Book binding

DIY books – How to avoid your book boards from warping using “drumming”

As a bookbinder-in-the making, an issue that I struggle with when making hard cover books is the problem of the book boards warping after the book is allowed to dry for a few days. This has happened quite a few times to me – after all the painstaking effort that goes into making the book, at the very last stage the book cover warps, making the end product look sub-par in quality 😦

By warping, I essentially mean that the board covering the book curves outwards or inwards. Here’s an example of a warped book cover.

The cover curves a bit at the center and has become concave

My initial reaction was that maybe I did not let the book dry long enough, and that I need to press it with something heavier. I tried this approach, leaving my newly made hard cover journals to dry for a full week at a time. This approach did not help me much, it was a bit of a hit or miss.

The next thing I tried was getting better quality book boards. I figured that perhaps I wasn’t using good quality boards and maybe that’s why they were warping. This again did not help me.

The next thing I tried was stuffing extra material inside my book, in the hopes that if there is so much extra material inside the book, then how in the world can the board still warp? Alas, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, this also was a hit or miss approach.

At this point, I’d come close to giving up on making hard cover books altogether….

Until, I came across this video that talks about this technique called “drumming“. As you see in this video, warping happens because different materials such as paper, leather, linen, silk, etc., exert different amounts of “pull” on the book board when you glue them to the board. And so, preventing warping really comes down to understanding how the material that you’re using to bind your book will engage with the book board.

This was easier said than done, I wasn’t sure if I could become an expert in so many different types of materials. But then the video goes on talk about the technique “drumming”, which so far has worked very well for me (fingers crossed!). Essentially, what you do is that instead of applying glue across the entire board, you apply glue only on the edges. This way, you’re still able to bind your book, but you reduce the amount of “pull” that is exerted on the board.

The best way to understand this is to watch this video, as it does a great job of showing drumming in action.

If you’re learning bookbinding and are struggling with warped book covers, give this technique a try and let me know if it works for you! 🙂

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