How to Make a Simple Hardcover Book.

You will need:

Sheets of paper to make the pages.

A slightly larger sheet of sturdy paper, to make the outer cover. Brown paper is excellent, and can be painted with indian ink or other waterproof pigments.

Two boards of hard card, to make the inner cover.

Two ‘tapes’ of flexible card, to hold the pages to the cover.

You will also need some fabric to re-enforce the spine. Use a non-flexible weave. Old bed sheets or pillowcases are perfect.

A craft knife for cutting the paper and boards, and a steel ruler of sturdy piece of wood to cut along.

Glue. (Pva or paste.)

A needle, and a heavy thread. (Waxed linen thread is best.)

A sharp object such as an awl or a nail, to punch holes.

Sheets of plastic, to insulate moisture from the glue, and stop it from spreading through the book as it dries. Overhead projection sheets are good, but any smooth plastic will do (e.g. plastic zip lock bags, old folder covers.)

A Note On Grain.

Most paper has a grain, which means that the fibers in the paper tend to line up in one direction. This gives the paper certain properties. Grained papers should always be folded along the grain. In a book, all grained papers and boards should be aligned vertically, with the grain parallel to the spine of the book. This is to avoid wrinkling and warping.
To test the grain of a paper, cut a small square, and lick one side like a stamp. It will curl around the grain. If you need to test a paper in a shop, where you cannot cut it, the grain is usually visible to the eye. Grained paper also has a distinct feel; the paper will bend more easily around the grain. Breathing warm breath onto paper will also result in a slight curling, which subsides after a short time.

The Construction

1. Cut segments of eight to twelve sheets, with the grain running parallel to the intended spine.

2. fold the segments over, along the grain. You can use the back of a spoon to flatten the folds.

3. Punch holes for sewing. Make a template using the tapes to measure. Make holes either side of the tapes, and one more at each end of the fold.

4. Thread the needle, and tie a knot at the end of the thread. Sew the segments together, following the diagram below.

a. Sew into the first hole, into the outer edge of the fold.

b,c. Insert the tapes. The thread should pass over the tapes, and hold them in place.

d. Insert segment two under the tapes, and sew the first hole.

e. Tie the thread around the tail at the first hole, before inserting the third segment.

f. After sewing along segment three, hook the thread under the join between the first and second segments. Repeat this step at the end of each segment.

g. When all the segments are in place, hook the thread under the previous join, and tie off the thread with a knot.

5. ‘Seal’ the spine with a thin layer of glue. Work it into the cracks, and coat the thread. This strengthens the sewing, and closes the spaces between the segments. Press the book flat under a pile of heavy books. Make sure the spine is pressed as flat as possible, as it will set into this form permanently. The final product is called a ‘book block’

6. Meanwhile, make your cover. Cut two boards, slightly larger than the book block, so that there is a small border on three sides of the book block.

7. Cut a large sheet of heavy paper, so that there is room to place the two boards side by side, with a space between them the width of the spine of the book block plus three times the thickness of the boards. There should be a border around the boards of about one inch. On the INSIDE of the paper, mark the positions of the boards, Cut the corners off, leaving a small space between the corner of the board and the cut.

8. Coat the paper with glue, and place the boards. Glue a strip of fabric between the boards. You may also, optionally, include a strip of card, to create a hard spine. The card should be the same width as the spine of the book block. Make sure all are glued down well. Fold the paper over, (1,2,3,4) You may now press the cover under some books, using sheets of plastic to cover the exposed wet areas, or simply continue on with the next step.

9. Now the book block can be glued into the cover. Under the first page of the book block, place a sheet of newspaper, and beneath that a sheet of plastic. Cover the page with glue. It is ok for the glue to pass over onto the newspaper. Glue down the tapes, and cover their backs with glue. Make sure the page is coated right to the edges, especially near the spine. Carefully lift the page, and remove the newspaper. Make sure the plastic is properly in place and drop the page back onto it. (The plastic stops the moisture from the glue spreading through the pages and causing them to wrinkle.) Drop the book block onto one side of the open cover, so that the spine is flush with the inside edge of the board, and there is an even boarder on the other three sides. If it is uneven, the cover may be carefully opened, and the page can be shifted slightly, or even removed for another attempt. Make sure the positioning is satisfactory before applying any firm pressure. Repeat the process with the other side. The only difference here is that the cover must be lifted up and placed against the top of the book block. Line the board with the spine, and lower it down.

10. Press the book under as much weight as possible. Position it on the edge of a table, so that the spine sticks out a little. (The idea is to line the edge of the table with the boards inside the cover.) If the spine is a soft one, it can be shaped while wet, and will set. Allow the book to ‘cure’ until it is totally dry. If it is removed too early, the cover will curl. A damp book feels cool to the touch, and will still smell like glue. Once it is dry, it should have a neutral temperature, and smell only very faintly of glue. When it is dry, remove the plastic sheets, and the book is complete.

Page Calculators for Multi-Segmented Books
and Single-Segmented Pamphlets

For Instructions on how to print multi-segmented books using a home computer, click here. This javascript page calculator includes instructions for formatting and printing a multi segmented book in WORD.

For a calculator for a simple single-segment pamphlet, click here.

For instructions on How to Make a Paperback Book By Hand , click here.


For more bookbinding techniques, visit these good pages on book repair .

Creative Commons License

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Feel free to use these instructions for any non-profit purposes. Reproduce and distribute freely. If you find these instructions useful, or have any suggestions, please let me know.

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