Today we are going to make handmade books out of recycled materials AND learn 5 simple book binding methods. Handmade books and journals are a great recycled craft that uses up leftover paper and artwork. Or if you are a recycling fanatic, all that scrap paper you’ve been collecting…
Getting started with bookbinding:
I love making books! I have made numerous portfolios for myself over the years, notebooks with the kids, accordion style books, and simple stapled notepads and I’m excited to share some super easy tips for bookmaking here today. Bookbinding does not have to be complicated! The methods in this post are easy enough for kids to use too! They will be amazed that they can make their own books at home.
Before we talk about book binding methods I want to mention a few common terms you will find in the bookbinding world:
- Cover: The front and back of a book. The cover is usually made from a thicker, more durable material to protect the thinner pages inside. The materials you can use for a cover are endless! Consider cardboard, watercolor paper, plastic sheets, cereal boxes, chipboard, old artwork, postcards, greeting cards etc.
- Spine: The side of the book where the pages are held together. In a typical print book the title of the book is displayed on the spine so that when the book is on a shelf it can easily be identified. Most homemade books don’t have spines thick enough to include a title on the spine but it’s something to consider.
- Signatures: Stacks of pages bound together in small sections. To make a thicker book, signatures are stacked together and then bound.
What types of books can you make?
There are so many wonderful types of books kids can make using DIY bookbinding methods. Here are some ideas:
- Journals (that’s what we’ll be making)
- Homework Reminders
- To-Do list
- Mini Cookbooks
- Booklets to showcase a topic
- Comic books
We will start by making a handmade journal. Make a bunch to have handy when you need them!
5 Simple Book Binding Methods
Part 1: Assemble the Inside Pages
For the book:
- Scrap paper: old notebooks, artwork, envelopes with clasps, chipboard inserts, and old plastic folders, for more ideas scroll down to the end of this post.
- Exacto/Straight edge OR Paper cutter OR scissors
For the binding:
- Duct tape
- 3 hole punch
- Book rings
- Binder clips
- Rubber bands
- Step One: Choose your cover and paper. Select the piece of artwork or the paper you would like to use as the cover. Assemble all the scrap paper you will be using in the book.
- Step Two: Figure out the size of your journal. If you are including envelopes, chose the one you would like to use and base the size of your journal off of it. Otherwise think about how you will be using the book and base the size off of that. Notepads can be long and thin, diaries should be thicker and the pages should have ample writing space, etc.
- Step Three: Cut everything down to the same size. The easiest way is to use a paper cutter/rotary cutter but please ask an adult to help since these are dangerous! If you don’t have a paper cutter, an Exacto knife and a straightedge may be used, also with adult help/supervision. The safest options is scissors but this method is time consuming and the edges won’t be completely straight.
- Step Four: Assemble your book. Depending on how you want the final book to look you can vary the paper types by shuffling them. Alternatively if you want to create sections of your book you may want to keep the same type of papers together. Get creative! If you include envelopes make sure to rotate them so that the bottom of the envelope is along the binding edge and you can open and close the envelope
- Step Five: Add covers. Place your selected and trimmed artwork on top as the front cover. Select heavyweight card stock or chipboard for the back. You can also cut out a piece of lightweight plastic from an old folder for the back cover. To make the cover open easily, lightly score the BACKSIDE of the cover about an inch from the binding edge to make it easy to bend back.
- Step Six: Punch holes. If you will be using a binding method involving holes through the pages, now is the time to punch holes using a hole punch. Always test the hole locations on a piece of scrap paper before making holes in all your sheets. You want them to be in a good location! If you are using a binding method that does not involved punched holes you can skip this step.
- Step Seven: Bind it There are so many simple binding options for homemade books. See 5 of our favorites below.
Part 2: Simple Book Binding Methods
The following are 5 simple ways to bind a book. When choosing the type of book binding to use consider the number of pages you have. The method you choose will depend on how thick the final book will be and how accessible each page needs to be, i.e. do the pages need to lay flat or not.
- Staple + Duct tape: This is a great option for books that are not to thick. If you have a heavy duty stapler, though, you can use this for thicker books. Staple the pages together along the binding edge about a half inch from the edge. Now cut a piece of duct tape about an inch longer than your book. Place half the tape on the front of the book, covering the staples, wrap the tape over the edge of the book and around to the back. Burnish it with your fingertips. Now trim off the excess tape with scissors.
- Hole Punch + Brads: If your book is a little thicker this is the way to go. Use a 3 hole punch to make holes along the edge of your book. Using a 3 hole punch allows you to align the holes as you punch through multiple pages and sets of paper. You may need to adjust the hole spacing to your book so always punch a few test sheets first! Add brads through each hole and bend them back.
- Binder Clips: These make a super simple and cool looking bound edge. Make sure to score the front cover so it can easily open. And depending on how long the binder clips are you may have to bend them back when you want to open the notebook.
- Book rings: These can be purchased in any office supply store and are good for thicker books with sturdy pages. All you need to do is punch a hole in one corner and place a book ring through the hole. Done! The binding is loose and removable should you need to take sheets out or reorganize. For this project we used some great free bookmarks from our visit to the space shuttle this summer.
- Rubber Band + Stick: I love this method for binding books because it is so easy but looks very neat and “designy” when done. All you need is a thick rubber band and some type of stick. You can use a stick from the garden, a wooden skewer, dowels, even pencils! Just make sure the stick you choose is the length of the edge you are binding or a little shorter. To bind a book using this method punch two holes through all the pages, one near the top of the binding edge and one near the bottom. Flip the book over, fold your rubber band, and thread one end of the rubber band through the top hole and one through the bottom hole. Flip the book to the front. Now place your stick through each end of the rubber band. You’re done! For this book I used some of our Marbled Milk Paper for the cover; if you want to make some of your own pop over here for the full tutorial.
If you want a more durable bookbinding method there are several inexpensive options available at most copy centers. Here are some types of book bindings you can expect to find at a copy center (these are all spiral-bound books):
- Coil Bind: The next time you are at Staples, FedEx Office or your local copy shop ask them to coil bind your book. The most common coil is made from black plastic.
- Wire Binding: Similar to coil biding but the coil is made from metal wire. This option looks very professional and if you are lucky there may even be different colors of wire available.
- Comb Binding: My dad used to have a comb binding machine and I loved to use it to make books! Comb binding is a thicker plastic binding that can be reopened even after a book is made. It’s a bit less durable than a spiral binding but you have more flexibility if you want to add or rearrange pages after you have bound the book.
More cool ideas for your homemade notebook:
- Perforate it! Note: Do this before you bind the book and don’t perforate the covers. If you know someone who sews, ask him or her to run the sheets of your book through a sewing machine without thread. Leave a half-inch seam allowance and a stitch setting of 2 or 3. Run only a few sheets at a time and use a heavy-duty needle. Viola! Now your paper can be easily torn out of your notebook!
- Sew it! Run your finished book through a sewing machine using colorful thread. Make sure to glue the trimmed end of the thread so your book doesn’t unravel. This is good for thin books and folded books, where you fold larger sheets in half to create signatures
- Get Creative with Paper! Don’t be confined by looking for paper, think of other materials that would make great covers for your journal. Here are some ideas: Cereal boxes or other food packaging boxes, leftover cardboard mailers, greeting cards, packing materials like corrugated chipboard, large paint chips, junk mail postcards, what else????
Inspired to make a book yet? I hope these 5 simple ideas for how to bind a book and the loads of options for what to include in a handmade journal inspire you to make some recycled books of your own! Next time you are about to toss a half used notebook or the gazillionzth piece of art you don’t now how to display, recycle it into a journal!
Check out some more DIY book ideas here on Babble Dabble Do:
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