We love making books! We're both self-taught, and much of what we have learned was found online. So, in the interest of giving back, here are some step-by-step tutorials on how we made some of our more elaborate books. None of what you see here should be interpreted as the "right way" or the "best way" to do any of this, just as "our way."

Binding Scribbles in a Sandstorm by Carol Es

The main part of the book is a single strip. In this case, it's a 40" watercolor painting by Carol Es. Cut it to size and be sure to leave 2" on each edge.C

Carefully fold the strip to create an accordion that will become the book's text block. In this case, I started by folding the strip in half, and then moving out in 6.5" increments until I got to the 2" sections on each end. These "ears" are what will be bound into the boards.

Some pictures are missing here, but what you're seeing is the "ear" referenced above being adhered to the bookcloth. If you make this binding yourself, you'll have to measure and cut your bookcloth to size - the boards in this book are 7" x 7", and the bookcloth is 9" x 15". This process uses a pressure-sensitive adhesive (which has been applied in advance to the bookcloth), since it would be extremely time consuming to use glue. I prefer Gudy-O, which meets most archival standards. Back to the task at hand, peel back some of the backing paper on the adhesive film, and then press the ear of the folded strip FACE DOWN, with the fold line lining up with the edge of the bookcloth.

There's a missing photo here (sorry!), but it's pretty basic - expose enough adhesive, and then place the bookboard down so the left edge is EVEN with the left edge of the bookboard. This way, the bookboard will cover the ear of the folded strip (you did it right if you can slide something in between the board and the ear - if you put adhesive OVER the ear before putting the board down, you did it wrong. Since you can't cover the corners the normal way, you need to do the triangle method. Cut 1" down and 1" across from the corner, then across to form a triangle. Fold the triangle over the corner.

But wait! Before you fold the triangles over, and while your right angle is still up against the right edge of the bookboard, take a DULL knife and very gently score a line that continues where the top edge of the bookboard leaves off. Score this line all the way to the other end of the bookcloth. The point here is to score JUST the backing paper - if you cut through to the bookcloth, you'll have to start over.

Now you can fold your corners over. If the picture/explanation above didn't make sense, this picture should help. The idea is to put some material over the corner so there's not a little hole once the book is finished.

Now that the corners are protected, fold the top and bottom edges of the bookcloth back over the bookboard.

Okay, here's the deal. You don't HAVE to do this step, or the step above that describes scoring the backing paper of the adhesive. You can just trip the rest of the bookcloth to the size of the bookboard and fold it over. These extra steps all detail HEMMING the cloth to make the edge prettier (since paper-backed bookcloth has an ugly edge when trimmed). Hemming the top and bottom is easy (you already did most of the work with the scoring). Hemming the right edge is harder, since you need to make sure it is exactly parallel to the left edge while also getting the correct length so there's no overhang (or underhang). To do this, fold the bookboard over the remaining section of bookcloth (WITHOUT exposing the adhesive first), and hold it tightly in place with the heel of your hand. Use your fingers to hold a straightedge against the edge of the bookboard, and then score the backing paper. This takes a few tries before you get the hang of it.

Now that you have scored the backing paper along the top, bottom, and right edges, you can peel off the backing paper just for the center area. Also, you'll want to remove a square of material from each corner (the size of the square will have been determined by your score lines). The idea here is to have edges that you can fold over to achieve the hemming effect.

Before you take the backing paper off of the top and bottom edges, you need to score where you'll be folding the edges over with a bone folder. That handy score line will disappear as soon as you take the rest of the backing paper off, so you need do pre-fold it a little in order to get the length of the hem right.

Now repeat the same step with the right edge. Careful - the right edge might be slightly longer when you fold it over, which will look ugly if you don't trim it in advance. The bottom of the right edge should be a fraction of a millimeter above the bottom edge (and below the top edge), as it is in the photo.

Put some double-sided tape along the edges so they'll stick to the book when you fold the flap of bookcloth over. Note: NEVER use the red tape shown in the photo. It is sold as scrapbooking tape (often as "red tape," although the red part is just the backing strip), but it is really, really shitty and turns yellow really quickly. I had to redo this entire edition to get rid of it once I realized that it is not appropriate for bookbinding.

Put a spare piece of backing paper down, and fold the bookcloth over just to double-check the fit. If it looks good, remove the backing paper and adhere the flap in place. Repeat all the steps for the other board, and you're done.

This is how it will look when you're all done.

Now, the reason you didn't put any adhesive over the ears when you adhered the bookboard to the cloth is that you need a sleeve into which you can insert a "spine" for the book. The spine here is just folded paper, but you can use any material. The neat thing is that, with the spine in place, it looks like a normal book, and the folds of the accordion section turn just like book pages. With the spine removed, however, the entire accordion opens up, and you can even add secret stuff on the back. Check out the gallery for Scribbles in a Sandstorm to see the completed book.

Restoring Scribbles in a Sandstorm

Unfortunately, shortly after finishing all the copies of Scribbles in a Sandstorm, we noticed that this red tape, sold to us as acid-free and archival, was actually causing the Rag Photographique paper used for the title page and colophon to yellow. This meant we had to go back and remove it from everywhere it had been used to adhere paper. For more on this, I wrote a long essay about "archival" books in the News/Updates section. This step-by-step details how we went about removing the tape. These photos are from a test process to see how the solvent would interact with the ink, not from an actual copy of the book.

With the print adhered to the test sheet, it's time to remove it. We used heptane for this process, since it is a low-polarity solvent (won't warp paper), and it is not excessively strong. Plus, it is used extensively in conservation, which is a good sign.

Once the heptane has been applied over the adhesive, it will start to neutralize the adhesive bond. The tape has a plastic carrier, meaning that the heptane has only worked on the top layer of adhesive (think of it like a sandwich: paper, adhesive, carrier, adhesive, paper). This means you have to be very careful not to try to remove the bottom layer of adhesive by accident. I'm using a teflon-coated micro spatula to very gently coax the paper off of the adhesive layer.

With the print removed, I'll set it aside to dry.

Now the tape has to be removed from the other sheet.

I'll coat the OPPOSITE side of the sheet (which happens to be a giclee print in this case) with heptane, since the paper is porous, and this will allow the heptane to contact the adhesive. If I put heptane directly on the tape, the plastic carrier would prevent from contacting the adhesive.

Again with the micro spatula, starting by coaxing a corner up.

If the tape is stubborn, I'll pull out a pallet knife, although this can very easily slice through the paper, so it can be dangerous.

Now that the tape is removed, there is a horrible oily stain on the paper...

...that will completely disappear after around 8-12 hours of drying time. (This picture was taken after about 30 minutes.)

Binding the deluxe edition of Some are Young & Some are Free by Skinner - Part 1

For the deluxe edition of this book, I used Fabriano Murillo paper for the spine, which made it a little easier to bind than if I had used a strip of bookboard. Murillo is extremely stiff, so it works well on a heavy book like this. Plus, using paper for the spine can sometimes look neater if you're going for a very clean look. In this picture, I'm using my folding tool to flatten any creases around the spine.

Since this book has a "W" structure, I first made each side separately (that's 24 traditional hardcover cases for 12 copies of the book).

Then, I used a strip of bookcloth to bind the two halves together. I should note that all of this is going to be covered up by the final materials, meaning that the color of the paper and bookcloth here don't matter.

The next step was to add very thin magnets to the area where the two spines come together. Because this is a heavy book, the magnets help make it feel more solid and less floppy.

With the magnets in place, I put the black cloth over both the spines and the inside section of the "W" where the original painting will go.


Next came the custom-printing of the canvas for the front and back covers. Because my printer doesn't support most types of roll printing, I had to run the sheets through individually, which meant that I needed to temporarily tape them to heavyweight cardstock in order for them to pass through the printer.


Once the canvas sheets were printed, they needed to be spray varnished so the ink wouldn't nick or rub off.

After that, I glued them onto the front and back covers of the book using Beva Gel glue. The canvas doesn't have a uniform enough surface for the adhesive film I usually use, so I needed a thick, tacky glue - Beva Gel is perfect for this. Also, due to the thickness of the canvas, you can't fold the corners the traditional way, so I used the "Chance Press" method.

Finally, it was time to take the books up to Skinner for the original paintings.

This covers the steps that went into making the case and covering the oustide of it. Part II will cover the inside of the case and the main portion of the book, and Part III will cover the extra touches.