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?