If you’re new to making handmade books, please don’t spend a fortune on new tools and equipment. Here are my 10 tips for creating handmade books on a budget:
1. Use What You Have
Chances are you already create in another medium, so in the early stages of making books, allow the supplies and tools you have on hand to do double duty. I bet if you raid your closet, you’ll find some of the following items:
- a self-healing cutting mat
- a craft and utility knife
- a steel ruler
- sharp scissors
- triangle or quilting ruler
2. Creative Covers
Although book board isn’t super expensive, it’s heavy, and shipping costs can add up. So, make friends with your local picture framer or an artist who cuts their own mats and ask for the mat board offcuts to use as book covers. Alternatively, find items to upcycle into book covers, including old textiles and vintage book covers, or rip apart an old three-ring binder and use the boards within.
3. Inexpensive Brushes
Skip the expensive bookbinders’ glue brushes and purchase several sizes of $1 chip brushes from your local hardware store. Or check out the kids’ section of your craft store and buy those chunky primary-colored paint brushes; their sturdy bristles are great for spreading glue.
Use the weekly 40% off coupon offered by the big box craft stores to buy pads of Strathmore and Canson sketch, drawing, and watercolor paper for your book pages. They also have regular sales on paper, so keep your eyes open. If you download the store app to your phone, you’ll always have access to the coupons—no clipping or leaving them at home.
5. Book Cloth
Pre-made book cloth can be very expensive, at $10–20 per yard. Instead, raid your or a friend’s quilting fabric stash to make your own book cloth.
6. Book Press
Attach thick cardboard (the kind you find on the back of paper pads) onto two pieces of wood larger than your average-sized book. Then wrap several house bricks with paper or fabric, place your wet book project between the boards, and weigh it down with the bricks.
Waxed linen thread is expensive (approx. $17 a spool), but it’s the best choice for making books, so in the beginning of your bookmaking adventures, buy just one spool in a neutral color, such as white, cream, beige, or black. Alternatively, there are several Etsy sellers who offer smaller quantities of linen thread, so you can have a variety of colors for your projects.
8. Back-to-School Sales
Stock up on mechanical pencils, white erasers, metal rulers, and triangles during back-to-school sales.
9. Punching Cradle
Instead of purchasing a wooden punching cradle to create the sewing holes in your signatures, simply open up a large catalog or phone book to the center and place your item in the middle. Or check out this DIY Punching Cradle Tutorial made from scrap cardboard. Punching cradles are available in my online shop as well!
10. Invest in two Tools
If you have the funds, I’d suggest investing in just these tools:
1. A bone folder for creasing signatures, scoring lines, and smoothing out glued surfaces.
2. A bookbinder’s awl for piercing holes in paper signatures and book boards before sewing. When buying an awl, choose one with a straight metal shaft to create uniform-sized holes. If you buy one with a tapered shaft, the size of your sewing holes will be uneven.
Hopefully, these 10 tips will help you create handmade books on a budget. Sign up for my newsletter, and follow me on YouTube for tons of free content and tutorials.
Please join the conversation and leave your ideas in the comments below!