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Initial Stab At Bookbinding


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Hello All,

I wanted to share with the FPN crowd some bookbinding work I did, and maybe garner some advice.


Here are some photos:



















Lay-flat at stitches:





Lay-flat at intervening pages:





Usage of a guide sheet:





And here's where I need some advice:


The thing looks like this at points between signatures.





In other words the gaps are quite big, and held together by several stitches.


I'm actually perfectly fine with having it this way because it lays flat here as it does at all other pages in the book.


But, it does look a bit wobbly, and the binding is a bit loose, no matter how tight you tie the knots while stitching the thing together.


The thing I like about it is that no glue was used. It was purely just threads and stitching that did the job.


When I had a respected bookbinder inspect this notebook, he held the closed book between his palms and gripping the covers by the fingertips of each hand, he jiggled the covers around while closed, the binding was so loose that it just wobbled like crazy. It was an embarrassing moment for me.


So I got to thinking, how to improve it.


For those of you that own a Nanami Seven Seas Notebook, you'll notice that on the pages between the signatures, theres a narrow strip of glue/adhesive that keeps the two signatures stuck to each other.


It limits the real-estate on the page, you have to fold one page or the other (where the glue ends) to make it lay flat (if you can picture that). Also my guide sheet doesn't go all the way up to the spine at such points and it sticks out a bit because the glue is in the way.


Other than that, it is largely inconspicuous.


I've tried that with one of the similar books to this, but I am not keen on the usage of glue. I used an UHU gum stick (or a generic variant thereof), used a paper to cover the area near the spine where I wanted no glue to go and just slathered it up with glue and stuck both signatures together this way. In some places the strip of glue is about 5mm wide, which I don't care for.




I wanted the advice from people who have dabbled in such things, how they address the wobbly-ness when doing coptic stitch book binding.









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  • TMLee


  • pepsiplease69


  • GatzBcn


  • Candleinthewilderness


Great effort :thumbup:



Well this may come as a disappointment to you , but Coptic stitches are like that - there is some 'wobble' to be expected.

It is the nature of such "exposed bindings" like what you are attempting.

See books on bookbinding by Keith Smith. :thumbup:


'Wobble' cannot be avoided in these kinds of exposed bindings - without involving the use of something else extra like glue .


Its the beauty of such exposed bindings - bookbinding without the use of glue. :D

Expressing the pattern of the stitching.



[ when making Hardback books that are also stitched , the bookblock also will 'wobble' , until the mull is glued over the spine of the bookblock. After that happens , it wont wobble anymore. ]



Gaps between signatures

The thicker your thread, the larger the gap between signatures.

You decide what you want - to express the thread as much as possible or as little as possible :D

There's no hard and fast rule. :)



Glueing on the spine

For the type of journals that I make , I apply glue on the spine.

It helps reduce wobble.

The glue does not make the binding any stronger.


I have used both (my) journals with the spine glued and unglued.

The unglued kind, opens more flat than the ones that are glued, altho the difference is really insignificant.

I like the advantage of the unglued kind, especially if I am using that journal for sketching.



Extracted from my superlong threadpost at




The spine was glued. Of course avoiding staining the stitches. The glue doesn't contribute to the strength of the binding. It just seals up the gaps between signatures. It does help reduce 'wobble' though.



This picture above shows how the book is prepped before brushing on glue on the spine of the bookblock (ie, the signatures)

Clamping compresses the signatures tightly together.

This way, when you apply glue, the glue cannot seep down in between signatures.

Yet, the glue does its work of holding the signatures together , ever so thinly.

( PvA - aka white glue - is very strong and dries clear )


Applying glue between signatures in this manner is alot easier than the technique you described above.

The end result is also markedly different, when you open the book to the page between two signatures.

You cant see that strip of paper that is glued to the other page, which I believe is what you wish. :)

Its alot narrower, and is dependent on how thin your individual signatures are.


Hope this helps :D





... 665 crafted ... one at a time ... ☺️

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As TMLee says, a Coptic journal will always dance like that, it is in the nature. You may try different threads and it will give different impressions, I guess according to the elastic nature of the thread (even though if they look the same to us).

Ok, here is an idea: add a strip of something (cloth, paper or leather) on the spine. It will cover the threads, even though if it is thin they may still be able to be seen, but it will limit the dancing. If you just glue the spine, some glue will go between the signatures and limit the opening, but not if you add a strip on the spine. You may even try to only add the strip on a space, not the whole spine.

You are welcome to visit my blog: http://gatzbcn.blogspot.com/ and that is my shop: https://www.gatzbcn.com/shop

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Thank you both TMLee and GatzBcn for your very helpful replies.


It makes me feel very good that the wobble/loose binding is normal and I didn't do anything wrong. I was feeling self-conscious for a long time and trying to find a good solution.


You make a good point about electing a finer thread to make the stitching. I used dental floss to make a small saddle stitched booklet in the past and I might consider using that.


Also I picked up some Nylon thread from Hobby Lobby that is way thinner than the thread I used for this notebook, I got this thread from Paper Source, it was listed under bookbinder's linen, un-waxed and all. But it turns out it was too thick for what I need.


I'm also considering looking at fishing line as possible alternative.


There's also an idea in my head to use a star-shaped pattern as a decorative stitching that binds the following signatures (assuming there are 'n' number of total signatures) in an 'x' pattern


1st - and - nth

2nd - and - (n-1)th

3rd - and - (n-2)th

... and so on


therefore resulting in a start shaped adornment like the following:





I'm working on a couple of more journals, I'll try to post images and share how I get on with things.


Thanks again for your very thoughtful replies, it's good to know that I'm not doing anything incorrectly with my coptic stitch.

Edited by pepsiplease69
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I am working on something similar. I have done some basic bookbinding before. But when I had a chance to grab a ream of Tomoe River, I knew I was going to make something. My signatures are about 15 sheets each. I used heavy quilting thread. It holds up nicely. It's waxed, it's strong, and its pretty darn cheap. Works well. I used saddle stitch binding not coptic like yours. But I think you might get good results with the quilting thread.

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There's also an idea in my head to use a star-shaped pattern as a decorative stitching that binds the following signatures (assuming there are 'n' number of total signatures) in an 'x' pattern


1st - and - nth

2nd - and - (n-1)th

3rd - and - (n-2)th

... and so on


therefore resulting in a start shaped adornment like the following:








Full disclosure: The idea above I've gotten from a book maker on Etsy by the name of Sprouts Press, here's their link (I have no affiliation with them)


Sprouts Press



Secondly, there's a youtube video from a helpful publisher by the name of Sea Lemon (again no affiliation).


I learned how to do my first coptic stitch using the following video


How to Make a Sketchbook: Coptic Stitch


(God knows how many times I've played an re-played this video, I still go back to it all the time when I'm doing a new book).


And just now I noticed that Sea Lemon actually posted another youtube about exactly my issue, loose binding for coptic stitch and she mentions exactly what some of you guys already stated, wobble is normal, you can use PVA glue etc.


Here's that video:


Loose Coptic Stitch


Thanks everyone for your inputs here.

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  • 6 months later...

With my journals I avoid the problem of the book having to open flat by writing in the signatures before binding. I only bind after the journal has been written.

Please call me Nathan. It is a pleasure to meet you.


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  • 4 months later...

My wife would love a sketch pad made this way. May try to make one soon like you made here. Hemp or jute would look Good. Burlap sack material glued to cardboard.

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