Book Repair Basics

Basic background information you should read before you start repairing your books.

Japanese repair tissue

Tearing Japanese Repair Tissue

Japanese repair tissue is usually torn so that the edges are feathered, not cut sharp as they would be with a knife or scissors. The feathered edge allows the repair tissue to “blend” onto the text paper. Repair tissue can be torn with a water tear or needle tear. A needle tear gives a slightly less feathered edge than a water tear. To water tear a piece of Japanese repair tissue, use a small, pointed natural bristle paint brush to…

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Punching Cradle Instructions

Signature Punching Cradle A signature punching cradle helps control placement of the sewing stations and can be constructed out of thin plywood, mat board or cardboard. To construct a simple cradle from a cardboard box, make a 45 degree angle “V” cut in both ends of a box. Cut two pieces of cardboard 2” longer than the length of the box and 1” wider than the length of one side of the “V” cut. Glue a 1 l/2” strip of…

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Weavers Knot

Tying knots

There are two basic knots used in book repair – the weaver’s knot and the square knot. The Weaver’s Knot Since sewing with a very long piece of linen thread can be difficult, the weaver’s knot is used to tie on additional lengths of thread so shorter lengths can be used. Tie on additional thread when there is about 6” of thread left on the needle. Tie the knot inside the signature, as close to the last sewing station as…

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How to Make a Punch Hole Jig

Punching sewing holes in folded signatures can be tricky. Using a punching jig and a signature punching cradle (instructions in a separate post) will make the job much easier. To construct a punching jig, simply fold a piece of paper in half lengthwise and clip one end diagonally. This diagonal cut marks the top of the printed page. Mark the desired sewing hole stations on the outside of the fold in pencil. Turn the jig inside out so the pencil marks…

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Binding Pamphlets

Preparing Thread for Book Repairs

WAXING LINEN THREAD Like all thread, linen thread has a tendency to tangle. Waxing sewing thread with beeswax keeps the thread from tangling and helps the thread “grip” the paper. Run the thread through a cake of beeswax two or three times to coat it with wax, then run the thread through your fingers. The heat generated from the friction will melt the wax into the thread. MEASURING THREAD LENGTH The length of thread needed depends on the height of…

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Egg Eye Needle

Book Repair Sewing Needles

Using the right needle will make sewing easy and more successful. Needles should be as small in diameter as possible, have a blunt point, and have an eye no larger than the shaft of the needle. If the sewing needle is much bigger than the thread used, it will make a hole that the sewing thread cannot fill up. Take some thread (see separate post on thread sizes) with you when you are purchasing your needles so you can be…

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Egg Eye Needle

Book Repair Thread | Linen Thread

Books are traditionally sewn with linen thread which is very strong and can be purchased in several sizes. Choosing the right thread is important for a successful repair. Using thread that is too thick can damage a book because the text block may not fit back in the original case. Thread that is too thin can tear through the folded signature paper. In general, it’s best to use as thin a thread as possible, but choosing the right thread depends…

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book repair folder

Book Repair Tools

Let’s have a look at the most useful tools you can have to help you repair your favorite books. A folder is a tool approximately 6 – 8” long and about 1 – 1 l/2” wide. A typical folder is approximately l/8” thick, smooth with one pointed end and one rounded end made from animal bone or plastic. Folders are used for many things such as creasing paper, smoothing down repair tissues and working cloth into a joint area. Some…

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Brushes

Wheat Paste Recipes

Over the years I have been asked for (and tried) many variations of recipes for wheat paste. Here are three that have always been successful.   Thick Wheat Paste (general pasting) 6 tablespoons wheat starch 2 cups cold water Place the wheat starch in the top of a double boiler. Mix the water into the starch stirring constantly. Bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat and stir constantly as the mixture simmers. Cook until mixture thickens. Remove from heat and cool.…

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Book Repair Glue

Book Repair Glue

The most commonly used glue for book repair these days is Polyvinyl Acetate (PVA). Also known as craft glue or wood glue, PVA is a good all-around adhesive. It has a low moisture content and dries quickly. It dries flexible, so it can be used to tighten hinges, repair book cover corners and reattach loose book cloth to book board. Importantly PVA is not affected by mold or fungi. However, it is damaged by freezing, so many US and European  book…

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