Posted 28 March 2007 - 16:23
Ah, the key is glue...
You can use any fabric for the mull and for the binding ribbons (they go under a set of stitches, then the mull goes over them). It nees to be fairly strong and fairly thin -- cheesecloth is the right thickness, but way too weak. It's there to hold the covers on, so that if you drop the book (yes, I know you never do anything like that!), the end paper won't rip and leave you with an uncovered book. Old cotton/polyester cloth like bedsheets that have been retired works well, or you could search the fabric stores for some remnants of lightweight cotton in plain or twill weave. Traditional mull is rather open to make it thinner and much less obvious, and you can buy it from a bookbinding supply store if you want, it's still used all the time.
Best glue I've found so far is ordinary Elmers PVA glue. It's archival in that it won't damage paper, and it doesn't get brittle like hide glue does (it doesn't stink, either!). You can spread it fairly easily, too. You can buy "proper" glue from the same sources as the mull.
You should also investigate a "book press" -- I use a pair of deep C-clamps and a pair of boards. A bit unhandy, but far better than a loose binding, I've found.
Best way to assemble the book is to sew the signatures however you want, then line them all up nice a square in your improvised book press, clamp down with a bit of the spine sticking out (getting everything all neat and square is the hard part here), then coat the exposed spine with a thin layer of glue, allow to partly dry, apply more glue, and press the mull onto the wet glue. Thin layers -- you don't want a thick, stiff spine. Once it dries, you can unclamp the book and glue the endpapers to the mull (and ribbons if you used them), then glue the endpapers to the cover. You can glue the spine to the cover, or not (I prefer to leave it free), etc.
Coptic stitch binding requires either a hard cover or a fairly rigid strip of something to replace the cover. This is because the stitch goes out of the holes in the signatures, around something, and back into the same hole. One the first signature, this must be a cover or something rigid enough to hold the book together, on the rest of the signatures, it's the previous loop coming out of the holes. I used a strip of silk bandage tape stuck to thick paper, and trapped a length of my sewing thread under each loop. For the last signature, I used another strip of silk tape and sewed through it at each chain stitch, again to keep the cover attached. I then glued the paper to the cover.
I used a standard "out of one signature into another and back" stitch on later journals, but they don't lie as flat.
The materials are pretty cheap, it keeps me off the streets, and it's not really messy, unlike car repairs -- I just spent $1500 in parts, and will be covered in black oil for a week putting a new cylinder head on my Mercedes deisel for my vacation in the next couple weeks!