So after almost 10 years of making handmade books, I've found the tools that I love and the ones I just can't live without. Of course I own TONS of other supplies, materials and tools that I use, but I thought I'd share the ones you might find in my bag if the zombie apocalypse started today!! :-)
What's In My Kit?
And of course there's some kind of paper necessary for making books, but that's for another blog post. For now, let's just say paper is readily available and move on to the other goodies in my kit.
A Bone Folder or Paper Creaser
This handy tool is what we use to create creases in our papers, smooth air bubbles when gluing, and score lines in paper for folding. They come in lots of different shapes, sizes, colors, and materials.
If I could only own one bone folder, I would get a traditional bone folder because it can do it all --crease, smooth, and score.
If you are vegan and would rather not handle actual bone, I recommend a teflon folder over plastic. It resists glue, doesn't leave a burnished mark on your paper, and smooths paper beautifully. The only down side to teflon is that it typically does not give you a good score line and it can be a little on the pricey side.
Some book structures require you to poke holes for sewing. The tool we use for that is called an awl.
I have different sized awls, but if I could only have one, I'd get one that matches closely with the needles I use most frequently. And one that can pierce the kinds of materials I use most often (canvas, leather, paper, boards, etc.)
NOTE: Be sure to remove this from your kit if you travel by airplane.
There's really not a lot to say here other than, yes, you could sew a book together with a basic needle from a sewing kit, but it will make you HATE bookbinding. It's too tiny. The eye is too small, and it will likely break if you try to push it through too many sheets of paper.
So spare yourself the drama and get a pack of binder's needles. My favorites are by Lineco.
Thread or Floss
Okay, so traditional binders will tell you that you need waxed linen thread. And that is true, in most instances. If you are making a book to sell, for example, you should definitely use the good stuff. Don't skimp.
And the beauty of the linen thread is that it comes in more colors than you can count and because bookbinding is making a comeback in the arts and crafts world, you can now get it at stores like Joanns, Michaels, and Hobby Lobby. I think I even saw it at Walmart once.
But If it's the zombie apocalypse, just use the same dental floss you threw in your bag when you were running and screaming to get away. That can actually work really well -- the floss (and maybe the running and screaming too).
The bottom line is, use what you have or what you can find easily. Some structures won't be able to function well if you use floss, but many of the simple bindings can and will.
Large Paper Clips, Binder Clips, or Bulldog Clips
Basically you'll want something that can hold your pages together should you need to sew, stitch, or fold lots of sheets.
I prefer the bulldog clips, because they are a bit weighted and because I can use them for holding my journal open while I paint, sketch, draw, or write.
But it really is about your preferences here.
Try them all and see which one works best for you.
Glue Stick (and or Double Sided Tape)
Yup! A glue stick. You'll need something to glue pages together or for adhering things to your pages.
While most bookbinders will tell you that you need PVA for this, I'm here to say -- okay, yes, that would be BEST, but a glue stick is a lot mightier than it looks. I've made entire books with nothing but a glue stick, and they are standing the test of time.
I would just encourage you to get a glue stick that is acid-free, non-toxic, dries clear, is archival, permanent, and photo safe.
That's why I love this Pioneer brand glue stick. The extra strong is my favorite of their brand.
Scissors or an X-acto Knife
Okay. The last thing you need for your kit is something to help you cut things.
I'm a fan of torn edges, but sometimes you do need to fussy cut something and it's helpful to have a pair of scissors and/or an x-acto knife.
I love the Tim Holtz scissors for their pointy tip and wide finger holes. The grips are fantastic and double sided tape peels off of it easily. They also come in three sizes.
If you want to fussy cut even more, grab an x-acto knife and have at it. Either tool will do most jobs.
And for the record, any scissors or craft knife will do. I'm just sharing the ones I love.
NOTE: Be sure to take these OUT of your kit if you plan to hop on a plane!!
Of course I'm cringing a little because there are at least ten other things I want to add to this list. Fountain pens, watercolors, spacer bars, micro-spatulas, t-squares, triangles, a cutting mat, etc, etc, etc, But in all honesty, if the list above was all I had, I could make a few simple (but badass) journals!!!
This is the kit that I require my in-person bookbinding students to purchase because it's great to start working with your own tools and making them your own. Some tools will bend and shape to your hand, your energy, your weight. For example, my bone folders are definitely MINE -- the way I grip them and push them is embedded in the way they curve and bend. My x-acto has a groove in it right where my fingers rest.
So if you ever take an in-person class with me, be sure to bring your kit.
If you have a kit, I'd love to hear what's in yours. Leave me a note below.