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How to Rebind Books – at home with Ashley

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How to Rebind Books - at home with Ashley

I love beautifully bound books that feel amazing to read and look gorgeous on a shelf. But I also love books that only come in paperback versions. I thought I’d take some of the softbound books that I read as a kid and rebind them to majorly upgrade them. I thought I’d take you along and show how to rebind books.

For this project I’m rebinding my favorite books I read as a kid. It was so fun to think about which books I really loved and then buy them again. I’ve been reading them to my son and it’s magical reading them again!

how to rebind books

Let’s start with the video tutorial on how to rebind books so you get an overview on what I did. Then, I’ll dive in with more details below:

 

If the video doesn’t work here, you can watch it on YouTube here. It’d mean so much if you’d watch the video! I’m trying to get better at my video skills so I can grow my YouTube channel. If you have a few minutes to watch this and/or subscribe, I’d so appreciate it.

SUPPLIES for how to rebind books


Books that are helpful for this process-

Bookbinding Basics by Paola Rosati

Hand-Made Books– an Introduction to Book Binding by Ron Shepard

I also suggest watching That’s My Bookshelf YouTube videos for how to rebind books. There is an in-depth video for each step that are very helpful. If you’re on Instagram, make sure to follow That’s My Bookshelf. This project is inspired by their amazing videos!

step 1- prep

To begin with how to rebind books, rip the old cover off the book (or use an X-Acto Knife to remove it). If any of the printed book cover doesn’t come off, sand off the extra with a Finger Sander. I didn’t have any issues- mine ripped off super easily.

Now, it’s important to decide what color the cover will be. I set aside the book cloth, end pages (I’ll be using marbled paper I created in this blog post), vinyl, and headbands for each book. That way, when it’s time to use each element, it’ll be easy since everything is together.

To help with proper binding down the road, mark the top of the spine with a pencil (a T at the top works nicely). Later this will be helpful so that the book isn’t glued in upside down.

step 2- make your own book cloth

Mostly, I’ll be using store bought book cloth. But I couldn’t find a yellow or orange color I like.  So I’m making my own! To start, cut Linen Fabric in a 14 1/2″ strip.

Next, dye the fabric the color of your choice. To do this, boil water on the stove top. Add some dye to the water and stir well. Then, put the linen fabric in the dye. Stir the fabric and leave it in the dye bath until it’s a good color. 

Remove it from the pot and rinse it out with cold water until the water runs clear. 

Hang it up to dry or throw it in the dryer.

Once dry, iron the linen fabric. Then cut it to be 14″ wide by 10.5″ tall. That’s the size the pre-made book cloth so I figure it’ll be a good size.

Cut the Heat ‘n Bond to 1/2″ smaller the book cover (so 13.5″ x 10″). Heat ‘n Bond will stabilize the fabric and make it nice and thick. This prevents glue from seeping through the book cloth later.

Iron the Heat ‘n Bond to the wrong side of the fabric. Set the iron to medium heat and press it for 2 seconds on every part of the surface. Flip the fabric and iron on the fabric side.

Let it cool. Then peel off the backing on the Heat ‘n Bond.

Cut a sheet of Tissue Paper to be the same size as the Heat ‘n Bond (so 13.5″ x 10″).

Iron the tissue paper onto the Heat ‘n Bond with an iron on medium heat. Essentially. I’m making a Heat ‘n Bond sandwich- there’s fabric, than the Heat ‘n Bond in the middle, and then the tissue paper. The Heat ‘n Bond adheres through ironing on both sides of it.

And that’s how you make your own book cloth for binding books! It’s super customizable because it can be any color or size.

step 3- end papers

Next, with how to rebind books, measure the height and width of the front of the book (without the cover). Take the width and multiply it by two. Double check the measurements before cutting. Write down the measurements.

Use a cork backed ruler and a rotary cutter to cut out two sets of end papers- one for the front and one for the back.

Fold them in half using the bone folder.

Hold the end papers up to the book and make sure they line up nicely. If needed, cut off any excess. If the end pages have a top or bottom make sure to know which side is up so it can be adhered in the right direction.

Spread a 5mm wide strip of glue along the edge of the book. Make sure to protect the table surface with some cardboard or parchment paper. Brush the glue on with an artist’s paint brush. 

For the next step, glue the end pages on the first and last pages of the book, lining it up with the text block. Use the bone folder to press the end pages down.

Let it dry well. While drying, put a waste paper on top of the end pages. Then put some weight on top of the book.

step 4- bookmark

Next, let’s add a bookmark. To begin, measure how long to cut the bookmark (which I’m making out of ribbon). To do this, hold the string diagonally over the book surface and add 4 inches. Then cut with scissors.

Put the book in the book press.

Spread a little bit of glue over one end of the bookmark and onto the spine of the book, and place it at the head (aka the top) of the book 1” down from the top at the center of the spine. Press hard for a couple of seconds. Then put some glue over the top of the book mark too.

step 4- apply the mull

And now, for continuing on how to rebind books, let’s apply the mull. Cut the mull making it 1-1/2” wider than the spine and the same height (or you can go up to 1/2″ shorter) than the book. I like going about 1/4″ shorter than the book so that I don’t worry about excess on the ends.

Spread a generous coat of glue along the whole spine. Allow it to dry briefly.

Next, attach the mull to the spine. It should protrude 3/4” per side. Add glue over the mull as well.

Do NOT glue the sides of the mull next. It’s easier to do it later.

step 6- headband

Next, apply the headband. This piece acts like a frame at each end of the spine. It should be the same width as the spine. To measure it, lay it across the spine of the book and cut it with scissors or measure the spine and cut it with scissors to the same width. Cut one for the top and one for the bottom of the spine.

Spread a layer of glue on the headband. Brush the glue up to the protruding edge and let it dry a couple of seconds. Then place it at the head of the spine. Line the headband up with the edge of the book so the rounded part of the cloth on the headband barely peeks over the top of the book. Press it make it stick. Then add more glue over the headband.

Right now (or any time when the book cover is off) is the time to add decorative details to the pages of the book. This can be marbling, gilding, or painting the pages. I marbled the pages of one book which was lots of fun.

step 7- cut the cardboard case for the cover

Note, if you are re-binding a hard cover book where the cover can be re-used, skip this step.

Measure the cardboard for the spine. Measure the width of the spine plus the width of one piece of the case stock. For the height, add 1/4″ to the height of the book.

For the covers, add 1/4” to the height and make the covers the same width as the book. Note- it’s better to go a little wider. It can always be trimmed down to fit perfectly. I like to write the measurements on the book so they’re easy to reference.

Cut the cardboard. Place the cardboard on a cutting mat. Draw the measurements onto the cardboard.

Start by using a T-Square Ruler and a cork backed ruler to cut the cardboard to the correct height.

And now, use a utility knife and a cork backed ruler to cut the cardboard covers and spine. Score the cardboard a few times to get a clean cut that goes all the way through.

If needed, sand the cardboard cover if there’s a jagged edge. Use a Finger Sander for the sanding.

step 8- connect the case for the cover

Note, the first time binding a book, it’s a good idea glue the spine and cover pieces onto a piece of card stock. This makes it so the size of the text block can be tested and helps with common errors. To do this, cut a piece of card stock that is 1-1/2″ wider than the spine. It’d be terrible to fully finish a book and have the cover size wrong, so I’m doing this.

Next, glue the spine cardboard case to the center of the card stock. Use a bone folder to press the card stock onto the binder board.

Flip it over and use the 5mm spacer from the Book Binding Tools and draw a line 5mm from each side of the spine.

Apply glue to those areas. Glue both pieces onto the card stock.

Flip the case over and use a bone folder to press the card stock onto the binder board.

Put the text block into the cardboard case. Make sure it fits well. If needed, trim it down to fit perfectly. Then sand again if there are any rough edges.

The cardboard case should be a little taller and wider than the text block- about 3 mm. 

step 9- book cloth

Start by laying the book case on the book cloth. Use the 15mm corner pieces from the Book Binding Tools and push the book case 15mm from two sides.

Mark 15 mm from the other two sides that need to be trimmed down. Then cut those two ends with the Rotary Paper Cutter. This gives the perfect amount of book cloth to turn over on the book case.

Put the book case on top of the book cloth. Place it so it’s 15mm from all sides. Trace around the book case with a pencil.

Next, use corner trimmers to cut off the corners of the book cloth about an 1/8” from the corner. This measurement should be about the same as the thickness of the cover. Press the corner trimmer against the casing, then use the Rotary Paper Cutter to cut off the corners.

Glue the book casing to the book cloth. To do that, brush glue onto the cover within the pencil marks. Put the book board in place. Next, brush glue onto the spine and put the spine casing in place. Last, repeat for the back cover.

Flip the casing over so the book cloth is on top. Make sure to put parchment or waste paper on the work surface. Use a bone folder to press out any wrinkles and press the book cloth into the hinges to create a crease. Also use the bone folder around the edges of the casing.

Beginning with the head, brush on glue with a foam brush.

Then, quickly turn in the extra cloth with the bone folder. Press the book cloth onto the inside of the book with the bone folder.

Repeat for the bottom (or tail) of the book. Brush on glue, fold over the book cloth, and press in place with a bone folder. Keep a wet rag handy so that if glue gets anywhere, it can easily be wiped off.

Next, move to one side of the book. Brush on the glue.

Then, use the bone folder to push in both of the corners.

When both corners have been turned in, continue to folding the side strips of book cloth over the to the inside of the book with the bone folder.

Repeat for the last side.

Put the book cloth under a piece of parchment and some books for a few hours so it dries flat.

step 10- design the cover and spine

Next, to continue with how to rebind books, design the cover of the book. For that, I like to use the software Picmonkey. First I measure the cover and spine of the book so I know how big to make the cover design.

Then I open the Picmonkey software and create a new document in the same size as the book (I measure before the cover goes on. I want the cover design to be a little bit smaller than the actual cover).

After that, I add a rectangle that goes along the outside to create a border.

For the top and the bottom of the cover, I add the name of the book and the author in the font Futura Medium. I like to use caps because it’s the easiest to weed later on. 

The rest of the cover gets a motif. I add a graphic that goes with the book.

 

Then, I repeat the pattern so it goes over the pattern. Once I like it, I save it.

Next, I design the back cover. For that, I edit a copy of the cover design. I delete the author and title. Then I add more of the motif where those were.

And now, I add an oval to the middle of the book. I make the middle white so that you can’t see through it.

Inside the oval, I add in a quote from the book. I like to find something that somewhat speaks to the overall theme of the book. Again, I type in all caps as it’s easier to weed (as I’ve learned from experience). Once I like it, I save the back cover.

For the spine, I keep it super simple since the books are so skinny (usually 1/2″ or smaller). I type the title, author, and add a little motif to match the cover.

step 11- cut and weed the vinyl

The next step for how to rebind books, is to open Cricut design space and create a new canvas so I can start uploading the graphics I just designed. Let’s do the cover together.

I select upload and then I choose the cover design. Click continue.

To remove the background areas, I click anywhere that is negative space. I like to zoom in to make sure I get everything. Click for the inside of letters like A, B, D, O, P, Q, and R. Next, click inside any parts of the graphics that have negative space- anything that is white. Click the button “preview single layer” to make sure everything looks good. Push “apply and continue.”

Next it will give you three upload options, choose the center one that’s called “single layer.” Press continue and then press upload.

That adds it onto my canvas. It’ll be added as a huge size, so change the height or width it so it’s the same size as the book cover. 

Repeat for the spine and back cover. Once they’re all in the Cricut canvas, click on “make.”

Choose how you will load the materials. I usually use materials that need a mat, so I select the mat. For smart materials, choose “without mat.”

Next, you review the artwork. There is where it’s really important to mirror the design since it’ll be ironed on.

Then you set the base material. There’s a short list of the most popular items. If what I’m using isn’t on that list, I click “browse all materials” to find what I’m using. I usually select “everyday iron-on.”

At this point, I cut a piece of vinyl to the same size as what’s needed on the image from Cricut Design Space. For this book, that’s 8″ long.

Then I put the iron-on vinyl onto the mat with the shiny side down.

Now all that’s left to do is load the material and press go! The machine takes it from there and cuts the design. 

After the vinyl has been cut, it’s time to weed out the excess background vinyl. Use a weeding tool for this. I’ve also found that tweezers can help the tiny stubborn pieces.

Weeding the intricate design takes awhile! Watch a good show and be patience as each little piece of vinyl is removed.

Now that the vinyl is weeded, it’s time to add it to the outside of the book!

step 12-iron on the design

Take the book case covered in the book cloth and add on the cover design. To do that, take the cover and stick it to the book. Be careful to line it on straight with even margins on each side. Use Heat Resistant Tape to hold the design in place.

Start at the top in one corner and work clockwise around the book slowly ironing on the design with the Cricut Mini Press.

Continue to the spine. Especially for this area since it’s so small (and the vinyl tends to move), it’s important to use Heat Resistant Tape to hold the design in place. Iron-on all of the vinyl on the cover, back, and spine.

With my first book I ironed on the design, it moved a bit and the border is especially obvious since it’s not straight. The tape helps with that.

Use the press and go over the design until the plastic sheet removes cleanly.

If ironing next to a section where the plastic has been removed, be careful to not put the iron on the exposed vinyl. That will cause the vinyl to peel up.

When I’m all done ironing everything on, I put a piece of cotton fabric over the book cover and give it a final iron to make sure everything is properly adhered.

step 13- casing in

Finally, it’s time to put the book cover on the text block and finish up this book re-bind!

Open the cover and lay the text block inside the newly finished cover. Make sure that the book is in correctly- that the cover is on the front of the book. Adjust the placement of the book until the cover protrudes by the same amounts at the three edges of the book.

Open the front cover and leave it in place. Slip a sheet of waste paper between the end papers. Note, it’s nice to have a stack of books behind the work area so the book that’s being cased in can have a place to rest when the cover is open.

Start the casing in process by spreading glue under the mull and then onto the entire surface of the end paper.

When the gluing is complete, remove the waste paper. Next, put in a fresh sheet of parchment paper (this keeps the book from gluing itself closed). Close the book and check that the text block is properly placed inside the cover.

Flip over the book, being careful to not move the text block. Open the back cover. Slip a sheet of waste paper between the end papers. Spread glue under the mull and onto the entire surface of the end pages.

When the gluing is complete, remove the waste paper and put in a fresh sheet (this keeps the book from gluing itself closed). Close the book.

It’s so exciting to see the book all done! Handle it carefully and don’t open it to help ensure it doesn’t shift out of place.

Put in the book press with the spine peeking out the side (so it doesn’t get smashed) and let dry overnight. Wait at least 12 hours before removing it from the book press. This is the best way to ensure that the end papers will dry nice and flat.

after

And the books are done! I LOVE how they turned out! There is just something so much more special about a hard cover book-especially one made by hand. 

I’ll be honest- I made SO many mistakes when making these books. But I also learned a lot. So I could see how I was getting better and it was really satisfying. 

Now I want to make over all the paperback books in my son’s room! Lol!

Or buy more of my favorite books from when I was a kid and redo them. Which makes me think- wouldn’t this be such a good gift? To re-bind someone’s favorite childhood book? I know I’d love it!

I made the books in rainbow order. Because I love rainbow everything. Here’s how the books look- a view with the front, back, headbands, and end pages.

price breakdown for how to rebind books

I like to add up the costs of a project. I had some of the items on hand for book binding, but lots I had to buy specially for this project.

Total- $126

These supplies easily covered the 5 books I did. I believe they would stretch for 20 or more books. So it’s definitely a project where the more you do it, the more worth the investment it is.

In conclusion, I hope this tutorial on how to rebind books is helpful! I loved working on this- it really was fun to see it come together. Though it was slow. Do think you’d try this? Let me know if you have questions in the comments.

signaturesignatureThis post- How to Rebind Books, contains some affiliate links for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.

 

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