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Handbound Leather Journals


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#1 LamyDude

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Posted 05 December 2011 - 00:24

I'm a first time poster on this forum and just wanted to share my journal binding experience.

This summer I went to Berkeley (I'm Norwegian) and made some journals with my girlfriend's mother who's a bookbinder and printer.
I've always been interested in leather journals and thought I'd found what I was looking for when I discovered the limp-back Moleskines. But after only a few months it started to fall apart and everyone else had one. So I started looking for handmade journals but they all cost an arm and a leg, plus they always had some detail I didn't like (inspirational quotes, flowers and whatnot). When my girlfriend told me she used to get a handmade journal every Christmas from her mom - my head almost exploded.

Anyway, during this summer we bound a lot of books. Limp leather jourals with quality paper (Mohawk) and nice leather.
The first time around we just used some scrap leather, but next time we went to Frank's Leather and Hides in San Francisco. Here I found this nice, thick Italian buffalo hide. This hide was extremely thick and stiff but after beating it, stomping on it etc. it smoothened up. Then I used sandpaper on it to give it a more used look. This actually highlighted the creases I made and gave it a nice glow. Before starting the actual binding I treated it with renaissance wax. The paper was cut with a dull paper cutter to give it those rugged edges.

I attached some pictures below. Sorry for the bad quality and that they're so large. I tried to resize them but they came out almost just as big... And I was in a hurry after discovering this awesome forum :)

I don't think I'll ever buy a journal again. It can be a lot of work making them but definately worth it. It's easier when you have a pro to help you when you're stuck, of course. Next time I might make a smaller one that is more travel friendly.

P.S. I someone wants to trade, just let me know. I'm hopefully going to make more journals and I'm always interested in new pens or ink.

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Edited by LamyDude, 05 December 2011 - 01:31.


#2 LamyDude

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Posted 05 December 2011 - 00:37

Oops. I think I might've posted in the wrong section. I guess this post should have been in the 'Paper and Pen Paraphernalia' section. I don't think I can move it either? Would be grateful if an admin could help me out here.

Edited by LamyDude, 05 December 2011 - 01:02.


#3 professionaldilettante

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Posted 05 December 2011 - 01:30

COuld you make a video/tutorial on how to sew the binding? That is so awesome.
Edit: never mind. It's called Limp Binding.

Edited by professionaldilettante, 05 December 2011 - 01:32.

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#4 LamyDude

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Posted 05 December 2011 - 01:38

Thanks.
Unfortunately I'm back in Norway now and I don't have the binding equipment here.
Yeah, the outside stitching looks really nice and it's super durable. Can't wait to make another one over New Year's.

#5 gks

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Posted 05 December 2011 - 02:56

What's the estimated cost for something like this? I'm curious as I've started journaling in a a Habana just yesterday. If I stick to it I could find something like this to be pretty awesome. You're right though, definitely not very portable. How may sheets are there per journal? Looks intense.

#6 myyrkezaan

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Posted 05 December 2011 - 03:09

Excellent work.
Trade? I'm interested in how much would you charge?

#7 LamyDude

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Posted 05 December 2011 - 03:21

Thanks.
There are 15 pages folded in half in each signature, which means 60 writeable pages in each signature. And most of the journals I made had 6 signatures, which again means that a 6-signatured journal has 360 pages. I also made a couple of 5-signatured journals, they then of course have 300 pages.

These journals can be quite expensive. Bookbinders often do not make these to sell since large companies like Barnes & Noble etc. sell them quite cheaply (but with lower quality paper and binding) making it not worth it. Not to mention Moleskine's popularity.
It depends on what you want, I guess. Type of leather, paper, how many pages... But the main thing pushing the price up is the work that goes into it. They are handsewn after all.

I see roguejournals.com's cheapest journal is $44, but that is only 200 pages.

Making one yourself, ordering from a bookbinder or someone who knows how to do this would give you a journal no one else has, anyway. I love the little imperfections mine has since it was my first time making one. Gives it a little charm I think.

Edited by LamyDude, 05 December 2011 - 03:35.


#8 LamyDude

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Posted 05 December 2011 - 03:33

I do not have any unused journals left. Most were given to friends as gifts. But I am planning to make more over New Year's when I go back to Berkeley.
Since I just got into fountain pens I'm open to trade (if I make more journals, that is). I'm always looking for fountain pens, dip pens, bamboo pens, ink etc.
As I said, what to charge depends on leather, paper, amount of pages and if people would tolerate little imperfections here and there (if there are any). I'd think most would charge 60-70 dollars and up.

But I don't like thinking about money when it comes to these journals. I made them out of interest and to use them. If it happens that I have some extra journals next year I'd love to consider trading or something.

P.S. I'm sorry if my post seemed like an advertisement.

#9 myyrkezaan

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Posted 05 December 2011 - 03:44

No, your post did not seem like an advertisement and I didn't take it that way. Just really liked the way it looked, use of Mohawk paper and I generally (and specifically) suck at any kind of DIY projects.

I just don't really have anything worthwhile to trade, unless for some reason you are interested in these (I have a bunch):

http://www.staples.c.../product_804404

#10 LamyDude

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Posted 05 December 2011 - 03:52

That link only took me to a search page at Staples.

Thanks, yeah I'm very happy with them. I'll post here when I've made more. Then I guess something could be worked out if people want to buy or trade. Another factor that makes selling a little difficult is that I'm in Europe, not the States. And I don't want to put these books out on ebay.

#11 myyrkezaan

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Posted 05 December 2011 - 04:00

Hmmm, I tried it from the posting and went to the page. It was the M By Staples 6"x8" refill, very mediocre refill.

Well if you ever find yourself having a few too many, send me a message, maybe we can work something out :).

If you come up with some different designs post pics, I love seeing peoples good handiwork.

#12 The Royal Pen

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Posted 05 December 2011 - 23:40

They're spectacular, really!
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#13 LamyDude

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Posted 06 December 2011 - 23:56

They're spectacular, really!


Thanks :) Really happy with them. I can only take credit for 3 or 4 of the books in the last pic, though. The light tan/beige one in sheepskin looks really good.

#14 LamyDude

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Posted 06 December 2011 - 23:57

Hmmm, I tried it from the posting and went to the page. It was the M By Staples 6"x8" refill, very mediocre refill.

Well if you ever find yourself having a few too many, send me a message, maybe we can work something out :).

If you come up with some different designs post pics, I love seeing peoples good handiwork.


I most def will.

#15 candidvn

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Posted 07 December 2011 - 01:34

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Hi LamyDude, I've finished sewing my journal and I want to make a leather cover journal like yours. Could you please show me how I can attach the book block to the cover?

#16 USMCMom

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Posted 07 December 2011 - 02:26

Your journals are wonderful, LamyDude!!! I love them in leather with imperfections.
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#17 professionaldilettante

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Posted 07 December 2011 - 02:50

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Hi LamyDude, I've finished sewing my journal and I want to make a leather cover journal like yours. Could you please show me how I can attach the book block to the cover?

You can't. The signatures are sewn directly to the leather in a method called limp binding. You might be able to undo the binding and bind the signatures to leather, since the holes are already punched.
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#18 candidvn

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Posted 07 December 2011 - 04:38

Thanks you. Maybe I will try to make another journal. This is my first time. I think I will glue this one with my old hard cover.

#19 LamyDude

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Posted 07 December 2011 - 07:46

Thanks you. Maybe I will try to make another journal. This is my first time. I think I will glue this one with my old hard cover.


professionaldilettante is right, but your journal looks great!

#20 LamyDude

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Posted 07 December 2011 - 07:48

Your journals are wonderful, LamyDude!!! I love them in leather with imperfections.


Thanks :)

#21 vicidius

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Posted 11 December 2011 - 19:58

Those look beautiful! I've always had a soft spot for soft leather journals/notebooks.

Your penmanship and sketches are quite nice as well :)

#22 AndyNC

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Posted 17 January 2012 - 19:00

I recently made a journal as per robeck's intructions. Turned out quite acceptable by my standards but with a few flaws. ie the glue didn't take on the front board in a one place and I'm left with a small bubble. But it was good enough to want to make more. I'll post a picture later.

Like professionaldilettante, I want to make a leather bound one. I've been thinking about this over the last few days and have an idea:

If, when you make the bookblock you sew in tapes and leave some loops in the tape you may be able to sew these loops to the spine of a leather cover. This should give flexibility in the spine and if you cut the thread on the spine you can replace the bookblock when filled and sew in another.

LamyDude: Great work! Could you tell me how thick the leather was. I'm not experienced with leather and don't have a "feel" for how thick it needs to be. I want to buy a piece of leather for this but I would be taking a big change buying blind. I'm concerned about it being too flexible and the corners going curly.

Many thanks

Andy

#23 larsbj

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Posted 31 January 2012 - 09:41

Beautiful journals, LamyDude! And very inspiring!
Always nice to see some fellow norwegians; until now I did not know of anybody around here.

Regards,
Lars Bj (Harstad) :happyberet:
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#24 een brouwer

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Posted 02 February 2012 - 01:20

Nice work! Your journals looks incredible and it's hard to believe it's only your first time making them. I hope you enjoyed your vacation in Berkeley (my hometown). Does your girlfriend's mother have a shop or teach a class on this sort of thing?