Sunday, January 21, 2018

Handmade Book with Block-printed Cover

For my last birthday I received numerous heartfelt gifts from my friend Jodi.  Jodi is an incredibly creative person who makes beautiful watercolor mandalas and I was stumped for a while as to what to give her in return for her birthday.  But one day I was on Instagram and I came across an artist named Andie Mayr who does INCREDIBLE blue and white stampwork.  If you are on Instagram you must follow her...her call name is @regnitzflimmern.  (If you are not on Instagram you can still see her work here.) After I saw her work it dawned on me that I could carve my own stamp, make my own block-printed bookcloth. and make a book for Jodi!

I first learned to make books like this from my friend Amy Bogard.  Amy leads sketchbook workshops around the world (in fact I am going to Guatemala with her in March!).  But the first trip I went on was a trip she led to Taos, New Mexico where I made my first sketchbook (you can see it here). I like Amy's technique because she starts off with an old, used book she finds at the Goodwill.  She then takes the pages out and has a nice already-made book spine and cover which saves a lot of time.  Because I wanted to make my own bookcloth and I wanted to make a fairly square book for my friend's mandalas, I chose to start from scratch.  That means cutting book boards and applying bookcloth.

Below you can see the block-printed bookcloth and book.  In this post I am going to show you how to make your own hand-printed bookcloth, how to make the book itself, and also a book satchel that I made to match the book.  If you want to buy an old book and use its cover you can skip to step 7 to begin.  

"Books are a uniquely portable magic." — Stephen King

1. Design Stamp and Transfer to Block

The first step is to draw your design and then transfer it to the block.  I usually trace my design onto tracing paper.  You can then turn it over and rub it with a credit card and it transfers perfectly.  I used safety-kut for my carving material.  It is especially nice for this because it is thick and you can grab ahold of it well for stamping.  You can make your stamp any size.  Mine was about 1 inch square.

2. Carve Block and Print Bookcloth

The nice thing about working so small is that if you mess up you can throw it away and start a new one.  Or you can test several designs.  Below you can see my stamp and the ink pad I used.

Here is a short video of the stamping process.  I was worried my lines were going to be wonky so I drew one starting line.  It was actually more forgiving than I expected.  Things weren't perfect, but it really doesn't show too much in the end.

3. Cut and Glue Boards

I forgot to mention that I cut the book board first. The size of your boards will determine the final size of the book so it important to think about how you will use the book.  This was the largest book I have made yet, but I wanted it to be square so my friend Jodi could draw her circular mandalas in it.  (Here is an example of a more vertical sketchbook I made for my friend Christina). 

When making a book it is best to use acid-free bookboard.  It is nice and thick, although that makes it hard to cut.  It is best to use a fresh blade and go over your cut many times.  I usually make the spine about 1 inch wide.  Once the boards are cut you can then add an inch around the edge to determine the size of the bookcloth.  I also leave a space between the spine and the covers that is two times the thickness of the board (which usually is about 1/4 inch).  This will allow your book to bend properly.

Once the boards and bookcloth have been cut perfectly to size it is then time to glue the boards down to the bookcloth.  I like to use a brush to apply Yes paste to both the board and the bookcloth.  It is also helpful to trace in pencil where the boards go beforehand.  After gluing everything in place I put a piece of protective paper over the whole thing and then press the boards by putting heavy books on top. 

4. Cut Corners

I wondered if the term "cutting corners" comes from this step.  It is not a form of "cheating," but a very helpful step in bookbinding.  By cutting the corners, one is able to eliminate excess cloth that would make the corners bulky when folded.  I like to angle my cuts slightly and it is important to not bring the cuts all the way to the corner.  I leave a space that is a hair more than the thickness of the board.  This will allow your corner to be covered.  It is always better to leave a little more space to ensure corner coverage.

5. Fold Corners & Glue

After the boards are dry I then fold the corners around using Yes paste again.  In this step I try not to get too much glue on the boards (mainly because I press it again and don't want my protective paper to stick to the board).  It is possible to also glue the endpaper on at the same time and then it doesn't matter.  But by doing this as a separate step it allows one to fix any problem areas if a section has not glued well.  Press with books again after gluing. 

6. Cut and Glue Endpaper

For the end paper I used Canson paper.  If the cover is plain, it is fun to use a more decorative endpaper.  If I had to do the whole book over again, I might have done minimal stamping on the outside and then made the endpapers full of stamp, but that will have to wait until next time.

I usually leave between an 1/8-1/4 inch space between the endpaper and the edge of the book.  I also use Yes paste again for this step and then press with books.  Always use protective paper between your pressing books and your project!

7. Make Signatures and Hammer Holes

The term "signature" refers to the pages of your book that are stacked and folded as a group and then sewn to the spine of the book.  For this project I used Stonehenge paper mainly because I had a lot leftover from printmaking projects.  Printmaking paper is nice to use because it tears beautifully.  I never knew until I took printmaking that you can just lay a ruler down onto paper and tear it to make gorgeous deckled edges.

It is a good idea to make the paper about a 1/2 inch smaller than the size of the book board.  That gives 1/4 inch space around the edges. Once the paper is torn  I like to score it lightly with an exacto blade where I want the paper to fold.  This helps to make a clean fold.  

I usually make each signature contain 2 or 3 pages.  For this book I had a total of six signatures, 4 with three sheets and 2 with two sheets.  It really depends on the thickness of your paper.  I have made books before where I overstuffed the book and the pages were always pushing the cover up.  It is really a matter of trial and error.  It is also nice to press the signatures after you have folded them.

After you have all of your signatures folded, the next step is to use an awl to make holes for sewing the binding.  I usually make a template and mark the pages with pencil.  It is best to only do a couple pages at a time.  For this book style I punched 8 holes per signature.  The two sets of holes at the ends are closer together.  This is not set in stone.  You can play with the placement and spacing of these and there are beautiful examples on Pinterest of other options.

8. Make Holes in Cover Spine

I also used the same template from the signature to make holes on the spine of the book.  For six signature you will have three vertical lines of holes.  I made these holes with an awl.

9.  Sew in the Signatures

I forgot to take a picture of this step but decided a diagram would be better anyway.  Below you can see how I attached the signatures.  I usually use waxed linen thread for sewing in the signatures.  It comes in a variety of colors and I was happy to find the perfect blue to match this book. 

I usually start at the bottom and tie a knot.  I then begin on the inside of the spine, exit to the outside, grab the first bead and then come back in the same hole.  I then enter the first hole of the first signature.  From there it is simply a matter of going in and out.  The only tricky part comes when moving between one vertical line to the next and I can never quite recall what the exact problem is. But I usually muddle through and make sure that it looks good from the outside. 

In hindsight, I think the beads I used were a bit large.  Smaller beads would allow the book to lay flatter when opened.  I mainly chose those beads because I fell in love with the gold toppers.  When I was at the bead store I had meticulously picked out 20 of those gold toppers from an assorted bin of hundreds of beads thinking I might use them on the satchel.  The man behind the counter politely said, "Let me give you a total so far...that will be $65."  I guess maybe they were really from India and contained gold?  I left the store with my 6 blue beads and  6 gold toppers.

10. Carve Title

Once the pages are sewn in, the fun part of decorating your book begins.  For this project I decided I wanted to add a metal placeholder frame on the front that would hold a tag that would title the book.  Sticking with my hand-carved theme I decided to carve a stamp for the title.

11. Attach Label Frame

The metal frame came with screws but I didn't want the screws to poke through the cover. I was happy because I luckily had these mini-brads that I thought would be perfect.  Unfortunately, the bookboard was about the same thickness as the arms of the brad and the points of the brad just barely poked through. I ended up gluing the brads in place and decided to carve a bookplate to cover the barely-pierced interior cover.

12. Carve and Print Bookplate

Below you can see the bookplate I carved to cover the holes made by the brads.  If you decide to carve your own bookplate make sure your text is backwards when carving!

Glue Bookplate

As you can see below the bookplate covered the holes made by the metal frame on the cover perfectly.

13. Attach Back Cover Storage     

It is also nice when making a book to add storage to the back cover. This can take many forms and I originally planned on making a big envelope out of leftover bookbinding cloth.  But on a trip to Michael's I fell in love with these adorable mini envelopes.  I am a sucker for a twine wrap closure!

I had some help when trying to glue the envelopes.

14.  Get ready to explore!

My favorite part of these projects is photographing them when I am done.  It is amazing how much blue and white I have around the house.  I also ended up putting those hearts at the bottom into the mini envelopes.  Every time I go to Michael's I am drawn to the laser cut wood section and this project gave me the perfect excuse to finally buy some.

15. Make a satchel for your book!

As an extra bonus I decided to make a satchel to match the book.  The satchel ended up a little wonky because I made a mistake on my measurements, but in the end you can't really tell.

When I went to the post office to mail the book to Jodi last week I paid the book rate and as I was walking away I asked, "How long will it take to get there?"  And the woman replied that it would take less than two weeks.  "TWO WEEKS!!!," I thought.  I can't wait that long!  I have never been good at keeping surprises in.  But three days later I received a text form Jodi telling me she had received the book and loved it.  She said she could feel the love pouring from it and I loved that!  She is often able to put words to how I feel and she was exactly right.  Every detail that went into this book was an act of love.  Happy Belated Birthday Jodi!

“There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.” ― Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey