Makeshift Bookbinding- Setting Up At Home

Scoring folds – save your ball point pens when they run out of ink as they are great for scoring folds.

Also see our “Make Your Own” series of tutorials.

Working without the book presses:

To make a successful book, you often need to give it a decent squeeze in the heavy presses. Here are some things you can do if you don’t have access to one:

  1. Use your bonefolder more. Press the folds in the sections harder by hand. Be careful that you don’t overstretch or scratch your paper pages or prints though. (You can press through an overlaying sheet of protective paper) Also press each section again as you sew them together.
  2. Improvise a press at home with two wooden boards or similar (books?) and a weight. A heavy weight can be made from a brick wrapped in a plastic bag. Use several for more pressure. If you like a bit of diy you can make something like a flower press which is made from two wooden boards with long screws and wingnuts at each corner.

Sewing -hole making without a pricking cradle:

Line up the fold of the section with the edge of your worktop. Gather all the pages in the section tightly and hold in place whilst you make the holes in the spine folds. The edge of the worktop will act as a guide to help you keep the needle/hole-making tool in the fold line.

Also – you can use the gutter of a book or magazine as an improvised cradle.

Improvise a hole making tool

If you are buying needles from a haberdashery go for the “long darners” for bookbinding.

Hardware stores sell “pin vices” which are small handles that hold the needles. like this one

For DIY people: I make the tools at college from 8mm dowel cut into about 12cm lengths, which I taper with a pencil sharpener. I then drill a tiny hole the size of the needle and either just push a sewing needle in or glue in with appropriate adhesive.


Get yourself a set of embossing tools or improvise: Embossing at home

Cutting Edges

This is the hardest bit to improvise at home. You could ask the printer if they can cut the prints for you before you bind them – I think Stampa will do this. You will have to accept that the edges are not as flat as when we have the guillotine in use.

OR You could have your pages printed and bound soft cover style by an offsite publisher then add your own cover.

OR Some printers will cut book edges – ask around.

OR Bookbinders of Lewes may be able to help – appointments only 01273 486718

OR Create book structures using single sections which are easier to cut with a cutting mat, strong knife, sharp blade and a steady eye. More to follow on this.





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