How to Bind a Paperback Into a Hardback (single Sheet Binding)




Introduction: How to Bind a Paperback Into a Hardback (single Sheet Binding)

About: Action pig loves truth, justice, and his new jig saw.

Hello friends!  This is a simple (but time intensive) way to pay tribute to that paperback you've read a thousand times.   While not perfect, it has saved a few of my very favorites and is also a useful way to bind notebooks without having to fold signatures.  The pictures in this instructable are from a notebook I sewed using this method.

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Step 1: What You Will Need

  • Sewing needles
  • Thread -something strong.  Traditional bookbinding uses linen thread.  I have found that quilting and upholstery thread, which is thicker than sewing thread, works well.
  • X-acto knife or razor blade
  • Thick paper (for the template)
  • Decorative paper (for the end papers)
  • Binders board (a compact sort of cardboard.  In practice you can use plastic, mat-board, and even wood, with varying quality results.)
  • Book-cloth (This is special cloth with a paper backing that prevents glue from coming up through the fibers. If you are doing a soft cover binding, any kind of cloth or leather will work).
  • Glue (traditionally, bookbinders use wheat paste, a slow drying glue made from vegetable starch and water.  PVA is often used - this is a white glue that is a lot like Elmers glue, but a little more flexible.  It is un-reversible, meaning that once PVA is applied, it can never be undone.  Still, I've used Elmers glue in a lot of projects, and it works just fine.)
  • Cheese cloth (used to reinforce the spine)

Step 2: About This Method

As I mentioned above, this method is definitely not perfect.  Because of the way the pages are grouped and sewn together, they tend to end up offset and not perfectly aligned.  You should also consider what type of paper you are re-binding.  Most paperbacks are made with very low quality paper that will not outlast time, even if your binding will.  Also, this method will use up a little bit of whatever margin your book has.  If your paperback has a thin margin, this will make the book hard to open.  A wide margined book or a notebook works well with this method.  With a wide margined book, this method actually opens pretty flat, which makes it great for notebooks.

Also, please note that this instructables is just about preparing the text block.  There are some wonderful instructables on how to complete a book by adding end-papers and covers.  I've listed a few below:

For a traditional cover attached by gluing boards to end-papers:

For a soft-cover addition (this method would require some modification with single sheet binding, but I have done something similar)

Step 3: Remove the Cover and Separate

This step is as simple as cutting off the front and back covers of your paperback and cutting away the spine.  Because your paperback is most likely perfect bound with glue, you will need to cut away the spine.  An X-acto knife or razor blade works nicely.  It is a good idea to save the front and back cover if you want to attach them to the hard back later.  

You are going to be sewing the pages together in groups (or signatures).  Instead of drilling through the text block all at once, which is both messy and imprecise, you are going to be poking holes through the pages with a needle.  I do 10 pages in a group.  Any more and it gets hard to poke the holes.

Step 4: Poke Poke Poke Poke

First you need to make a template.  I like to do holes at 0.25 inches from the top and bottom of the book and every 0.5 inches in-between.  I poke the holes 0.25 inches from the spine.  The more holes you poke, the longer this is going to take, and the stronger your book will be.

This is the most frustrating and painful step.  Got a thimble?  Get it out.  It is best to do this one group of pages at a time as it helps the pages stay together when you sew them.  

Step 5: Sewing

Whip stitching is a simple, quick way to sew anything together.  Basically, in whip stitching you are going to thread from bottom to top of each hole.  In bookbinding, you are going to use this stitch to attach signatures together one at a time.  

First, tie a knot in your thread and whip stitch the first signature together.  At the last hole, add the second signature, and whip stitch both signatures at the same time.  If you go left to right on the first signature, when you add the second signature you will be sewing right to left.  This is what causes the pages to be offset from each other, as each stitch pulls the signatures right or left.  Sew two signatures together each time through: for instance, signatures 1 and 2 will be sewn together, then 2 and 3, then 3 and 4, etc.  

Edit:  Sew them loose!  After you sew 2 and 3 together, you will need enough room between 2 and 3 to sew 3 and 4 together.  I sew everything very loose, then tighten everything after I am finished with those signatures (for instance, you can tighten the sewing between 1 and 2 once you have started sewing 3 and 4).  

After you add the last signature, tie it off, and give your fingers a rest.  

Step 6: Finishing the Text Block

If you decide to do a traditional hard cover binding, you need to reinforce the spine after sewing.  For the Count of Monte Cristo I glued cheese cloth to the back with PVA, rounding the spine as it glued.  I glued decorative papers to the front and back, and used these to attach the cover (this method has a soft spine).

For A Little Princess, I reinforced the spine like the Count of Monte Cristo, but added a strip of binders board to make a hard spine.  I glued the original front and back covers onto the finished product.  Note: the hard spine made this book harder to open.  I don't recommend it.  

For the notebook, I added a hinge to the text block as I sewed.  This was as simple as adding a saddle stitch to attach the cloth after whip stitching the first and last signatures.  I sewed additional material to this hinge and sewed the material to plastic covers scavenged from a different notebook.  This is a non-adhesive binding, which I vastly prefer over using glue.  

Done and done!  Add a pretty cover and enjoy your shiny new hardback book.

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    6 Discussions


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I'm a little confused here. For the signatures do I running stitch each signature then whip stitch the pairs, or just whip stitch 1 then 1+2, 2+3 etc.?

    action pig
    action pig

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    It's the second idea - start with one, then one and two, then two and three together.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Good job to preseve books in outdoor extreme conditions
    I do something like that with my paperbacks and I use cardboard from tetrapacks, I mean two liters empty briks of fruit juice, milk or whatever. There are different thikness, colours ecc. of the cardboard, depends on brand and product contained. Cotton medical gauze should be considered for glued reinforging, I used a soft hotmelting glue with pretty good results.

    action pig
    action pig

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Interesting, I've never tried a hotmelting glue with books. Cotton medical gauze is a really good idea - it is definitely more accessible than cheese cloth most of the time.