9 Tips for Creating Awesome Pages

Last week I wrote about paper grain and its importance for creating handmade books. This week, let’s take it a step further and talk about the pages inside your books. Watch the video and/or read the tips below:

First of all, let me give you some bookbinding terms that you might come across:

  • a single sheet of paper is called a FOLIO
  • a collection of folded folios is a SECTION or SIGNATURE
  • a stack of signatures forms a TEXT BLOCK

Here are some tips to help you make great looking book pages:

  • Make sure the grain of the paper in your signatures runs parallel to the book’s spine.
  • When using thicker the paper use less folios in your signatures and  conversely, when using thinner paper, include more folios in your signatures.
  • Stack the folios and fold as ONE UNIT into the signature. Do not fold them individually and then assemble the signature.
  • Press the folded signatures under weights for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  • When trimming the fore edge overhang:
    • Always use a sharp knife, metal ruler and self healing cutting mat.
    • Measure the fore edge in 3 places before trimming the overhang.
    • Make several shallow cuts rather than one heavy cut.
  • If you need to trim all sides of the signature, trim the head (top), fore edge (side) and tail (bottom) in that order.
  • If you want to achieve a deckled edge that mimics handmade paper, tear it against a tear bar, which is a long, heavy piece of beveled metal, usually made from stainless steel. Alternatively, fold the paper and slit with a slightly blunted knife or paper knife.

If you want help deciding what papers to use in your handmade books, check out my 10 Favorite Papers pdf below.

14 Thoughts on “9 Tips for Creating Awesome Pages

  1. Jennifer Henley on April 14, 2018 at 7:14 am said:

    Ali, excellent video. So nice to have a tutorial where the presenter is articulate and speaks clearly without hesitation.

    One request: please can you also give the paperweight in gsm? Realise that with US paper sizes it is not easy to give the centimetre equivalent but metric paperweight would be very helpful.

    I used to spend a couple of months each year in Florida and found it so frustrating that the US has not gone metric. Making books is so much easier in centimetres – fractions of an inch is difficult (for me at least).

  2. Mandy Avery on April 14, 2018 at 7:59 am said:

    awesome job. concise, precise and delightfully full of tips and hints.

  3. Claire on April 14, 2018 at 3:58 pm said:

    Enjoyed the video! How do you determine the “grain” of the paper?

  4. Jean Goza on April 14, 2018 at 4:24 pm said:

    Another great video. Really learned a lot. Again, thanks for sharing.

  5. Your paper is gorgeous and the videos are very informative….

  6. Thank you for this video. There are so many great tips. I’m new at book binding, and you have just saved me from several mistakes I have been making! I was folding the signatures one sheet at a time, then stacking them together.

  7. Ali,I am confused about folding signatures. One video you are folding all together and the other, handmade paper, the pages were folded one by one.

    • Ali Manning on April 15, 2018 at 6:28 pm said:

      Bettye, I think the handmade paper pages you’re referring to are in a Japanese Stab binding ie a single signature book, where I folded the edge of the page to create a spacer.

  8. muito obrigada, video claro e objetivo

  9. glacken2016 on December 20, 2018 at 9:42 pm said:

    Ali, Thank you for these tutorials. I am curious to know why you should fold the signatures as one unit rather than separately?

  10. Merilyn on January 8, 2019 at 7:14 pm said:

    Hi Ali, I only found your site last weekend . Thank you I am throughly enjoying your tutorials and am going to start at the beginning . I have made concertina books but looking forward to branching.I’m off to buy some matt board.

  11. Wow, great video! Couple of questions from a sew-er’s perspective: Is there a reason why you can’t just line up the signatures with the mat’s grid and trim, rather than marking the three measurements? And do you have an opinion on using a sharp rotary cutter for trimming? Thanks so much.

    • Ali Manning on February 12, 2019 at 8:09 am said:

      Hi, great questions! Firstly, if you’re comfortable using the grid on the mat, then go for it. It’s just a question of making sure the paper is square and there are a few ways to do it. Use the one that gives you the most reliable results. And regarding the rotary cutter, I think it would dull the blade quickly and rotary blades are pretty expensive.

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