For Christmas 2012 I was given a cute little Jane Austen themed five year journal. This journal had a page for each day of the year, and each page had five slots so you could go through and write four lines a day for a year, and then flip back to January 1 and start all over again. After 5 years you’d have half a decade of short, stacked journal entries for every day of the year.

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The idea was lovely, but the construction of the journal itself was lacking. I remember looking at its paper-bound hard cover under the Christmas tree and wondering if it would last five full years. It did not. By the 18 month mark the spine had entirely detached itself from the front cover and was flapping, somewhat sadly, from the back cover board, its guts all exposed. The corners and edges of the cover boards were torn, beat up, and worn through. While I do take my journals with me on vacations and trips, I don’t play rugby with them, and I thought this decay rather sad for something supposedly designed to be used for 1826 consecutive days (give or take a leap year).

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I tweeted the publisher, and to their credit they did immediately offer to mail me a replacement. However, at this point in time I’d already dutifully jotted down over 550 daily entries, and I didn’t want to start over—that would be silly. So, I set out to fix it instead. Here’s what I did. (If you aren’t already familiar with bookbinding I’d recommend you read my three part series on it as a primer—here, here, and here.)

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I started by taking measurements—the dimensions of the cover boards, the spine stiffener, the hinge cloth, and the book block. With those all duly noted, I amputated the cover, slicing along the fold of the endpapers that attach the cover to the book block.

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With the original cover removed, I set out to make an entirely new one. I used 4mm eska board for the cover board, and cut two pieces to match the dimensions of the originals. A bit of thinner cardboard (cereal box thickness) made the spine stiffener.

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Since the primary structural downfall of the original had been the paper hinge cloth (which disintegrated quite quickly after being flexed so many times), I opted for a proper fabric hinge cloth for the repair. I kept things simple and used some thin, strong scrap fabric I found in the basement.

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To add a final layer of beefiness, I covered the entire new cover in leather with the aid of some special leather glue. You’ll want to be sure to leave extra overhang so you can properly fold the leather over—it’s much thicker than paper, and I definitely didn’t leave enough excess the first time. Oops.

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I did end up having to add another set of endpapers in order to attach the cover, so there’s one more blank page on each end of the book. Oh well.

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The final fixed book is wonderfully sturdy and quite weighty in a rather comforting way. It has yet to show any signs of wear, and since I bound it suede-side out, it’s even a touch fuzzy. I’m pretty pleased with myself for saving my five year journal, and hopefully this guide can help you save a beat-up book, too.

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