How to Bind a Book

Five Methods:Starting Your BookBinding Your Book with AdhesiveBinding Your Book with ThreadAdding a Cover to Your BookRepairing and Reinforcing Books

Want to start a scrapbook, nature journal, or diary? You can, of course, buy a suitable book at the store, but if you really want to make it your own perhaps it's time to rediscover the not-quite-lost art of bookbinding. There are many ways to bind a book, from stapling to taping to sewing, and the method you choose should depend on the book you're binding and the time and skills you have. This article will teach you how to glue or sew a high quality binding that you can use for books of any size, whether you're making your own or repairing your favorite novel.

Method 1
Starting Your Book

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    Choose your paper. To create your own book, you can choose to use any paper you would like. Regular 8½ x 11 printer paper can be used, as can any variety of handmade papers or cardstock. Make sure that you have enough pages prepared to fill your whole book, around 50-100 sheets. You will be folding each sheet in half, so your total number of pages will be double the number of sheets you use.
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    Create your signatures. A signature is a grouping of pages that are folded together. Each signature should consist of 4 sheets of paper folded directly down the center together. Use a bone folder for the cleanest crease and a ruler to make sure you have the fold centered down the direct middle of the signature. Your book will contain several signatures, so make as many as are necessary to use all your paper.
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    Gather your signatures. Pick up all your signatures together, and tap them into place against a hard, smooth surface so that they are level. Make sure that all the pages are lined up and even along the spine; your signatures should all be facing the same direction.

Method 2
Binding Your Book with Adhesive

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    Place your signatures on a textbook. The goal is to raise the signatures above the level of your table so that they are easier to glue. You can also use a wooden block or other thick, sturdy material if a textbook is not available. Place your signatures so that ¼ of an inch overhangs the spine of the textbook underneath; be careful not to bump the signatures so that they fall out of line.
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    Place weights on top of the signatures. To keep the pages from moving around, add several more textbooks or other heavy, flat items on top of your signatures. This will also help to provide a sturdy spine for the glue. Again, be careful not to move the pieces around too much or bump them out of alignment.
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    Add your glue. Use PVA (PVAC)glue to stick your pages together. Using other glues such as regular white school glue, hot glue, super glue, or rubber cement won’t allow your pages much flexibility and will crack over time. Use a regular paintbrush to apply a coat of the glue to the entire spine, being careful not to get any on either the front or back pages. Wait 15 minutes, and then add another coat of glue. You will need to add 5 layers of glue total, with a period of waiting in between each.
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    Add headband tape. This is a flexible fabric-like tape used for binding books that goes on both the top and the bottom of the spine. It adds extra reinforcement, and prevents the back of the spine from being pulled away from the signatures. Cut a small piece (shorter than ½ inch) and attach it to the top and bottom of your signatures near the spine.[1]

Method 3
Binding Your Book with Thread

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    Create your holes in the signatures. Take each signature and open it so that you can see the center fold of the group of papers. Use an awl to punch holes down the side, or use an embroidery needle with the eye stuck in a cork if you don’t have an awl. Make your first hole directly along the crease in the exact center of the fold. Then measure 2½ inches up and down from this hole to make your other two points (making a total of three holes).
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    Sew each signature. Cut a piece of wax thread to a length of about 2.5 feet (0.8 m), and thread your bookbinding needle. Insert the needle and thread through the center hole, coming from behind. Leave a few inches of the string on the outside so that you can tie a knot with it later.
    • Thread the needle through the bottom hole, so that the thread is on the outside of the book. Pull this thread tight.
    • Re-enter the thread through the topmost hole from the back. Then take the thread and pull it through the center hole, this time coming from the inside of the paper. Then tie the excess thread in the back in a secure knot and cut any extra string.
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    Sew the signatures together. Use one foot of thread for each signature you intend to sew. Start by sewing two signatures together first, and then add on additional signatures once the first two are combined. Line up two signatures together, and insert the needle through the outside of the top hole of one of the signatures. Have a knot tied with a few inches of space on the end, to keep the thread from sliding through.
    • When you pull the thread through the top hole, thread it from the inside into the center hole. When you pull the thread through, insert it into the second hold of the second signature.
    • Take the thread from the second hole on the inside of the second signature, and insert it it into the third hole. Pull the thread through so that it is on the outside of the third hole on the second signature.
    • Add additional signatures by take the thread from the third hole of the second signature, and inserting it into the third hole of a third signature. use the same process to work your way back up the spine of the third signature.
    • When you finish adding signatures, tie the end of your sewing thread with the tail end of the first knot, and cut off the excess string.
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    Add a bit of glue for extra strength. When you’ve sewn all your signatures together, use a bit of glue to make sure that they won’t fall apart along the spine. Brush on any glue (ideally bookbinding glue) along the length of the spine. Place several heavy textbooks over the top of the book to keep them in place while the glue dries.[2]

Method 4
Adding a Cover to Your Book

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    Measure your cover board. You can use cardboard for a soft cover, or book binding board for a sturdier cover. Place your signatures over the board and draw around the shape. Then, add an extra ¼” to the height and width of the cover. Cut out this piece and use it to create the template for the back cover of your book.
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    Measure your book spine. Hold a ruler up to the spine of your signature and measure the width of the paper stack. Then use this measurement along with the total height of the papers to cut out a long, thin strip of cardboard to use as the spine.
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    Cut your fabric. You can use any cotton based non-stretch fabric you would like. Lay out your two covers and spine on top of the fabric. Space each piece so that they are ¼” apart. Then measure around the three pieces, adding 1” extra in every direction. Cut out this single piece of fabric.
    • At the corners of your fabric, cut a small acute triangle with a point that lines up with the corner of your cover board. This will allow you to fold the fabric in without making creases in the corners.
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    Glue your fabric to your boards. Place your boards back in their original position over the fabric, with the spine centered and each piece set ¼” of an inch away from each other. Completely coat the front of the board with glue (preferably bookbinding glue, but any kind will work) and stick it to the fabric. Then, fold the excess fabric over the edges of the board and use glue to stick them on the inside.
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    Attach your signatures to the cover. Place your book of signatures inside the cover you have just created to verify that it fits. Then, place a piece of scratch paper under the first page of the first signature. Cover the outside of this page in glue, and then press down the cover of the book to attach it to the cover page. Remove the scratch paper.
    • Open to the new first page of the book, and use your bone folder to rub the cover page you just glued to the cover. Make sure that it is completely attached with no air bubbles.
    • Repeat this process again for the last page in your book and the back cover.
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    Wait for your book to dry. Place several heavy books or flat objects on top of your completed book. Allow it to sit for 1-2 days to completely dry and compress all the pages. After you have waited long enough, enjoy your new book![3]

Method 5
Repairing and Reinforcing Books

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    Fix a loose hinge. If the spine of your book is loose along one or both of the hinges, use this quick fix to have it back in perfect condition. Coat a long knitting needle in binding glue and slide it down the spine of the book along the loose hinge. Turn the book around and do the same on the other side. Place the book under a heavy weight for several hours to dry the hinge in place.
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    Reinforce a hinge. If one of the spine's hinges has come undone from the textblock of the book, use glue and a bit of tape it to put it back in place. Brush glue along the exposed hinge and on the corner of the textblock. Put the cover back in place and use a weight to hold it till it dries.
    • For extra reinforcement, use a strip of binding tape (or duct tape if you don't care so much about the appearance) along the corner of the hinge on the inside cover and the flyleaf page.
    • Use a bone folder to crease the tape along the length of the hinge and secure it in place.
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    Replace a broken spine. If your covers/hinge are intact with the textblock of the book, you can replace a broken spine without removing the entire cover. Use scissors to cut out the spine without cutting along the hinge. Then, cut a new piece of board to fit the spine (use the old spine for measurement). Use two long pieces of binding tape the length of the book to secure the spine to the two covers.
    • If you want, you can cover the board in a matching fabric before sticking it to the covers.
    • If you don't have binding tape and don't mind appearances, duct tape or a sturdy packing tape can be substituted to hold the spine in place. Binding tape is especially useful though, because it comes with special corners that fit perfectly around the top and bottom edges of the spine.
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    Fix a paperback cover. If the cover of one of your paperback books has come off, brush glue along the entire spine of the textblock and put the cover back in place. Put several heavy weights on the book and allow time to dry.
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    Replace a broken hard cover. If the hard cover of your book is salvageable, use the directions above for creating a hard cover from scratch to replace your book cover. You can also choose to buy a new or used hard cover book in good condition and of the same size, cut off the cover, and use it for your book.[4]


  • You'll need a lot of thread in order to sew all of the signatures. But you can always knot two pieces together, if you don't want to pull a huge amount of thread through each and every hole.
  • You may want to use different colors to mark the edges of the signatures, so you won't be confused about where to punch the holes.

Things You'll Need

  • Bookbinding needle or other suitable needle
  • Bookbinding thread or other waxed thread
  • Cover boards
  • Glue (usually PVA glue or wheat paste)
  • Ruler
  • Binding tape
  • Bone Folder
  • Cover Fabric

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