Many handmade books are sewn with a needle and thread and before the pages are sewn together, holes are pre-punched into the paper to make sewing easier. Often a template is used to ensure that the stitching and pages are all perfectly aligned. A sharp awl is used to make the holes and oftentimes a punching cradle is also employed to hold the signature (group of pages) and template in place.
You can purchase wooden punching cradles but it’s easy and inexpensive to make your own at home. Here’s how:
Materials & Supplies
- Large piece or scraps of book board or stiff cardboard (back of a drawing pad) at least 1/8″ thick.
- Book cloth
- PVA glue & brush
- Ruler & utility knife
1. Cut Pieces
Carefully measure and cut bookboard or cardboard to the following measurements:
- 2 pieces @ 12″ x 4.5″ (cradle bed)
- 2 pieces @ 6″ x 4.75″ (end pieces)
- 4 pieces @ 3.25″ x 0.5″ (braces)
Carefully measure and cut 2 pieces of book cloth measuring 12″ x 7″. If you don’t have book cloth, you could use several layers of masking tape, but keep in mind the cradle won’t last as long.
2. Attach Book Cloth
Cover one piece of book cloth with PVA glue and place the 2 large pieces of book board in the center leaving a 1/4″ gap.
Apply glue to second piece of book cloth and glue to the other side of the 2 boards. Smooth with bone folder, especially along the gap. Trim any excess book cloth from the ends.
3. Add Ends
Fold the hinged boards to 45 degrees and dab a generous amount of glue to the ends.
Attach the glued cradle body to the top corners of one end boards – the 6″ edge. Repeat at the other end.
4. Add Braces
Apply glue to 2 braces and attach them underneath the cradle to support it. Repeat at other end.
Stand the finished cradle on its side and press with a small, but heavy book. Leave to dry overnight. Your punching cradle will last for years!