The second course I did at LCBA taught us how to make a slim hardback notebook with a single bound section of paper inside, and with a foil embossed cover.

It is advised to do this course before the Round-back Case Book Binding course I did first, as it is a simpler process. Both the bookbinding courses teach processes that you could replicate at home / in the studio with minimal heavy machinery, with only the core hand toolkit.


The course began with an introduction to the glossary of bookbinding terms and tools.



Bookbinders tend to use methods that involve by-eye measurements, templates, and rely on tools such as spring dividers, as well as rulers. It is very practical fast work where the hands remember the process. There are parts that I found very sensible for the dyslexic brain, and parts that get a little more complicated. It’s all about being organised, process based and keeping an orderly and clean worktop. Most of the work is performed standing.



This time the making was more familiar to me, and the final notebook I made had fewer mistakes and I left feeling more hopeful. I know after finishing the course that I definitely would like to make a multi-section case bound book for my edition, but not with a rounded spine. The foil embossing looks really striking, so I know I would like to have both the title and an image embossed on my cover, and possibly the spine. I am also thinking of designing and printing my own end papers. As with all my projects, this one is growing.



Here is some info I found useful:


  • With a new bone folder – soak it in baby oil overnight and wipe off in the morning, this helps keep the bone from cracking. An old fashioned method is to run the end on the sides of your nose to keep it oiled.


  • At LCBA they use a Pin Vice, this tool is like an Awl, but it holds a thick needle, which you can replace, and gives you a finer piercing.


  • Fore edge is the name of the open edge of the book with pages: opposite to the spine


  • Grain should always be parallel to the spine, if it’s not the book will not sit or open well over time.


  • Gsm stands for the Gram per Square Metre (A0 piece of paper)


  • For general bookmaking 60, 120, 130 gsm are all good paper weights


  • The books we made on the course used 100gsm paper


  • Because the numbered pages and orientation of layouts in bookbinding gets complicated you use an imposition, which is a dummy, numbered folded test paper. You can fold this, slice the paper, unfold it and work out your layout. A lot of people make their layout in InDesign ahead of using traditional bookbinding methods. *However remember to set up the design for page creep! Inner pages will have more trim than outer pages.


  • We made a 10cm wide paper template slightly longer than the height of our book for piercing holds and marking the trim. For a book multiple make an ‘L’ shaped hook template in card, that you can slot onto the head of the section.


  • In bookbinding you use linen thread to sew the pages, and you lubricate this with beeswax. We used 35/3 thread (the higher the number the thinner the thread). You can sometimes pick up nice wooden reels of this thread in charity shops and car boots sales as well as buying new. For sewing a section you need thread 2.5 x the length of the section.


  • Start sewing in the middle of the inside of the section.


  • Bookcloth is tissue-backed cloth. The grain runs parallel to the selvage edge of the cloth roll. Vintage bookcloth is starch filled and is different to work with and has a really beautiful finish.


  • Bookbinders use EVA glue, which is similar in consistency to PVA, but is non plasticised Ethylene-Vinylacetate. It is thinner, archival and reversible, so it allows for future book restoration.


  • When cutting paper with a scalpel, top tip is to stand on one leg to add more pressure. You should cut from top to bottom in a singular smooth motion, and start again and repeat until you have cut cleanly through all the paper when trimming a section after sewing. When cutting, put a piece of scrap paper under the section to protect the paper.


  • The Square’ is the ‘L’ corner of cover visible behind the section. People really respect a good square on a hardback book. We worked with a 3mm square. After making a few books you’ll be very good at eyeballing a good square when making.


  • For the spine structure we used fray-knot Calico. You fold a strip in half and pitch it onto the glued edge of the spine, then rub down with the bone folder.


  • Boards are normally cut long grain. We cut out greyboards on a large green hand guiliteen at LCBA, but you could cut 2mm greyboard with a very steady hand with a Stanley knife if working at home / studio.


  • Always glue the thinner of two materials! For example: the bookcloth, not greyboard.


  • Turn-in’ is the gap of bookcloth you fold over for the spine.