Monday, October 08, 2012

Atelier du Marais: Part 3

There are two finishing steps that I learned in the bookbinding studio in Paris and I'd like to share them with you in this post.

Lining the inside boards

Have you ever made a book and when you glue the papers to the insides of your covers, you discover there is an annoying ridge where the fold-ins from your covering material end? Sometimes it isn't a problem, especially if your lining papers are fairly heavy, but with a lighter paper, like the japanese one in the photo above, the ridges can detract from your nice neat finish.

The answer is very simple, but it wasn't something I had seen before. You line the insides of the cover boards using thin card.

From my notebook, May 2012

To glue, we used a generous coat of wheat paste. The cards are then put aside for at least 10 minutes, to allow the paper fibres to expand and contract.

The cards are placed into (a) and (b), fitting closely and accurately to the spine. Trimming will be necessary because the card will have expanded and this is more easily done over the leather.

To trim, you first score your line creating a gutter. The Stanley knife can then be run lightly along the gutter to remove the excess without cutting the leather.

Finally, put the book block inside the cover boards and place the whole thing in the press while the paste dries.

Books in the press. Note the protective red and pink cards, which stop unwanted glue reaching the book blocks.

Making rolled leather headbands

I saw some of the other students make beautiful, woven headbands with different coloured threads for the books they were binding. Sadly my time ran out before I had the chance to try that for myself, but I did learn to make rolled leather headbands for both my books.

I've scanned the notes I made so that hopefully my sketches will help to clarify the steps.

1) cut some leather cord to the width of the spine
2) bevel both ends

3) cut a rectangle of thin leather so that the short sides are a bit longer than your cord
4) apply PVA to a bit more than half of the rectangle
5) put the cord in the centre, at the bottom of the glued area
6) fold the leather down over the cord and press it down, shaping over the cord

7) when the folded leather is holding in place, make cuts down either side of the cord and across at right angles, as shown on the left. The area which remains is the rolled head, which will be visible in the closed book.
8) next, carefully remove only the top layer of leather in the areas marked with red stripes
9) apply PVA to the "spotted area", ready to glue the headband onto the book block
10) the final sketch shows the "wings" created in step 8, which are used to position the headband and allow you to pull it in close and flat, ensuring a nice tight fit.

Above you can see the wings have been removed now, and the head sits in tightly over the spine.

That's all I'm planning to post about my time at the Atelier du Marais, but if anything is unclear or you have any questions at all about it, please drop me a line in the comments.


  1. I've really enjoyed reading this series. Bookbinding is so much fun. To create a book! It feels so powerful and magical.

  2. what is it about studio notes that I find so interesting? I don't know - its more than just the 'how-to' aspect -- maybe i'm something of a voyeur.... thanks so for sharing your notes (love the rolled leather headbands)

  3. Looks like a wonderful experience Amanda. I love those leather books in the press bound on raised cords.

  4. Amanda, I really enjoyed your series on binding in Paris! What a wonderful experience.
    I've finally subscribed to your blog so that I can get posts on email. I do intend to put that on my blog too but am never home long enough to do housekeeping things.
    I'm going to Qld next week and hoped to see you but I think we'll be missing Brisbane. And Mackay... Sigh. Maybe next time.

  5. Great notes Amanda; its so kind of you to share all you have learnt on your travels.