Book making and bookbinding is a skill I knew nothing about but find fascinating so I thought I
would have a go at building a cheap and cheerful A5 sketchbook with a cover. Here’s how I did it.
Find some paper. The internals of the book is paper, of course.
For A5 format, I folded 20 sheets of A4 in half to form a set of nested pages.
In book binding terms this is called a signature. I am only making a simple sketchbook so I am only
going to use one signature. If you use more, the book will be thicker but you then need to start investigating
sewing and binding techniques. That’s another project for me.
Notice how the pages don’t fit together perfectly, one inside the other. They sort of bulge out more
as you go towards the centre. The more pages you have in a signature, the worse this gets. Don’t worry, we’ll
fix this in a little while.
Once you have a signature, we need to assemble some tools. Some staples to keep the pages together and something
to make holes for the staples because a standard stapler isn’t built to work with this thickness of paper
or where the holes are required to be.
We also need a cover for the sketchbook. Wilkinsons sell 10 sheets of black card that’s thick enough
for our purposes and it costs around £1.25 a pack.
Mark the positions of the staples. Measure in from the outer edges of the sketchbook about an
inch and make a pencil mark on the inner sheet of paper at the fold. Use the staples as a guide to
mark a second hole so that both sets of pencil marks show where you need to puncture through all the paper
and through the cover.
Use your tool of choice, bradawl or whatever, to make holes in the paper from the inner sheet to the outer
in all four places. Be careful to keep all the sheets aligned so that the staples will fit correctly with no
Fold the A4 cover sheet in half and wrap it around the signature. Make four holes in the cover to line up
with the holes in the signature.
Fit the staples through the four holes at top and bottom, from the outside cover into the book.
Bend the ends of the staples to keep the book together.
The book should now look something like this, it should open and close freely.
On close inspection, you will see that where the sheets of paper have been nested inside one another,
the edges of the book are not aligned and go out in a kind of v-shape. This needs to be trimmed down.
Use a cutting mat and a sharp craft knife to trim the edges of the inner pages to line up with the
outer most pages and the cover. This might also apply to the top and bottom of the sheets, depending on the
relative sizes of the paper and the outer cover.
Your book should now close with no pages sticking out.
Now I have a good idea of how this basic version works, I may try some more elaborate designs and builds
for other sketchbooks. Watch this space.