Sunday, April 10, 2011

Diary of a Bookworm

The Bookworm-Sheva Apelbaum

Every Saturday we have a literary routine. We read a weekly portion from the Pentateuch.  When I was little, my dad used to read to us, but now the responsibility has passed to me.  I have been using an older Bible and over the years its binding has been steadily falling apart.

Last week the book cover finally broke off completely and the pages came apart, which for a bookworm like me is very upsetting.  I know how to fix many things, but what do you do when your book falls apart?

After a quick inquiry, I discovered that we have a resident expert on the subject of bookbinding right in our own home…my dad.

Book 2 

So out we went to get supplies. We collected the following (see the book part terms image for the definitions of words in italics):

1. Contact cement
2. Paper glue 
3. Scissors
4. Paint brush
5. Xacto knife
6. Paper glue
7. Strong thread and needle
8. Ruler
9. Cutting surface
10. Pencil
11. 2 x 24” x 24” sheet of quality acid free paper for the Endpaper
12. 24” x 36” sheet for Case Cloth and Headband (leather or cloth)
13. 6” x 18” linen cloth (for the Crash)
14. 24” x 36” sheet of 3/16” cardboard for the Board
15. 1/16” drill bit with a drill press

Book Binding Supplies

I did not realize just how much work goes into making a book.  As you can see from the illustration below, books are made up of many parts which have special names and meanings.  Because of the poor condition of my book it had to be completely redone.

Book Parts.-Sheva Apelbaum
Book Part Terms

After carefully removing the book’s Signatures (the actual pages with the text), we striped all the rest of the parts and only kept the original front and back Board pieces. 

We then took the Signatures, clipped them together tightly and drilled holes one inch apart along the edge.  My dad told me that usually you don’t drill holes, but should instead stitch the pages from the back. Unfortunately, our Signatures had completely come apart and turned into lose pages, so we had no choice. 

Book 3 Book 4 

Next we threaded the needle and stitched the pages together in two passes.  After that, I laid out the original cardboard pieces next to each other and added a new cardboard piece for the Case Liner.  I also took the vinyl sheet (Case Cloth) and cut it to fit over the Board pieces (with approximately 1 1/2” of overlap).

Book 6 Book 7

Next we worked on the Liner and the Headbands.  We cut five narrow strips from the vinyl sheet and glued them to the back of the Case Liner.  These pieces would provide the back of the book spine with a ribbed look.

Book 8 Book 9

Next I applied contact cement to the Case Cloth, the Board pieces, and Liner.  We waited twenty minutes to allow the glue to set.  I then attached the Board to the Liner and folded the corners over. I used the roller to make sure that the Liner was fully attached to the Boards.

Book 10 Book 11

Next, I turned the Boards with the liner over and cut two additional rectangular Liner pieces to cover the inside of the book cover.  The idea is that the cover should be completely lined (front and back) with the Liner.

Book 12 Book 13

I repeated the steps of applying the glue to the front part of the Boards,  allowed it to set, and attached the inside Liner cover.

At this point the book cover was done and I was ready to attach the Crash (sheet of linen) to the Signatures.

Book 14 Book 15

Next, I applied glue to the back of the stitched Signatures and placed the Crash on top.  I allowed the glue to dry for several hours.

Book 16 Book 17

Next, I took the Signatures with the sheet of Crash and placed it on the middle of the completed book cover and folded each piece of Crash so it touched the front and back of the book cover.

Book 18 Book 19

Next, after verifying that the book cover fit perfectly and that the pages of the Signatures were aligned in the middle of the book cover, I glued both sides of the Crash to each side of the Board and closed the cover and placed the book in a vice to make sure that the Crash would set in the correct location. 

Book 24

Next, I inserted the Endpaper pieces in the front of the back of the book and marked their correct size with a pencil. 

Book 20 Book 21

Next, I cut the Endpaper to the right size (using the Xacto knife,  ruler and cutting board), and using diluted paper glue I glued each side of the Endpaper to both the front and back Boards and each side of the Signatures.  

Book 22 Book 23

I carefully wiped off all of the excess glue with a wet paper towel and then I placed a piece of thick cardboard and heavy weights on top of the book to make sure that the Endpaper would stick perfectly (to eliminate bubbles, and folds in the paper etc.). I did this part at night just before going to sleep.

Book 25

In the morning, I anxiously removed all of the weight from the book and opened it to see my handiwork, and lo and behold…it looked perfect!  After several days of measuring, cutting, drilling, stitching, trimming, and gluing, my beautiful book is healthy again and ready for many more years of use.

It is true that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but if the book is great, a nice cover couldn't hurt.


  1. Do you know--I can understand how upsetting it is when a book back is broken--I cannot bear to 'crack' a book open, fold over a corner, or even write in a book. You are a talent par excellence in inovation--and has anyone ever told you that you have the most beautiful and intelligent eyes?

  2. I have a book which fell apart, ab big one, a cake book, which I love dearly - and I by myself are to blame for it's miserable condition - oh dear! I should be more careful - like Shachar for example!
    Luckily my friend Aiva found a bookbinder for me and it will go there to be repaired - you are fortunate not to live near me girl, otherwise...
    Ve eize aba nifla!!!!
    Okay, now I am going to look at those eyes!

  3. Thank you so much Dawn and Yael.
    Yael: Don’t worry, if any of your books fall apart, AND I lived close to you…I would definitely help you bind the book!
    Dawn: I agree with you- I can’t “crack” a book open either. Whenever I do that I get chills down my spine, just like when someone scratches their nails on a chalkboard…..ugh!
    Thank you both for the sweet compliments!

  4. Sheva ...

    We just looked over your blog - and, as always, we're impressed - no, we're overwhelmed!

    You continue to make us so very proud and always looking forward to the next installment.

    Love you so much ... /Karen & Papa

  5. Thank you so much Papa and Karen! I am so happy that you enjoy my posts. Can't wait to see you soon.

  6. Fantastic work!

    I'm a fellow amateur bookbinder, been doing it for a while, but none of my books look as good as this. well done!

  7. Wow! Such a comment from another book binder is quite a compliment indeed.Thank you so much for commenting.