Introduction: How to Make a Book From a Book!

about five years ago, i taught myself the art of bookbinding, and it's become one of my favorite things to make for friends. i picked up this raggedy children's book at a thrift store, but the edges were pretty worn. so i sliced it up and recreated a smaller book from one that was at the end of its rope. this is how it all came to be: my new pocketsized jotbook.

Step 1: Find

this is the original cover in all its glam. the little plane was close enough to the binding, which wasn't torn or broken there, so that's why i bought it in the first place. the incredible pics inside will become parts of other books i'll make. i opened the cover and drew my knife down the fold, carefully to salvage the insides and the spine, then flipped to the end and did the same.

Step 2: Shred

the page that's left glued down needs to go, so i peeled at it until i had fresh layers on the boardstock. this will be fairly even since it pulls up the topmost layer the glue attached to.

Step 3: Cut

i gave it a good even cut below what i wanted, across both covers. i peeled back on the face until just below the plane, then measured and cut my new edge. if you go too far past, it can be glued back. don't fret. i did the same along the top and side, peeling and cut away the excess boardstock to frame out the plane. from there, i flipped it over and trimmed away the cover, leaving about 1/2" to fold over. at the four corners, i cut away the cover too. if you cut wider than 90-degree angles away, it keeps it from overlapping when you re-glue and looks cleaner.

Step 4: Stick

ah, bookbinding glue :) it's perfectly neutralized, dries acid free, and dries in about 15min. love the stuff. this part is where i glued that edge back down, then turned it over, and folded the cover over the boardstock. this gives it crisp lines once you do glue it down and keeps it from shifting. since the glue dries so fast, you have to be quick. once the edges were folded, i glued them, pressed with my fingers until it held, and threw a dictionary down until it dried. 

Step 5: Slice

while the cover is drying, i sorted through my stash of awesome pages i've saved from other book projects. i like a good assortment of pictures among my blank pages, like from children's readers from the 50s, or giant words in small books, maybe graph paper, comic pages, fingerprint analysis, science textbook pages, musicsheet, velum, couture fashion mag pages, topographical maps, fairytales in other languages, diagrams, manifestos... you get the idea. measure out the heighth of page you want - in this case i left about an 1/8"-edge from top to bottom, so the pages sit just a little inside the cover. then slice away. don't worry about the side opposite the spine, as you'll trim that later.

Step 6: Poke

arrange those beautiful pages into what are called "signatures." these are groups of four-to-five sheets, stacked one within the next, and folded over. i fold each sheet individually, then stack them, because i'm that detail-oriented. if you have a good panoramic pic, it's best put in the inside-most page of the signature, so its aesthetic isn't jeapordized. open up the signature, and poke an even number of holes with a thumb tack. this is where you'll sew it up. a stack of newspaper or bulletin board works well to cushion that pinstick from your workspace.

Step 7: Stitch

sewing the signatures isn't terribly hard, as long as you remember to start from the outside, and end on the outside. then you go to the next signature. if your needle leaves one signature at the top, it has to start at the top outside of the next signature. then bottom to bottom, until you have a neat stack of sewn paper. i clamp the stack and use my needle to go under each stitch and tighten them before i tie off.

Step 8: Paste

i trimmed those signatures up, now that they're sewn and clamped, and the next big step is toughening that spine. another layer of glue! lay it on thick here, so it goes between the signatures. cut a piece of scrap paper to glue over the top of the spine, and glue that down, as well, leaving about 1/8" folded over and glued down. i actually let it dry with the bulldog clamp vertical with the spine, to strengthen it, instead of how it's pictured. as that dries, cut a couple inside cover pages, and paste them down. the fold of the cover page should be near the spine of the cover, since that's where the bookpages will go, with a little more glue to hold it together.

Step 9: Slap

slap it all together. with precision, of course! another layer of glue to the spine, and press that down between the cover sheets. i add extra glue to the cover spine, also, and pinch it all together with a clamp to dry overnight.

Step 10: Bam!

one of the coolest things to wake up to after a late night project is the finished product! at about 2"x4", it doesn't crowd out my bag, and i have plenty of space to stash notes. it's a lot more sturdy than the book i bought at a thrift store, and completely customized with pages i handpicked. barely any tools, and if you can't find the glue, mod podge is a decent substitute. the overall cost was my time & effort. you've gotta try this :)