Sunday, April 14, 2013

How to make a sketchbook

I thought I would give a quick run through on how I make a sketchbook.. excellent photography here with my iPhone because I was too lazy to go get my regular camera.
First I bought two sheets of 22"X30" Arches 140lb Cold Pressed watercolor paper. I think it was about $3.50 - $4.00 a sheet at Utrecht in Providence. I then cut it into 5" strips so I ended up with 5 usable strips from each sheet.

Cut watercolor paper into strips.

Fold each sheet in half - accuracy counts here
After I folded them in half I put two sheets together in a signature and marked them for stitching. Then using a pointy thing I poked holes through each signature to facilitate sewing.
Yes, Eddie can sew!
Using a blunt tapestry needle (6 for $1.50 at the fabric store as opposed to about ten bucks for 3  bookbinding needles at the art store) I got these while shopping with Carol - she has started making quilts again. I did use bookbinding thread as I had purchased some a while back.
All the tools you need
In the picture are the tools you need to make about any book -- apart from glue and a brush. I also made a book press from a couple of boards and bolts with wing nuts. In the picture are the tapestry needle, a pointy hole maker, an xacto knife and a bone fold. Not much of an investment for such a rewarding endeavor.
Good Old Elmers glue
After stitching up the book, I stuck it in my book clamp, and gave the binding edge several coats of Elmer's glue which is just the same as just about any other PVA glue, although if you want to pay more you can certainly go to the art store and do so.
Putting cool looking paper on the cover
If you are gonna make a book the you gotta get some really cool paper for the cover - otherwise no one would know how cool you really are. I found this sheet at Utrecht for about three dollars and they had a great selection.  This paper looks nice but It doesn't seem too rugged. Time will tell. Just brush on the Elmer's (watered down just a tad) and position your chipboard. The chipboard should be cut about a quarter of an inch larger than the page size and leave a gap of double the thickness of the board on either side of the spine.
Cloth on the spine
Carol gave me a piece of cloth (from the quilt she is making) to use to reinforce the spine of the book. This is the first time I have done this but it looks right and the cloth complements the paper. Thanks Carol, she has such good taste.
Mull, or Super - to help hole everything together
Next up, while the cover was drying, I added some mull to the spine to help reinforce the book. Mull is really just cheesecloth -- but if you want, you can pay more for bookbinding mull - do you see a theme developing here?
OK I forgot to take pictures of a few steps. . .
Jumping ahead. . . After gluing the endpapers to the inside of the cover (I used brown wrapping paper because it was what I had that was long enough - 5 x 22 inches) I finished wrapping the mull around the book and glued it securely to the front and back pages of the book. Then glued the book into the cover. Lots of brushing of glue here, and working fast. Sorry I didn't take pictures of this process but was working fast, had glue on my fingers and just plain forgot to take pictures. I then put the whole thing back into my home made book press so it can dry. The entire book making process took about two hours (an hour yesterday and an hour today) of working time - drying time is another thing, and I will keep the sketchbook in my press overnight so it can all cure completely. I took it out of the press for the pictures below.
Damn what a fine looking book!

A messy desk but worth it
Hopefully this will satisfy my need for a rectangle.  The little square sketchbook I have been working in has been wearing on me. So my book is drying and I need to go get some lunch and go for a bike ride and maybe even do some sketching.

1 comment:

Paula Webb said...


Nice to learn that you too use your own handmade sketch books. It does complete the package. You didn't go into any detail about HOW you stitch. I use what is called a Coptic stitch. A little tricky starting out, but not too difficult to do. Also, I'm wondering just how manty pages of 140 watercolor paper you put into each book. I use Arches Text Wove. It is thinner but moisture friendly. My books have as many as 40 pages, making the book about 1/2" thick.

Ps- I have really enjoyed seeing your sketches. You have such a gift.


Paula Webb