Bookbinding Punching Cradle Tutorial

A friend recently asked me to make new sides for her hole punching cradle. I decided just to make another one and give the instructions here. A cradle supports your book’s signatures so that the holes you punch with your awl come out centered on the fold where they belong.

You’ll need:

2 pieces of book board that will form the main body of the cradle. Shown here are two 13″x 4.5″ (33 x 11.4 cm) pieces.

8 pieces of book board about 3″(7.5cm) long x .5″(1.3 cm) wide. These will form the supports on the “legs” that will hold up the cradle.








2 pieces of book board for the legs/ends. The pieces here are 3.5″ (9cm) high x 6″(15.2 cm) wide for a 13″ (33cm) long cradle.


And you’ll need 2 strips of book cloth that are about 3.5-4″ (9 to 11.5 cm) wide and slightly longer than the length of your cradle.






1. Measure approximately 1″ down and 1″ in from each end. Mark a slit that is as wide as the thickness of your book board. It should exactly match the placement on the other board, but be a mirror image. See photo. If necessary, err on the side of making the slit too narrow–you can always use an emery board later to enlarge it.







2. On each of the smaller end boards, mark a 90 degree “V” in the middle. Do this on both sides, and on both sides of the other board this size. I find a small quilting ruler to be quite useful for this.










3. Carefully glue each small side support piece along the sides of the Vs you just made. They will meet just at their tips on the bottom, as in the photo.  They won’t reach all the way to the top–don’t worry about that. Do this on all 4 sides. Put aside to dry.








4. Join the two main cradle pieces by gluing a book cloth strip down the center, as shown (the book cloth is on the underside in the photo). Leave 2 board thicknesses space in the middle.










5. Do the same on the other side. The book board will be sandwiched between the book cloth. It’s fine for the book cloth to hang off the ends. You’ll trim it after it’s dry. Put it aside under weight to dry.

6. After drying, trim the extra cloth off the ends and trim open the slits:

The book cloth isn’t exactly centered here because I was ditzy. It won’t be elegant, but it will work.


7. Using your bone folder, score down the middle of each side to neaten the joint in the book cloth.

8. Slide each slit over an end piece/leg. Use an emory board or trim slightly to enlarge the slit if necessary (but be cautious–it should fit snugly). The V-shaped supports will hold up the cradle.







Your finished item will look something like this. You can take it apart for storage and travel.

I’ve made a couple of these for my own use. One is smaller than the other. That’s the one I tend to use most, since I like to make small books.








Punch those sections with confidence.

This is my favorite hole punching tool–a pin vise. These are available with different kinds of handles, including some that look like craft knives. You can attach a needle on the end of it, for nice holes that are smaller than those made with an awl.

(I should add that it’s more correct to line up your pages and jig against one of the ends of the cradle. Your holes will come out more perfectly aligned that way. I should’ve shown this in the photo.)

Now doesn’t that look delightfully menacing?




17 thoughts on “Bookbinding Punching Cradle Tutorial”

  1. Oh Wow.  Nice clear instructions and a useful finished product.  You are right about that Pin Vise though – scary looking.  A dentist I had as a child used to delight in telling me as she probed painfully in my mouth 'Your father made/designed this for me dear'.  As a result I would come home hating her AND my father.

  2. Thanks. I figure most of my bookie friends will likely already have one, but I figure someone might find it useful. 

    That's such a sinister tale of childhood trauma. Oh dear! I suppose you developed a lifelong dental phobia from this?

    I've thought of actually making a post about gory studio accidents. Knock wood, nothing major yet with the pin vise, but the scalpel… tsk. There's a reason I keep boxes of bandages handy both in there and in the kitchen. (Do you call them bandages in Australia? Or are they plasters like in the UK? Or something else?)

    Good luck tomorrow!!

  3. I love this!
    I don't have one, and I will definitely make one following your amazing instructions. Thank you!!!

  4.  Yup.  Not real fond of dentists.  And I hope there is a special hell for that one.  When she drilled out a nerve (I was about ten) and a tear formed in my eye (didn't fall you understand, just glistened) she slapped me.  Grrr.

    I would be interested in your injuries post.  Bandages are for BIG injuries here, and bandaid for things like paper cuts and the like.  Isn't language a wonderful thing!

  5. That's such a shocking story about the dentist! My God–don't know about Australia, but nowadays here an abusive "professional" like that would wind up in jail, and probably in the newspaper too. At least I would hope. The hell she winds up in should include lots of drilling into open tooth nerves. What an abusive sadist!

    We say bandaid too–actually, probably more than bandage. I think "bandage" does generally conjure up visions of more serious mayhem, even if it is used interchangeably with bandaid. Hmm…maybe I *will* do a post about the dangers of playing with scalpels… ;-)

    I'll be thinking of you, hoping the shift isn't as bad as feared, and that maybe you'll even get something rewarding out of it (?). Turning off the ringer… can't be overpraised. Sigh…

  6. Perfect Ronnie.I have been blundering the making of my piercings in the section so you have reminded me that I can use a phone book although I will make one of these as well THANKS


  7. This guide is so helpful–exactly what I was looking for, since I cannot afford a ready-made wooden cradle and I’m not quite handy enough to make one. My wallet and my bindings thank you!

  8. simple, clever and a brilliant idea! wonderfully clear tutorial too :) thank you for your generosity in sharing your ideas and for taking the time to do this :)

  9. Thank you, Paper Chipmunk, for the clear directions. I used them to make a cradle last week and am very happy with it. One little thing — in instruction #2, you say 45 degree angle, but the picture is of a 90 degree angle. I made both, and 90 degrees seems right. (heh, right angle) Right?


    • Oh dear! Of course you are right…sigh, yes, right angle… And to think, this post has been making the rounds for more than 3 years(!), and I have eyed it more than once… and nobody until now caught my mindless slip-up (or was willing to bring it to my attention).

      And to think, geometry was one of my best subjects in high school. Seriously.

      I’m embarrassed, but fixing it three years late is better than never. Thanks much for bringing this to my attention! I do appreciate it.

      I’m glad the cradle eventually worked out for you, in spite of my mental hiccup.

  10. Thank you for this timeless tutorial! It is 11 years old because it is 2022 and is still relevant. Very well translated with Google and well explained, I think I can achieve it. As for the awl… torture tool of a possible crazy dentist ?… hateful childhood memories, but today the methods have changed. Phew! Sincerely ??


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