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Knotty Kneat Stuff

Bookbinding (Part IV)

BINDING [This is It Folks!]

NOTE: ALL instructions here are for a full size (5½ x 8½) book with 8½ x 11 sheets, and using mounting film, not glue, to attach the skins and top & bottom sheets.

Items Needed for Binding:

  • Slightly heavier paper (preferably bond, colored or uncolored) for top & bottom sheets
  • Cover Boards (2)
  • Cover Skin (Colored Cover Stock or Heavy Bond Paper/Fabric/Leather)
  • Cloth Tape (Permanent)
  • Permanent adhesive Mounting Film (HIGHLY recommended over glue for applying Cover Skin to Cover Boards)
  • Steel Straight-Edge (Ruled)
  • Sharp X-ACTO Knife (& Sharp Scissors don’t hurt to have handy; paper cutters are nice too)
  • Cutting Mat (Not the Cutting Board from your Kitchen)
  • Plenty of Flat Surface Area (w/ room for a mess)

Cut the Cover Boards to size. 5⅜ x 8¾ works great. You may have to cut these from a large sheet of Book Board using an X-ACTO (or Utility Knife) and Steel Straight-Edge. It’s tough stuff, but it’s got to be done. The 2 boards must match in size as perfectly as possible. Smooth down any raised lips at the cut edges (press or sand them down).

Cut 2 sheets of mounting film in the exact size of the Cover Boards (5⅜ x 8¾). Peel 1 side only and affix 1 sheet to 1 side of each of the 2 Cover Boards. No blisters! And press them down firmly all over. The sides with the film on them will be the outsides of the top & bottom Cover Boards. Set them aside for bit.

Grab your Cover Skin, knife, edge and cutting board. Measure the width of the glued spine of the text block, and add ⅝” to that spine width. Lay the Cover Boards out, filmed side down in portrait orientation, on the underside of the skin with a space between them equal to the spine width + ⅝”. Align them nice and straight, and make sure the 2 edges closest to each other are the spaced apart as described and perfectly parallel.

Now mark/trace all edges (at least the corners). Use the knife & edge to cut the skin into 1 big rectangle, leaving a border of about ½” all around the 2-Board & Spine Gap arrangement.

Now, pick up 1 of the Cover Boards, peel the backing off the mounting film and affix in the exact place where it just was. Use your traced outlines. Repeat with the other Cover Board.

You may wish to fill the spine space, Board-to-Board, with cloth tape, or use some mounting film to affix some card stock. Fill the entire gap with a neat-fitting rectangle with no overlapping material in there.

Cut strips of mounting film about ½” wide. Cut the ears (corners) off the skin about ⅛” away from the outer corners of the Cover Boards. Affix the film strips, with no overlapping, all around the ½” border. Peel the backing off of the strips along 1 of the 4 borders. Fold the border up and affix to the Cover Board nice & tight. Repeat with all borders, 1 at a time, tucking the corners under as neatly as possible, but do not stick the skin down on the spine area yet. That’s next.

Cut a (another) strip of cloth tape about ½” wider than the spine gap and affix it over, but elevated above, the spine gap, with ¼” of tape affixed to the each Cover Board forming a canopy over the spine gap. The tape should run from the top & bottom edges of the skin where they are folded over the top & bottom portions of the spine gap. Now, peel the remaining backing off the skin border sections over the spine gap, flip the paneled assembly over and press the skin down onto the tape and skin border sections underneath. Try to get a good crease along the edges of the Cover Boards where they meet the spine gap. Press firmly and flip back over.

Take your 2 sheets of slightly heavier 8½ x 11 paper (preferably bond, colored or uncolored) to use as your top & bottom sheets. Fold them in half, separately, forming 5½ x 8½ folios. Cut 2 strips of mounting film 8½” long and ⅛” – ¼” wide. Peel the backing off 1 side of a strip of film and affix it along 1 edge of 1 of the folios, just under the fold. Repeat with the other.

Take 1 of these folios and, with your text block laid face-up before you, peel the remaining backing off the strip and affix to the top page, concentric with the folio stuck down by the strip along the inside of the page, tucked right up along the edge of glued spine. Repeat with the back.

Cut a piece of cloth tape about 7½” long, with a width equal to the spine plus 1”. Center the tape over the spine, drape down over the inner edges of the recently attached folios, and … no wrinkles, now … press firmly. Squeeze some glue into the tape where it covers the spine (not the folios).

Next, cut two (2) 5½ x 8½ sheets of mounting film. Peel 1 side of 1 sheet and affix over the top folio, covering the ½” of tape now affixed along the inner edge and connecting it to the spine and back sheet/folio. Repeat with back side.

NOW, it’s ALL YOU. Do some dry runs to nail down the exact placement of the text block between the Cover Boards. And get the Cover assembly nice and creased and flexible at the joints/seams.

Peel the backing off the bottom folio and affix to the underside (no kidding) of the back Board. Press firmly.

Peel backing off top folio. Pull the top Cover Board over and lay that baby down as perfectly concentric with the bottom Board as possible. You Only Get 1 Shot! And …

PRESTO !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Make a Cover Label on Opaque paper, shellac the Hell out of it, back it with mounting film, cent and slap it down.


Congratulations! It Looks Fantastic!

Best of Luck! And remember … the final stages require steady hands.


 P.S. I WILL try to create some illustrations to insert.


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