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Homemade Notebooks Photo Demo


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19 replies to this topic

#1 robeck

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Posted 12 June 2008 - 22:54

Hand sewing a bookblock doesn't have to be difficult. If I can manage it, I'm sure anybody can. There are countless ways to sew the block but I have chosen to use the Coptic stitch because it allows the block to open and lay truly flat. Personally, I can't get on with spiral bound notebooks - I find them uncomfortable and ugly. I prefer hardback (casebound) books for ease of writing and the flatter they lay when open the better.

Anyway let's get started. The notebook I am creating will be a hardback A5 with 192 pages (sides) to write on with a flyleaf at both back and front. First we have to create the paper signatures. I fold 4 sheets of A4 paper in half and insert them one inside the other. This is the first signature. You can use a craft bone (illustrated) to make the paper crease but this is unnecessary and I tend to use just my fingers. Tips:
  • Handle the paper as little as possible with clean hands to prevent skin oils getting onto the pages.
  • The crease does not have to be a knife edge.
MJ4O9925.jpg

Create 12 such signatures to give a total of 192 pages. Also create 2 flyleafs from single sheets of A4 heavy duty card. The card I am using is approx 180 to 200gsm and in a complimentary colour to the cover material that I will be using. Stack the 12 signatures with a flyleaf on the top and the bottom. I managed to create all signatures and flyleafs in 15 minutes.

MJ4O9929.jpg

The next bit is the bit I like least - punching the holes into the signatures for sewing. Using the template discussed in part 1 I put it into the centre of a single signature and then push the lot firmly into the fold of a large, heavyweight book. (I use a dictionary). I then push a needle through each of the holes in the template and through the signature. Tips:
  • Use an old book because you are likely to make holes in it too.
  • Make sure the template and signature remain lined up and pushed firmly into the book.
  • Make sure that you restack all signatures and flyleafs with the same orientation after hole-punching. This ensures the holes line up more accurately.
  • Use a thimble. This stage can be painful.
MJ4O9930.jpg

And here's the completed stack ready for sewing. It took me about 10 minutes to punch all the holes. It is very difficult to get every hole lined up perfectly but you will get better with practice. Slight mis-alignments will not seriously affect the overall finish.

MJ4O9933.jpg

Now we're ready to start sewing the bookblock together. I learnt the technique from this link: http://www.trumpetvi...skine-reloaded/
I would strongly recommend you read and digest the section there about Coptic stitching. I have created an abridged version of how to sew the stitch in my notebook and I've included a copy of it here. I use it as a reference/aide memoire whilst I'm sewing and find it very useful. But you probably won't fully understand it without first looking at that website.

MJ4O9959.jpg

When I sew, I use a bulldog clip as shown to keep the signatures and, therefore, stitches tight. I place the bulldog clip at the end I am working away from. Also, I sew the components together in reverse order i.e. the back flyleaf first to the back signature and then work forward to the front flyleaf. Tips:
  • Gently tug the thread after each stitch to ensure there are no loose loops of thread.
  • There is no need to use a thimble.
  • Be careful applying the flyleafs at start and finish as the card can tear easily at the holes.
  • Ensure that the length of thread you start with is long enough to complete the bookblock. Otherwise you will have to tie additional lengths and this will create knots and weaknesses.
  • I use 5 good armlengths of thread for a 192 page A5 notebook.
  • I use 3 good armlengths of thread for a 192 page A6 notebook.


MJ4O9939.jpg

This is the sewn bookblock. It took me 1 hour and 10 minutes to complete. Notice how flat it lays. The stitching between signature joins will appear to be quite loose no matter how tightly you sew. This is what allows the Coptic stitch to lay so flat. Don't worry about the gaps between the signatures at this stage - they will not be apparent in the finished article.

MJ4O9945.jpg

And here you can see the finished Coptic stitching. Pretty straight for a bloke! You can of course vary the number of signatures that go into your notebook but always ensure that you use an even number otherwise the 2 end threads will not finish at the same end of the spine and you won't be ale to tie them off. As an aside: the A6 notebooks I have created with 192 pages are a bit too firm to open when compared to the A5 version. I intend in future to reduce the number of pages in my A6 books to 96 or 128 pages so that the book is easier to open flat.

MJ4O9943.jpg

And the final stage is to glue the spine of the bookblock. This is not done traditionally in Coptic stitching but I do it to create a slightly stronger binding. I use a glue that remains flexible - PVA (or Elmer's to our American friends). I apply the glue in 2 stages. Firstly, I clamp the bookblock loosely and apply a good layer of PVA which I then rub well into the paper using my finger.

MJ4O9950.jpg

I then realign the bookblock as accurately as possible and lock the clamps down tight. I add a third clamp to get a good pressure on the spine. I leave for the PVA to go "off" - about 2 hours, and then I apply a second, quite thick coat over the first. I then leave the lot to cure overnight before removing from the clamps.

MJ4O9951.jpg


And that's the bookblock. The next part will show how I make the hardback book cover.

Phew, that's me done for today. I'm off to bed...

I look forward to reading your comments, questions, suggestions etc...

All the best,
Dean.




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#2 Rocket Jones

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Posted 12 June 2008 - 23:43

QUOTE(robeck @ Jun 12 2008, 10:54 PM) View Post
Also, I sew the components together in reverse order i.e. the back flyleaf first to the back signature and then work forward to the front flyleaf.

If I understand that correctly, you are treating the flyleaf as if it were a signature? Or, put another way, when you sew the first two signatures in the beginning method, then you're actually sewing the flyleaf "signature" (A) and the first actual signature (B ). Correct?

Edited by Rocket Jones, 12 June 2008 - 23:44.

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#3 freznow

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Posted 13 June 2008 - 01:41

I just started one, and I'm doing it! I'm really doing it! Thank you for your instructions, they are outstanding.

#4 Writer44

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Posted 13 June 2008 - 01:56

I would also like to thank you very much. I've been thinking about building my own notebooks and this is all I needed to take the plunge. By the way, is that a pint of good brew I see at the edge of that photo?

Cheers, my friend!
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#5 robeck

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Posted 13 June 2008 - 10:59

QUOTE(Rocket Jones @ Jun 13 2008, 12:43 AM) View Post
If I understand that correctly, you are treating the flyleaf as if it were a signature? Or, put another way, when you sew the first two signatures in the beginning method, then you're actually sewing the flyleaf "signature" (A) and the first actual signature (B ). Correct?

Yes you are correct. In the very first book I made, I glued the flyleafs to the first and last signatures of the bookblock but found that it wrinkled the relatively thinner pages. I found that sewing the flyleafs as shown gave a much better result.

QUOTE(Writer44 @ Jun 13 2008, 02:56 AM) View Post
I would also like to thank you very much. I've been thinking about building my own notebooks and this is all I needed to take the plunge. By the way, is that a pint of good brew I see at the edge of that photo?

Cheers, my friend!

It's a pint of award winning Hobgoblin Ruby bitter served at a perfectly warm room temperature. Helps keep the sewing straight you know? thumbup.gif


I had hoped to post the next topic today - how to make the cover - but I need to add a second layer of tissue paper to it to get the colour I want so it'll have to wait one more day.

Regards,
Dean



#6 Writer44

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Posted 13 June 2008 - 11:24

Robeck,

Hobgoblin Ruby bitter? My friend, you are a king.

Whiskey man myself but just the sound of that drink makes me think about writing a story.

Can't wait for the next installment of this project. Don't forget to photo the beverages.

CHEERS!
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#7 duna

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Posted 13 June 2008 - 19:43

Wow. Amazed. I've done this myself, many months ago, decent result. But I still lack skills to make the cover, so I'm waiting for the next round!!
I find that making holes with a large needle (3-4 inches long, or 10 cm) is really easier and faster. Sewing is slow, anyway glare.gif but the large needle is handy: it protrudes easily from the paper's spine. Also, large needles have almost no 'edged' or 'pointy' tip, it's almost rounded: when you pierce the paper (to make the 5 holes) , paper breaks with a nice 'crack' , and no holes on the big underlying book.

#8 robeck

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Posted 14 June 2008 - 14:51

QUOTE(duna @ Jun 13 2008, 08:43 PM) View Post
Wow. Amazed. I've done this myself, many months ago, decent result. But I still lack skills to make the cover, so I'm waiting for the next round!!
I find that making holes with a large needle (3-4 inches long, or 10 cm) is really easier and faster. Sewing is slow, anyway glare.gif but the large needle is handy: it protrudes easily from the paper's spine. Also, large needles have almost no 'edged' or 'pointy' tip, it's almost rounded: when you pierce the paper (to make the 5 holes) , paper breaks with a nice 'crack' , and no holes on the big underlying book.


You're absolutely right and I should have mentioned that the needle I use is called a tapestry needle in the UK. It has a slightly rounded tip rather than a sharp point. This stops the point inadvertantly digging into the paper when sewing and also gives that snapping feel when punching the holes. If I could find a longer tapestry needle I would use it, but the one I use is all I could find in my wife's sewing box rolleyes.gif



#9 Daosus

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Posted 14 June 2008 - 16:07

They have this tool in craft stores. I don't know what it is called, but it's basically a large needle on a wooden handle. Very useful for poking holes, and you don't risk stabbing yourself with the back of the needle.

#10 Rocket Jones

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Posted 14 June 2008 - 16:40

QUOTE(Daosus @ Jun 14 2008, 04:07 PM) View Post
They have this tool in craft stores. I don't know what it is called, but it's basically a large needle on a wooden handle. Very useful for poking holes, and you don't risk stabbing yourself with the back of the needle.

Since my wife and daughter are both seamstresses, I just borrow a thimble. smile.gif

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#11 Songwind

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Posted 16 June 2008 - 14:16

I read another how-to on journal binding that demonstrated a sewing technique of sewing each signature, but having the signatures themselves just glued to two ribbons and a backing separate piece of mesh fabric, sort of like cheesecloth.

Do you know what the pros and cons are between the two methods?
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#12 robeck

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Posted 16 June 2008 - 14:52

QUOTE(Songwind @ Jun 16 2008, 03:16 PM) View Post
I read another how-to on journal binding that demonstrated a sewing technique of sewing each signature, but having the signatures themselves just glued to two ribbons and a backing separate piece of mesh fabric, sort of like cheesecloth.

Do you know what the pros and cons are between the two methods?

Hi Songwind,

I was going to touch on some of this in the final assembly section (probably ready tomorrow). Basically, the Coptic stitch that I use allows the book to lay completely flat whereas most other sewing patterns do not. I was concerned though about how resilient the Coptic stitch would be as it does give a very "loose" feel to the way the signatures are held together. That's why I then modify the technique by adding some flexible glue to the spine. This stiffens the book very slightly but not enough to prevent it from laying flat and it, hopefully, offers a bit more resilience.

Also, the ribbons/cheesecloth attachments you refer to are generally called "mulls" and are used to make a very secure connection between the bookblock and the cover. I could have added mulls to my bookblock too (either sewing them in or glueing them) but decided that simply sticking the flyleafs to the cover would suffice. I haven't had any problems with the bookblock detaching from the cover but, then again, I'm quite careful with the way I handle my stationery.

I have to say I have gone for simplicity and I don't profess to be a bookbinder. I'm sure many professionals would cringe at my approach but, hey, I'm happy with the results.

Kind Regards,
Dean

Edited by robeck, 16 June 2008 - 14:56.




#13 Songwind

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Posted 16 June 2008 - 14:58

Thanks!
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#14 Aristarco

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Posted 15 July 2008 - 15:48

Funny thing, I've always wanted to know which was the coptic stitch and I've been doing it for years! I discovered it in an old book that disintegrated and figured out how to sew it. I make my notebooks just the same way as you do, except that I don't sew the flyleaves, but glue them to the bookblock. Nice photo tutorial! Kudos.
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#15 farmerjohn

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Posted 30 November 2013 - 01:04

I would like to thank you. I just followed your instructions using some cheap computer paper and card-stock for the ends as a practice run, and while it did not turn out as tight for a first run I'm happy with it.

 

 

one thing that might save you a bit of pain instead of a thimble and needle I used an old awl I got at a garage sale looks like this

awl.jpg

the deeper you go the bigger the hole and behind it I had a scrap 6x6" pine board piece made quick painless work of the paper



#16 fraktur

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Posted 30 November 2013 - 07:33

Alternatively, a pin vise is a great option as you can switch out different sized needles to use for different size holes. I picked one up online for about 6 usd and it's served me better as I no longer have to use to different awls depending on the project.



#17 farmerjohn

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Posted 30 November 2013 - 16:41

Alternatively, a pin vise is a great option as you can switch out different sized needles to use for different size holes. I picked one up online for about 6 usd and it's served me better as I no longer have to use to different awls depending on the project.

I never thought of that thats a good idea do you just put the sewing needles in it?



#18 fraktur

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Posted 30 November 2013 - 23:32

I never thought of that thats a good idea do you just put the sewing needles in it?


Yep, I use two sizes for either a normal hole or very fine one and you can find them with a large handle or smaller, pencil form factor.

Edited by fraktur, 01 December 2013 - 02:27.


#19 GJMekenkamp

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Posted 29 March 2016 - 08:06

Because of the stacking of the papers, won't that make a book not perfectly neat? I mean, the 4th A4 (or A5, or..) will be a little bit sticking out.

 

(I have no idea how to explain this in my own language, let alone in English. Anyway, I hope I explained it clearly).



#20 Parjanya

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Posted 29 March 2016 - 16:45

That does happen, but there are paper guillotines exactly to trim it after you have finished :).








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