Sketchbooks and notebooks are wonderfully versatile. They make great presents and are simply good things to have on hand. Here, I'll show you how to make a book with a soft leather cover (rather than hard cover or paperback.)
Step 1: Gather Tools and Materials
Necessary tools: Drill, Ruler, and Scissors (shears are better).
Extremely helpful tools: Paper cutter, Vice.
Materials: Sheet of leather -Michael's sells surplus leather in cheap bags, Paper, Craft glue (elmers works fine), Waxed thread (or dental floss,) Small piece of thin fabric, sewing needle.
If you can't access a paper cutter, I think Kinkos will cut paper to precise dimensions, though they do charge a bit.
Step 2: Prepare Paper
First things first: If you can, find a paper cutter and cut your paper to the height and twice the width that you want your pages to be (I cut my paper to about 6"x8.5", so my book will be about 6"x4.25")
You don't necessarily have to cut paper- if you'd like, you can just use regular printer or grid paper (notebook paper should probably be cut, or the lines will end up sideways.)
Now, divide the papers into stacks of 8-10 pages. Here, I used four stacks of ten, so my book will have 80 pages. Neatly fold the stacks in half.
One at a time, place the stacks unfolded, with the inside pointing up and the crease between the two clamps of the vice. Mark points roughly .5" and 1.5" from the top and bottom of the paper, and drill at these points.
Step 3: The Spine (sort Of)
Cut a small piece of cloth so that it can fit between the centermost holes and so that it is about 2" long. Spread glue on the cloth and affix it to the back of the folded and drilled stacks.
If you prefer, the cloth can cover the entire back of the stacks, but I find that when it doesn't cover the holes, it is easier to sew the pages to the leather.
Step 4: Measure and Cut Leather
Measure the dimensions of a page.
Cut the leather to about 1/8" more than the pages height, and twice the pages width, with an additional 1" to make room for the back. Note: I added a little flap in on one end for a button to wrap around.
Much of the final appearance of your book is determined here. Before you cut your leather, consider if you would like to add some sort of fastener or have a simple strap that can be wrapped around the book to hold it closed. Of course, you can always just cut the leather to the ends of the paper for a simple, clean look.
Step 5: Glue and Sew Leather to Paper
Spread the glue thinly over the inside of the leather and carefully line up the front page with the edge of the leather - leave a small margin (it looks better)- and press the two together. After a few seconds, bring the leather over the spine and to the back page, again pressing the paper to the leather. It's important that you don't pull the leather too tightly over the paper or it will bend in an ugly way.
This is where it gets a bit tricky.
Poke a needle through the holes from the inside to mark on the outside of the leather where you need to sew.
You can sew the pages to the leather however you'd like, but this is how i did it:
Cut a length of thread(floss) considerably longer than the height of the book. Tie a knot in the end (three overhand knots on top of eachother.) From the outermost hole (bottom hole on the left,) put the needle from the outside of the spine, in and through the hole in the folded stack, then out from the hole an inch above it. Now bring the needle up and through the outside of the spine again, but through the top-middle hole of the next stack to the right. Pull the thread tight.
This part is tricky: Mark on the thread the distance to the last hole, and tie a single knot on the mark. Now, push the needle out through the final hole, and pull the knot through. With the thread pulled tight, tie another two overhand knots over the one already there so that it will not slip back through.
Repeat until all folds are bound to the leather.
Step 6: BAM
If you chose to simply cut the leather to the size of the paper, then you are simply need to clean up any rough edges. If it doesn't lie flat, put some books on it for a while to flatten it out.
I chose to add a button so that it will stay closed, but there are countless things you could add to bring some life to it or make it better suit your needs.
I hope you've found this interesting and enjoyable. With just a little practice, you can greatly reduce time and difficulty, which you might find off-putting at first.