journal no. 1

by aspen&pine


This is my first hand sewn, hardback journal. I came across a few problems to say the least, and it took me several days to finish! Overall I am excited to make more and improve my technique (and speed).

microspatula, X-acto knife, fabric and paper scissors, tapestry needle, bristle paste brush, foam glue brush, plastic folder, light duty snap-off blade knife, metal ruler, pen, awl

Above are the assortment of tools I gathered for this project. I purchased some specifically for bookbinding and others I already had in the house: microspatula, X-acto knife, fabric and paper scissors, tapestry needle, bristle paste brush, foam glue brush, plastic folder, light duty snap-off blade knife, metal ruler, pen, and awl. (note: I purchased a microspatula because I saw it on a list of tools needed for bookbinding. However, I have not yet needed to use it.)

Some other tools I used that are not included in the image are a cutting mat, a metal yard stick I used as a straight edge to cut with, and a Kutrimmer for trimming bookboard. These trimmers are pretty expensive, so if you don’t want to invest in one you can use a straight edge with a heavy duty utility knife. I did this at first when I was making boxes. However, I do find the Kutrimmer to be much more convenient and accurate. That’s my experience though, you may find that the utility knife works just fine for you.

My materials for this book were linen thread, beeswax to coat thread, linen tape, hemp cord to make headbands, mull (also called super), book board, regular cream colored printer paper for pages, decorative scrapbook paper for endpapers, and this book cloth.


I didn’t have any bookbinders linen cord, so I improvised by twisting and glueing three strands of hemp together for the headband.

Making headbands out of twine and bookcloth to match the journals

Above: headbands made out of twine and book cloth to match the journals. They did turn out a little lumpy, so next time I’ll get some thicker cord.

For glue I used standard PVA glue from Hollanders, and made wheat starch glue which I’ll do a post on next. I bought my wheat starch from Talas. Hollanders was the first bookbinders supplier that I came across, but have since found that some items are cheaper at Talas.

Just to outline the process of making a book for you, here are the steps I took:

  1. Made signatures by folding four pieces of paper in half and tucking them inside each other to make a little booklet. I did this fifteen times so that my book-block would have fifteen signatures. I also trimmed my signatures here so my pages would be more even.
  2. Marked and pierced spines of each signature for sewing using an awl.
  3. Coated thread with beeswax, threaded needle, and sewed the book-block together using linen tapes. I used two pieces of linen tape spaced out evenly on the spine for my book.
  4. Glued spine with PVA. Once the spine was dry I reinforced it by glueing on a piece of mull, and then glued on the headbands. Reinforced again with paper, and tipped on end pages. The book-block is finished!
  5. Measured and cut out book board for cover, glued on book cloth. For this I used a mixture of half PVA and half wheat paste because this is supposed to slow the drying time to give you more time to work.
  6. Cased in, which means glueing the end pages to the inside of the cover on each side of the book. Lastly, let dry under weights. I just stacked some heavy books on top of mine.


Taking the advice of Badger and Chirp in their post on paper, I decided to use the cheaper 20 lb paper from staples to start with before ordering nicer stuff. I am glad I did, because this journal did not exactly turn out perfectly.


Below you can see how much of a bump the tapes made on the spine. I am not sure if it is supposed to be this way or not, but you can see them on the finished journal as well.



Again, the bumpy spine. . .not too pretty.


You can’t really tell from these images, but when I glued the endpapers on to attach the case to the book-block I must have used too much wheat paste. The endpaper and pages underneath turned wavy. Badger and Chirp recommends using wax paper underneath to protect pages when glueing down the endpapers. You can read about that here. I’ll be sure to do that next time!

Lastly, I made my case for the book a bit too small and glued it on a bit unevenly with more cover hanging over the head of the book than at the tail. Unfortunately this was my fault for not centering the book good enough before glueing down the endpapers. Ahhh, how could I be so careless?

Anyway, I learned a lot, especially how much care and skill goes into making a book by hand. I’m hoping my next one turns out better! Check back to see how the next one turns out and for my post on mixing up wheat paste.