Home Made Book Rebinding




About: I'm Giuseppe, Ph.D., software engineer at 34BigThings, an indie game studio based in Turin, Italy.

I've found a couple of reading books from my mother's primary school. I like them for their graphic layout and pictures but they are in bad conditions. Both have lost their paperback covers and one is about to lose some pages because of broken binding threads.

I'm going to restore these books. I'll make a full book rebinding for the one which is loosing pages and then I'll make two fabric covered hardcovers for both.

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Step 1: Tools and Materials

Here is a list of tools and materials I will use on this project:

  • PVA glue
  • 2 wooden boards
  • 2 C-clamps
  • Paper clamps
  • A twine spool
  • Some fabric for the book's cover
  • Book spine binding gauze or linen tape to reinforce the spine
  • Linen thread for sweing
  • A sewing needle
  • Headbands to decorate the spine
  • A satin ribbon for the bookmark
  • Book boards or cardboard sheets for the book cover
  • 2 sheets of 120 g/m2 A3 paper for the flyleaves
  • Some strips of bookbinding clothes for the spine

Step 2: Preparing the Signatures

Let's start resewing the book with the broken threads.

First of all, I removed the binding thread by cutting it from the middle pages of each signature (signatures are sheets of paper stacked and folded as a group).

Then I created the top and bottom flyleaves. They are two special signatures, made of a couple of sheets of thick paper, placed at the top and bottom of the stack of signatures which compose the book. They will hold the book's cover which will be glued to the first and last page of the book. I made each copule of flyleaves by folding and cutting an A3 sheet of paper of 120 g/m2 grammage.

Step 3: Preparing the Spine

Now that the signatures and the flyleaves are ready, the spine must be prepared for the sewing phase by making some cross cuts that will be used to host some twine threads. These threads will provide support for the linen thread which will run into the signatures.

I've created a sort of vise using two wooden boards and two c-clamps. Once the signatures and the flyleaves were stacked together and clamped in the vise, I hanged the book over two chairs and cut four small grooves with a hacksaw. These grooves should be cut in between the leftmost and rightmost holes from the original binding; I will reuse these holes during the sewing phase, hence I added two holes for each flyleaves couple, aligned with them.

Step 4: Making a Bookbinding Loom

Now the signatures are ready to be sewed. I've made a bookbinding loom for this operation. I attached two wooden boards to a chair's back with some tape. After putting the book on the chair’s seat I clamped four piece of twine to the boards and aligned them to the four grooves in the spine. The sewing thread will pass inside the signatures and around these cords as we’ll see in the next steps.

Step 5: Sewing the Signatures

Now we can start sewing. I've put an animated gif you can follow along which shows the path of the thread through the signatures and the twine columns. 6 holes will be used for each signature: the leftmost and rightmost from the original binding where the linen thread will enter and exit; and the 4 holes in the middle, made by the grooves, where the twine threads will be hosted.

Here are the sewing steps:

  • Insert the linen thread in a sewing needle.
  • Put one of the flyleaves signatures on the chair, aligning the 4 holes from the grooves with the vertical twine threads.
  • Insert the needle in the leftmost hole of the signature, exit from the second hole, walk around the twine column and go back into the second hole.
  • Exit from the third hole and do the same thing again.
  • Go on until you exit fro the rightmost hole.
  • At this point put the first book signature over the flyleaves signature, aligning its holes to the twine columns.
  • Insert the needle into its rightmost hole and do the same things you did before, but this time going from right to left.
  • After completing this signature, exiting from the leftmost hole, tie the thread to the one exiting from the hole below. This will ensure the first two signatures to be well tied together.
  • Continue with all the other signatures. Make a tie with the signature below every time you exit from the side holes.
  • After sewing the top flyleaves signature you are done. Now remove the book from the loom and cut the twine threads, leaving 3 centimeters on each side.
  • Unravel the pieces of cord and glue them to the flyleaves.

Step 6: Finishing the Spine

Now it is time to reinforce the spine and attach the headband decorations and the bookmark ribbon.

Cut a strip of bookbinding gauze and wrap it over the spine. Make sure the gauze is covering the glued cords on the sides of the book. Clamp the book into the vise and put some coats of glue on the gauze. Wait for the glue to dry, then attach the bookmark ribbon and the headbands to the spine.

Now remove the book from the vise and glue the sides of the gauze to the flyleaves. This will ensure a strong connection between the book and the flyleaves, where the hardcover will be attached.

Step 7: Making the Hardcover

I bought some pre-cut book boards from a typographer for the hardcover, but you can use some cardboard sheets and cut it by yourself. I put a small strip of cardboard on the spine part of the cover. To connect the three parts of the cover I used some booking cloth which is strong and flexible enough to hold the front and back cover while opening the book. Make sure to put enough padding between the spine and the covers to allow the book to close fine.

First I glued the fabric on the book boards, leaving the space for the bookbinding cloth. The I glued the bookbinding cloth, overlapping a bit of the fabric. When the glue was dry, I finally glued the cover on the flyleaves.

After finishing the hardcover, I put a couple of sticks on the spine sides and then kept the book for some time under some weight to give the spine its final shape.

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    12 Discussions


    4 months ago

    Fascinating! I have, as I'm sure many of us do, paperbacks and even hardcovers that are falling apart - now I can make them better so they last until my kids have to figure out what to do with them!


    1 year ago

    Nice job. Any suggestion for printing on the spine with gold leaves in a not expensive way?

    1 reply
    Giuseppe Portellizimmazam

    Reply 1 year ago

    There is a nice and inexpensive technique to apply a foil to a sheet of paper. You first print your text using a laser printer. Then apply the foil using heat and pressure with a laminator or an iron; the laser printer ink will work as some kind of glue.

    Here we need to apply a foil to a bookbinding cloth, so we can't use a laser printer. You could create a stencil from the text and use it to apply some spray glue to the spine. Then attach the foil to the glue. But creating a stencil by hand is difficult if you don't use a cnc machine.

    Typographers use metal stamps and presses for this kind of work. But they usually work also with special printers for cheap book foiling. You could bring your bookbinding cloth to a typographer to apply the gold foil before cutting it to measure for your spine. It should be as fast and cheap as making a color print in a copy shop.


    1 year ago

    Is the basis for this Coptic Binding. If so, I've made a book without the loom but under strict guidance fro my tutor Alie Snow. Great to be able to use the skills to fix an old keepsake. Made some lovely books with Alie, a great NZ artist.

    1 reply
    Giuseppe PortelliTeresaB112

    Reply 1 year ago

    Coptic binding uses only one type of thread, attaching each signature using chain stitch linkings across the spine. In european binding, which I'm using here, the sewing is made around cords across the spine. Apart from the cords, the sewing phase is similar.


    1 year ago

    This is an excellent tutorial. Every household is sure to have a collection of books that need to be restored. The procedure is explained very nicely and the requirements are simple. Thank you for sharing such a valuable guide.

    Doug W

    1 year ago

    Being a printer for over 40 years It is Great to see someone undertake a very old and meaningful tradition of book binding.

    GREAT JOB !!!


    Alaskan Bev

    1 year ago

    I have four of my grandmother's old Bibles (written in Norwegian and dated back into the mid-1800s) that desperately need rebinding. I've been scared to death to do them, although I have rebound other less important volumes. Thank you for all the encouraging, user-friendly ideas! Good on ya!


    1 year ago

    Great Instructions, I did some binding years ago but had forgot the details. Your method is better and even better than some commercial bindings I have seen.


    1 year ago

    Handsome job and good explanation...thanks!


    1 year ago

    Great great job !! Quite clear and useful explanations ! Thanks a lot, you made me save many old familly books, and a lot of money !!


    1 year ago

    That's so neat that you could restore them, those are an awesome keepsake :)