Crafty Lifestyle: Bookbinding

Having more time has made me ponder creative outlets besides my songwriting and business books. Needing a better way to track my projects and day-to-day tasks (my experiment with 3×5 cards was most enlightening) I tried my hand at hand stitching my own little notebook.

I need to work on the gluing techniques, and got myself a smaller drill bit for the stitching holes, but all in all, I’m happy with the result. I believe that I can make these for less than 50 cents each, and it’s very peaceful and relaxing stitching the signatures (groups of pages) inside.

I wanted to make something fast, unfussy, and cheap, so I’d be more inclined to use these things and not wait until I had thoughts worthy of enshrining in some leather-bound tome (for now.)

A single sheet of letter-size paper will yield three strips which, when folded in half, makes a 4 1/4″ x 3 5/8″ page. I laid 16 sheets down, measured the top sheet, then used a straight edge and tore the sheets rather than cutting them. I’ll need to work on the technique, but I don’t mind the raggedy edge; just don’t want it quite that raggedy.

If I could settle for two folded pages from each sheet, and live with a waste strip 1 1/2″ x 11″ from each, I could make journals the same size as a Moleskine, but the waste disturbs me. I might experiment with a tiny 2 3/4″ x 4 1/4″ journal which would require 12 sheets of letter-size paper to make a 192-page journal. Would that be big enough? Guess I need to find out.

The fabric glue I used is flexible even after it dries, but I didn’t get it thin enough. Spreading with a thin card instead of my finger would help.

I made a book press out of two 12″ x 3/4″ x 3/4″ pieces of birch wood and two carriage bolts with wing nuts. During the gluing process I realised I’ll need something wide enough to smash the whole journal, so it looks like I’ll need two more carriage bolts and two pieces of wood big enough to hold the largest journal I’m likely to make, a half-sheet 5 1/2″ x 8 1/2″ so that’s about 7″ x 10″ to leave room for drilling the bolt holes. Have to be careful of size, being nomads and all.

Eventually I’d like to settle on one or two sizes and have someone make a leather cover I can slip over the current journal, and reuse when the journal’s full. I’ll also have to answer the questions in my head about the textured cover I chose, the decorated end sheets, etc. They weren’t cheap, and there’s no reason I can’t do something both economical and beautiful, if I’m willing to invest time and effort into it.

Someday I plan to make a whole book by hand—write it all out on handmade paper and make a single unique book I’ve written; one of a kind.