I’m working on doing bookbinding at home now, and having to get sneaky about my equipment. A lot of bookbinding tools are kind of ridiculously expensive. Fortunately, I am pretty handy, and the internet is full of ideas.

Here are two items I made recently so I could get my work done:

On the left, we have a piercing jig (or trough, or cradle). I built this one out of bookboard using this design. To see how fancy (and expensive!) they can get, hit Google. Or look at this. Gorgeous!

This particular piece of equipment is used to hold a group of folded pages (a signature) open while you use an awl to make holes in them for stitching. The V-shape helps make sure the holes go straight down into the fold. It’s perfectly possible to do the punching without a cradle (or trough, or jig), but the trough (or jig, or cradle… can you tell I’m amused by all the names?) makes it a lot easier. This cost me about half an hour and maybe $3 of materials to make. It’s not as sturdy or pretty as a wood one, but it’ll do until I have the inclination (and money) to buy a nice one.

On the right is a basic finishing press (sometimes called a lying press), made following these instructions (roughly. I did some tweaking here and there to suit my own preferences). This is a very important piece of equipment, and one that you can’t really do without (unlike the piercing… thing). The finishing press holds a book while you work on its spine, pressing the pages together so the glue doesn’t seep down between them.

There are absolutely gorgeous wood presses out there, but they are pretty pricey and also difficult to find. They require precision wordworking (traditionally, the screws between the two sides of the press are made of wood as well as the press itself) and not many people are able or interested. There’s a local carpenter who makes the presses for the San Francisco Center for the Book where I’m taking classes, and I’m on a list of people he’s going to call when he has another batch done (this gives me time to save up!).  Here’s a photo showing one of his presses. I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on one for my workbench!

In the meantime, though, I have my ersatz tools and am chugging along. I’ve added handbound journals to my list of services, as you can see, and am enjoying working on creating them at my little workbench:

I’ve ordered a nipping press, since those are essentially impossible to build ersatz versions of, and I’ll have lots of photos once it arrives! I can’t wait.