I have an extensive background in the field of printing and book publishing.
Can You Bind Hardcover Books Yourself?
Creating a hardcover for your newly printed book is more difficult than the process of creating a soft paperback cover. With careful attention to the instructions below, you can put a hardcover on your home-published book. Let's begin.
What You'll Need
- Neutral pH Adhesive
- Davey Board: This is a thick kind of chipboard. You should use an 80-weight board for the front and back panels and a thinner 40-weight board for the spine.
- Book Cover Cloth
- Headband: This is the decorative piece of material at the top and bottom of the book. Take a look at other hardcover books, and you will see that striped bit of felt at the top and bottom. You can choose whatever color you wish.
- Canvas: Get a strip about three inches wide and eight inches long. This is called the Super. Look at other hardcover books to see how they are constructed.
- Leaf Paper: These items are in the bookbinding section at your local art store.
Below, I have created an illustration showing you exactly how a hardcover jacket for a book is set up, along with all the measurements you will need for a book that is 8" x 5" with 150 pages. Always measure the spine for exact measurements.
How to Create a Hardcover Book Jacket
- You will create your book jacket first. Layout the area according to the illustration above.
- Use a mat knife to cut the board. You might get your art store to cut your board to the size you require for a nominal charge. The key to a good jacket is to make sure the lines of the board are straight and true.
- Use some 240-grit sandpaper to soften the edges of the board.
- Apply a thin layer of glue with a brush to the front of each panel, wetting down the entire panel and laying it firmly on the book cloth.
- Trim the book cloth first according to the diagram.
- Lay the spine in between, with 3/8ths of an inch space between the front and back panel and the center.
- Once you've glued the panels to the cloth, apply glue to about an inch of the top and bottom of each panel and the spine.
- Fold up the bottom and top of the cloth over the panels and press firmly so that the glue makes contact. You may use a smooth stick as a burnisher to smooth out the glue and get good contact.
- Apply glue to about an inch inward from the left side of the back panel and the right side of the front panel.
- Pull the flaps over and press them until contact is made. Burnish them down to make a good, tight fit.
- Carefully pick all the panels and book covers without letting them slip.
- Flip the entire jacket over to make sure the cloth is evenly laid out on the panels.
- Use a smooth stick to get rid of any wrinkles.
- Use the burnisher to press down and create better contact with the glue. You may want to try this out with a test piece of board and cloth to get the feel of the process first.
How to Attach the Bound Book to the Jacket
After you bound the book and attached the canvas super and the headbands, you are ready to begin the process of attaching the book to the jacket. You will be gluing the canvas super to the panels of the front and back, and you will use leaf paper to form a panel cover that will overlap the canvas along the spine.
- It is helpful to study a hardcover book you have at home. Observe how the leaf paper covers the folded book cloth to about an eighth of an inch, from the outside to the inside of the panel on the front and back panels.
- You may use heavier leaf paper in the color of your choosing to match the book cloth. You can find all these materials in the bookbinding section of your art store. You might even consider getting an additional book on hardcover bookbinding if you plan to do more of these.
I am just giving you a general set of instructions. You may also glue the inside leaf pages when you bind the book instead of doing it afterward.
How to Finish the Hardbound Cover
- After you attach the bound book to the jacket and the leaf paper is glued in place, carefully close the book.
- Take a thick elastic band and stretch it over the part of the book around the left and right of the spine. This will allow the glue on the super to make contact with the book panels and the jacket cloth in the channels between the spine and the panels to be secured.
- You may place the hardcover book back in your jig to press the panels closed until the glue dries completely—this ensures there is a good amount of contact.
- Wait about four to six hours for the glue to cure before opening your hardcover book.
You Finished Binding Your Book!
After your book has dried and you pull it out of the jig, carefully remove the elastic band. Open the book carefully. If you followed the steps correctly, the jacket should open and close with the spine and canvas super moving flexibly in the bound book.
This is a difficult project and may take some practice, but once you have created your first hardcover book, you will have accomplished quite a feat. I have created many of them, and the process can be used to create a diary, a cookbook of favorite recipes, or a special scrapbook. You can also use leather, canvas, or some other material other than book cloth to apply to your cover as long as the glue will adhere to it. There are endless possibilities. Just use your imagination!
June on August 31, 2020:
what is a canvas super where do you buy it
Patricia or Bill Hamilton on October 07, 2019:
MY husband wants to use silicone on the spine of my Bible and Tite Bond on the edges that go beneath fly pages. Will this work?
Daniel Samulevič on January 09, 2018:
Thank you for nice explanation John, but I'm little confused about 1st picture. Does the case board on the left is called Back and one on the right called Front in US? In Europe these are called opposite.
Minnie on June 02, 2010:
Thanks so much! I am just getting started in book binding and hope to self publish! This information is just what I was looking for!
Jeniferr from United States on July 22, 2009:
I've made a few amateurish looking books in the past but I think I'm going to take the plunge and try to make a hard cover photograph book as a gift. Thanks for the hub, I like the easy to follow graphics.
davidspyle on January 13, 2009:
always amazed by your creativity, ingenuity and practicality!