Daydreaming on Paper
Make Your Own Journal
Reader Tips and Comments

From Alan M.:


Your instructions seem to be very clear, although I haven't actually made my own journal. I have been doing some research as names of materials differ here in South Africa and some of the products are difficult to obtain. I am fortunate that there is a bookbinding business across the road from my workplace and he has been able to help me with some ideas as well as promising to help me with some of the supplies for my first couple of journals.

I have come up with an idea of my own and there is one from my friend. I wanted to have ruled pages, so I discovered school exercise books, which should make easy-to-use, ready-made signatures. My friend's tip was for making the holes for stitching. He uses two pieces of hardboard the size of the signatures, along one long edge he has cut notches. He then clamps the hardboard on either side of the signatures and using a small hacksaw, and the notches as a guide, makes the holes in the signatures for the stitching.

As I am in the architectural business, I am hoping to find a source for all sorts of wallpaper amongst our interior design contacts. This could be a fun project.


From WireWoman:



I went to your site and downloaded the instructions for "Making Your Own Journal." Success!! In the process, I thought of some things that I would like to share with you. The book, BTW, looks very good! I will definitely make more of these! It's my first case binding, ever. Up till now, I've specialized in non-adhesive binding, doing a variety of books using 3 and 5 hole pamphlet, 5, 7, and 9-hole stab (3 patterns), 1 and 4-needle Coptic (with both stiff and flapped covers), and 1-needle multi-signature bindings (designed to slip into a wraparound cover). Thank you for the clear instructions. I hope you find my comments useful in future editions of your article.

Live long and prosper,


Part I:

"thick chipboard" - this is generally thicker and stronger than cardboard, and MUST be cut with a utility knife and a steel straightedge, on a thick pad of newspaper (utility knives are much heavier than Exacto, and will chew up a cutting mat). For my book, I used the back of a tablet that had held drawing paper. The piece of chipboard was 9 by 12 inches. I cut a piece 5 セ inches off the short end and then divided it: 4 シ plus 4 シ plus ス inch for the spine. I then trimmed the spine piece just a sliver with utility knife and straightedge. One piece of 9 by 12 inch chipboard makes 2 sets of covers and spines.

Paper: Astrobrite is 24-pound, and it works well with the thickness of spine and distance from spine to cover that you recommended. If you use #20 paper (most bond and laser paper is this weight), you must reduce the spine width and the distance from spine to cover accordingly. For books using #20 bond paper, I'd put no more than 1/8 inch between spine and covers. For #24 paper, perhaps a smidge less than シ inch - maybe 3/16?

Cover: I carve my own stamps, so I did a "block print" design on the sheet that was used to cover spine and cover boards. I recommend that any planned paper decoration or paper treatments be done BEFORE cutting, folding, sewing or whatever. If rubberstamping the cover, be sure that the decoration is properly oriented ("landscape").

Cutting signatures: I did not fold twice, as it is nearly impossible for me to slit the pages accurately with an Exacto or any other knife. I tore my pages in half by signature and alternated torn and smooth sides for a nice hand-made look.

Thread: Buttonhole thread is great if you punch holes with your needle, but can be rather exasperating. I habitually use 3- or 5-ply waxed linen or linen bookbinding thread or embroidery floss. For this book, I used 3-ply waxed linen.

Needle: #20 or #22 tapestry needle works well - thread waxed linen onto it with a tapestry needle threader.

Glue: Padding compound is the kind of "glue" that holds scratch pads together. You can get it in small quantities at stamp stores, or by the pint (quart, gallon!!) at office supply stores. It is incredibly thick, like gesso - a little of it goes a very long way. I really think it's better than Elmer's, because it is designed to be flexible when dry.

Covers and spine - to glue them to paper, I used diluted Tacky Glue (diluted only a bit, until it was kinda like a thick milkshake). I spread it on with a flat brush.

Ruler really should be a steel straightedge, if you are going to use it to guide a cutting knife. Knives chop plastic rulers into splinters and ruin the straight edge. A cork-backed steel straightedge (at least 15 inches long) is a must. Mine has paid for itself many times over, and is a pleasure to use.

Exacto for cutting paper: Yes, but I'd recommend a utility knife for cutting cardboard or chipboard, as stated earlier. Do not use utility knife on a cutting mat - it will chew the mat up. I keep old phone books and newspaper (a pad about 2 inches thick) on hand for these cutting jobs.

Bone folder: Yes!!

Clips: Use big bulldog clips for temporary holding when assembling the book - put a small piece of scrap paper around whatever you're planning to clamp and then put the clamp over it. This will keep the clamp from making marks on the paper.

Marking holes: Make a piercing template from a strip of paper 5 ス inches by 2 inches. Fold it lengthwise. Mark the holes on the "V" of the fold. Fold and crease each signature with the bone folder. Jog signatures well (torn edges will try to make them uneven at "top" and "bottom"). Turn over so that the "valley" is up - the paper will look like a "V." Put on an old mouse pad. Slide the template into the "valley" and align it. Punch holes with a giant push pin (you can get this really handy tool at office supply stores, 12 for about 2.00). The pin makes a hole slightly less than 1 mm in diameter - this is a piece of cake to sew with anything up to the thickness of 5-ply waxed linen. If you don't want the holes to be that big, use a small ("standard") size pushpin.

(page 5, step 8) - yes, it is really important to have all signatures aligned the same way and to adhere to this alignment when sewing! I would have at least a 3-inch tail on the first thread, so that it is easy to tie off.

Trimming the Signature: I would trim the fore-edges of the signatures between 1/16 and 1/8 inch after the padding glue has set, before sewing the book together. Otherwise, they will "creep" towards the edge of the cover and maybe even poke out beyond it. You can still fix this, if the book is already made, by laying the text block on a thick pad of newspaper at the edge of a sturdy table (cover will flap off the table) and trimming with a utility knife (new sharp blade!) and steel straightedge - however, this isn't very nice-looking unless you are really, really precise and careful. Easier to trim the signatures a bit first. I find it best to trim gradually, a sliver at a time. One can always trim more, but if you take too much paper off or the edge is uneven, this can really work itself into a disaster and you may lose the book.

PART II: Sewing the Book

Diagram: Perhaps put the sewing diagram on a separate page, by itself - it can then be printed and filed for reference without destroying the continuity of the instructions.

p. 2 (step 4): A 3-inch tail is much easier to tie off!

p. 2 to p. 5: I tip my hat to you for crystal-clear sewing instructions and pictures!! Very helpful.

Step 1: I used my finger to smear padding compound across the (clamped) back folds of the sewn signatures. This gives much more control than a brush, and allows you to accurately judge how much compound you're using. I carefully wiped excess off with a dry finger.

Step 2: You can test spine and cover alignment with a piece of card stock, held vertically. If you use Tacky glue, you have about 1 ス seconds to change alignment, before the glue begins to set!!

Step 3: This is really easy with a small (1-inch wide) flat brush!

Step 4: I'd be sure that the paper margins are even all round before mitering the corners. You can use an exacto and steel straightedge (held on the paper, not on the cardboard) to even up the side edges.

Step 5: It really is important to make these corners accurately. Help out by (1) not using too thick a cover paper and (2) easing the corner over and DOWN when you fold it at the edge: like when you make a bed. That helps keep the cover from being lumpy and bumpy.

Step 5: I brushed glue over the long edges and folded them down and then sort of rolled my fingers over them from the edge of the book inwards, to be sure that the cover paper was fitting snugly around the cardboard.

ADDENDUM: If you want to put in a ribbon bookmark (very snazzy), glue it at this point. Measure about 16 inches of シ inch ribbon. Center on the spine, about 4 inches down, and glue directly to the spine piece. Then glue the inside cover sheet on. This makes a nice sandwich for the ribbon and looks good, as well. You can always trim that long ribbon after the book's done. I'd roll it up and fasten with a small paper clip to keep it out of the way until trim time.

Step 6: I omitted this difficult step, as I had already torn my pages when making the signatures. When you punch through the inside ("valley") of each signature instead of through the back, you don't have to worry about slipping or misaligned sheets.

Step 7: We really did things differently here. Let me tell you what I did:

A. I cut two endpapers 5 ス by 8 ス inches. I folded each endpaper in half, and THEN cut about 1/8 inch from one of the short sides (making a piece 5 ス by about 8 1/8 inches, with an "off-center" fold.

B. B. I glued the larger half of the endpaper to the first page of the text block, put waxed paper between the first and second sheets, and gently smoothed it to dry.

C. I did the same thing with the other endpaper and the back page of the text block.

D. How did I know which was the "large" half and which the "short" half? I trimmed the "short" half with deckle scissors. Looks nice, too.

E. I then brushed glue over the inside front cover and the top endpaper, layering waxed paper pieces to keep things from sticking where they weren't supposed to stick - and followed the alignment instructions in Shereen LaPlantz's book "Cover to Cover."

F. Here is where you get caught, if you allowed too much width for the spine or too much distance between spine and cover boards. There isn't much that can be done about it at this point, beyond some tweaking with a bone folder. Live and learn!

G. I also follow Ms. LaPlantz' instruction to wrap waxed paper around the outside of the book, from inside front cover to inside back cover. I keep those 2 pieces of waxed paper between the glued 1st page/endpaper and the 2nd page of the text block (and corresponding places in the back of the text).

Now, it's clamp time!

I put the whole wax paper-wrapped thing in my homemade book press, which is: 2 pieces of metal roofing something or other (about 1/8 inch thick, 9 by 12 inches, cost around .99 each at Home Depot) fastened by 4 really stiff hand-operated squeezy clamps. These look like hand exercisers, but have a nice wide flat end to the jaws. I bought four at the Depot for .99 each. They are made by Wolfcraft. They are black with yellow handles and jaws.

If you clamp right, you can create that nice "spine-cover" crease that makes it look really professional. I put 2 clamps right at the inner edge of the cover board (past the spine and the "valley dip") and 2 at the fore edge. You cannot slide these clamps on - they must be opened (with great effort!) and placed.

I kept peeking, but nobly made myself leave it in overnight. It looks BOSS. Lovely!

Two things remain: I will sign it with my logo, put a number in it and date (usually this is done near the bottom edge of the back cover). And I think I'll gild those page edges with a metallic brush marker. I use silver and then gold for a less brassy look. This has to be done carefully!!

Well, those are my comments. Hope you find them useful.

Take care.

Live long and prosper,


From the girls at Glitter:


stringy wrote:

re: glue bubbling

many of my illustration assignments require me to glue my printed illo to card - i ruined a few with bubbly glue!

what i do now is apply the glue, then blot it gently with a tissue (not too much or you get fluffy glue).

jenna wrote:

i took a book binding class and the teacher told us to use matte medium instead of glue for the covers and it works great. you can get it in an art supply store with the painting supplies. spread it on evenly with a foam brush.

jennifer wrote:


The instructions worked really well, I especially like the numbered charts. Last night I tried a sample in copier paper and regular thread, I think it came out rather well b/c of the thinness of the paper. I can't wait to find good paper to make a cover, I was also thinking I could use cloth :) Also as a helpful tip that may or may not be helpful, if you have thick paper, you can use a nail and a hammer to punch holes (if that's not too big). I took a class in japanese book-making and we used a small nail and a hammer to make holes b/c you sew the book outside of the cover, which makes a decorative spine. The cardboard is really thick so you use a nail. I have done the same thing by making a paper book out of an invitation or old card, and i believe i used a hammer and a pin with a flat head. Thanks for the great instructions, I'm so thrilled that soon i'll have a kick ass journal that i made myself! :) jt


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