Introduction: Black Magic Leather Grimoire - Bookbinding Tutorial

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I've been really into bookbinding lately, and with Halloween coming up, I decided to make a dark grimoire with black leather and an amethyst centerpiece!

Supply list:

  • Real leather, black sheepskin leather 0.4mm thick
  • 96 sheets A3 sized sketchbook paper (110 gsm)
  • 2 sheets A3 black paper as end sheets (140 gsm)
  • Waxed thread
  • Hemp / jute cord for stitching
  • Brass corner decorations
  • Corner protectors
  • Leather cord for headbands
  • Embroidery thread for headbands
  • Brass buckles
  • Large amethyst stone
  • Oval filigree for the stone
  • Gold leaf, leaf metal primer, coating varnish
  • Satin ribbon markers
  • Linen cloth for burnishing and covering the spine
  • Leather dye
  • Greaseproof parchment paper
  • 3 mm wood fiberboard covers

Tools used:

  • Basic leatherworking tools
  • Coping saw
  • Leather wax and stain
  • White PVA glue (wood glue)
  • Rubber mallet
  • Bone folder
  • Book press / heavy weights
  • Stitching jig / suitable chair
  • Contact glue
  • Quick epoxy glue
  • Stitching supplies
  • Scissors and X-acto knife
  • Drill

Step 1: Folding Paper & Making Signatures

I'm using 110 gsm sketchbook paper. I simply enjoy writing and drawing on them a lot more than regular copy paper (80 gsm). In my experience, copy paper is way too thin and regular ball point pens will leave very visible lines on the pages underneath the one you're writing on, so I prefer to use paper that's at least 100 gsm or more.

In this book I used 96 sheets of A3 sized paper. I fold them all first, go over the fold with a bone folder to make sure its properly flat, and then sort the pieces into stacks of paper called "signatures". A signature consists of 4-8 pages - I'm using 4, leaving me with a total of 24 signatures that I'll sew together.

I'm leaving them in the book press for a couple of hours to make the stack properly flat before sewing it. You can use large stacks of books or a book with some weights on top instead if you don't have a similar press.

Step 2: Marking & Cutting Holes for Sewing

Next I'll clamp the pages together and mark 6 lines along the spine of the book. The top and bottom mark will be about 2 cm in from the edge - these will not be visible later on. The remaining 4 marks will be sewn onto cords that will creade 4 visible ridges along the spine once covered up with leather. I used a coping saw to make all the holes nice and fast. You can also use an awl to punch every hole individually, although that's a bit more time-consuming and less accurate.

Step 3: Stitching & Making a Text Block

Next, I stitched all the 24 signatures together. It's a bit hard to explain exactly how to sew them together with words, so I'll leave a link here to the part of a YouTube tutorial I made that explains how to stitch the signatures to the jute cords in detail.

I don't have a sewing jig for this, so I'm using a chair that I can fasten the jute cords to. With all the signatures sewn together, I covered the whole spine with a layer of white PVA glue (in my case, wood glue) and let that dry completely. Then I attached the black end pages with a 1 cm wide line of glue, and popped it into the book press while it dried.

The final step is to grab this piece, called a "text block", and hammer the spine into a round shape with a rubber mallet. Just flip it over and over, keep on hammering it until it's round enough.

Step 4: Satin Ribbon Markers

At this point I made 3 satin ribbon markers. I measured a length a bit longer than the spine + another half of the spine more. At one end I cut it into a V-shape and melted it slightly with the flame of a candle to avoid it fraying later on. Then I glued the ribbon markers to the spine at the points I wanted them.

Step 5: Sewing Head- and Tailbands

After attaching the ribbon markers I could sew the head- and tailbands with some black and purple embroidery thread and a short piece of leather cord. You can see the exact sewing method with detailed descriptions in the video at the top of this Instructable, or by clicking here. It's important not to sew through the ribbon markers to not destroy them.

Step 6: Covering the Spine With Linen

As the head- and tailbands and the ribbon markers were in place, I could go ahead and cover the spine with linen cloth to even out the surface before covering it with leather. I covered everything with PVA glue first, then applied the linen and rubbed it in place with the bone folder, and then covered it with another layer of glue.

Step 7: Attaching Wood Fiberboard Covers

To make the book really heavy and rigid I used 3mm thick wood fiberboard covers instead of dense cardstock. I drilled 4 holes in each cover piece to insert the jute cords the text block is sewn onto. The holes are drilled at an angle so that the cord will lay as flat as possible.

When the cords are inserted, I fray them in the inside of the covers. I'll lay a little stack of paper between the cover and the text block to soak up any dampness from the glue, and if I don't do that, the pages of the book will warp and that doesn't look too nice. Between the little paper stack and the cover I put a piece of greaseproof parchment paper to avoid making the glue stick to anything else.

I added glue underneath the cords first, pushed them down, and added more glue on top. When closing it, I make sure to push the cover down towards the spine to make it shut tightly. On the outside I add more glue on top of the visible cords, add more parchment paper on top, and rub it as flat as I can with the bone folder. After doing that on both sides I put it in the book press again and left it there to dry for a day or so.

Step 8: Making Embossed Frames on the Cover

For the first time I tried making embossed details on the cover. I made a template on a piece of paper that would fit the cover, and decided to use the leftover cardboard from the sketchbook pads I had used for the paper in this book. I cut out 4 of them and glued 2 and 2 together, and then onto the covers. Again, I put it in the book press for an hour.

Step 9: Gluing Leather to the Spine

I don't have a jig for this either, so I'm using one of my book presses. I used black dyed sheepskin leather about 0.4mm thick for this book. I made sure to not glue the top and bottom edge of the spine now, as I need to fold them in later on. I used some thin cord to wrap around the edges while the glue dries to really make the ridges on the spine protrude properly.

Step 10: Covering Up With Leather

When the spine had dried I continued on to cover up the rest of the book. I folded in the leather at the top and bottom of the spine first, then glued it onto the covers. I spent quite some time rubbing the leather around the embossed cardboard to make sure that it would really protrude and to get rid of any air bubbles. When it looked nice and tight, I cut the edges around the book, applied some contact glue and folded the edges in. Finally I glued the covers to the end sheets.

Step 11: Attaching Corner Protectors

With the leather in place and the end sheets glued, I went on and hammered a few corner protectors in place with a rubber mallet.

Step 12: Leaf "gold" Decorations

To add some more detail, I made some lines of gold colored leaf metal on the covers and the spine. I marked the lines first, painted them with leaf primer and left it to dry for 20 minutes. Then I could go back and dab on the leaf metal. That has to dry for 24 hours, before finally being covered with coating varnish.

Step 13: Thick Leather Belt Strap

As a centerpiece and closing mechanism I made this leather belt strap with a decorative diamond shape on the front. This is made of 2 mm thick leather that is a bit rougher and very durable. I cut it to shape with a utility knife first, and then punched all the necessary holes with a hole punch. Then I stained it with extra black leather stain, and burnished all the edges with a burnishing tool and wax. Finally I added some leaf metal lines on this piece too, and riveted the belt buckle in place.

Step 14: Double Cap Rivets

Both as decorations and ways to attach the leather belt, I used some double cap rivets on the cover. I made a clean hole in the leather first using the hole punch, and then drilled a hole through. If you don't want visible rivets on the inside you can wait with gluing on the end sheets and attaching the corner protectors until the rivets are fastened, and glue the end sheets on top of them. In that case, it might be a good idea to countersink the rivets to make them less visible on the inside.

Before riveting the diamond shape on the belt strap I added some quick epoxy glue to the back side just to make sure it would stay flat against the surface. It's not really necessary to make it stick in place, though.

Step 15: Gluing the Stone to a Filigree

Again, I'm using quick epoxy to glue the amethyst stone to a fitting oval filigree. I've tested a lot of different types of glue, and figured this was the one that gave the best results overall.

Step 16: Final Assembly and Touches

The only thing left to do is attach the stone and some corner ornaments with quick epoxy, and treat the leather belt with some wax - and this book is complete!

Step 17: Result and Thoughts

I'm quite happy with how this book came out, and the level of detail on it. I'm really getting that black magic feel that I wanted, too. I'd like to hear your opinion on the project, and love to see if you've made anything similar. Hope it was worth the read and the scroll, thanks for having a look!

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