Book Press





Introduction: Book Press

About: I work as an engineer. I am slowly building my home machine shop (and skills). I like to tinker and make, but I'm mostly on the mechanical side of things. I work with FIRST robotics teams. Always looking to ...

You can press a book with just weights, but this is a much nicer and professional way to press books for book repair. My wife is a librarian graduate student, and wanted to repair the old fashion "paper" books. I was going to get her a book press, but they are very expensive. I thought I could make one that would cost less than buying one.... and I did it!

Step 1: Gather the Parts.

I had to ask my wife what size books she'd be pressing. She told me that most books are 30cm tall, or less. So I designed for 1 foot of book. If you are going to press bigger books, you might have to alter some of these dimensions. But that's what I built.

You'll need several parts from your local hardware store or hobby store. Here's what I used, although you might have to alter the list slightly based on what you find. Oh yes, I don't know why, but every book press I saw on line used brass strips. I understand that the 1/8" thickness and the 1/8" overhang are important for making the crease in the spine... but I don't know what brass is important.

Materials for platens (plates)
(4) 1'X1'X3/4" wooden boards
(20) Brass screws
(4) 1 foot long brass strips, 1/8" thick, 1" wide

Materials for Press
(2) 3/4" pipe clamps, with slide lock and clamp on the same side.
(2) 3/4" black pipes, 12" or 18" long - YOU CHOOSE! :)
(2) 3/4" black pipe caps
(2) 3/4" black pipe flanges
(1) piece of wood for the base - I used a 2x6 about 20" long
(1) piece of metal - I used a steel U-channel
(8) 1/4-20 bolts, 1" long
(8) 1/4-20 nuts
(16) 1/4" washers

Tools that might help
Wood saw
Drill with various drill bits
Center Punch
Sand paper
Screw driver
Rotary Tool

Step 2: Make the Press Plates.

The first thing to make are the press plates (or platens).

In my press, I am making 12"X12" plates. Sand them down so they are real smooth. Then sand them again. You don't want to get any splinters in your book cover.

Next, draw a line down the center of the brass strip and punch and drill 5 evenly spaced holes in the brass strip. I know - I didn't get mine evenly spaced. Drill pilot holes into the wood if necessary. Then screw the brass strip to the wood. Make sure it's centered both vertically and horizontally. You want, ideally, 1/8" on the top and bottom of the plate.

That was easy. I made 4 of them so I could press 3 books at a time. You really only need 2, but as long as you are making them, might as well make a few. Remember, you need one plate on the top and bottom of the book to make the spine crease.

Step 3: Make the Press Base.

The base of the press needs to be made next. I used a spare piece of 2X6 left over from my work bench.

You'll need to find the center of the wood. Next you'll need to find out where you need to put the center of the pipes. The easy way to do this is to take one of your plates and lay it down on the wooden base. Then take the 3/4" pipes and place them on either side of the plates. Give yourself some space between the plates and pipes. 1/4" to 1/2" should be good. You don't need to worry about the pipe flanges, because we'll mount them under the base. It is a bit more difficult, but it makes a more compact press design.

Drill holes so the 3/4" pipe just about fits through the base. It'll be about 1".

Now the hardest part - you need to cut pockets into the bottom of the base for the flanges to fit into. I did mine with a router, but it doesn't need to be pretty - you just need to allow the flanges to fit in and lay flat. (That, and mine aren't that pretty - the camera hides my many gouges and screw ups.) Depth isn't that important - as long as you can get a nut and washer in. (Or use furniture pads to raise the base up a bit - that's what I did.)

Once you have the pockets made, you are done with the base - this was the hardest part. Good job!

Step 4: Add the Posts.

Now we should add the posts to the base.

Push the pipe through the holes, and thread them into the flanges.



Tighten. (Can you tell I had some problems with the step? It took alot of elbow grease, because the hole in the wood was just smaller than the pipe.)

From the bottom of the base, drill holes for the flange.
Countersink the holes from the top of the base, so the bolts don't interfere with the plates.

And put the bolts, washers, and bolts on to hold the flanges in place.

That was easy, wasn't it?

Step 5: Cutting the Metal Crossbar.

Now we need to cut the metal crossbar. This is a very important part, as it spreads out the pressure and prevents that pipes from bending outward. (I added this part after I finished to fix this exact issue. Oops - Live and learn.)

I may have lied earlier when I said you already did the hardest part. (Back in step 3) This CAN be hard if you want it to be hard.

You need to measure the distance between the pipes fairly accurately. in order to find the location for the crossbar holes. If you get it slightly off, it's OK. You need some slop in the holes anyway to help slide the cross bar up and down.

This is the hard part. Once you have the locations for the holes, drill them. It will be about 1" in diameter. If you have a stepped drill bit, this will go easier. Don't try to just drill a 1" hole into steel. It's just not worth it. In fact, that's about the best way. Hole saws will hate you... don't use a wood bit... I had a 3/4" stepped bit, and then I cut the rest with a rotary tool. My drill press wouldn't do it, and my mill was in many pieces.

Once you get the hole cut, fit the crossbar on the pipes. Make sure it slides up and down freely. Grind it down and clean it up to make it slight up and down freely, but don't make it too loose. If it's too loose, it won't support the pipes when it is under pressure.


Step 6: Putting It All Together.

Now we'll put it all together.

Slide the crossbar onto the posts.

Slide the pipe clamps on.

Screw the caps onto the ends of the pipes.

How easy is that?

Step 7: Using the Press.

Using the press is rather easy. Just slide a plate between the pipe posts. Put your book that needs pressing onto the plate, with the brass plate pressing into the spine. Put another plate on. Slide the crossbar down. Slide the pipe clamps down. And tighten the screws. So easy a kitten can do it!

OK, that doesn't tell you how to repair a book. That's a story for another instructable.

Or you can check out these links:
University of Illinois
Northwestern University

Thanks for checking this out. Let me know what I can improve for other guides for the future. I'll try to add more to my website, located at: Sally's Gecko Ranch (



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    23 Discussions

    These are even better. Pricey, but for 100 bucks worth of clamps and a little wood you've have a much better press than the cheap commercial ones.

    If you put a "spreader bar" btween the tops of the pipes , nice and snug, the fit of the "press bar" (if you even need it) is no longer critical. I'd make the plates of 1 inch Baltic birch ply - possibly 2 layers glued together - it will NEVER warp!.


    1 year ago

    I would love to make a book press to make booklets to give away as gifts

    This is several months later and the press I built worked pretty well but over time the pipes began bending outward, and the top granite tile I had underneath the 3/4" wood cracked down the middle under the U-channel bar. So I replaced that granite tile with a 1/4" thick 12" X 12" stainless steel plate, a bit pricey, ($142.00!), but it's smooth and will never crack or rust!. All these extra costs make it much more expensive than the original instructable, but I liked the way it worked so much I thought it was worth the extra money and tweaking to keep using it. I also put a 12" pipe in the middle at the top between two 90 degree elbow pipes to stop the outward bending. By the way I didn't mention it before but I used galvanized pipes, flanges and caps to prevent rusting. Hope this is useful.

    One purpose of the brass plates is because it is easier to remove glue from metal than from wood and the metal can be more easily cleaned.

    Hi, I'm a little late commenting, I only saw this instructable a couple of months ago. It looked far better and lower cost than the commercially available presses, and look much sturdier than other do-it-yourself presses. So I built one with a few modifications. I made the base as big as the 12" press pieces as another person had commented to do, and I also got two 1/4" thick 12" x 12" highly polished black granite floor tiles and polyethylene glued them to the 3/4" 12" x 12" plywood press pieces. They only cost about $5 each and it solved the problem of getting a really smooth surface. I kept your wood pieces to better spread the load forces so the granite wouldn't crack. For smooth book covers in addition to the tiles I sandwich the book between two sheets of silicon release paper, one top and one bottom, to make sure the cover can't possibly stick to the tiles. My total cost in materials was $95, and lots of sweat equity. I've used it for a couple of months and so far it's worked great, thanks.

    ...sorry I missed out the rather crucial word 'glue' from my post (blush).

    Great project, thanks for sharing. I think the brass is used in these presses because the is often water based paste, p.v.a etc. around and steel would rust and contaminate the covers whereas brass doesn't react in the same way. Any UK users ideas for sourcing?

    Hey this thing would be great for small veneering projects! Thanks for sharing!

    This is great! I'm a trained book conservationist, and I have had lots of experience with book presses. I wish the shop on my old college campus had seen this Instructible. The press they made for me was terrible.

    1 reply

    Thanks! Being an engineer, I didn't know all the in's and out's of conservation, preservation, etc... but now that my wife is getting her MLS, I hear about it at the dinner table. And I've learned that conservation is TOTALLY different than what she does - but she still wants to play conservationist (Actually, Preservationist) at home. Thanks for the comment!!

    This is great! There's nothing complicated about book-presses in geneneral, and your solution is elegant, simple, and achievable with only very basic hand-tools. I helped someone make one a couple years back ... this is better. The only improvement I'd make is perhaps making the bed larger so it could be used to press at the bindings and still support the leafs! Nice work!

    1 reply

    Thanks! Yeah - I wasn't sure how big to build it. The original design was not going to have the crossbar, so I wanted to make it as small as possible so the clamp surfaces were as close to the middle of the book. But that wasn't going to work. The first time I tightened it down, the pipes started to spread apart. With the cross bar, I could go alot bigger. Also, If I used longer pipes I could do a taller stack of books. (This provides LOTS of pressure - didn't measure it of course.)

    What is this for? Is it to flatten the wrinkled pages or to keep the book together while a new binding is put in? Not into book repair, so I really couldn't imagine how it works. Great Ible though!

    1 reply

    It's for repairing books. For example, if you were reconstructing a book cover, you would press it overnight to make sure the glue adheres and that the book keeps its new shape.

    So easy a kitten can use it? I can't wait to try this!

    Great job! I've been trying to design something like this using cheap "quick grip" clamps. The brass plates for glueing hardback books is just what I needed! In excange, here's one thought for your design. On the opposite side across the bottom, you could add an even wider brass plate (and perhaps a short one on one corner). That way you'll have a flat surface/corner for aligning the pages when glueing a paperback! ;)

    1 reply

    That's a good idea! My wife is going to start using it for any internship, and we might put that extra bar in on one of the plates. That should be easy to put in.

    Nice one. Just a nit picky comment. At the beginning you make it sound like you are not using clamps, but clearly you are. Even still I like that application for the clamps. Got me thinking of other uses for a similar device to make repairs around the house.