Book binding

Craftsmanship – Mistakes add up

In building a physical structure such as a book, it is so evident that mistakes, even if they’re quite small in isolation, really add up and get magnified when the final structure is completed.

These mistakes appear small and inconsequential when they happen. You think to yourself that no one will know about that one tiny error. And yet, you look at your final end product, and you see how all those small mistakes have cascaded to make a functional yet not entirely beautiful product 😦

I recently tried making this leather bound journal using reclaimed leather, as a gift for my mom.

I was really excited about this journal, particularly because I was repurposing high quality leather from an old bag, which had this nice strip on the side. I thought this might add some personality to my journal.

Reclaimed vintage leather from an old bag

It looks fine at first glance. I liked the leather and I liked the strips on the side.

But due to lack of attention when gluing the cover, I ended up gluing the leather in a way that it could not cover all of the backside of the journal 😦

Botched up back cover

I had to apply another strip of leather to cover the exposed cover on the back, but of course it looks terrible.

It does not stop here. I even cut the leather in a way that it is running short of the inside pages 😦

Are you kidding me?!

Luckily, the end pages are not terrible looking. If you squint, maybe you can pass this off as intentional or a design feature? 🙂

What you realize is that these small things, while small in and of themselves, matter a lot to the overall quality of the product. Here are a few mistakes that got magnified in this process:

  1. I did not cut the initial leather straight, when cutting it out from the bag – if I had been intentional and thoughtful at that step itself, I would have avoided this mishap.
  2. It is better to cut in a way that you have more, than you have less – you can always continue trimming but you cannot add more. I could have avoided my cover running short of the inside pages, if I had been patient when cutting it.
  3. Think through what kind of book you want to make upfront – A part of me knew that the leather I had and the size of book I wanted to make did not match. I should have been more mindful of this from the beginning, and used a bigger piece of leather for this book.
  4. Be patient and follow the process – it’s not a good idea to skip steps. Small things such as how well do you fold your cover over your book, how closely you cut the cover to the pages, how neatly you fold the corners – all of these make a difference to the end product. You cannot skip the steps or you’ll just end up with a sub-optimal product.

Attention to detail is really key in getting to the next level in any craft. The more you can be patient and take care of the small things, the better the final product will look as well as feel.

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