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Picture of Make a leather spined hardbound book
This instructable will show how to make a good looking hard cover book that you will have no problems displaying on you shelf or giving as a gift. The process has been derived from the process of making a proper professionally bound book.

I am a big fan of great looking books and sometimes I like to bind computer printouts so they look good on my shelf. Obviously simple changes can be made to embellish your book, however this is up to you (I'll explain a few that may be useful to you).

This particular process requires:

4 x A5 sketch pads
2mm thick grey card
about 0.5mm white card for the spine structure
leather (or similar) for the spine on the outside
A strip of cotton to help bind the pages
Masking tape (18mm wide)
Glue (PVA) is usually the best as when it dries it remains flexible
Contact adhesive for glueing the leather
and nice paper for the cover.
(Also other stuff if you want to make it extra cool)

Some tools that may also help will be:

clamps of various sizes
a staple gun to staple pages together
a craft knife
a pencil
a steel ruler
scissors
sandpaper
and I use a heap of old encyclopedias to press all of the newly glued stuff.
 
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Step 1: Cut and form the card covers

1. Get the 2mm grey card (or whatever thickness card you have) and line up the spines of the sketch pads to one edge, measure around the A5 sketch pads and add about 8 - 9mm to top and lower side, 15mm to the front of the book. In this example I have doubled up the card (I reckon it feels nicer to have a thick cover - glue together to make 4mm each, if this is the case)

2. To make the leather spine sit flush with the finished product, we need to "chisel out" the areas of the cover that will have a spine. I have decided to have a 50mm spine of leather on the cover. Score along a line 50mm from the spine edge. With the cover on edge score a line about 1-2mm into the grey card (this will differ depending on the thickness of the leather you have).

3. Chisel out this volume of card on the cover and sides also.

4. When the leather folds over to the underside of the cover, you will need to recess these places also. Cut about 10mm into these underside areas.

add a step... Sand the sides of the card, rounded or chamfered, so they are smooth and nicer to hold.

Step 2: Making the spine

Picture of Making the spine
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1. The spine is integral to the way the book is held together and how the leather will look when finished. Put all of the sketch pads and the covers together to measure out a length of white card. Add about 2-4 mm to the side to allow to put a curve into the spine.

2. Generally the spine will need to be plyed (e.g layered and glued together, so cut 3-4 of the strips in step 1)

3. Put a slight kink in the middle of the spine by bending. Once bent this spine should be flush with the thickness of the grey card covers and A5 sketch pads.

4. On the first bent spine put 2 strips of masking tape down the length of each side of the card. This will be used to secure the cover to the spine and to the finished book.

5. Glue with PVA the other bent pieces of card from step 2 to the top of the card with the masking tape. Secure in place in a bent position. Once dried this should keep it's shape.

Step 3: Covering the cover pages

1. Layout the cover pages on the chosen paper for the cover.

2. Cut around cover allowing 15-20mm on each side. These will be wrapped up to cover the sides of the cover.

3. Glue the cover with PVA. Spread the glue out evenly before applying to the card. Ensure no wrinkles in the cover paper. Place under a whole heap of books to ensure the card dries flat.

4. Where the paper meets the spine area that was chiseled out, glue the paper and try to flatten so the edge is crisp and sharp (this is where the leather will butt into the cover paper. I used the metal ruler to get this edge sharp and clamped in place.

5. Edges need to be folded up to the underside of each cover. Fold up each side first, cut out so that one part of the sheet will cover the front edge. Glue and press in place. Trim the part that sticks out, so that the front flap can be folded over.

6. The front flap will need to have corners cut so that the finished product looks neat. In the final steps these edges will be covered with an inside page

add a step... I have used acrylic spray to get a nice sheen finish on the cover, and to protect it.

Step 4: Organising the pages

Picture of Organising the pages
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1. Remove the front and back flaps of the sketch pads.

2. The A5 pages will need to be secured together so that they do not fall out over their lifetime. The simplest way I have found to do this is to gun staple these together. I used 4 A5 sketch books so this is necessary, however if you have your pages already glued together, then you can skip this step. In any event, make sure the pages sit even together on all sides.

3. Hammer down staples so they sit flat with the page.

Add a step... If you like you can insert sections into the book at this point. For example, if you want to make a recipe book, this may be quite useful.

Step 5: Glueing the page spine

1. Apply a good lashing of PVA on the end of the spine end of the pages.

2. Cut out a strip of cotton about 3 times the width of the total page thicknesses and lay the middle of the cotton over the pages to soak up the PVA glue. The edges of the cotton will also be folded over.

3. Keep applying PVA to saturate the cotton. The end flap will need to be folded over. The finished product will be neat and folded with no cotton egdes showing.

add a step... I have used a piece of ribbon as a page marker. Use contact adhesive to glue this down the cotton spine.

Step 6: Joining the cover, spine and book

Picture of Joining the cover, spine and book
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1. Put the spine in place and tape the spine onto the book cover with masking tape. The spine will stick out from the end of the book - this will meet the cover when in place.

2. Place the cover on the book to meet the spine and apply masking tape from the spine to the cover. Ensure that you press the tape into the gap between the spine and cover. This will give the classic looking spine that you see on professionally bound books. This also allows the cover to open easily.

3. Open the cover and tape the underside, between the cover and the book. Ideally both sides of the tape will meet and stick.

4. Repeat for both covers.

Step 7: Adding the leather

1. Cut an appropriate sized leather piece. Ensure alot of overlap and cut while you go, as if the piece is too small you will need to replace it. The leather will need to wrap from the front to back, including the spine thickness.

2. I have used the contact adhesive for this part, as it is quick drying and strong. Apply glue to both surfaces that are to be glued, leave for a couple of minutes, then stick together. Start with the front cover first, as it is easier to get right. Butt the leather into the chiseled groove and stick down.

3. Repeat for the spine, ensure that the leather is pushed into the recess between the spine and the cover. I use a piece of card to press this down.

4. Glue and fold the side flaps over the top of the cover and the top of the spine. You may need to cut a section out between the cover and spine to fold over properly. Repeat for the bottom.

5. Repeat with the back cover. Try to stretch the leather rather than have it loose.

Step 8: Finishing the book

1. The final steps involve covering the inside of the book, on the front and back inside covers. I have printed out something on these pages, however you can keep this blank. The page should be A5 wide and about 50mm longer, so that it can be glued to the grey card cover. Line up the inside page with the front corner pages of the book, crease where this page meets the cover.

2. Place a piece of masking tape on the underside of the crease. This will make this area stronger.

3. Use contact adhesive and glue the card to the cover section.

4. Glue only a small part of the white card to the book. You will only really need to cover the masking tape. Crease here also if necessary, so that the page folds up easy.

5. Glue another piece of card to finally cover the grey card. This card will hide the edges of the covering on the underside of the cover and the white card flap just placed. Ensure the card is about 5-10mm from the cover edges, or to match the A5 width.

6. Repeat for the backside.

7. The book is now finished. Allow it to dry before you show off the masterpiece to friends and family!
yhung13 years ago
so beautiful! thank you for the tutorial.
wenpherd5 years ago
where do you find those patterns? oh and this awesomely amazingly superb
jamieicecream (author)  wenpherd5 years ago
 The cover paper was found at a local craft shop. I think it may have been in the wedding section?
TorinMiasma5 years ago
This is a wonderful instructable. I only wish that the photos had some information in them as well. I'm starting on binding some of my old sketchbooks as of today. How long did it take you to do this?
jamieicecream (author)  TorinMiasma5 years ago
 I do agree with you regarding the comments on the pictures. I reckon I'll do this soon. The process from start to finish took 4 days part time. But if you were doing this full time, including drying time of glue could be about 1.5 - 2 days. Good idea to bind sketch books together. If their spines are already glued or fixed together, this process will be shorter and you'll get a crisp edged product at the end of it! good luck. 
This is fabulous. I have lots of readers who are interested in book making, I'll be linking to this.
lemonie5 years ago
A good book-bind is always nice to see. L
John Smith5 years ago
Wow.