Bookbinding Repair

Have a favorite book that needs bookbinding repair? Follow these easy steps and learn how to repair your worn out book at home.

Repairing a book is largely a matter of cutting, pasting, and measuring accurately. In most cases, you can do this at home yourself. A valuable book that you have had for years you might want to take to a professional for repairs.

The most essential tools are a bone folder-a special tool made of bone for creasing, folding, or smoothing, and a sharp utility knife.

Other basic tools include a square or a straightedge and a triangle, scissors, and brushes. Materials you will need include adhesives, cheesecloth, scrap paper for a gluing surface, and wax paper.

Two types of adhesives are used for book repair, quick-drying white glue and slower drying flour paste. White glue is used where permanent flexibility is desired. Before using, thin with water until glue dripped from a brush back into container blends into the surface smoothly.

Flour paste is used where flexibility is not required. To make it, add 1/4 teaspoon flour to 1/ 1/2 teaspoons water, stir until smooth, then cook to consistency of thin cream sauce. Use unenriched wheat flour of fine pastry grade. Commercial wall paper paste is also recommended.

Glue quickly, using largest practical brush for the job. Hold piece to be glued on scrap paper and brush glue from center outwards. Discard scrap paper to avoid putting clean work on it. To repair a tear, brush a line of glue along one of the torn edges and rejoin the edges.

One of the first signs of wear in a book generally occurs at the corners. First, the corner becomes bent with use; then, the cloth begins to work loose or is torn from the boards, and the boards split. If left unrepaired, the corners will eventually break off, no longer protecting the book pages. When this happens the whole cover must be replaced. Repairing a corner is simple; inspect your books. If any have worn covers, follow these directions. Using a narrow brush, work a thin solution of flour paste between loose layers of board and book cloth at the corner. Press together firmly with fingers to mold corner into shape again. Smooth cloth with bone folder is necessary. Let dry.

A tube is used when re-covering a book or replacing the cover's spine to strengthen the book. To make a tube, first cut a piece of paper slightly longer than the spine of the book and a little over twice its width. Center the paper on the spine; measure and mark it with pencil to the exact width of the spine. Fold the paper lengthwise at each mark, forming a tube with the edges overlapping. Mark the length of the spine on the tube and cut it to size. Apply a thin line of white glue to the inside of the overlapping edge; rub down to seal the tube, which will be glued to both the backstrip and spine of the book.

Books are sewn in sections; the sections are shaped to provide a curve at the back, and a shoulder along the spine against which the boards rest flat. The cloth hinges between boards and spine often break, and the cover comes apart from the book. If the boards are in good condition, repair by simply attaching a new spine. Book cloth for the spine is available from bookbinding supply stores. Use a light card stock for the backstrip.

Clean the old boards by trimming ragged edges of the end papers and cutting away a narrow strip of book cloth along the spine, exposing bare board to which the new spine cloth will be glued. Clean book spine by first picking off old, dry material with a knife. Soften remaining material with white glue thinned to consistency of skim milk; scrape clean. Reshape book by tapping head on a flat surface; push any loose sections back into place.

Always test-fit cover before gluing it to the book. Position book on right-hand board so that board extends evenly beyond pages at head, tail, and front edge. Bring cover around and close it on book. Crease hinges with the bone folder. Finally, glue a connecting strip along the spine inside each cover to re-place the broken hinges of the end papers.

© High Speed Ventures 2011