Introduction: Guestbook + Wedding Album

I'm no wedding expert, but I have a lot of facebook friends from small towns in the midwest (and I suppose I am reaching the more nationally accepted age at which to wed) and I am no stranger to Pinterest.

With this said, it seems like there has been a popular trend as of late, of eschewing the stuffy old guestbook, and instead, having your guests sign something that you can display on your wall. You know, something really creative and different, just like everyone else is doing.

Well, I think that persuaded me to go right back to that old tradition, and think about how it could be more useful. Let's make the wedding and marriage accouterments more efficient, by combing the guestbook and the wedding album*.

*Yeah, there's probably no reason for either of these things anymore. Who prints photos out? Doesn't everyone just insist all of their guests get that Instagram rip-off made for weddings now? But, the 'ible must go on...

Step 1: Tools and Materials

Sorry, I don't really have photographs of the tools and materials all laid out pretty!

Design: A computer / tablet with a vector drawing or CAD program. I used Adobe Illustrator. It would also be helpful to have a printer.

Access to a laser-cutter: I ordered my cuts through, easy-peasy.

Additional Materials:

  • Polyurethane
  • Book-binding tape
  • Book cloth
  • PVA glue
  • A transparency sheet
  • The posts for post binding (found at scrapbook supply stores)
  • Plastic sleeves to fit the post-style binding (also at the scrapbook store)
  • Some sheets for guests to sign. These can be lined, special paper, whatever - go nuts!
  • A photo of the happy couple! If you're making this as a gift, I suggest using the couple's announcement or another nice photo. They can replace it with a favorite from their wedding later, but it'll really look great when they receive the gift, and also on display to sign at the wedding!


  • Rulers
  • Sandpaper
  • Foam brushes
  • Bone folder
  • Awl
  • Screw driver

Step 2: Making the Design

I purchased one set of the photo sleeves and a pair of post screws from Michael's to make my measurements. The book shown uses the 12" inserts.

I drew out one of the photo sleeves in illustrator, and added 0.25" around all sides for the cover. I split a thin piece with the screw holes away from the cover, to make the deep spine required for post binding (this line came from the margin of the photo pages, and hopefully will make more sense when you see photos of the bound book). I printed a test sheet to make sure the screw holes were spaced correctly, a vital step! They were spaced fine, but I realized I wanted to move them to the left a bit. Next, I copied and mirrored the front cover to make a back cover. I also added a line to each cover, near the binding, as a guide for the bookcloth. Note, this line was not set up to cut all the way through.

Then, I decorated the covers. As per my mock-up, I removed a rectangle for a photograph of the couple. I also inset another rectangle to serve as a guide for cutting the matte later. I placed the couple's first names above the rectangle, and their wedding date below. I was in good shape at this point, but I decided I needed to make it even more their style and special. I used the pen tool to trace a mason jar (my personal feelings about mason jars aside), then I drew a petal, duplicated it into a flower, and then duplicated that into three inflorescences. I added stems and leaves. Then I had to break up and remove a lot of paths.

I am used to drawing for print, but when designing for a laser, you need to think like a laser. So after reading a ton of Ponoko FAQs and watching a bunch of their helpful videos, I put on some Major Lazer and got to work cleaning my file up. This consisted of removing paths behind objects with white fill (basically, always set your fill color to none), setting my paths to the right color codes for the amount of material I wanted the laser to remove (way to start in a CMYK file and move to a RGB template, Laura), and making sure to line up my covers well on my material (being conscious of grain direction and sharing a cutting edge!). And after all this, I still got an email from a Ponoko designer letting me know that I still had some stacked cutting lines to fix.

Step 3: Prepping the Wood

*Laser cutting montage fades out*

Sorry, I can't shed any light on laser settings, this is why I use Ponoko. Outsourcing is the best sometimes.

I was so excited, that in peeling the sticker off the bamboo, I eded up with a lot of little slivers (or maybe this always happens with the bamboo). I used 400 grit to sand the covers smooth without surrendering any of my lasered design, followed by a nice coat of water-based polyurethane (it doesn't yellow like the other kind!). I did this process four times, but I think it looked better after three. Two notes: Do not put poly on the areas where book cloth will be glued down. I used blue tape to block these areas off, going right to the guideline I burned into the covers. Also, I the polyurethane did seem to pick up and move some of the burn discoloration, so if you like the darker look in the letters, you may need to find a way to preserve it, or get in there with some stain before applying the poly.

Step 4: Time to Bind!

Ok, I hope I can explain this part. I have bound a few books before, but this was my first time dealing with post bindings, and the "hinge" that ends up on each cover took me a minute to get right. To simplify these instructions, I am going to call the skinnier pieces with the holes for the posts "spine parts".

I chose to use book binding tape to hold everything in place while applying the book cloth, and to add some strength. I spaced my covers from the parts that hold the posts by the thickness of the bamboo. For the hinge to work properly, the piece of tape on the front has to be flat, while the piece of tape on the inside needs to be worked into the gutter. You can accomplish this by gently folding the spine part towards the front cover, and taping over the now exposed inside of the hinge. I don't have pictures of this maneuver with the tape, but a similar set of steps is followed with the book cloth

The book cloth needs to be planned out so that it is wide enough to cover from the guideline on the covers, around the spine part, to at least cover about a quarter inch on the inside cover (remember to allow length to fill the inside of the hinge again, about 3 x the wood thickness). The cloth on the outside needs to be tall enough to wrap the cover, plus a bamboo thickness and about a quarter inch at the top and bottom, to wrap the inside cover nicely. The cloth that will wrap behind the spine part only needs to be as tall as the covers, as shown in the photographs.

Deep breath. It's time to glue.

Glue one section at a time. I started with just the front cover and front spine. Thinly spread the PVA glue over both surfaces that you plan to glue. Let the glue partially set up, so that it is tacky, then carefully lay your book cloth onto the cover right where you want it. Grab your bone folder and apply pressure all over the cloth to get a good bond. Keep working by wrapping and gluing the cloth around the other side of the spine as shown. Hold the hinge all the way open to glue the book cloth in their nicely, then glue the last bit of that end to the inside cover.

If you haven't yet, trim the corners of the book cloth as shown. Apply glue to the top or bottom flap, and follow along with the photos, tucking in the tiny corner at the outside edge, and getting the spine part glued before moving inwards.

Step 5: Inset the Cover Photo Protector and Finish!

I cut a transparency (I wish I had thought to laser some acrylic to the same size) and some extra book cloth for the "matte", and used some of the nylon tape to affix them to the back of the front cover. I sized a piece of card-stock to act as a vehicle for the front photo, so it can be changed when they get their wedding prints. I attached the engagement photo they sent out with their invitations to the card stock.

Next, you can glue your inside cover book cloth in, in the same manner as demonstrated for the outside, letting the glue tack up first. Remember not to put any glue down where the card stock will slide into the frame!

Once your glue has dried, use an awl to poke through the book cloth on the spines covering the post holes, and gently stretch the holes out to accommodate the posts.

Then, insert your posts and photo pages, add some sheets for signatures, and you are ready to show off!

Sorry, I guess I got a little lazy with the finishing photos.

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