Top secret custom order in progress…

I just completed the covers for the super-secret custom project that I mentioned back in January. All of the contributor pages are in, so I’m good to go!

I started by determining the placement for an inset book title, which will be letterpressed by the fabulous May Day Studio.

Bookboard with gridlines drawn on it

I used my X-Acto knife to cut the outside lines, taking three passes on each line. It’s easier to do it that way than to try making a deep cut on one pass.

Bookboard is evil in that layers don’t peel off in consistent, large pieces. They like to be all random and, well, evil. When I have to carve a large inset, I usually make a grid of cuts so that I can just peel off small pieces. It’s much more satisfying.

Bookboard with gridlines cut with an X-Acto knife

Hey look – I peeled off a bunch of board!

Carved bookboard

Here’s the pile of peels to prove it!

Pile of bookboard pieces

After the inset is cut as evenly as possible, I burnish it with a bone folder. This helps tame the fuzzies and makes the surface smoother. I love using my Jim Croft bone folder for this task as it has an awesome pointy flatness that’s great for getting into the corners.

Carved bookboard burnished with a bone folder

Time for gluing! For this book, I’m using a beautiful Duo bookcloth I got from Colophon – it’s two colors, with red being the dominant color and green being the secondary color. It’s like a traffic light, with both a red light and a green light in the same cloth. The manufacturer calls the color peperoni, but Colophon calls it chili.

I work the cloth into the inset before I do any burnishing on the rest of the cover. I want to make sure that the bookcloth sinks all the way in there and conforms to the shape of the inset. I use a teflon bone folder for this task – it’s softer and has less risk of tearing through the cloth.

Covering bookboard with red bookcloth

Here’s a close-up of the inset:

Closeup of handmade book cover inset

My customer wanted a pocket on the inside of the back cover, so I created one using the same paper I used for the book pages.

Book cover with pocket end page

These are the completed covers:

Red handmade book covers with inset

The covers are going to sit in the press until I’m ready to start binding the book. The project seems much more real now that the covers are done and the pages are here. I took pictures of all of the pages and I’ll be sharing them in a later post (after the gift is given).

I can’t wait to start binding the pages into the book!

5 Responses to “Top secret custom order in progress…”

By Karen Krieger - 23 April 2016 Reply


By Valerie Carrigan - 23 April 2016 Reply

I love how you present your steps. So much fun to see the process of other bookbinders!

By Elissa - 25 April 2016 Reply

Valerie –

I’m so glad to hear that. Sometimes I get self-conscious about showing my process – I worry that I might not be doing things the “right” way and that I’ll be judged.

I need to work on getting over that…


By Penne - 24 April 2016 Reply

looking forward to seeing the final bits – lucky recipient, whoever that is.

By Elissa - 25 April 2016 Reply

Penne –

I’m slowly getting there, but I promise that pics are coming!


So what do you think? I'd love to know!

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