Building a Scrapbook

In the past few years, several people have asked if they could use my blank books as  scrapbooks.  My answer has always been an emphatic, “No!” Inserting extra thickness into any tightly bound book will sooner or later break the spine. With a Coptic or long-stitch binding there is a bit of leeway, but as soon as the boards or covers move beyond being parallel, the hinges are put under stress and will break. I have made some books that are suitable for scrapbook use and I thought I’d document how I construct them.

The goal in building this type of book is to accommodate extra thickness between the pages while using a strong binding structure that will support extra weight.  I, personally, don’t like making scrapbooks: they tend to be large and I like small. The pages are difficult to sew and the endpapers can be a pain, but enough whining, here’s my current foray into the art of building a scrapbook.

Many steps are identical to the construction of the usual sewn binding, but I’ve included photos of most steps so you can follow along. See my pages on “Making a Book” for more information.

There are many ways of creating space between book pages.  I have used the “tab” method. In a usual sewn book, each leaf is folded in half to make two pages (four sides), so if you are making a book 5″wide  x 7″high, each leaf will be 10″x 7″.  For tabbed pages, the paper is cut just 1/4″ wider than a single page, 51/4″x 7″.  The 1/4″ is folded over and hooked around the page next to it, creating a tab that makes a space between the pages. The hooked pages are gathered together in twos or fours to make sections. The sections are sewn, just as in a regular book.

Textblock almost finished!

Adding decorative endpapers and completing the spine structure finishes the work on the textblock. I tend to overbuild the spine, reinforcing the hinges with muslin as well as the tapes. If you examine a well-used book, you can easily see that the spine and the hinges are the places that show the most wear. This is one of the reasons that I don’t care for Coptic or long-stitch binding. They can be interesting, beautiful or fun, but they won’t handle the use and abuse that a sewn binding will.

Making the Case

Last step will be to marry the textblock and the case.

Casing out completed and the entire book is placed in a press or under weights until all the PVA is dry. Tomorrow will be the big reveal!


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