Tutorial: Soft Cover Coptic Sketchbook

I made my first proper book when I was 14. Of course, I had done many folded pamphlet-style books, books made out of cardboard boxes, and an accordion book or two, but my first bound book was a Coptic bound book. And it was a sketchbook, too.

Since then, I have made many more books, including several Coptic bound ones. I haven’t really made a sketchbook, though, since that first one. Well, mostly because I’m not really a sketchbook kind of girl, probably because I feel intimidated by the idea. I would be terrified that someone would want to see it, like “ohhh, an artist sketchbook, it must be really cool, and everything must be really good inside.” Too much pressure. Seriously.

You can see here just how much of that sketchbook I actually used (I’m holding those pages). I think I spent more time making it than I did using it. Sad, I know.

But for some reason lately I’ve really been wanting a sketchbook, mostly for the reasons I mentioned here. I just want a little something to keep my skills sharp, even if I’m not able to get into full-on art production.

I decided to make my sketchbook a Coptic bound book for one simple reason: It can lie completely flat when opened. like so:

One problem, though, was that with the exposed sewing, the threads start to wear down with rough handling. I had an artist journal with two threads break by the time I had completely filled it (about two years).

Really sad. So I wanted to try something to protect the binding, but that still had all the advantages of a Coptic book. I decided to try a soft cover to achieve this.

See, the thread goes into the edge of the cover, not on top of it, so the threads don’t get rubbed at this pressure point and break like they did with my other book. You can do this with wooden boards also; the holes are simple drilled at an angle into the side. Someday I’ll try this.

Another advantage of this binding is that you can do the whole thing without a smidge of glue. That’s a fun little change from most books.

As I got started writing this, I realized that there are a lot of basic principles that apply to binding books, so I decided to leave those to some “Bookbinding Basics” posts later on. I just jumped right in with this tutorial assuming you know the basics (like what a spine, signature, and grain are in bookbinding, how to measure out and punch holes, and what not) so that I didn’t have to take time to cover everything you need to start out. If you don’t know the basics, be patient and I’ll fill you in so that you can come back and make this book later.

Here’s how I did my soft bound book. Rather than clutter up this post with a lot of text and pictures, I made this tutorial available here:

Whew! That was a marathon. No wonder there aren’t a plethora of book binding tutorials out there; they take a lot of instructions. Enjoy your book, and maybe send me a picture of your finished one. Would a Flikr group for the sketchbook project be nice? I’m not really very up on all the different social media applications, so let me know what you want, and I’ll try to figure it out.

p.s. I’m linking this tutorial over on 30 days.


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