Supply Guide: Bookbinding tool kit

2 Mar

This semester, I’m taking a class I’ve wanted to since I first started at my university: bookbinding. I’ve always adored books and what could be more fun than making your own? Over the last couple months I’ve accumulated a decent supply kit and lots of additional materials. The other students clearly think I must have no life besides making books because I like to stay for hours on end in the studio working, reading books on bookbinding, and pestering my uber-patient professor for more information.

Here are two link stitch books I did yesterday.

I thought I’d share the contents of my tool kit for those of you interested in bookbinding.

So here is my tool kit. It’s just a nice little hobby box with a removable top tray that I picked up at the Container Store for $6.99, and works like a charm.

Here are the contents of the top tray, some of which I’ll show you in better detail momentarily. Not all of these things are essential like the eyelet setter, eyelets, and claps. Those are for additional decoration.

Binder’s tape is used for case binding (your standard hard cover book) to add stability to the text block (all them pages), but you don’t need it for simple link stitch books or pamphlets. A bone folder is essential for folding your signatures, smoothing bubbles when gluing, etc. The binder clips I use when I’m doing Japanese stab binding to keep the pages together while I’m punching the holes and sewing.

The inner contents: waxed linen thread, binder’s thread, buttons, jigs, and a small hammer. The hammer is used to set eyelets, so you don’t really need that for simple books. The buttons are also decorative extras. Waxed linen thread is used for pamphlets and link stitch books. It’s a strong, durable thread coated in wax to help it grip the signatures and stay tight. You can buy your thread waxed or unwaxed, but you will have to coat it yourself with beeswax. The binder’s thread is thinner than the linen thread and is used for case binding. You will have to coat it with beeswax as well before you sew. Jigs are just like little patterns you make to ensure you are punching holes in the same position on each signature and your cover pieces. I make mine out of cereal and cracker boxes. You just mark where you want your holes and the height of your signature and cut little notches where your holes go. Click here for a tutorial on how to make jigs.

Metal rulers are good for cutting straight edges with your exacto knife. Don’t use a plastic ruler because you will end up cutting it with your blade. I use a quilter’s ruler for marking measurements more quickly. Your awl is what you use to poke holes in your signatures and covers. The triangle is something I highly recommend for making sure all your materials are perfectly squared. There’s nothing more frustrating than finishing a book, only to discover it’s at a wonky angle. The sewing needles are self-explanatory, except for maybe the curved needle. If you’ve ever had stitches, you’ve probably seen one of these. They are super useful for link stitching because you can link your signature to the previous one in a single motion rather than two.

A cradle is the thing you need to make before you can make a book (Click here for a tutorial on how to make your own). Its purpose is to hold your signatures open while you punch holes in them. This picture shows how you use it as well as your jigs.

Some tools I didn’t photograph…

PVA is the glue you will use for your books. It’s strong, quick to dry, and archival. For covering cover pieces with decorative paper or book cloth, I use a 1:1 mix of PVA and wallpaper paste. It’s just as durable but dries slower.

I also have an 18×15” guillotine style paper cutter for home use. The studio has a giant professional table guillotine, but those are like $2000. This guy cost me about $30 including shipping. When picking paper cutter, look for a design with a paper guide so you can make multiple cuts with the same dimensions.


One Response to “Supply Guide: Bookbinding tool kit”


  1. Bookbinding Tutorials: Punching Cradle and Jigs « Kitch Cat - March 4, 2012

    […] my bookbinding supply guide post, I promised that I would post tutorials on how to make your own punching cradle and jigs. I’m […]

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