The Doweled Flap Book & the Dowel Spine Non-Adhesive Portfolio with Peter Thomas

Yes, I have achieved my longest blog title to date.

I have made through Day three at the Focus on Book Arts conference. Today’s workshop was just a one-day workshop and by the end of the day I had two books.

I would like to start off by saying that today I had the pleasant experience of, along with my classmates, being serenaded by my instructor. This was new for me. I think I liked it. You should have it happen to you. Peter Thomas sang to us as he played a ukulele.

When the song ended, he opened a up his ukulele and an accordion book came out.

Peter Thomas


Peter has made more than 20 ukulele books since 1996. You can read more about these books on Peter’s website. Even better, you can watch Peter Thomas play his ukulele books in several YouTube videos he created.

I think I’m going to insist that I’m serenaded in all future book arts classes.

We spent the majority of the day working on a miniature Doweled Flap Book. You can find this project in Peter and Donna Thomas’ book, More Making Books by Hand: Exploring Miniature Books, Alternative Structures, and Found Objects.

Following are images of the book I made. The book measures about 2 3/8″ wide x 2 7/8″ high x 7/8″ deep. When opened, the book is 4 3/4″ wide.

Doweled Flap Book

Front view

Doweled Flap book

Back view

In an effort to eliminate overthinking content, I decided to go low brow. When the flaps are down, the text reads as follows:

Knock knock. Who’s there? Orange. Orange who? Orange you glad I didn’t say banana?

When the flaps are in turned up, the text reads as follows:

I hate that damn banana.

They can’t all be inspirational. All sides of the interior frame are stamped with the word “knock”. I used watercolors and watercolor crayons on watercolor paper to cover the surfaces. The thickness of the paper made it a bit hard to close the book, but after working it with a bone folder, it seems to be working fine now. I ran out of time and couldn’t finish the cover, so I’ll work more on it at home.

I did, however, have a stroke of inspiration. After class I went to the conference vendor fair to see if they had what I needed – score!

Doweled Flap book

The Happy Doorknob

Here’s a shot of all of the books created by my classmates (they make a nice book chorus line):

Batch of Doweled Flap books

With about an hour or so to go until the end of the day, Peter announced that we’d be making another book – the Dowel Spine Portfolio (you can also find this structure in Peter & Donna’s book). This book took a lot less time to make, which was satisfying.

The book involved little more than scoring, folding, and cutting. The whole thing is held together with a small piece of bamboo skewer. The book measures about 3 3/4″ wide x 2 1/4″ high x 1/2″ deep. When opened, the book is 7 7/8″ wide.

Dowel Spine Portfolio


Dowel Spine Portfolio


As you can see in the pics, the covers have pockets in them that are large enough to hold a standard size business card. This structure is such a peanut.

I highly recommend Peter Thomas as a teacher, so if you ever have an opportunity to take one of his classes, go for it. He is probably the most enthusiastic instructor I’ve had to date. He seems to breathe books.

I was also lucky enough to be able to see some of Peter and Donna’s miniature books in person at the vendor fair . It’s hard to describe just how very precious they are. I found myself immediately drawn to a book with a cheese theme (who, me?). It had a rat pelt in it. Sorry to all of you animal defenders out there but I loved it.

Don’t worry, no rats were killed to make the book – they have a friend who’s an exterminator.

11 Responses to “The Doweled Flap Book & the Dowel Spine Non-Adhesive Portfolio with Peter Thomas”

By Kjersten - 29 June 2009 Reply

Love this post! Thanks.

By elissa - 1 July 2009 Reply

Kjersten –

I bet your handmade papers would work really well for the Dowel Spine Portfolio.


By Carol - 29 June 2009 Reply

Lucky you – that sounds like the class was great fun. The Dowel Spine Portfolio is so simple but would make a nice little presentation folder with photos and a business card. You’re obviously having a fantastic conference. Thanks for sharing.

By elissa - 1 July 2009 Reply

I agree about the Dowel Spine Portfolio being used for business purposes – it’s simple, yet elegant. Very professional.

By Carol - 1 July 2009 Reply

I’ve at last written a new blog post and I’ve linked to your blog as one I enjoy.

By elissa - 1 July 2009 Reply

Thanks so much Carol – you’re a sweetie!

By Beth - 17 July 2009 Reply

Great post! Thanks for sharing your workshop with Peter Thomas.

By elissa - 20 July 2009 Reply

Beth Lee –

Glad you enjoyed the post. I’m working on a variation of the Dowel Spine Portfolio for a workshop next month. Hopefully I can pull a tutorial together when I’m done and post it here.


[…] a non-adhesive structure that requires few tools and materials. I learned this structure in a class I took with Peter at the Focus on Book Arts […]

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[…] you can see my completed Dowel Spine Portfolio, as I discussed in this post about Peter’s workshop. I was able to adapt Peter’s book to a size that accommodates a CD – I taught that at […]

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