The latest We Love Your Books exhibition, Minute, is now up at the University of Northampton. It includes my flip book depicting one minute on the clock. This year the exhibit in Northampton was selected from a larger online show, and views of it can be seen here. A catalogue can be seen and bought here. “Minute” could be interpreted in any way desired, and there’s some genuinely fascinating work here.
I haven’t seen many instructions around for making a board book. So I thought I’d share mine.
Some things to consider before starting:
- I usually use 4-ply museum board when making board books. Illustration board, matboard, chipboard or any thin, stiff and lightweight support can also be used.
- The paper you use for your pages will form the hinge between your boards, so it should be strong enough to withstand lots of bending. As with most books, the grain of both the boards and paper should run parallel to the spine.
- It is important to cut your boards accurately and squared. Take your time when you cut.
Making the Board Book Pages
To get straight page spreads that are joined together evenly, you need to line up your boards against a straight edge. This needs to be anchored down either with removable tape, or by putting it against something that won’t move, such as a brick or other weight. I prefer tape. [Note: many “removable” tapes will cure after a few days and become more permanent. I discovered this the hard way after leaving an acrylic quilting ruler taped down for a week.]
At any rate, tape your straight edge to your work surface with drafting or artists’ tape. I prefer to use a flat L-square — it gives you two sides to line your pages against. [Edit: I later devised an improved jig setup for this. See note at the end for a link to it.]
Also make sure you have something close at hand for wiping your glue-covered fingers. As all bookbinders know, glue-covered fingers are the Devil’s friend.
To begin, you’ll need to have your boards cut to the size you’d like your book to be. Your page spreads should not be trimmed exactly to size before mounting. It’s easier to trim a little excess off of the pages once they are glued than to try to match paper and boards exactly when gluing.
The example instructions are assuming you have 8 boards, which will make a 14 page book (7 page spreads) and a cover.
- Take two of your boards and line them up against your straight edge. When making board books, you don’t need a large space between your boards. When working with museum board, I use a single board thickness.
- Place one of your page papers on your scrap paper and carefully put a thin, even coating of PVA on the back. Carefully position your glued paper onto your boards. It can be tricky to do this without your boards moving — it gets easier with practice. If the paper I’m mounting has to be positioned exactly (ie to line up text or pictures exactly on the page), I’ll trim off a side — one that will fit against the straight edge–and leave the others untrimmed. [Note: if your finished book is wobbly, you likely have gaps in the glue near the spine. Be sure that you have evenly glued the entire board.]
- Immediately after gluing, quickly wipe the glue off your fingers. Using your bone folder or a hard brayer, carefully smooth down your paper-covered boards. Put your joined pair of boards aside (preferably under weight) to dry. When they are dry, trim off the extra paper around the edges.
- Make three other pairs the same way.
- Now take two joined pairs and line them up on the straight edge, closed, side by side, with spine edges facing each other. Check that the tops of the pages are in the right place. Join these with a paper page the same way you joined the single boards.
- Join the other pairs the same way. Ideally you will end in the middle of the book with the last remaining page spread, with an equal number of pages on either side. If, however, your book does not come out with an even number of pages on each side, prop spare boards under the shorter side until the height is equal. Then you can glue your paper on them without distortion.
- After the book block is dry, you can go back and brush a thin even layer of glue over the spine and then let it dry before proceeding. You want to ensure that there are no gaps at the spine that will make the book wobbly.
Making the Drop Spine Cover
- Place your book face down (front down with edges facing the edge) on the left end of your cover paper, allowing a little bit of extra room on the side to trim off later. Where the spine begins, (keeping in mind the paper “hinges” that stick out a little bit between the boards–roughly half a board width extra), carefully mark in pencil. Draw a line. Measure the thickness with of the spine with dividers (or fold a scrap paper over the spine to determine the width) and transfer this marking to the appropriate place on the cover paper. (Or, if you’re feeling lazy, tip the book onto its spine, carefully lined up with the mark you made where the spine begins, and mark the width on the other side of the spine with a pencil.) Score both spine edges.
- Now on the back cover side, to the right of the spine width you just marked, repeat the same measurement as the spine width to the right of the spine. Mark and score this third line.
- Turn the cover right side up. Make mountain folds for the spine, and a valley fold at the extra score. Smooth well with bone folder. Then lightly straighten the valley fold (don’t bone).
- Wrap cover around the book to check the fit. If it looks ok, place your cover on scrap paper, wrong side up, and place a thin even layer of glue everywhere except between your first and last score lines. Neither the spine nor the extra space next to the spine should have any glue. I find it helps to mask the area you won’t be gluing with a scrap paper.
- Carefully fit your book into the cover, smoothing the glued portions onto the front and back boards. Wipe glue from your fingers. Smooth the glued parts with your bone folder or roller. Put waxed paper between the pages and press under weight until dry.
- When dry, trim off excess paper around the edges.
When There’s a Specific Page Order
It’s possible to attach each page spread in the order it will be in the finished book (ie begin with pages 1 and 2, then 3 and 4 . . . ). However, this is awkward.
A better way is to determine your page order beforehand and make all of the 2-page spreads first, followed by joining those pairs together with the remaining page spreads (the same way we made our prototype). The only hitch is that we need to figure out ahead of time which pages are going to be the 2-page single spreads and which will be the pages that will be joining the separate pairs together.
To do this, you need to make a mockup before beginning. You can just use little scraps of paper folded in half to stand in visually for your page spreads. Place them in the order of your book, piled one on top of the other (not like a pamphlet), making note of which pages represent the ones in your final book. By looking at this, you can determine which spreads will be “pairs” (the single spreads you made) and which will be “coupler” pages that will link the pairs together.
When you’ve figured this out, make a chart or list for quick reference.
Now you can go ahead and make your single pairs first, then join them with the “coupler” pages in an order that will make the book easier to assemble.
If you want rounded corners, you can trace a round object, such as a coin, that’s the right size and trim. Or you can use a corner rounder or punch that will go through board. If you become obsessed with board books and other structures with rounded corners, you might even invest in a more durable corner rounder…
[Edit: I later added another post with more info on making a gluing jig for board books. This might make the process easier.]
Other Resources for Learning to Make Board Books
- Alisa Golden has a tutorial for a drum leaf binding–sort of a cousin to a board book–on her Making Handmade Books blog that also features a drop spine.
- An archived edition of The Bonefolder has a tutorial by Leigh Craven for a cloth covered version of a drop spine.
- Julie Leonard’s chapter in The Penland Book of Handmade Books features some board book variations without drop spine covers.
I’ve written before about the similarities between children’s books and artists’ books. This is not, of course, an original observation. Others, including Keith Smith in at least one of his books, have noted the similarities as well. I’ve come to the conclusion that if you are interested in artists’ books and book arts, you should make a beeline for the kids’ section in bookstores and the book section in toy stores any time you manage to go to either such establishment. Some of the best ideas for book formats are often found in those places. Ignore the subject matter in many–I suspect most of us don’t get excited over “Baby’s First Counting Book” and the like–but you might very well be inspired by the format of that same book if it has unusually constructed windows that open to reveal things embedded in the thick pages underneath, or pages designed to look like tabbed directory pages.
I especially love board books. (I suppose if I were being a properly grown-up Serious Book Artist, I’d say I like stiff-leaf structures). There is just something about a book with such heft and texture. Those thick pages are so satisfying to turn and run one’s hands against (board books often use nice, substantial papers that have lovely tactile qualities). Durability is often cited as a reason why board books are so popular for children. But they are just plain fun to hold as well.
The majority of commercial board books have a drop spine that folds away from the book as it is read. This allows the book to have a tight fitting cover when closed, yet when opened the page spreads can lie perfectly flat. Aside from a drop spine’s practical role, I just think it’s so pleasing to have a spine that varies in shape as the book is read. Cool, isn’t it? Admit it! And if you still don’t know what I’m talking about, find a commercial board book with a tight-fitting wrap-around cover (the common style cover that most have). Open it up and notice the shape the spine makes as it folds away from the book as it is read. Simple, but satisfying.
A while back, I started putting together a board book model collection. I suspect the folks at the local book shops have come to realize that I’m not actually a doting auntie buying gifts for a young someone else. I love to look through my collection.
Some benefits of board books:
- Nice weight and presence in the hands.
- Flat pages with no sewing–great for page spreads that need to be presented flat and uninterrupted. And no page imposition, since the page spreads are glued back-to-back, not nested.
- The thickness of the pages allows all kinds of opportunities for cutting through layers and embedding details, cutting into pages to make windows or peep holes or to layer scenes, or making shaped pages that stand up firmly. Thick, solid pages also offer an ideal support for page pullouts, pop-ups and the like.
- There’s that fun drop spine thing.
Plus, let’s face it, board books are so connected to children’s books that it’s also fun to use the format to poke fun. (I’m planning to photograph colorful pharmaceuticals for my next “children’s” book.)
The commercial books pictured are, in order from the top:
- Animal Spots and Stripes Britta Techentrup.
- Look Who’s There! Martine Perrin
- Look Who’s There!
- Colors: A Butterfly-Shaped Book Accord Publishing
- Colors: A Butterfly-Shaped Book
- Dinosaurs Simms Taback
- The Grouchy Ladybug Eric Carle
- Baby Baa Baa Dawn Sirett et al.
- Baby Baa Baa
- Fire Truck DK Publishing
- Mister Sea Horse Eric Carle
- I Spy in the Ocean Damon Burnard and Julia Cairns
- Beautiful Oops! Barney Saltzberg
- My Very First Book of Animal Homes Eric Carle
Everyone knows that white cotton gloves should be worn when handling precious books and manuscripts, right? Well, it turns out that the need for white gloves is just as based in fact as all those Eskimo words for snow you’ve been told about. The British Museum, for instance, does not want you to wear white cotton gloves when you are handling most of the items in their collections. I know this from personal experience. When I spent time in their Prints and Drawings Students’ Room some years ago, I was not made to wear gloves, and, in fact, they were not offered. I’ve always been curious about that. And now I know why. It turns out that materials are more likely to be damaged if you are wearing gloves. Awkward cotton gloves reduce dexterity and make you clumsier. The risk from bare skin against precious items is overblown. Clean hands are preferable.
According to a 2005 article by Cathleen Baker and Randy Silverman, Misperceptions about White Gloves, in International Preservation News:
…it appears that cotton glove-use spread to the rare book and archives reading room only in the last decade of the twentieth century, suggesting this practice is less than 20 years old. This development was probably driven by the good intentions of some curators with ready access to archival supply catalogues in which vendors have increasingly represented glove-use as a standard component of library and archival practice. Yet, while many curators remain convinced of the efficacy of glove-use for patrons in reading rooms, others do not…
In other words, it’s mostly marketing. I love it when accepted wisdom gets turned on its head.
A bit of old news for a few of you, but I’ve joined the international collective Book Art Object for their next edition. It’s rather ambitious this time around. Last I heard, about 50 people have signed up. We are being placed in groups of 8 each.
Each Book Art Object edition uses a literary piece as a starting point. The inspiration for Edition 4 is Sarah Bodman’s artist’s book An Exercise for Kurt Johannessen. More is explained at the BAO site and by Sarah, but the gist is that Johannessen, in his artist’s book Exercises, had suggested a task: write 100 short stories and bury them in a forest. So Sarah did. All that remains are the titles of her stories. Using this as our starting point, we each chose one for our own artist’s book. I chose title #87–Superstition.
We will each make an edition of at least 10 books–one for each in our group, plus one for Sarah Bodman, and an extra (or more, if we desire) for exhibiting.
I picked Superstition because the line “One should not dance around ladders nor sleep with black cats” popped into my head as I was looking at the list of titles. I thought it might have potential. After I signed up, it occurred to me that black cats are actually good luck in the UK, where at least one of these books is going to wind up. And I had no idea what sort of luck they are in Australia or Norway, where some of the others will be headed. Hmmm . . .
I posed this question on the BAO blog, and my fellow bookies have offered input. It turns out they are indeed bad luck in Norway (if one crosses your path, you should quickly spit 3 times to ward off the bad luck). But the opinions from Australia seem to be a bit ambivalent. Theoretically, I think they’re supposed to be good luck in Australia, but I’ve been told that traditionally they are known to be bad luck as well. So… either this will turn into a treatise on the nature of black cats and the fortunes they bring depending upon country of origin, or I’ll have to come up with something else. I suspect I’d better come up with something else. I’m still jotting down ideas in my sketchbook.
At any rate, seeing as we recently survived a Friday 13th, this seemed like an appropriate time to mention Superstition. I hope you all had a relatively lucky 13th. Mine was mostly peaceful, aside from a large van backing into my car while I was sitting in it (fortunately, and surprisingly, no damage to me or the car). Perhaps the two black cats waiting for me at home have distant British relations, thus bringing me good luck and improving the outcome.
I recently took part in a Christmas/Winter Season card exchange with the North Redwoods Book Arts Guild. I felt like playing with spinners, and so concocted a New Year’s card: spin the wheel, then peek inside to find your suggested bookbinding-related resolution. (Click on the pictures to enlarge.)
I’ve personally been finding it hard to feel good about 2012. So I made a more general card for friends here in the US:
Politics aside, I do wish all my friends here, no matter where in the world, a happy New Year!
PS If you were wondering, the arrows came from Alpha Stamps. I put a small nylon washer between card and arrow to keep the metal from scraping the ink. The card was done as a tri-fold, using 3M 415 double-sided tape to hold the front part, including the brad holding the arrow, in place.
PBS is airing a short about book art with Matthew Reinhart, Andrea Dezso and Carole Kunstadt. There are some nice shots of artists’ books. Dezso’s, especially, should be viewed full screen.
As I explained in the legal disclaimer on the back, my Board Book for Bored Children isn’t really meant for kids. It’s a spoof on the genre of little kiddie picture books featuring photos of familiar objects, in this case, household items.
I’d never made a board book of this sort before. I figured it out partly from directions in an old edition of The Bonefolder, and partly from adapting what I did know about making stiff-leaf books. I wanted the pages to be laminated to protect the inkjet printouts from getting scratched. But also, this being a gag on children’s board books, I wanted the pages to have the plastic-coated feel of the real thing. How to go about that?
Again, I sheepishly admit to owning and using a scrapbookers’ kind of gizmo, a 5″ Xyron. One of the cartridges available has adhesive on one side, and a matte laminate on the other. Presto! Fortunately, it is a small-ish book, so I can squeeze a few copies out of each cartridge.
I described the concept of A Board Book for Bored Children to a friend who’s an on-again/off-again empty nester. She seemed almost a bit . . . too excited by the idea. She enthusiastically suggested dangerous things I hadn’t even contemplated. Poisonous berries? Abandoned wells? And did I know that Calla Lilies are poisonous?
I finished this piece a while back. Then I got this idea in my head to “improve” it, alas. I proceeded to fill in too much of the bottom area. I didn’t like what I’d done after it was too late and I’d done it.
While preparing pieces for Saturday’s opening, I decided to restore Be Careful What You Take to Bed With You to its original, more balanced state. I’m glad I did.