How to Make Clam Shell Book Boxes

clam shell book boxA simple corrugated clam shell box can be constructed from a sheet of single wall acid-free corrugated board. These boxes are faster to construct and cheaper than the traditional clam shell box seen in many libraries.

The design for this corrugated box was developed by Andrea Krupp and Lillian Greenberg of the Library Company of Philadelphia and originally printed in The Abbey Newsletter, October 1991. Further refinements on the instructions are provided by the staff of the American Philosophical Society. Like a clam shell from which it derives its name, the corrugated box has a book tray constructed to fit the box and a cover tray that fits over the book tray.
Constructing a Measuring Jig
1. Cut 3 strips of the corrugated board about 12” long.
2. Trim 1 strip to 9” long and trim 1 strip to 6” long.
3. Glue all 3 strips together with one end even. The other ends will be stepped.
4. Mark the longest strip 1 BT (board thickness). Mark the middle strip 2 BT and the shortest strip 3 BT.
Measure the Book
5. Using a piece of paper, measure the book height (A), width (B) and thickness (C).
NOTE: Not all books are square. Be sure to measure the tallest, widest and thickest part of the book.

Transfer the Measurements and Rough Cut the Corrugated Board
NOTE: The corrugations of the board run parallel to the height of the book.
6. Square a piece of corrugated board on a paper cutter or using a carpenters’ square. Mark the square corner with an “X”.
7. Starting at the squared comer and working to the left, mark 2 widths (B), plus 3 thickness (C) plus about 2”.
8. Again starting at the squared corner and working upward, mark 1 height (A) plus 2 thickness (C) plus 2”.
9. Cut the board to size with a paper cutter or sharp utility knife.
Laying Out Cutting and Folding Lines
Vertical Measurements
10. Starting at the bottom left hand corner, mark 1 thickness (C) plus 1 BT. This is the thickness of the cover tray wall.
11. Add the width of the book (B) plus 2 BT. This is the width of the cover tray base.
12. Add the thickness of the book (C) plus 2 BT. This is the thickness of the spine.
13. Add the width of the book (B) plus 1 BT. This is the width of the book tray base.
14. Add the thickness of the book (C) plus 1 BT to mark the thickness of the book tray wall.
15. Draw lines using a triangle or carpenters square. Trim off excess board.
Horizontal Measurement
16. Starting at the bottom left hand corner, mark the thickness of the book (C) plus 1 BT. This is the thickness of the cover tray wall.
17. Add the height of the book (B) plus 3 BT to mark the height of the cover tray base.
18. Add the thickness of the book (C) plus 1 BT. This is the thickness of the cover tray wall.
19. Draw lines using a triangle or carpenters square. Trim off excess board.
Decreasing Book Tray and Cutting Excess
The book tray must be smaller than the cover tray so the two trays will nest inside one another  when the box is closed.
20. Use the BT measuring jig to move the upper and lower book tray walls inward by 1 BT.
21. Draw diagonal lines from the outer comers of the tray bases to the corners of the walls.
22. Cut away the shaded areas with a knife.
Note: Extend the cuts in the new shortened book tray base lines.
23. Round the comers of the cover tray top and bottom walls and cut a thumb notch on the cover tray fore edge wall. Use a gouge and mallet or scissors.

Folding and Creasing Box Lines
24. Using the rounded end of a folder, score all of the fold lines lightly.
25. Lay a ruler along the scored lines and fold the cardboard against the ruler. Use the
folder to sharpen the folds.
Cutting and Attaching the Tabs
The corrugated board is constructed of two outer layers surrounding a layer of corrugated core.
26. Using the pointed end of a folder, separate the two outer layer from the corrugated core.
27. Fold the outer layers back on the scored line. Use scissors to carefully cut away the corrugated core. Do not cut through the corrugated core.
Gluing the Corner Tabs to Construct the Box
28. Use PVA to glue the corner tabs in place. Push the inner tabs well down into the corner joints.
29. Use clips to hold the tabs in place while they dry.
30. Label the spine, place the book in the box and on your shelf.

Modified Four Flap Wrapper

flap wrapperA modified four-flap wrapper can be constructed and glued into a
binder to protect thin items or loose pages. This wrapper is similar to a four-flap wrapper (previous post), but it has a closing tab instead of the flap that tucks into the wrapper to hold the wrapper shut.
The Modified Four-Flap Wrapper can be cut from a single piece of cardstock but it will be less wasteful to cut two separate pieces and glue them together.


  • Use a piece of paper to measure the height (A), width (B) and thickness (C) of the book or materials. Label each measurement.
  • Cut a piece of folder stock the height of the book or papers (measurement A) and about 3 l/2 times the width of the text block (three covers and two spines). The grain of this piece of folder stock should run vertical to the cut stock and parallel to the book spine.
  • Cut a piece of folder stock the width of the book or papers (measurement B) and about 3 l/2 times the height (three covers and two spines). The grain of this piece of folder stock should run horizontal to the stock and perpendicular to the book spine.
  • Using the same techniques as given for the Four-Flap Wrapper, construct the two cover pieces and glue them together.

Since the flap does not slip under the cover as in the Four-Flap Wrapper, glue the two pieces completely together where they overlap.
The Modified Four Flap Wrapper can now be labeled and placed on your shelf or glued into a binder.

How to Make a Four Flap Wrapper

flap wrapperWrappers and boxes are other ways to protect books on the shelf. In a general library collection, they might be used to protect Reference books that cannot be repaired or replaced.  A modified four-flap wrapper (separate post) can be used to house fragile items or loose pages inside a binder.

The four-flap wrapper is constructed from two pieces of folder stock which can be obtained from book supply sources or specialist stationers.

  • Use the technique of measuring with a piece of paper explained in an earlier post to measure the height (A), width (B) and thickness (C) of the book or papers.
  • Label each measurement.

Cover Piece 1

  • Cut a piece of folder stock the height of the cover material (measurement A) and about 3 times the width of the material (two covers, two spines and about 4” extra). The grain of this piece of folder stock should run parallel to the short side of the folder stock.
  • Position Measurement C (thickness of the item) on the right edge of Cover Piece 1; then mark, score, and fold.
  • Add Measurement B (the width of the material) to the fold; score and fold
  • Add Measurement C to the fold; score and fold.
  • Add Measurement B to the fold; score and fold.
  • Add Measurement C plus 3 – 4” to the fold and cut

Proceed to to cut and score Cover Piece 2.

Cover Piece 2

  • Cut a piece of folder stock the width of the material (measurement B) and about the equivalent of the measurement for the height of three covers and two spines.
  • The grain of this piece of folder stock should run parallel to the short side of the strip.
  • Center the Measurement A (the height of the book or papers) on Cover Piece 2; mark the height; score and fold.
  • Add Measurement C to each fold; score and fold.
  • Add Measurement A to each Measurement C.
  • Trim Cover Piece 2 if necessary.

Attaching Cover Piece 1 and Cover Piece 2

  • Place Cover Piece 1 inside Cover Piece 2.
  • Place the book in position and fold the flaps from Cover Piece 2 over the book. Each flap does not need to cover the entire cover, as long as the two flaps together cover the entire cover.
  • Trim the flaps shorter if necessary.
  • Wrap Cover Piece 1 around the book.
  • The four-flap wrapper should be a good fit without being too tight or too loose.
  • Tuck the last flap (C plus 3 – 4”) between Cover Piece 1 and 2 at the right edge.
  • Trim the tuck-in flap shorter if it resists tucking in.
  • Trim the top and bottom edge of the tucked-in flap diagonally. 
  • Remove the book and separate the Cover Pieces.
  • Apply PVA adhesive to the left quarter of the center A measurement on Cover Piece 2.
  • Replace Cover Piece 1 and dry under weight.

When the glue is dry, put the book into the wrapper, fold over the flaps from Cover Piece 2, then wrap Cover Piece 1 around the book.
Label the spine with the title and author (space permitting).

Place on your shelf.

Plastic Book Jackets

plastic book jacketReplacing damaged or soiled plastic book jacket covers is a fast way to make books look new and inviting. The best kind of plastic book jacket cover to use is the type with two parts: a clear, plastic front and a white paper backing.


  • Choose a size of plastic book jacket that is long enough to cover the entire length of the book jacket.
  • Slide the book jacket in between the plastic front and the white paper backing.
  • Turn the book jacket over and fold the clear plastic front over the white backing paper.
  • Tape the plastic front to the backing paper. Do not put tape on the book jacket itself. Since the tape does not touch the book jacket, it cannot stain or discolor. The book jacket remains safe and clean.

When the plastic jacket is soiled or torn, simply replace it and the book jacket will look new again.

Warning! Some plastic book jackets do not have a paper backing. The plastic is taped directly to the paper book jacket. Unfortunately, the adhesive in the tape can migrate to the paper jacket and cause stains. In addition, the paper cover is often torn when the plastic cover is removed. All in all, it is best to avoid this type of plastic jacket.

Attaching Plastic Jackets to Bound Books
The most common way to attach plastic jackets to a book is to tape them down. Be careful about the type and amount of attaching tape used and where it is placed.

  • Try to use a tape that is pH neutral and stable. Since the adhesives used in many plastic tapes are not stable, they can stain the cover cloth on a book or the adhesive can transfer to the cover of the book so that the cover remains sticky even after the tape is removed.
  • Use as small a piece of tape as possible, and try to put the new tape in the same place each time it is replaced. 
  • When a plastic book cover is taped onto a book, pay special attention to the endpapers. If there is no special information on the endpapers, tape the turn-ins of the plastic jacket down to the book cover as in Method 1 below.
  • If a map or chart is printed on the endpapers and the turn-ins of a plastic book cover are taped over it, someone will undoubtedly tear the tape or cover to have access to the image. To prevent this, attach the plastic book jacket to the book so that it opens to show the entire end sheet following the instruction in Method 2 below.

Taping Jacket Turn-in To The Cover Board

Method 1: 

  • Use a piece of tape approximately 1 l/2 – 2” long
  • Attach one half of the tape on the turn-in area of the plastic cover. Try to place it so that no information is covered.
  • Fold the tape over the book cover and press it in place. The tape can be attached to the outside of the plastic cover or to the front of the book cover.
  • Tape each turn-in at the top and bottom.

Method 2:

  • Use a piece of paper tape the height of the book and attach it to the very front edge of the book cover. Try to apply the tape so it covers as little of the end paper as possible.
  • Carefully fold the tape back onto itself.
  • Position the plastic cover on the book.
  • Gently fold the turnin over so that it is in contact with the tape.
  • Press the tape to the book jacket.
  • Repeat for the other turn-in.