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Recommendations From Our Bookbinding Library

If you are anything like us, you know being a bookbinder and bibliophile go hand in hand so you have probably already amassed a reasonable collection of books on bookbinding. We wanted to share some of our personal favorites from the studio and our personal collection, with hopes to inspire our fellow bookbinders. Whether you are a seasoned bookbinder who is pondering what books to buy next, or a complete beginner wondering where to start, we hope you enjoy our recommendations! And if you don’t see your favorite books on bookbinding on the list, we’d love for you to share your recommendations in the comments!

Traditional Bookbinding:

The Practical Guide to Craft Bookbinding by Arthur W. Johnson

A solid book containing a wealth of bookbinding knowledge, techniques and projects ranging from traditional Western and Eastern bindings to more contemporary art bindings and pop ups. Our copy features a smartly designed cover, and simple black and white photos and illustrations throughout.

Books, Boxes and Portfolios: Bindings, Construction and Design Step-By-Step by Fran Zeier

A very comprehensive technical guide on making books, boxes and portfolios from the fundamentals of setting up your studio, recipes for paste, properties of paper to how-to’s with detailed and colorful illustrations, troubleshooting tips and material options and descriptions. This is a great book for the intermediate-advanced binder, or the ambitious and obsessed beginner with patience.

Non-Adhesive Binding: Books without Paste or Glue by Keith A. Smith

This slim bookbinding guide is also full of good fundamentals on materials, studio set up and projects, but not as comprehensive as the previous two on our list. It is also clearly illustrated and is a quicker read for both the contemporary book designer looking to grow their traditional technique or the newbie to traditional binding techniques (ie leather bindings and tooling)

Contemporary Art Bindings:

How to Make Books: Fold, Cut & Stitch Your Way to a One-of-a-Kind Book by Ester K. Smith

This is our studio assistant’s favorite book- it’s been in her library since she was a beginning bookbinding student. It is accessible, fun and beautifully designed, with painterly illustrations and photos, gorgeous fonts, and beautifully inspired sample projects. Highly recommended for teachers, beginners and collectors alike.

Making Handmade Books: 100+ Bindings, Structures and Forms by Alisa Golden

A true Book Artists book, this book is a comprehensive and well organized guide for a variety of art and craft binding styles from traditional leaning to contemporary. It’s much denser than How to Make Books, but fun  and accessible for beginners on.

Cover to Cover: Creative Techniques for Making Beautiful Books, Journals & Albums by Shereen LaPlantz

Another great, accessible exploration of art bindings, this book is a well loved selection from Kristin’s library and we hear it’s also a favorite with some of our instagram followers as well.

Crafty and unconventional:

At Home With Handmade Books: 28 Extraordinary Bookbinding Projects Made from Ordinary and Repurposed Materials by Erin Zamrzla

This book from studio assistant Rachel’s library is a little craftier than most of our recommendations. Ok, a lot craftier. Not a lot of use for our beautiful bookcloths to be found within it’s pages, but if you, like Rachel are an avid up cycler, you might find it fun and funny to make a book cover from a kitchen sponge or a tube sock or use empty seed packets to make a stab bound tiny notebook. This one is simply lighthearted, delightful and fun for challenging yourself to think outside the box if you find yourself stuck in a rut creatively.

History of Bookbinding:

Artist Books in the Modern Era 1870-2000 – The Reva and David Logan Collection of Illustrated Books

A great academic read, recommended research book for students, collectors and art history buffs. It’s the sort of book you might get in a museum bookshop. Photographs and  from the pages of historical art books from Modernist, Dada and Surrealist movements and more. the next best thing to holding the original books in your hand while an art historian walks you through it in person.

The Book of Fine Paper: A Worldwide Guide to Contemporary Papers for Art, Design & Decoration by Silvie Turner

Everything you wanted to know about paper. All paper. Eastern, western, long grain short grain, the history and use of paper throughout time. If you are like us, and have to touch and feel every type of paper when going to the local art or paper store, you need this book. That is, assuming you don’t already own it.

What are some favorites from your bookbinder’s library?

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Choosing the Right Bookcloth

Here in our shop, we carry Bookcloth in a wide array of colors, textures, finishes and types of backing. With all of the options, even some of the most experienced of bookbinders might occasionally find themselves distracted, or paralyzed in the face of such a decision.

Choosing a color might seem like the easiest decision, but then, what if your project will be using more than one? What if you are working on many projects at once? Now we’re talking a full on palette decision. We make it easier for you, by providing swatch books in our shop, so you can hold different colors against each other to see how well they play together.

We’ll now cover some basics that might be review for experienced bookbinders, but are good considerations.

Paper Backed vs. Starched

An important element of Bookcloth, is that it is paper backed or starched. This prevents the PVA used to glue it to the cover board from seeping through the weave and ruining the cloth. We use both in the studio, and both are available in the shop. The coated and metallics tend to be starch backed and the linen types mostly paper backed (but this there are exceptions to this as well as many variations of starch types and paper weight). The weight of the backing and stiffness of the starch can affect your project measurements and how easy or difficult an individual bookcloth is to work with, but are not the only factors.

Coated and Metallic Bookcloths

Coated and metallic types wear especially well, and wipe clean easily with a damp cloth. They are ideal for albums, guestbooks, menus and other projects that will be handled often. Add a little glitz with a wedding album in metallic pearl or invitation panels in metallic gold or navy. The brands we use for our coated and metallic selections are Arrestox, Lustre and Pearl Linen.

Uncoated Linen

These are mostly matte, woven, classic bookcloths. From simple and neutral to wild and bright, jewel tones, earth tones… Linen bookcloth is the most prevalent in our shop and studio. (Though these are all categorized as linen, it’s important to note that the composition of the material varies by cloth and brand, and often includes a cotton poly blend.) Of the linen Bookcloth, we carry the brands Verona, Brillianta and Natuurlinnen For the ultimate beginner, we recommend trying a sample pack or 1/2 yards of a variety of these. Those with a heavier paper backing, a really obvious weave, patterned or very thin, fine bookcloths can be more challenging to work with. Do be aware, but don’t be afraid to play with different types of Bookcloth, and make some mistakes.

Pro Tips:

Experienced bookmakers know: always make a mockup! (even just a small sample to check your gutter measurements, test a new material, etc)
Jigs are timesaving, especially if you are making multiples or editions.
order a little extra, for tests and in case of mistakes
Be careful, but don’t be afraid to fail (this is just good life advice too)
And with any project, measure twice and cut once.

Advanced Bookbinders, what’s some advice you might have for beginners in dealing with Bookcloth? Is there something we didn’t cover that you wish you knew starting out?
If so, comment below!


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Inkjet Printing on Bookcloth

We recently posted this clip on instagram and received a few emails with questions about the process.  We printed this sample on a large format Epson R1900 printer which is able to print up to 13″ wide but we have also printed on a smaller Epson as well. The key is getting the printer to accept the Bookcloth.  This will depend on the printer and the Bookcloth that you are working with.  If you find that your printer doesn’t want to pull the Bookcloth in you may want to try sending it through with a piece of photo copy paper taped to it.  Try layering the Bookcloth and the paper and using scotch tape seal the edge of the 2 pieces along the length so the printer thinks it’s a single sheet.  This has worked for us in many cases. Another very important thing to consider if you plan to use this printed Bookcloth for book covers is that the ink is not waterproof which means it will run if it gets wet.  We have found spraying the printed Bookcloth with a fixative or clear spray finish before covering your boards will helps to seal the ink and prevent the ink from bleeding.  Test it out on piece of plain Bookcloth first and be careful not to get droplets of overspray on your cloth because it can ruin a beautifully printed piece of Bookcloth.  This is a fun process that requires lots of trial and error.  Feel free to send us your questions and have fun!

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Festive Starbook Project for the Holidays

Happy Holidays from us here at Bookcraft Supply Co! In the spirit of the holidays, we made a fun video project on Making Star Books and Star Book Ornaments for our Youtube channel. We may not have made it before all of the holidays (we see you, Hanukkah!), whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Yule/Solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa (or Festivus, Saturnalia…) or simply want to celebrate our shared love of bookmaking, this star book is a wonderful decoration for any shelf or tree, and can be written in, illustrated, or otherwise decorated as any practical book!

This new Youtube video is something of a mix between tutorial and pure entertainment, and there is very little text or explanation, but if you know how to fold and glue paper, have a bit of patience and don’t mind hitting pause a few times, we’re betting you could follow along to make your own star book or star book ornaments. Here are some things you will need:


square tool
bone folder (ours is agate)
glue brush
glue Tray
paper towels
pressing board
covered brick

For the Star Book:

1/16 inch bookboard: 2 pieces cut to 3 1/8 x 3 1/8 inches square (for squaring your cuts, refer to this previous post)
Bookcloth: 2 pieces 4 x 4 inch square of festive colored Bookcloth
Five or six paper squares 6 x 6 inches (decorative text weight or very light cardstock)

For the Star Book ornament:

1/16 inch Bookboard: 2 pieces cut to 4 1/8 x 4 1/8 inch square
Bookcloth: 2 pieces 5 x 5 inch square of festive colored Bookcloth
Paper: 5-6 4 inch square sheets of decorative text weight
waxed linen thread or butcher’s twine 6-7 inches long
Optional: bead for string closure and added weight

Have a very bookish Holiday and Happy New Year!


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Cutting and Squaring Bookboard

For those completely new to bookbinding, and those needing a refresher on the basics, we have another video tutorial for you on Cutting and Squaring Bookboard by hand. Squaring your boards is important in creating books that have front and back covers that line up evenly, open smoothly, and look and feel right in your hands. For this tutorial, You will need your bookboard of choice, we have both a 1/8th inch (.118), which is our preference for books and boxes, and a 1/16th board (.059). We use this thickness for portfolio liners, but it works well for covers on small books as well. You will also need a cutting surface like a cutting mat (another thick piece of pressed, non corrugated board will work in a pinch), a right triangle/squaring tool, a pencil, a sturdy ruler or straight edge and an Olfa knife with snap off blades.

Remember to always point the blade away from you, watch your fingers and never let cut with a dull blade. Don’t forget to like and subscribe on Youtube for more upcoming videos on Bookbinding Basics and more!

And if you want a cool bookbinder T-shirt like Rachel is wearing in the video you can purchase one here.

Thanks for watching!



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Bookbinding 101: Determining Grain Direction

Grain Direction refers to the way the fibers in paper or board align during the papermaking process. Usually, they will line up in one direction or the other, parallel to each other. There are exceptions to this, of course, such as mulberry paper, which has very long, matted fibers no uniform grain direction. However, most paper and board has a grain direction.

If the grain runs parallel to a sheet of paper’s short side, we’ll use the term short grain, and if it runs parallel to the long side, it is long grain. We also recommend marking up your board when you receive by drawing multiple parallel lines along the grain direction as it can become increasingly difficult to determine grain direction once you’ve cut your board and are left with smaller pieces.

Why does any of this matter for bookbinding? Paper and board, much like the fibers that they are generally made from, are sensitive to environmental factors, such as heat and moisture. The grain also creates a natural direction the materials will tend to flex, fold and tear, which is parallel to the grain direction. Therefore, it is important that the grain direction be parallel to the spine. If it is perpendicular, the covers may not lay flat, and the pages will not turn smoothly. Additionally, in making the grain direction of your cover boards parallel to the spine, you are making it perpendicular to the foot of the book, which will give it strength and durability as it will presumably be placed on a shelf resting on this edge.

Mixing grain directions can result in a book that refuses to remain shut, which to a voracious reader makes a great metaphor, but in actuality is a huge bummer. Lastly, realize that when you are gluing end sheets to your cover board, you are introducing moisture in the form of wet glue. Even though you will press your book to dry, there will be a certain amount of shrinking and warping as the glue dries. Mixing grain direction will cause unsightly wrinkles and may also result in a book that refuses to close.

Sometimes, the grain direction is apparent, the fibers are laid out in a way that is visible if you look close up or hold it up to the light. But if you are uncertain, there are a few ways to test your book board or paper. For board, the best way to check for grain direction is to gently bend it one way, then the other. It will flex most easily parallel to the grain. Sometimes the bend test can be difficult to determine grain on lighter weight papers. For these, take a test sheet and try tearing it or moisten it. It will tear or warp parallel to the grain.

There is some disagreement on whether grain direction is as crucial in bookcloth. There are a wide variety of bookcloth weights, textures and styles, some are paper backed, and some starched (to prevent glue seepage and bias stretch). We have been making books for over seventeen years, and have found that with the bookcloth varieties we’ve used, even paper-backed selections, grain direction has not played a critical role when gluing out and wrapping book covers. For us, it is more important to find the best fit and layout for a particular project. However for aesthetic reasons it is critical to keep the direction of the bookcloth consistent throughout your project as the weave of the fabric will look different in alternate directions.

Are you an experienced bookmaker who has a particular thought, experience or insight pertaining to grain direction? A bookbinding beginner who needs clarification or has an unanswered question about grain direction? Share in the comments below!

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Introducing Book Craft Supply Company!

After almost 20 years of working as a bookbinder, and operating a successful portfolio design studio in California, I realized there was a unique niche in the bookbinding world that was not currently being filled: a West Coast supplier of bookcloth and bookbinding supplies with variety, and competitive pricing.

The larger companies have very high minimums which make their materials inaccessible to the average bookbinder, and the few online retailers that do sell bookcloth in smaller quantities are shipping from the east coast and mid west which means that the shipping costs are often higher than the cost of the actual product for those on the west coat.

We have seen a surge of interest in the traditional arts of bookbinding and boxmaking in the arts and craft community so we decided it was finally time to dig in, challenge ourselves and invest in making a fun and user friendly website to sell bookcloth by the half yard and yard, bookbinding supplies, and bookbinding tools to those who have up until now not found their perfect and affordable source for these materials.

We want Book Craft Supply Company and to be your new source and resource for bookbinding supplies, tools, kits and education. We plan to focus on both the student and the advanced binder in our online and community outreach. Here on the blog, we plan to share tips and tutorials for all skill levels, as well as some of our favorite bookbinding and boxmaking projects and experiences. We are excited to connect with all of the bookbinders out there in hopes that we can share ideas, encourage creativity and inspire you to make more books!

Please feel free to reach out, introduce yourself and ask any questions that you have!

We look forward to meeting you, working with you and hope to earn your trust and your business for years to come.