The final step of making a book, after you’ve got your book block all sewn up, is the cover. The cover isn’t hard, but it does require some finesse, attention to detail, and a lot of measuring. Let’s get started, shall we?

For the cover you’ll need some eska board (or other thick card, I recommend two sheets of illustration board glued together as a substitute), a lot of glue (plus leather glue if you’re using leather, and fabric glue if you’re using fabric), a ruler, a pencil & eraser, your bone folder, a strip of thinner cardboard (feel free to lift this from a cereal box), and some thin woven fabric (I like muslin).

Eska board for the cover, before cutting.

For this cover I’ll be doing a leather cover, with a single piece of leather. You can use paper or fabric as well, and you can get all fancy and use a different fabric for the spine. If you use a printed paper cover you’ve designed yourself you’ll have to do a lot more measuring and be far more careful to ensure your spine is where your spine ends up and so on.

The cut cover boards.

We’re going to start with the skeleton of the cover; the two cover boards (one for the front, one for the back), the hinge cloth (the thin fabric I mentioned earlier), and the spine (made from the thin cardboard). Start by measuring your book block. Write down the measurements.

Cut your eska boards to be 1cm taller than your book block and just as wide.

The spine, all cut out.

Cut your spine to be 1cm taller than the book block and as wide as the spine.

Here’s how everything layers together.

Your hinge cloth should be 1cm taller than the book block, and the width of the spine plus about 10cm.

The hinge cloth with the spine glued to it.

Start by gluing the spine to the centre of the hinge cloth. It doesn’t have to be exactly in the centre, but it should be pretty close.

Then mark two lines, 8mm from the sides of the spine. Trim the edges up on an angle so you won’t have any overhang.

Glue the hinge cloth to the cover boards along the 8mm line, with the boards on the same side of the hinge cloth as the spine strip. Let dry.

Trim the hinge cloth and spine to be flush with the top of the cover boards if necessary.

Cut out your cover cloth; it should be 3cm wider and 3cm taller than your cover board assembly. Mark out lines 1.5cm from each edge.

Glue the cover board assembly to your cover fabric, with 1.5cm overhang on each edge.

You have to trim leather closer to the corners than fabric or paper as it is much more bulky.

Trim the corners of the covering paper, ensuring you leave a few millimetres off the edge of the cover board so you can get full coverage when you fold them up.

Score around the edges of the cover board with your bone folder. Fold the short edges up and over, and glue them down. Let dry.

Run your bone folder down the edges of the long ends of the cover boards to knick in the bit of overhang you’ll have around the corners. Then fold up the long side’s over hang and glue it down. Let dry.

Now for the tricky part—gluing your book block into the cover and finishing off the book. Start by lining your book block up inside of the cover, folding it over to get a good idea what it will look like. Be sure your endpapers cover the edge of the cover paper that are folded over the boards.

Slide a piece of scrap paper between the endpapers on one side of the book to serve as a glue guard. Cover the entire outer flypaper with glue (work quickly, starting from the centre near the spine) and press the book block onto the cover, ensuring you cover the edges of the folded over cover paper, but are close enough to the spine that you can still fold it over and have the other side glued down in the same place.

Wipe off any excess glue and repeat on the other side. Slide pieces of scrap paper between the flypapers and press the entire block under something heavy for a minute. Open up the book and wipe away any excess glue, replace the scrap papers if necessary (if they have glue on them), and put the book back under that heavy thing to dry completely. Leave it at least overnight.

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