Haven't done it in a while but I used to bind my own books so that I didn't have to pay extra for really cool ones. Mostly printed computer paper from 150 for 300 pages for the contents. This is what I did as far as the spine is concerned:

  1. Get the pages together by gently knocking them on the table and rotating it so that I was knocking consistently in all directions.
  2. Brace the spine on either side with clamps and paint stick so that only a millimetre or two was exposed.
  3. Sand the paper to ruffle up the fibres. Theory for that is more surface area for the glue to bind.
  4. Slighty dampen the paper on the spine to help the glue penetrate more.
  5. Added a little cheese cloth
  6. Using contact cement apply a couple of coats (separated by about day to be sure). I had tried Gorrila Glue a couple of time thinking the expansion would help but it just made the spine larger and I had to remove the curve it created.
  7. Continue on.

Now that did work and I made about 20 books successfully. However I wasn't 100% happy with the product.

Sometimes there would be single pages that did not get an equal amount of glue. So I would be using the book and open a page and turn it just to have it pop out.

I gauged the strength of the book by trying to lift it up by one of the pages. For the smaller ones like 50 to 100 pages this was fine. Larger one I lost the page. This might have been an unrealistic test.

I know that one folly is that I didn't make the book in booklets where the pages were grouped together by 16 or 32 pages like you would see in conventional books. At the time this was not really available to me. Now it is more likely but I would like to know if there is a way to improve on my process above without making drastic changes. If drastic is needed so be it.

Perhaps my choice of glue was bad. It needs to be strong yet flexible and preferable penetrate easy. Contact cement seemed to work fine outside of the issues I mentioned.

  • The title of this question isn't very specific.
    – Keelan
    Commented May 18, 2016 at 18:15
  • 1
    If you think it would be better I could add ..."to make my pages stay together"
    – Matt
    Commented May 18, 2016 at 18:24
  • I think it would be better, yes. But it is your post, decide for yourself :)
    – Keelan
    Commented May 18, 2016 at 18:27

4 Answers 4


You could punch holes through the leaves, and sew, using an asian-style bind, or use overcast sewing before binding. You will need an awl, or drill/drill press to punch holes through the paper before sewing, though, and of course, you're losing more of the edge of the paper than using folded signatures and the book won't open flat. But you will have a proper sewn binding that doesn't rely on glue to keep the pages in, and will be more archival in quality.


After stage 3 saw shallow slots across the spine, then glue strings (cords) into the slots. I would use PVA glue myself, but maybe contact cement works better for you?

I would also glue a backing onto the spine over the first layers of glue and the cords. I have used fabric but have also used cartridge paper both successfully.

Having said the above I will add that printing signatures using booklet form and sewing the signatures together (then gluing and adding reinforcing ...) is far more robust than the above, and more likely to open flat.

  • Crap I forgot to mention I used cheese cloth. Didnt really help the problems though.
    – Matt
    Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 4:07

I think that your most important step is the sanding of the binding edge. You want to "ruffle up the fibres," adding surface area for the glue to stick to, but most importantly, you want to sand the edges enough so that they are all affected evenly--to the point that all of the signature edges are part of the same plane.

Believe it or not, in commercial binderies we usually used a white, "Elmer's-type" glue for a cold binding glue (for "perfect-bound" books we used a hot melt glue that would look ugly but be concealed by a "wrap" cover that you don't(?) have). This is an example.

The cheesecloth is a great strengthener. You should "fan out" the binding edge after it's been ground well (kind of like flipping through a deck of cards) to expedite the glue up between the pages, then soak 1/16" to 1/8" of the spine in the glue. Then, add the cheesecloth (the glue will hold it there. Let it partially dry, like 5 or 10 minutes, then add 1 or 2 more coats of glue on top of that.


Binding it using e.g. coptic stitch is of course more robust, but takes a lot more time and practice.

An option might be to fold the pages once and place all pages on top of each other with the folded sides on one side. Then you glue and bind the book as normal. This way, there is a larger surface for the glue to bind. The disadvantage is that if you lose pages, you will now lose 2 instead of 1.

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