Monday, June 1, 2015

How to make a blank hardcover book, part 2

(Part 1 here.)

Here are the first, second, and third handmade blank books that I have made.

Continuing from Part 1:

Step 8:  Trim the text block. I skip this step, as you can see from the picture. As I recall, the best way to do this is to clamp the block firmly between two pieces of wood in a vise, and trim the edges with a very sharp chisel.

Step 9:  Cut the cover boards. (I make these from the heavy paperboard inside old three-ring binders.)  The cover boards should be somewhat longer and wider than the text block; if anything, I made them a bit too large on the most recent book. You may also, depending on your book, want to cut a piece for the back of the spine; I didn't.  A utility knife works well for cutting these, although it may take more than one pass. One source recommended slightly rounding the edges of the boards after cutting; I did this by burnishing (rubbing with some pressure) with a tool handle.

Interlude:  Making flour paste

Homemade flour paste is simple, cheap, and stronger than you might expect. The covers that I have glued on with it have stayed on, through months of daily use and abuse. PVA glue will also work for any of the gluing and pasting steps that follow.

Flour paste recipe:  1.5 cups cold water, 4 Tablespoons white flour. Whisk the flour into the water in a saucepan, and then stir constantly over medium heat until it boils. Let cool. This recipe makes far more paste than you need for a single book. Leftovers may be refrigerated and used later, until they start to get moldy.

Step 10:  There are different ways of dealing with the spine of the book at this point. The method that I learned is to make a flat tube of lining paper as wide and as long as the spine, and glue it to the spine.

Step 11:  Set cords into cover boards, and glue. (If you are using tapes, I believe they are simply glued to the outsides of the cover boards.) Make a hole in each cover board, about 1/2 inch in from the inside edge, for each cord to go through. (The cords will go from the spine to the outside of the cover boards, then in through the holes, where their ends will be glued down.) I used an awl to make the holes, a sharp nail would also work, or drilling. To keep from the cords from making bumps that show through the covering material, use a sharp knife to cut a shallow channel for each cord to run through to its hole. Then, one board at a time, bring the cords through the holes, trim so that there are two or three inches of cord to the inside of the cover board, and glue/paste the cords in place (on both sides). Since my cords are braided, I unbraid each end to the hole, and spread out the strands as I glue them down. Make sure the cords aren't pulled so tight that you can't open the book. Let dry.

Step 12:  Glue the outer covering onto the boards and spine. The outer covering is usually a single piece of material; leave extra to wrap around the edges of the boards, and to fold down in at the top and bottom of the spine. I find it easiest to cut the material on the large side, and trim it later. For the first two books I used suede and leather; this time I used denim.

Step 13:  Fold over the edges of the covering material, trim, and glue/paste down. I aim for 1/4 inch of material glued to the inside of the cover board, for each edge. I learned a handy trick for mitering the corners:  before you glue the edges, make a 45 degree cut at the corner, but instead of cutting this exactly at the corner, cut it two cover board thicknesses away from the corner. Or, you can bring the edges around, overlapping them at the corner, and cut through both layers at once with a sharp knife to make the miter.

Step 14:  Tip in end papers. End papers are folded sheets of paper pasted in before and after the text block; to "tip in" means to put paste or glue along the folded edge, and then press it into place. One source suggested doing this much earlier in the process, before trimming the text block; I tried that this time and wasn't happy with the result. Trim the end papers.

Step 15:  Line the inside covers. (If your cover material is thick, you may need to fit and glue something in beneath the lining first, to make the inside cover level.) It may be helpful to use scrap paper to keep paste/glue from going where it shouldn't.

Step 16:  Cover finishing. Fold the edges in at the top and the bottom of the spine, and perhaps glue them down, if you didn't already. With the most recent book, I cut the material too short here, and ended up sewing on extensions by hand. Decorate the cover as desired. In one version (middle book in the photo), I made a little loop of leather to hold a pen. But then I found that I prefer to use the pen to mark my spot, so that it is ready to use at all times. This time, with a denim cover instead of leather, I experimented with making corner protectors from sheet copper. I made a paper prototype/template first, cut and fitted the copper (which is from the art store and is thin enough to cut with scissors that I don't care too much about), and then secured each with a small copper rivet, through a hole drilled through the corner protector and the cover.

Somewhere in these later steps, the fancy stitching at the top and bottom of the inner spine that you see in real hardcover books can be done. I tried it with the first book, and failed to master it, and since then haven't bothered. Apparently this stitching is often faked, in commercial books.

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