10 Tips for Creating Handmade Books on a Budget

Handmade Books on a Budget | Vintage Page Designs

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 making 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 items such a self healing cutting mat, an Xacto or utility knife, a sharp pencil, a steel ruler, sharp scissors, a triangle or quilting ruler etc.

2. Mat Board

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 her own mats and ask for the mat board off cuts to use as book covers.

3. Cheap 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.

4. Coupons

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.

Craft Store Sales

5. Book Cloth

Raid yours or a friend’s quilting fabric stash to make your own book cloth. Here’s a great tutorial on Youtube by Sea Lemon.

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 down with the bricks.

7. Thread

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, make your own by following my tutorial or open up a large catalogue or phone book.

Book Binders Awl

10. Invest in 2 Tools

If you have the funds I’d suggest investing in just tools:

1. A Bone Folder for creasing signatures, scoring lines and smoothing out glued surfaces.

Buying Recommendation: Teflon Bone Folder
Budget Option: Plastic Bone Folder

2. A Bookbinders Awl for piercing holes in paper signatures and book board 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.

Buying Recommendation: Bookbinders Awl with Brass Chuck
Budget Option: Light Duty Paper Awl

Please join the conversation below and leave your ideas in the comments below.

10 Thoughts on “10 Tips for Creating Handmade Books on a Budget

  1. Peggy McDevitt on July 31, 2017 at 1:02 pm said:

    Great tips, thanks. I wrapped bricks with cloth and use them as weights.

  2. Karen on August 1, 2017 at 1:55 am said:

    I go to my local library’s annual book sale and buy up the large format children’s books on the last day of the sale – the books sometimes are free, or for a small flat fee I can buy a bag/box full.

    I peel the cover off to get at the book boards. The large format can give me 2 covers if I cut it in half or even more for smaller projects.

    As much as I hate to tear up a book, the library will take the unsold books to the dump the next day for disposal!

  3. Thank you. Very useful tips! It was interesting to read about the awl. Indeed, it is important to find a non-conical sharp awl.

  4. Great tips. I’m just starting my journey into the world of book binding and it can be a little confusing with all the new terms. You explain things perfectly and provide great tips. Thank you.

  5. I work at our local library, and have access to withdrawn books. I have taken a crash course in book repair, but creating my own is something I would like to spend more time doing. I’m an author, so combining my written words with book creation could result in some interesting projects.

  6. Vicky luffman on February 11, 2019 at 6:45 am said:

    I am a textile artist and was looking for an easy way to create books for holding my samples of Felting, shibori and silk painted samples for my workshops. Thank you for sharing your book making talents. I can’t wait to try!

  7. Carlos on March 8, 2019 at 1:44 pm said:

    Actually, waxed linen thread is not always the best choice. Here in TX, we have found untaxed is better. Waxed linen can leave greasy spots in your books, from heat. So we only use unwaxed linen thread. Even mailing a book somewhere cooler can cause melting, in a hot mailbox or mail truck.

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