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Updated: Oct 19, 2021

Make your own books for fun or profit

Three journals and a sketch pad, bound Japanese Style, or Stab Binding Style

I did my first bookbinding project while in college, part of an assignment for an “Alphabet Book” and in the process of researching various ways for binding a book, I discovered the Japanese, or “stab binding”.

Recently I made several notebooks/journals by that method. While traditionally those are all paper, for some of the covers I used textile material over hardboard, which required a “hinge” to be easily opened.

While the Japanese have the 4 hole “standard” stab binding and 2-3 variations, I have seen books made by Western crafters with very elaborate, decorative “stab binding”. Personally, I like the simple, straight stitch, although I made it a “5 hole”.

For the pages of these notebooks I use 100% recycled paper that I buy in a ream (500 sheets) of normal size printing paper, (8.5" x 11"). I usually cut these in half, ending with a notebook of 8.5"x 5.5" with the binding on the narrow end.

I use 3/32" thick board for the covers and I cut these 1/8" larger than the paper and this results in a small "overhang".

Because the sewing extends about 5/8" in from the spine, unlike in the Coptic Stitch, the stiff cover needs a "hinge" and for this to be durable, I use book cloth or some other textile material 1and 1/4" wide leaving a 3/32" gap between the part of the cover that is sewn and the flap. Before joining the spine to the flap, I cover the later in the paper I choose for the outside of the book. I cut this so it extends 1/2" past the edges of the board on three sides and I glue it on using starch paste or PVA, folding in the excess. Next, the "spine" and the cover are joined together with the book cloth that will go clear around. Remember to leave the 3/32" gap between the two, this is the "hinge". At this point, the end papers are glued on inside the covers, 1/8" shy of the edge. Both, front and back covers receive the same treatment and after this part is accomplished, I place them between several layers of board and press them either in a book press, or under some heavy weight and leave them overnight. The role of the boards is to absorb the moisture from the glue and to keep the covers from buckling.

While the covers are drying, I prepare the papers by getting them nicely aligned and gluing two tabs of some colored paper on the two corners of the spine and fold them inside, top and bottom. When I'm ready to assemble the book, I sandwich the paper between the two covers keeping them flush on the spine end and hold them in position with two large bull clips. I am now ready to do the "stabbing", but I find that because of the thick covers, it's much easier to drill the holes with a 3/32" drill and I do that after laying out the 5 holes spaced to my liking. I do the sewing using waxed thread of a color contrasting the book cloth, usually white and rather than try to hide the knot when the sewing is done, I leave it on the outside and clip the thread a couple inches long.

Occasionally I make a book the size of the full printing paper, 8.5"x11", some people like the larger format for sketching. I have also made those using 90lb Fabriano paper in an ivory white.

Whenever I do this, I make 5-6 notebooks at a time for efficiency's sake and be able to clean up the "mess" and return the kitchen table to it's normal use by lunch time.

Here is the result of an experiment, using an office 2 hole punch, some wooden slats and twine. For the covers, some Indian and some Marbled paper over card stock.

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1 Comment

Judy Moyer
Judy Moyer
Oct 31, 2021

I would like to do this... I copied your description of materials etc. Paulette will have to help me.

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