Introduction: Folding Book Art - Wedding Table Numbers

About: I studied Maths and Computing, worked in an Operation Research department, retrained as a civil engineer, worked on site for some major projects. I'm learning to be a structural engineer at the moment! I've al…

I am getting married soon and my fiance was looking at how to mark the table numbers.

The wedding is a village fete / vintage sort of theme. My wife to be is an english teacher, and we both like books...

As she was looking for inspiration she came across one of the folded books with words in. I'm sure you have seen them before, but if not check out this link:

At this point I thought "I can do that!". So I set about folding numbers in to the books instead of words...

After I had done my first number, I tried to search the Internet for instructions to see if there is a better way of doing it. I couldn't find instructions (without paying $15), just a couple of free templates (for a crown), but no instructions on how to use them.

So I stuck with my method, and this is what I will go through here.

In theory you should be able to use the same method for words or picture.

Date Made: May 2013
Approx Cost: £0.50 per book
Approx Time: 1.5 hours per book
Difficulty: Medium

Step 1: Acquire Books

I used hard back books as I thought it would give much more structure to it after it was all folded, meaning that it would stand up easier.

Originally I was going to do them all in books that mean something to us, but I decided against this in the end for two reasons
1. Cost - looking on eBay/amazon, hard back versions of the books I was after would soon of racked up.
2. It seemed a waste to ruin good books.

So I went to my local charity book store and asked them if they had any books they were throwing out.

I was lucky in the fact that I just happened to turn up the day before their recycling collection. The lady took me to a room out the back full of bags of books. She let me pick which books I wanted, and then just asked for a donation of £5 to the chairty - so 50p per book.

Since folding these books I have realised that you need to look for a few things in the books you choose though.
1. Make sure they are solid; solid spine, no pages falling out etc.
2. Make sure the pages aren't too thin. Don't pick any with that thin tracing paper style pages.
3. Make sure you have enough pages. I think 300 to 400 pages is about right.
4. Old/Discoloured/Gold Leaf Edge books are best, as you will get a contrast in colour to the folded edge. (Although some of the colour comes from the gap/shadow).

Step 2: Mark Number

I marked the edges of the pages with the number.

I did this by spreading the pages out first (by approx double) so that it gives a better idea of what the final number would look like. You can see that when the book is not spread, the number is very tall and narrow, this is how it should be, as the folding of pages will thicken it.

When spreading the pages, spread them from left to right (as per the photo with the blank pages) then draw the pencil marks from left to right also. This way the pencil marks will be on the front of each page so that you can see them when folding.

When marking the number, try to get a fine definitive line. I used a mechanical pencil to help with this. It will mean that you have a definitive point to fold, which will help the number edges to be much more even and precise with a better 'flow'.

I did mine by free hand, but you could use photoshop or something to change the aspect ratio, print it out, and then trace it on to the edge of the book. If you were doing a word or picture or something more complex, than this might be the way to go.

Step 3: Start Folding

Use the pencil marks to guide you as to where to fold the pages.

There should be 2 folds per page, one on each corner.

The edge of the book should remain in place where the number 'area' is.

If there is more than one 'area' on a page (e.g. the very edge of an 8), then you do not need to cut the page to fold it two ways, just alternative between the 'areas' on each successive page. The photos will probably explain it better than words!

I have added a video in the comments which will help too. check it out...

Step 4: Page Angle

You want the fold angle to be consistent from page to page.

I did this by always using a 45 degree fold as its easy to line up with the text of the book. Example on left of picture.

Where you do not have enough space to fold a 45 degree angle, fold the page so that the corner almost touches the back of the book. This will automatically give you a smooth transition between the pages. Example on right of picture.

Step 5: Repeat


Many times!

This is the part that takes the time and patience. Each book took me roughly 1.5 hours. But do it in front of the tv or something and it isn't that bad.

Obviously the more time you spend, and the more accurate you are, the better the final product. You can see that the 6 is a little shoddy as I rushed it (I swapped this for the 9 later as they looked better that way round). 

Step 6: Compress

The aspect ratio (ratio of width to height) of the number can be altered by compressing the book.

Squeeze it to find where your number looks best, and then hold this in place using an elastic band across the back of the book. The further towards the front you put the band, the more compressed it will be.

Play around til it looks the best. You may not need one at all, it's just a way of tweaking it if you wish.

Step 7: Tidy Up and Display

If there are pencil marks that remain on show, just erase them.

Display on your shelf, at weddings (as table numbers like we are), anywhere...

Vintage Contest

Runner Up in the
Vintage Contest

Epilog Challenge V

Participated in the
Epilog Challenge V