Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Bookmaking: I. Get Your Stuff Together

I handwrote the steps of binding a book, in keeping with the "at the kitchen table" feel of the project, but I will also type out instructions, below the photos--and I'll amplify the steps--so you can print them out.
Keep a copy at hand, and refer to the photos as you teach yourself to make a book.

I. Gather Your Stuff

Basic materials you will need:

1. Blank paper, for the guts of the book. I am using brown-paper grocery bags here, just to show you can use anything. (Maybe later I'll write about how to make paper.)

2. Board for the book's covers. I am using a cardboard box. Any stiff material will do, even wood. Art stores sell bookbinding board for this purpose.

3. Scissors and/or knife/box cutter/x-acto. You'll need to cut the paper and board with something--or, if this is post-apocalypse, you could tear them with your hands or teeth.

4. Cloth, for making tapes to attach the paper to the covers, and also cloth to cover your final book, if you want. I am using a ripped pair of jeans. Linen is the classic material for the cloth tapes, and art stores sell beautiful book cloth for covers, specially lined with paper so the glue doesn't soak through.

5. Needle and soft thread. Make sure the needle's eye is big enough to fit the thread through. The thread should be soft--like the embroidery thread I am using--so it doesn't cut through the paper. Classic bookbinding thread is waxed linen. If you are on the run and don't have a needle, you could thread string or whatever you have at hand through the holes you will make in the paper with a...

6. ...Hole-poker, to make sewing-guide holes in the paper. I'm using thumbtacks, but pointed tools of the sort used for pottery or dissection are options. For that matter, you could use a thorn.

7. Weights, for pressing the book as its glued bits dry. Book binders use beautiful presses, but bricks are just fine. You can wrap the brick(s) in cloth or wax paper to make sure the rough edges don't hurt the paper. Or you could stand on top of the book, as it dries; if you don't have anywhere you need to be for a while.

8. Masking tape, for holding down the cloth tapes in place while you sew. Book binders have a special frame for this.

9. Pencil... and ruler (optional). I didn't write "ruler" on my handwritten list, because I eyeball my measurements, unless I'm making something fancy. It is entirely a matter of personality, how careful you are about measurements and how tidy you want the final piece to be.

10. Binder clips/clothespins, handy for keeping the parts of your book together as you assemble it.

11. Glue, to stick the cloth tapes to the book covers. I'm using Elmer's here, because that's what I have. If you have no glue, you could make paste from flour and water. However, this is the one time where I recommend buying the best material, if you can: PVA glue. You can get a little bottle of it for a few bucks at an art store.
PVA stands for "poly-vinyl-acetate," and it's a flexible plastic glue that won't crack off or hurt the paper. (It goes to show how long it's been since I worked with paper that I don't have any on hand, because it really is the best.)

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