Diy bookbinding techniques

Updated April 17, 2017

Bookbinding is an ancient art that dates back to long before the invention of the Gutenberg printing press. Master bookbinders train for years to learn how to bind limited edition hardcovers, tool leather with typesetter's ornaments as well as restore delicate vintage books. Regardless, many simpler methods of DIY bookbinding exist and quite a few of them are affordable and easy to learn.

Saddle Stitch

Saddle stitch may be the simplest of all DIY bookbinding techniques. The bookbinder prints the pages double-sided with two pages of text per side. He stacks them in order along with the cover, folds them in half, places the folded sheets face down and staples through the crease. Most magazines use saddle stitch binding.

Punch and Bind

Punch and bind is another form of DIY bookbinding. The bookmaker punches holes in an aligned stack of pages using a specialised metal puncher to punch holes in a pattern suited to the binding of choice. This includes plastic comb binding, double wire binding and spiral coil binding. In each case, the binding itself becomes the spine of the book. Rather than purchasing binding equipment, most people interested in punch and bind bookbinding bring unbound books to a copy shop and pay to have the pages bound together.

Perfect Binding

Perfect binding is a modern form of bookbinding paperbacks that uses adhesive exclusively. In perfect binding, the book is made up of a series of sheets of paper folded in half, called leaves. Each leaf is a double-sided two-page spread, with one page per panel. The front and back covers and spine are three panels of the same piece of heavy paper stock. The bookbinder glues the sheets directly to the spine. Perfect binding is often utilised among DIY bookbinders because it doesn't require stitching. Andrew Seltz of DIY has developed a clear and useful method for creating perfect bound books.

Double-Fan Binding

Double-fan binding is a modified form of perfect binding in which the bookbinder fans the pages in one direction before applying glue. Before applying the cover, she fans the pages out in the opposite direction and applies more glue. The result is a stronger binding in which the ends of the pages are glued to the spine and to each other. Compare this to standard perfect binding, where the pages are primarily connected to the spine and not to each other.

Accordion Binding

Rather than a series of individual sheets of paper, accordion books (also known as concertina books) are printed on a single, long sheet of paper folded repeatedly in a zigzag pattern. The ends of the accordion-folded sheet are connected to end papers and hard covers that can be closed- or open-backed. Accordion books often come in slipcovers or slipcases that protect them from shelf wear or potential creases and tears.

Paper Engineering

Pop-up artists -- or "paper engineers" -- like Robert Sabuda, routinely create hand-bound mock-ups of their final books along with assembly diagrams and measurements. Specialised publishers use the diagrams to engineer a way to mass produce the pop-up book, but you could just as easily make the original mock-up again using your own guidelines. This is common in the paper engineering community, and some bookmaking conventions feature engineers selling handmade originals of their own designs. These books often use experimental bindings developed by their authors, so the typical rules do not apply.


Print-On-Demand (POD) publishing companies will print your book, usually from a PDF file, on demand, or as it is ordered. POD publishing is an alternative for authors who want a polished product but are not interested in hands-on bookbinding. You will have to pay set-up fees, but you leave the dirty work of printing and binding to the professionals. This counts as a DIY method because it is a way to get books bound while sidestepping the gatekeepers of the traditional publishing world.

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About the Author

Tim Hesse has been writing professionally since 2000. He has written and edited for a variety of print and online publications, including Tech Tips, FOXSports and Automated Homefinder. Hesse enjoys covering music, film, the open-source movement, education and the arts. He studied cinema and television production at the University of Southern California.