With more and more people writing, and distributing their work online, as e-books to be read on a smartphone, or an e-reader, fewer and fewer books are getting printed in dead tree format. The biggest advantage in this growing trend is that self publishing is now accessible to virtually anyone, since digital books don’t have to be printed in runs, and thus there is no large upfront cost to distribute work.  An author only has to format their manuscript to meet the guidelines of their chosen format, and release it for distribution in a digital bookstore, which collects a small fee on every book purchase.  I’m a big supporter of e-books, and hope that the trend does grow, allowing more and more aspiring authors the opportunity to reach an audience.

I’m fairly content to use an e-reader day-to-day, especially for modern fiction, or long series of books.  I love the idea of being able to carry around hundreds of titles on a device smaller and lighter than a copy of Readers’ Digest, but don’t like how I lack a “feel” for my library.  The magic of walking up to a full bookshelf, and looking for something to read is gone, reduced to picking something from a list, and reading it on a screen.  It’s all very efficient, but feels very cold and impersonal, lacking the certain je ne sais quoi that holding a book in your hands, and turning each page has.

I decided, while looking through some Project Gutenberg titles, that I’d try my hand at binding my own books.  Here’s one of them, a copy of Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories, first published over a century ago:

This is the fourth book I’ve bound, and I’ve learned an awful lot working on all of them.  More below. Continue reading

Punching Cradle for Handbinding

I bind hardback books by hand, and part of that is punching holes in each signature to sew them together.  I’d been doing this either awkwardly freehand, or using another book as a cradle, and had not been pleased at all with my results, so I decided to build a punching cradle.  Here’s the finished result with a signature placed for punching:


the halves of the cradle do not meet at the bottom, allowing for the punching awl to pass through.  The cradle is built with simple dowel joinery, and serves its purpose very well.

Using the cradle is simple.  Once your signatures have been folded and grouped, they are placed one at a time in the cradle along with a punching template.  An awl is then used to punch through the crease at the locations marked on the template, to allow for sewing.  Click through for an example of a template in action, and more photos of the cradle Continue reading