Custom Bind a Published Book

When access to the bookbinding workshop is limited, what are your options if you want to make a bespoke binding?

The good news is that it is possible to have a book bound by an online publisher such as Blurb and then to add your own cover. Blurb (for example) offer both soft and hard cover bindings. Often, the premium hard cover binding styles will lay flat when open and these are always preferable if you want artwork to be seen across double page spreads. The downside is that these are usually more expensive so shop around to find the best price.

Soft Cover Bindings

You can add a hard cover to a soft back book using the Swiss Binding style. This binding style is a hard case that opens flat and then you just glue the soft cover book inside. The soft front cover is visible so can be retained as part of the design. Follow this online tutorial.

It is also possible to add a hard cover by removing the soft cover and replacing it with endpapers and a hardcover:

Remove the soft cover by gently pulling at it and tearing it away from the pages. Hopefully it will not do too much damage to the pages and the replacement endpapers will cover the area where the cover was stuck.

Replace endpapers with new ones

Tutorial for making a hard cover

Hard Cover Bindings

It is possible to remove the hard cover and add your own. This means you can design your own bespoke look to the book cover and use some of the tricks you have learnt during bookbinding inductions in the workshop. You will have to replace the endpapers too.

How to remove a hard cover without damaging the pages:

You will need a sharp knife, ruler and pencil.

1. Open the front cover and make a cut into the endpaper that is stuck to the inside of the board – cut along a line parallel to the spine fold and about 2-3cms away from the spine (to the left). Use a sharp knife and just cut into the paper. (You might find this easier if you support the board on a book or similar)
2. Use the tip of the knife to dig under the paper to the spine-side of the cut and gently prise it away from the board. You are aiming to remove all the layers of paper and any spine strengthening fabric and lift these away from the board. You may have to cut a little deeper. If some of the board comes off too that is fine.

Sometimes the spine linings stay stuck to the board. They can be slit through at the board edge to release the pages and replaced after you have added the new endpapers. Just be careful that you do not cut through any of the page folds.

3. Repeat this for the back board. Once you have cut away both sides the pages should lift out of the cover. You may be able to reuse the old covers boards for your binding so put them to one side for now.
4. Does the binding have an endpaper attached to the first page? If yes, carefully remove it: it should be glued to the first page along a narrow strip at the spine edge. Any damage that is done to the page underneath will be covered with the new endpaper but do try to remove it carefully by pulling it away gently. If the binding does not have an endpaper glued to the first page leave it as it is.
Alternatively you could leave the original endpaper in place and stick a new one on top. The new one must align with the spine folds of the pages and this can be harder to see with the old endpaper in place.
The spare flap of paper that was stuck to the board is then stuck over and on top of the new endpaper.

Make New Endpapers:

5. Cut two new endpapers from a decent weight of paper – say 160gsm. Also pay attention to the grain direction of the paper. You can either try to cut the pages exactly the size that you want or you might be able to cut them slightly larger and trim to size after they have been stuck to the book. See below for how to do this.
6. Use scrap paper underneath and on top of the folded edge of the endpaper. Shift the top piece so that you can only see about 5mm of the endpaper. Check that this is enough to hide the rough area on the first page where you pulled the old endpaper off. Apply PVA and glue endpaper into position. Aim to align the fold of the endpaper with the fold of the first page. Press down well. Repeat for second endpaper.

Also see this Endpaper tutorial.

7. To trim the endpapers to size on the book, lay the book with the new endpaper flat on the cutting mat then place a flat metal ruler under the last page but on top of the endpaper. Adjust the position of the ruler so that it accurately aligns with the edge of the pages. Hold down firmly with one hand whilst you cut the endpapers up to the ruler’s edge with a sharp knife.
8. You could replace the spine lining with brown Kraft paper. Cut a strip about 6-7 cm wide depending on the thickness of the book. The lines on the Kraft paper should run parallel to the spine fold. Cut the height of the Kraft paper to be a few millimetres short of the spine so that it doesn’t protrude at head and tail of the book.
9. Glue the Kraft paper and stick it on around the spine of the book and on to the endpapers. Press well. This will make the spine fold on the endpapers a little stronger and support the spine edge of the book.

10. Make a hard cover in the usual way

11. Stick the endpapers to the hard cover

12. You could also refer to the workshop tutorials for Level 5 Induction : Hard Cover

Other Ways to Personalise a Published Book

If you don't want to rip your binding apart and rebuild it, you could print a dust jacket of your own design and wrap this around the book.

If the published book is a section bind you might be able to deconstruct it and resew with extra pages but be careful you don't make the sections too thick when you do this.

With a soft cover book you may be able to glue on a board to the front and back covers but make sure the board does not cover the opening hinge-fold which is usually about 5-7mm from the spine edge. The spine edge could remain uncovered or could be covered before you stick the boards down with a strip of paper or bookcloth. The stiff cover boards could be bare board (printed/painted/air brushed/collaged and varnished?) or covered with paper/bookcloth. With a soft cover book like this I would measure and cut the boards to align with the three cut edges of the pages.

To get a smooth tough surface to grey board try painting it with layers of acrylic paint, sanded between layers.

Lettering on hard covers can be achieved with dry transfer letters, lino printing, collage, sticky labels, printed belly bands (see Pinterest for ideas).

Also see this page of tips for prepping artwork for online publishers.
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