Introduction: 2 LEGO Journals - Coptic Bookbinding

I thought it would be fun to have a journal that could be transformed on a whim. What better than a LEGO journal! This coptic book with a chain stitch can be completely personalized to your taste using whatever LEGO you'd like.

Both books are bound in the same way, but the covers are different. Most of the instructable shows the construction of the cover with the inlayed LEGO because it is more complex.

Important note before getting started:
Bookbinding is a very precise art form. As you work though each step, take your time and check each action for the smallest of errors. Even small mistakes can be very obvious in the finished product. This being said, if your first attempt doesn't come out perfect, just keep practicing. Step 1 and 2 are interchangeable depending on your priorities. If you want a specific size of book, start with step 1. If you want a specific configuration of LEGO, start with step 2 and then cut your book board (step 1) to fit. Let's get started!

Materials needed for both book styles:

mechanical pencil with the smallest lead you can find (This makes for more accurate marks.)

box cutter

paper for pages

rubber bands (2)

rulers (1 small for small measurements and 1 large for a straight edge)

cutting mat

bone folder

small curved needle

waxed thread


drill with bit slightly larger than your needle

Materials needed only for cover with inlayed LEGO:

E6000 or similar glue good for plastic

book cloth with paper backing

PVA glue (if you want it to be archival. Elmers will work otherwise.)

flat paintbrush about an inch wide

LEGO plates (any color or size though larger ones will save time and effort)

book board (Book board is archival but if that doesn't concern you, the board on the back of a pad of sketch paper will also work.)

sand paper (medium grit)

masking tape

paper for inside cover (I recommend a high quality paper.)

awl or stylus

Materials needed only for book with base plate cover:

Step 1: Base Plate Cover

I was unable to find small base plates and had to cut down a large one.

Decide on the size you want and lay your ruler where you want it cut.

Use your box cutter to cut along the ruler. Don't cut it all the way through in one pass. Press gently and repeat until it snaps.

Cut off the new corners like the original four corners on the base plate.

Step 2: Book Board for Cover With Inlayed LEGO

Check your book board for the direction of the grain. Bend the board slightly. Turn the board and bend slightly again. When you feel less resistance, you are bending the board with the grain. You want the grain to run north/south on your book. Imagine a paperback book. You want the cover to be able to bend easily and curl around the spine. The cover of this book will be quite thick and won't bend, but it's good practice when making a book to do this so you don't forget when it does matter.

You need at least three pieces of book board. One for the LEGO to fit into, one for underneath the LEGO, and one for the back.

You can purchase book board in various thicknesses, and if you're buying book board for this project, go ahead and purchase some that is 5/32" - 6/32" thick. I had a more standard size that is commonly used for the back board of a sketch pad (3/32"). If this is what you're using, you'll need to cut four pieces of book board identical in size.

Once you've cut all your pieces, tape them together and look down each side. If you see any edges that don't line up or that are slanted, use sandpaper to even them up.

Step 3: LEGO

Lay out the LEGO you want on your cover. Make sure there is at least a half inch on the left side for the binding. Once you've decided, Use other LEGO to connect them all together. This second layer will ensure that they are the proper height in the cover and that they are straight and lined up.

Trace the configuration of the bottom layer of LEGO onto one piece of the book board. Don't forget your half inch on the left side.

Step 4: Insets

Important note: Anything that you prepare in a stack (like the book board) should stay in that order even if you have to separate them to work. You may want to number them or mark the edges in a way that will allow you to keep track of what order they go in. If they get rotated or the order is changed, you will have uneven edges again.

Use your box cutter to cut insets for the LEGO you traced. When you're cutting, cut roughly one millimeter outside of the pencil marks to make room for the book cloth you'll be adding in a future step.

When you've cut the insets in one board, use it as a stencil to mark the next board. It is important to angle your pencil so that it is right up against the first board when tracing the insets.

Cut out the insets in this second board. This time, cut on the lines.

Tape these pieces back together ensuring that the edges are lined up.

Wrap a piece of sand paper around your small ruler and sand the edges of all your insets. Make sure there is no "lip" on the edges. This lip prevents proper gluing later. You can see an example of a lip in the images before and after sanding.

Place your configuration of LEGO into the insets. Do they all fit easily? If not, sand down any places that are bumping up against the LEGO. Remember that you need room for the book cloth and the LEGO should fit with a little wiggle room.

Use your brush to apply glue to one board and press the two boards with insets together. Apply glue to the next board (with no insets) and glue it to the bottom of the two with insets. Make sure there are no globs of glue anywhere.

Press this under something heavy or in a book press for a few hours. Not allowing glue to dry on your project, can cause the cover to curl. There are other steps you can work on while this is drying.

Step 5: Book Cloth on Cover

Cut a piece of book cloth that is about 1.5" larger than the cover on all sides. This is one of the few things that doesn't need to be cut perfectly. Not yet anyway.

Center the cover on the back of the book cloth and mark the corners with your pencil.

You will be gluing the book cloth to the cover in phases because the glue dries quickly.

Apply glue to the top third of your book cloth within the marks made.

Apply glue to the top third of your cover ensuring that you get all the inside edges of the insets. Try to do a certain number of insets and not apply glue to half of any if you can. I did the top two first, then the second two, then the bottom three.

Use your marks to place the book cloth.

Step 6: Covering Insets

Once you've applied the book cloth, press down and find the insets.

Use your box cutter to cut an "X" in the center. You should cut very close to the corner, but not so close that the cut can be seen outside of the inset. You can always cut a bit more if needed, so cut gingerly to start.

Use your bone folder to press the book cloth firmly against the sides and bottom of the insets. Scoop out any globs of glue.

Press pieces of LEGO into the insets to ensure they fit. Remove them until all the insets are glued.

Add glue to the second third of the book cloth and cover to do the next few insets and repeat until all the insets are glued.

Apply E6000 to the bottom of each LEGO and press into the appropriate inset. Be sure the LEGO logo on the plates is right side up if possible.

Re-apply the connecting plates and add as many more plates as you can. These plates will help press the LEGO in evenly while drying.

Press the cover under something heavy or in a book press overnight.

Step 7: Wrapping the Cover

The images in this step show the back cover. You will wrap both the front and back cover the same.

Cut a piece of book cloth for the back cover (your last piece of book board) just like you did for the front.

Center it and mark the corners on the back of the book cloth.

Apply glue to the entire piece of book board and press onto book cloth.

Use your bone folder to press the book cloth onto the book board firmly.

Fold up a corner of the book cloth and mark the height of the book board on the cloth. Use your box cutter to cut a notch just above the mark and cut off the corner as seen in the picture.

Repeat until all four corners are cut.

Step 8: Wrapping the Cover Part 2

Mark the center of the book board.

Fold over two sides and line up your ruler with the corner and your center mark.

Use your box cutter to cut through the book cloth starting at the corner.

Two small triangles of book cloth should fall off and you will be left with perfectly matching diagonal cuts on your book cloth.

Repeat on the three remaining corners.

Step 9: Glueing

Apply glue to one of the shorter flaps of book cloth ensuring that you get the edge of the book board.

Use your fingernail to press down on the edges of the glued flap as seen in the image. Continue to press for a few seconds until they will stay put if you move your fingers.

Press the edge against your workspace/table and roll the board over until the flap is stuck to the back. You should have a tiny fold on the corner (as seen in the picture).

Use your bone folder to press the book cloth onto the board firmly.

Next, glue the opposite flap in the same manner.

Then glue the remaining two flaps. Make sure that the corner edges of the flaps line up with and do not overlap one another.

Step 10: Trimming the Back

Once you've got the book cloth glued, it's time to trim it. You will be able to see this cut line in the finished product so be precise.

Use your small ruler to measure about a half inch from the edge on all sides.

Use your box cutter, and a ruler as a straight edge, to GENTLY cut through just the book cloth. It's okay if you cut the board a bit, but you do not want to cut into it too much.

Use your box cutter to pull up the edge of the book cloth and peel off the section that you cut. It's okay if a layer of the book cloth comes with it.

Step 11: Signatures

A signature is a section of folded paper in a book. I recommend each of your signatures have at least 4 sheets of paper and no more than 8.

Check for the paper grain just like you did with the book board.

Fold each piece of paper in half with the grain. Make sure that, when folded, the paper is larger than the covers on all sides. You will be trimming them to fit.

You can fold a few pieces at the same time, but the more pieces you fold together, the messier it is likely to be. I usually fold two or three at a time. Combine these pages to form your signatures. For example, I folded two pieces of paper at once and then combined them with two previously folded pages to form a four page signature. I could have also added two more pages to make a six page signature.

Crease the fold with your bone folder.

Repeat until you have a sizable stack.

It is completely up to you on how much paper you want in your book, but for a beginner, it should have at least 5 signatures. This will give you time to get the hang of the stitching but not be too work intensive. The more signatures you have, the longer your thread will need to be and the more your spine will flex/wobble.

Rubber band the signatures together and tap the edges against the table until they are stacked as neatly as possible. This is your block.

Place one of your covers on your block with one corner flush with the folded edges and the top.

Mark the edge of your cover on the right and bottom edges on your block. Set the cover aside.

Use your ruler to mark 3/18" above the bottom mark and 2/18" to the left of the right mark. You want your pages to be slightly smaller than your cover but they will be flush with the spine.

Place your ruler on the new set of marks and use your box cutter to cut through the block.

Cut slowly, gently, and keep your blade parallel with the edge of the block. Be patient with this step. If you push too hard or go to quickly, you can tear the paper or you may move the ruler or block. Just keep cutting until you've cut all the way through.

Replace the rubber bands going in the opposite direction to cut off the other edge in the same way.

Place your block onto your cover and make sure it fits well.

Check both covers. If it fits one and not the other, you may have cut the edge at an angle. In this case, slowly and carefully continue to cut until it is straight. If it is only a slight error or you have some messy cuts, you can sometimes use your sandpaper to file it down.

Step 12: Punching Holes

First, you'll need to build a cradle. It's simple, works great, and folds flat for storage.

Cut a large rectangle of cardboard. It needs to be at least 4" wider than the height of your book. Fold the board in half along the "grain" of the cardboard. It needs to be a straight fold. Cut slits about an inch from the edge wide enough to fit another piece of cardboard.

Cut two small rectangles to slide into the slits. You can see general dimensions of mine in the first picture. My cutting mat is 18"x24". This is not a precise art like that of the book making itself, It just needs to hold the pages at a point above the table top.

Step 13: Holes Part 2

Cut a slip of paper and fold it in half.

Mark the folded edge where you want your holes.

The more holes, the longer your book will take to stitch. I recommend spacing your holes about an inch apart. I originally folded my guide to make sure they were evenly spaced, but you can also use your ruler.

Cut tiny triangles on each of the marks on the fold with your box cutter.

Place a signature into your cradle. Place your guide onto the signature and make sure it is perfectly lined up with the edge of the signature.

Use your awl to punch a hole in the signature through each hole cut in the guide.

Make sure you keep your signatures in order during this step and keep your guide going the same direction on all the signatures to make sure they all line up precisely.

Step 14: Back Cover

Cut two pieces of contrasting paper that are 1/4" smaller than the cover.

Apply glue to the back of one of these pieces and center it on the back of a cover piece.

Use your bone folder to press the paper firmly onto the book board. You should be able to see the edge of the book cloth if you have pressed the paper on well.

Repeat on back of front cover.

Use your guide to mark the placement of the holes on the paper side of the back cover. The distance from the left side is up to you. I usually mark it about around a 1/4" to 1/2" from the edge. Make sure you won't be drilling holes in your LEGO on the front cover.

Step 15: Drilling

If you are using the base plate cover, ignore this step. Simply sandwich your two cover pieces together, mark where your holes should be using your guide and drill.

Cut a slice of book board that will fit between the left edge of your front cover and the legos that are raised above the surface of the book cloth. (See picture)

Cut or find a scrap of book board that is at least as tall as the cover.

Stack the following pieces in this order and rubber band/clamp/clip them together (see picture):

Back cover with inside/paper facing up (on top)

Slice of book board cut to fit on left side of front cover

Front cover LEGO face up

Scrap book board (on bottom)

Drill on the guide marks you made on inside back cover.

DRILL STRAIGHT DOWN. If you have a drill press, that would be better than a hand drill or dremel. I use a dremel and have gotten good holes, but take your time. If you drill these holes at an angle, your book will still hold together, but the holes will not be in a straight line which looks messy. The book board pieces prevent frayed edges on the book cloth and paper.

Step 16: Binding Prep

To determine the amount of thread you need to pull from the spool, your going to need to do a bit of math. These measurements do not need to be precise but should always be rounded up. This may result in pulling more thread than necessary, but that is far better than not having enough. I am adding my measurements in bold for reference only.

Count the number of signatures you made and add 2. I'm going to call this your Length Number. (I made 12 signatures, so my Length Number is 14.)

Measure the height of your cover. (I rounded mine up to 7")

Measure the thickness of your block. (I rounded mine up to 1")

Count the number of holes punched in one signature. (Mine has 7)

(Length Number x Cover Height) + (Block Thickness x Number of Holes) = Length of Thread

(14 x 7") + (1" x 7)

(98") + (7") = 105"

Pull this length of thread and thread your needle. Do not tie your thread onto your needle as the knot can/will tear the holes in your signatures. .

Rubber band your first signature to your front cover as pictured

Step 17: Binding the Cover

Open the first signature and thread your needle through the first hole on either side. Leave a "tail" at the end. You'll tie it off later.

Thread your needle through the matching hole in the cover starting from the inside.

Thread your needle back into the same hole in the first signature.

Now that you're back inside the first signature, thread your needle through the next hole.

Repeat these steps until you thread your needle through the last hole in the cover.

DO NOT re-enter the last hole in the first signature. This is where you will add the next signature.

Step 18: Adding Additional Signatures

After pulling the needle through the last hole in the cover, Add your next signature to the rubber band so that you can access the inside of the new signature.

Loop the needle under the last stitch in the opposite direction you will be going on that signature.

For example, if you began stitching your cover at the bottom and worked your way up, you will be moving down on the next signature. Therefore, you should point your needle up when looping around the last stitch. Therefore, in the first image of this step, I actually did it wrong. In the third image it is done correctly. I am moving up on this signature and the needle is pointed down. I did the rest of the book correct and this one stitch isn't noticeable. However, if you don't loop the stitches in the correct direction consistently, the binding will not be nearly as pretty.

Thread your needle through the first hole in the new signature. You will now be inside the first signature.

1. Thread your needle thought the next hole on the inside of the signature.

2. Loop the needle under the last stitch (in the same row on the last signature) in the opposite direction you're going on that signature.

3. Thread your needle back through the same hole in the signature that you just came through.

Repeat 1-3 until you get to the end of this signature.

Add each additional signature in the same way.

Step 19: Binding the Back Cover

After looping under the last stitch on the last signature, rubber band the cover to the other side of the last signature.

Thread the needle through the outside of the matching hole on the back cover.

Loop the needle under the thread between the last signature and the back cover in the opposite direction you're moving. The thread should loop completely around. If it doesn't, loop the needle under again.

Re-enter the hole in the signature. Your needle will now be inside the signature.

Thread the needle through the next hole in the signature and repeat until you get to the end of the cover. there will be two layers of thread on the inside of the last signature.

You will end by re-entering the last hole in the last signature.

Step 20: Tying Off

Tie the end off as seen in the image. I usually tie it twice.

Trim the leftover thread

Don't forget to go back to the tail you left at the front and tie it off in the same way.

Step 21: Decorate

Pick your favorite plates and bricks and start building.

To personalize some of the plates, I added letters with a sharpie. This could be for adding a name or title.

I also put some colorful washi tape on some.

Stick an oversized piece of washi on the front.

Flip it over and use the box cutter to trim off the excess.

Be sure to angle the cutter toward the brick so there won't be a lip of tape sticking off the edge.

Step 22: Enjoy

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