Making your issues fancy
Following my post of the comic book issues that I have bound into hardcover books, a request was made for a book binding tutorial - and I am happy to oblige! Here is the full process of making your issues soopa-fancy.
Tools you will need:
- Large binder clips (x7)
- Scissors, pencil, ruler, large brush you don’t mind ruining with glue
- Bone folder
- X-Acto knife
- Box cutter
- Sharp large needle
- A stack of very heavy books for pressing
Materials you will use:
- Davey board (also called grayboard) for both covers and spine (TWO cutouts of dimensions 10.5 inches x 6.875 inches and ONE spine cutout of dimensions 10.5 inches x 0.4375 inches)
- Book cloth (or thick paper, or thick fabric) for the cover of the book (dimensions = 11.5 inches x 15.6875 inches)
- Thick paper for fly leaves (TWO sheets of dimensions 10.25 inches x 13.25 inches)
- Thread (length of thread = [number of issues to bind x height of one issue] + about 3 inches)
- Head band (length of headband will be eyeballed later, but for 5 issues you’d need about 1.2 inch)
- Super (the thick rough mesh that will reinforce the binding) (dimensions of super [does not need to be very precise] = height of issue x 4 inches)
- Bookbinder’s glue (…a lot)
- Ribbon! Because no book is complete without a bookmark (12-13 inches)
The bookbinding process has two parts that are made independently - the cover and the core. You can start with either one, but usually the core is put together first and the cover is made while the glue on the binding dries.
STITCHING THE ISSUES
1) Stack the issues as they will be bound in the book. Make markings where the stitches will be (see photo). There will be 4 marks total, a mark 0.5 inches from each edge and a mark 4 inches inwards of the edge marks. Open each issue to the centerfold and puncture them all the way through at the marks you have made. Four marks per signature times 5 signatures = 20 holes total. I recommend using a thimble, sometimes that paper takes a bit of force to pierce.
2) Now it’s time to stitch. Thread the needle and start binding the issues as shown on the diagram, pulling the string nice and taught. After threading the first two issues, tie your thread to the leftover thread hanging from the starting point. Continue stitching the issues, passing the thread under the previous stitch each time you reach the end of an issue (this is kind of difficult to explain with words so I would refer you to the internet and the diagrams I drew for reference below). Make a couple of knots at the very end to tie up the string. Cut off the excess thread.
3) WHAT TIME IS IT? IT’S GLUE TIME - Find two heavy things between which to prop your stitched core. Pull out your binder clips and place them along the stitched edge. Smear your finder in glue, take off one binder clip at a time starting with the edge, and slather that glue nice and thick along the spines, covering up the thread and evening it out. Be careful to wipe any excess glue from the covers. Make your way across the spine by taking off one binder clip at a time and replacing the previous one as you go along, and glue the ribbon to the spine at the top edge (see photo). Then let it dry standing with the binder clips until, well, until the glue is dry (should take a couple of hours, but it really depends on the glue).
4) FLY LEAVES - Those are the very important pieces of paper that will connect the core to the cover, so I recommend a nice thick and/or ornate paper (for this tutorial I just picked plain black). Fold both leaves in half edgewise and crease them heavily using the bone folder. One side will be halfway covered in glue, so if you have a side with defects/stains make sure that it is on the outside. Paint on about an inch-wide strip of glue with a brush or a popsicle stick onto the fly leaf on ONE of the sides along the FOLDED edge. Place the fly leaf glue down onto the first page of the core and align its corners with the corners of the comics (it’s basically two extra pages at the beginning and end of the book). Place a sheet of scrap paper inside the first page of the core (to protect against blobs of glue), place the core flat on a table and press it down with a mountain of heavy books for a minimum of 30 minutes. After pressing one of the leaves, repeat this step with the second fly leaf on the other side of the comic.
5) Now that the glue is dried and you have watched a couple of episodes of Battlestar Galactica you can glue on the headband (after removing the binder clips). You want to cut off enough of the headband to span the spine and wrap a little bit around the issues, kind of kindly hugging them. Glue the headband pieces onto both ends (top and bottom), and add more glue on top for reinforcement and good measure. Let dry for a bit.
6) Fold the Super in half lengthwise and snip off the corners along the fold on both sides (top and bottom) (it helps with the alignment of the Super). Place the Super onto the spine such that the fold runs along its center. Glue it to the spine by smearing and rubbing glue (with your finger) on top of it (the glue will soak through the Super). Binder clips help a lot keeping the Super in place while you do that. Let it dry standing up and set aside.
MAKING THE COVER
This can be done in advance, or after, or during the making of the core. You can get as inventive as you like with the cover design, and if you want to print something out for the cover art FedEx can do custom size color printing on nice paper but it ends up rather expensive (15$ per cover).
1) Cut out the grayboard to the specified dimensions with the box cutter. You need two covers (front and back) and a spine. I like filing off the edges to make them a bit rounded and overall cleaner, but it’s not necessary.
2) Cut out the bookcloth (or whatever material you chose for the cover) to the dimensions outlined in the diagram presented here, and trace all the lines from the diagram onto its reverse side. Lay it flat onto a work surface.
3) Start by smearing glue onto the spine, then glue it carefully to the “spine” section of the bookcloth. Press down well. Do the same with the two covers, smearing glue onto the whole section of grayboard and placing it onto the section outlined for the cover, smoothing and pressing down. You can pick up the bookcloth and smooth it from the other side to make sure there are no wrinkles.
4) Cut the four corners of the bookcloth at a diagonal, about 1/8 inch from the grayboard (that way you can fold it). Doing one side at a time, paint on glue onto the bookcloth directly and fold it over onto the grayboard, pressing and smoothing it and pulling it taught against the edge of the grayboard. Once two parallel edges are done, do the same with the other two parallel edges - but now you have to worry about the corners. When you come to a corner, tuck in a bit of the unfolded edge onto itself such that the raw edge of the bookcloth is hidden, and finish folding over the bookcloth. Again, not super-clear, so I refer you to the interwebs.
5) Using the bone folder, crease well the places where the boookcloth folds over the empty space between the spine and the covers.
6) Let dry.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
This is - by FAR - the most stressful part.
1) Put the core inside of the cover, see if it fits. Make very thin and faint markings with a pencil of where the outer fly leaf meets the cover corners.
2) Pick a side to start with, I usually begin with the front so I will proceed as if you would as well. Place the soon-to-be book flat on its back, open the front cover and prop it open against something. Place a piece of scrap paper inside of the fly leaf to protect the issues from glue. Smear glue under the Super, press the super down, smear more glue on top of the super and the whole fly leaf. Take the corners of the glue-smeared fly leaf and align them with the marks you made on the corners of the cover. Press down at the corners and along that outside edge, then flip the book around (now the front cover is flat down on the table and the rest of the book is standing up) and press down and smooth the rest of the glued fly leaf. Press hard! Make sure there are no wrinkles. Repeat this heart-wrenching stressing step on the other side.
3) Press with very heavy books for a day (12 hours).
4) YOU ARE DONE! Ta-daaaaaa. Now you can make all sorts of things for the cover. Enjoy your book! :)
I hope this was helpful or at least informative. Let me know if you are going to try your own book-binding adventure, or if you have questions!