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


The template itself is nothing more than a simple piece of cardstock marked with the punch locations, laid inside the signature as it sits in the cradles.  Simply make holes at the markings, and move on.  More complicated templates can be made with something like masonite, which already incorporate pins to punch the holes, so all that is needed is to press the template against the signature, and your holes are made.

Overall, this cradle took me an afternoon to make, and has not only saved me time, but made punches more accurate, improving the look of the finished result.

Here are a couple more photos of the empty cradle.  I made this entirely without plans, just putting things together until they worked.  It’d’ve come out a lot more accurate and less lopsided had I planned, but it certainly serves its purpose!

For the observant and curious: The signature in the cradle is from Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories.

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