How To Bind A Book

This scene is taken from the Shepherds DVD "Handmade Books" which is available to buy online here. To follow this exercise you will need a few simple inexpensive materials and tools which are also available from our online store.

1. A cutting mat - these are designed for all art purposed where any cutting is involved. They have a self-sealing surface which means it is virtually impossible to destroy it. In bookbinding there is plenty of cutting work involved with sharp tools and so we can't recommend these enough. Available in A1 down to A4 here

2. Bone Folder - an invaluable tool for bookbinders, these are used in all stages from folding paper to scoring, smoothing out creases, prodding, poking and burnishing. Available in two sizes; 6" & 8" in a variety of profiles, these should be the first tool you get your hands on. View them here.

3. Cutting Tools - During the bookbinding process you will need a few basic cutting tools; shears or scissors, craft knife, stanley knife and a good sturdy shoe knife for cutting through paper and leather. The sharper your tools, the easier your life becomes.
We recommend

  • Shoe Knife - here

  • Disposable Scalpel - here

  • Shears - here

  • Paper Paring Knife - here

4. Needles and thread - when sewing it is important to use the right type of thread and for bookbinding we use a linen thread which offers strength. Available in a 4 weights, the thinnest has the highest number; 40/3 and the heaviest has the lowest number; 18/3.

Note - You would usually use the 18/3 when making books with thick paper, for example photograph albums or artists sketch books and 40/3 for smaller notebooks.

The sewing needles are available in 2 sizes, Small & Large! The smallest are used with the lightest threads, the 40/3 and the 35/3. The Large needles should be used when making a large book with heavy thread such as the 25/3 and the 18/3. You can see the needles here.

The coloured threads should be used where the sewing work will be visible, for example in exposed spine bindings and Japanese Stab bindings.

5. Glues and brushes - The most popular glue for bookbinding is a 50/50 mix of PVA and Wheatstarch. This gives excellent strength as well as a medium drying time. The advantage of this is that it allows you time to reposition your bookcloth for example if you have laid it down inaccurately. You can use different glues such as Japanese Nori paste or a pure PVA but for novices you should try Shepherds Bookbinding Adhesive.

For bookbinding, a good paste brush is very important. In the video you will see how a specific technique for pasting where a large strong brush is needed. Shepherds sell the Superior Paste Brush which is perfect for bookbinding. They can be seen here.