aspen & pine

a journey in creativity and mindful living

Category: Bookbinding

archival film box

handmade film box


To a child, often the box a toy came in is more appealing than the toy itself.
– Allen Klein


mini folio

scraps from the darkroom

I am currently learning how to make folio’s that hold two matted prints. This is a practice one, so I used some scraps from Jordan’s darkroom. These little prints are actually pieces of images Jordan has produced in the darkroom (aka our tiny bathroom).


I am also working on what the closure should be. I used this lace because it was what I had on hand, however a ribbon may look more simple. This lace was a little wide for my mini folio I think.




Have a wonderful day!

wheat paste


Wheat paste is used in bookbinding to glue the end-pages to the inside of the cover. This process is called casing in. To make wheat paste all you need are wheat starch and water. I bought my wheat starch from Talas, but you can get it from specialty food stores as well.  The first time I ever made wheat paste I actually used regular flour. This works, but you do end up with a better product if you use refined wheat starch.

To make the paste you mix 1 part wheat starch with 4 parts water. Here I used 1 Tbsp wheat starch and 4 Tbsp’s water. I find it is better to make small batches when I need it because it does go bad after a while. Whisk to remove lumps and let sit 1 hour.


Now it is ready to cook! I placed this bowl over a pan of boiling water to make a double boiler. This helps prevent it from burning and forming lumps. The package from Talas says to cook it for 15-25 minutes until it turns thick and translucent. However, mine usually turns thick and translucent after only about 5-7 minutes. Make sure to stir constantly because when it starts to thicken it is fast, and lumps can easily form.


Let the paste cool, then strain into an airtight container. To use, mix with a little water to achieve a creamy paste. Store in the fridge if you have extra leftover.

bookbinding resources


This is one of the ranunculus I planted this summer from my sister. It is finished blooming now and the weather is getting cooler. I had the windows open today and was just thinking I won’t be able to open them for much longer. Soon the leaves will be changing. I guess it is time to say goodbye to summer.

Anyway, I wanted to share with you the resources I used to learn bookbinding. I thought I’d try to save a little money by looking for as much information as I could online. With so much out there on the internet these days, I figured it would be a good idea to check before buying books, or paying for a class. After lots of searching I eventually found some really good tutorials, blogs, and youtube videos on binding and making books. It was enough to get me started. I’m sure I’m still missing a lot, but here is what was helpful to me:

  1. The Paper Studio has two YouTube videos that helped me. One on the basic tools you need, and another about how to glue for bookbinding.
  2. Sage Reynolds Channel on YouTube was probably the most helpful. As a complete beginner with no background knowledge of bookbinding, Sage Reynolds clearly explains and demonstrates how to make boxes,  books, and portfolios.
  3. Bookbinders Chronicles is another YouTube channel dedicated to bookbinding. They are pretty easy to understand, but these videos have no sound and I found them less engaging than Sage Reynolds videos.
  4. Books, Boxes, and Portfolios: Binding, Construct and Design, Step-by-Step by Franz Zeier is the only book I got. It was a little difficult for me to follow at first, but combined with Reynolds videos I found it very helpful as a reference. I don’t think that this book or any other book is necessary to get started. I mostly used video tutorials anyway because they were easier for me to understand as a beginner.
  5. Badger and Chirp, is a great blog with lots of helpful information about tools and materials used in bookbinding. They also do workshops across the country.
  6. Damask love is another great blog by Amber Kemp-Gerstel who has made some video tutorials on bookbinding.

If you have found any other resources that were helpful to you, please leave a comment below. Thanks!

journal no. 2


I am still having some spine issues (this one has bit of a gap when closed), but I was pretty happy how much better it turned out.





journal no. 1


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.