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Hard Cover Books Pt. 2: Making and Attaching the Cover

by Syl Schulze

Busy Mind Bindery is a blog dedicated to providing instructional tutorials on book-binding while inviting readers to think about themselves and the world around them.

Welcome to the second part of the Hard Cover Books tutorial! In the first part I went over how to make the book block (the pages inside the book). If you’re just tuning in now, you can find part one here.

This week I’ll be instructing on how to make the cover of the book. I want to be clear that this particular type of hard-cover binding is not the only way to bind! There are plenty of other ways to put a hard cover on a book. Whether that is sewing it directly to the book block, like with a Coptic binding, or sewing the signatures of the book block together on binding tape and using adhesive to attach the cover. Just because I do it like this doesn’t mean you have to. Go try out what seems most interesting to you!

Now, onto the cover making!

Supplies from left to right: Book board, Japanese paper, glue brush, bone folder, scissors, PVA Neutral PH Archival adhesive

What you will need:

  • Two pieces of book board, each the same size of your book block. (Since my book block is 5″ x 7″, each piece of book board is also 5″ x 7″)
  • Two pieces of Japanese or Italian (or any kind, but the Japanese and Italian are high quality) paper, or book cloth. Just something to cover the boards. The dimensions of these should be one inch larger that the board in both length and width. For example, mine are 6″ x 8″ for my 5″ x 7″ pieces of board.
  • A matching piece of paper or cloth for the spine *not pictured*. This piece should be the same length as your spine (so mine here is 7″) and 1.5″ wide, given that the spine of your book block is about 0.5″ wide.
  • Glue Brush
  • Bone Folder
  • Scissors
  • PVA Neutral PH Archival Adhesive
  • Don’t forget to put something down on your table to protect it from the glue!

The process:

  1. Place the paper face down on your surface. Use the brush to spread glue on the book-board, starting from the middle and stroking out towards the edges.

    2. Position the book board in the middle of the paper, glue side down. Try to get an even border of paper around the board.


    3. Turn the board and paper paper-side up. Use the bone folder to rub across the cover, getting the paper to lie flat on the cover and air bubbles out of the glue.


    4. Do steps 1-3 with the second piece of book board. Now you should have two pieces of book board with paper attached. Turn the pieces board-side up.

    4.1 Both pieces of book board glued to the paper

    5. Take the pair of scissors and cut the corners off of the paper, leaving a couple millimeters between your cut and the book board.


    6. Starting with one of the pieces of board, use the brush to spread glue across the top edge of the cover.


    7. Use the bone folder to fold the paper on the top over the edge of the board. You will have to press it down with your fingers.


    8. Now, use the bone folder to push the folded corners toward the the book board.


    9. Rotate the board and spread glue on the next edge.


    10. Like the first side, use the bone folder to fold the paper on the top over the edge of the board.


    11. Like step 8, use the bone folder to fold the corner of the paper toward the book board.
    12. Spread glue onto the edge of the next side.
    13.  Use the bone folder to fold the paper over the edge of the board.
    14. Repeat steps 11-12 until all sides are folded down.


    15. Repeat steps 6-14 for the second piece of board.


    16. Now it’s time to attach the boards to the book block. Start by taking the piece of paper you cut for the spine. Use the brush to spread glue on the spine.

    16.1 The book block and the spine paper
    16.2 Glue on the spine

    17. Press the spine down onto the middle of the paper, then rub the bone folder down the spine to press it down.

    17.1 Pressing the book block on to the spine
    17.2 The spine of the book block after being pressed with the bone folder

    18. Set the book clock spine-paper-down onto your working surface. Lay one of the covers on the surface, paper-covered-side down.


    19. Spread glue onto the edge of the cover, and glue the paper on one side of the book block to the cover.

    19.1 One side of the spine-paper glued to the cover (I have it closed like that to make sure the board is even with the spine)

    20. Once the spine and board are lined up, then go back and spread glue all over the inside cover. Glue down a page from the book block over the inside cover.

    20.1 The inside cover
    20.2 Glue on the inside cover
    20.3 Glue the paper to the inside cover

    21. Repeat steps 18-20 for the other cover!

    21.1 Both covers glued on

    22. Press that book! To make sure it stays together as it dries and is good and flat, press it under some heavier things overnight!
    23. Enjoy your hard cover book!

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