The Making of The Nameless Knight

Jun 12, 2016 | Bookbinding


With the release of The Nameless Knight getting close, it’s time to make the first print copy.  I’ve been looking around for a new binding style that’ll work better with the paper I can get through my printer, and with the help and advice of /r/Bookbinding on Reddit, I found it! Now all my books will be made like this. If you’re not a bookbinding wonk, this might not be interesting to you, but here goes:

I have to print my books (obviously) and it’s not feasible to print using an inkjet printer because of the high cost of ink. The only other option available to me at a reasonable price is using a laser printer, and that’s what I do. My big monochrome behemoth cost about CAD$160, and the toners are about CAD$50 apiece, but I’ll get 10-15 books out of each so it’s not too bad.

Laser printers use a lot of heat, though, and it tends to warp the paper just a tiny bit. This isn’t an issue for paper that’s long grain, meaning the grain runs parallel to the long edge. Long grain paper going through a heated toner fuser means the grain is perpendicular to the heat source, and it warps the edges a little. But this presents another issue – in order to do a 5.5″ x 8.5″ case binding, I need the 8.5″ x 11″ paper to be short grain. (Using long grain paper in this binding means that any glue applied to the spine causes the paper to warp at that point.) Short grain means the grain is parallel to the short edge, not the long edge.

So printing on short grain paper has two effects: the first being that the paper warps in a different way, and the second being that the paper warps so badly that it jams inside the printer. It’s possible that this might be fixed by using thicker paper, but my tests haven’t worked out so far. The net result is that I can’t do a regular case binding with long grain paper printed on a laser printer.

If I have to use long grain paper when I print, then I have to use a different method of binding that doesn’t use glue on the spine.

The solution: the sewn boards binding

I adapted this from an online tutorial after reading about it on /r/Bookbinding, but the principle is still the same. The text block is sewn with an extra card leaf on either end, into which the boards that make up the book cover are glued before the actual cover is put on.

This works because the only glue that touches the text block is a thin strip where the endpaper is glued onto the last page. This post shows you how I’d usually do a case binding, with muslin and card glued onto the text block so that it can be reinforced and then attached to the cover. There’s lots of PVA glue required there! But the sewn boards binding doesn’t need it, because the cover boards are attached to the text block separately from the outer spine. They’re inserted into the card leafs so there’s no need to reinforce the spine either – it’s very, very unlikely that the covers will separate from the text block. The only downside is that I can’t really add a bookmark, but I might come up with something to figure that out later.

Here’s how I did it.


Step 1:

Here’s my text block. The signatures have four sheets (or bifolia) apiece, and a heavy folded piece of card stock is sewn on each end. It’s sewn with a single line of unwaxed heavy nylon upholstery thread, and the stitch is basically very fine Coptic stitch.


Step 2:

Now I add the boards. The boards are cut to 8.75″ x 5.5″ inches, and they’re placed 0.25″ inches away from the spine for an overhang of 0.25″ all around the text block. They’re glued inside the folded card stock.


Step 3:

The boards are added, and the card stock is glued down over them. You can see the overhang here.


Step 4:

Adding the cover paper! This is added in two pieces so I can finish the spine later. That’s my trusty glue stick in the corner of the photo, and it’s the only glue I use in this binding.


Step 5:

Much as I’d like to use real marbled paper, my own experiments in marbling have ended badly and I don’t have the budget to buy it. Individual sheets of good marbled paper cost upwards of CAD$15 here in Vancouver! My substitute is acid-free patterned scrapbooking paper.

I was planning to do these two with marbled endpapers, but I couldn’t find any that I liked that weren’t very expensive and also the right size. This type of binding means I don’t need a large, continuous sheet, so I can use a single sheet of 12″ x 12″ scrapbooking paper cut in half, but endpapers are still an issue. I decided to use the nice patterned paper on the outside, and plain paper for the inside.


Step 6:

Now I’m ready to work on the spine. I can’t use glue on the text block directly, remember – any moisture might warp the paper – so the spine is only going to be attached to the cover.


Step 7:

Prepping the spine means cutting a 8.75″ long piece of book board and gluing it into the center of the spine cover paper. This is some nice textured card stock to match the cover, but not quite as thick as the card used in the text block.


Step 8:

I’ve glued the spine card over the cover on either side. I’d rather have a darker green card for this, but I couldn’t get any with the right texture and weight.


Step 9:

This is the tricky part. The card stock needs to be reasonably stiff so it’ll hold up well, but it also needs to be flexible enough to allow it to be folded in and underneath the text block. I use my bookbinding awl to push it through. It’s also risky because you might get glue on the text block. I got away with it this time, but in future I’ll be sliding some wax paper around the text block to protect it first.


Step 10:

The finished book, just before it goes into my book press for the night. I’ve added the endpapers already but you can’t really see them here.


Step 11:

Next morning, I’m on to the finishing touches. I got some metal corners to add a little more protection to the cover. It’s possible to fold them in using just your fingers, but you really need a hammer to flatten them down properly.

finished book

finished book

the meldling and the nameless knight books

the meldling and the nameless knight books

All done! It looks pretty good. This is the first print edition of The Nameless Knight, and only the second sewn boards binding I’ve done that wasn’t for practice.

Here’s the matched set of The Meldling and The Nameless Knight! These are both special promo copies that I gave away on my mailing list. They’ll be sent to Angel in North Carolina, the giveaway winner, by registered post this week. If you’d like a chance to win one of my books, check out my mailing list, or keep an eye out for other giveaways on LibraryThing or Goodreads.

Major thanks to the community of /r/Bookbinding for their help, and I highly recommend you go and check them out if you’re interested in binding your own books.