book binding

Best bookbinding method and materials for a writing journal

Since I’ve begun making books, I’ve also begun spending more time writing in them. It’s amazing how making something yourself makes you so much more invested in a product 🙂 I have never considered myself a prolific writer. But now that I’m making books, I spend much more time writing in them (which is a good thing I think!).

This has made me wonder about which binding method is the best for a journal that you’d mostly use for writing. So much of what makes for an ideal binding method, depends on the intended purpose of a book – is it meant to be mostly written in or to be read? If it’s meant to be written it, is the writing mostly done using a pen? If yes, what kind of pen? Fountain pen or ball point pen? What if it’s an artist sketchbook, that needs to withstand various forms of media such as watercolors?

In my case, I use my journals mostly for writing. I like writing with fountain pens (my post on the joy of writing with fountain pens). I write in all sorts of odd positions – while sitting on a chair, while lying down in bed, writing with my journal in my lap. The easier a journal is to write in, in all of these positions, the better it is for me.

I’ve used journals that I’ve made using various bookbinding methods – Case binding, coptic binding, soft bound leather binding, Japanese stab binding, medieval long stitch binding. While all these binding methods work great, so far I find that the soft bound leather binding method works best for journals to write in. Here’s why (by the way, here are photos of the two journals I’ve been using recently):

I prefer the soft bound leather journal for daily writing and here’s why:

  1. A soft bound cover that’s wrapped in leather is flexible, yet tough. I find that a flexible cover works well for a personal journal. As opposed to creating a more opaque / hard look that you get with case binding, you get something that feels a bit more malleable and soft, while the leather still provides a tough cover for the inside of the book.
  2. It lays completely flat and open. Hard cover case bound book can lay flat too, but I think it works best on a table only. Say you’re writing sitting up against your knee or something – a soft bound leather journal will easily lay open thanks to its flexibility.
  3. It feels sturdy – a hard bound journal feels sturdy too, but a soft bound journal feels like a solid, unified block. I guess you can say that both the binding methods are sturdy, and you can say that both these methods are tied on this point.
  4. The leather adds a really plush feel to the book . Call me biased but the feel of high quality leather is really quite unparalleled. Book cloth looks pretty, but leather really does add that extra touch. To be sustainable, you can buy scrap leather, or repurpose second hand leather goods to source your leather.
  5. Leather ages really well with use. If you use real leather, you’ll find that age and use add a patina to your leather cover, instead of diminishing its looks in any way. Your journal only looks better with time!
  6. Use thin-ish paper for writing – I’ve tried using text paper, thicker sketch paper that’s around 130gsm, and paper that can be called borderline card stock in my journals. So far, I’ve found 110GSM best for writing. Maybe something thicker if you write using fountain pens, something for you to test. 110 gsm is not too thin, but not too think either. Personally, I find slightly thinner weight paper more pleasing to write in.
  7. Make it pocket sized – A journal that’s too big becomes unwieldy and not easy to carry around. A journal that’s too small is impractical for writing. I’ve found 4.5 inches X 5.5 inches a decent size for a regular journal.
  8. Don’t make it too thick – I find that if the journal is too thick, it does not give you enough hand support as you write in your journal, unless its really really big. Large tomes look cool, but if we’re talking about a daily journal, I’d go with something thinner. Thickness of your journal will depend both on the number of your signatures, number of pages per signature, and weight of the paper that you use (bookbinding jargon 101 if these words sound unfamiliar!)

I’ve written in the past about using your products to find areas of improvement. Through the use of my journals, I feel I have a better sense for what works best for me (so far). But of course, in any creative endeavor, the best way to find your own styles is to experiment, try things, and see what works for you. Use the above simply as a reference as you’re starting out, but you should totally experiment along the way!

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