The first of my tools are slowly being finished. The small ones to start, beginning with a bookbinder’s awl made from a small offcut of pine, shaped and sanded with a size 18 bookbinder’s needle inserted into a small pre-made hole. The eye was snapped off using pliers and the needle held in place using epoxy adhesive. This should give a nice tight sewing hole matching exactly the guage of needle and thread to be used for sewing the signatures.

Bookbinder's awl
Bookbinder’s awl

Next a folding stick, again made from a pine remnant, shaped and sanded. I am not entirely sure how well this will stand up to being used as the wood seems very soft. I may well end up making another from a hardwood if it proves not to be usable.

Folding stick
Folding stick

And finally for today, a flat folder, again made from an offcut but this time from a hardwood which I thought was mahogany but having worked it, I am now not sure. Nevertheless, it is hard and smooth and will do a great job.

Bookbinder's flat folder
Bookbinder’s flat folder

All of these were made to the precise specifications given in Aldren Watson’s book quoted below.

In the next few days the heavy tools should be ready – that is, the press and tub and the sewing frame plus various boards.

2 thoughts on “Bookbinding tools take shape

  1. hello mark, i have only recently bought a copy of aldren watson’s book and have been checking out the internet to see how the tools might be used…i’m cheating though, as my dad is making the big stuff for me! he’s just completed the sewing frame in coachwood and he’s tackling the press and tub, though he’s decided to make the press out of the square hollow pipe stuff – he said it will be lighter than 3″ of hardwood, i trust him to make something i can use, so i’m happy.

    now, what i really want to ask you…do you find the flat folder is really necessary? i’m just wondering if i really need it or if a bone folder will do the job just as well? the one you’ve made looks awesome by the way.

    so s you can tell, i’m only just embarking on my adventure of bookbinding…it’s kind of exciting really!!


    1. Hi Jan, I find the flat folder really useful for making long folds in paper. Being able to grasp it and work it along the paper with your whole hand rather than just a couple of fingers makes for a stronger and more precise fold. The bone folder comes into its own for working on smaller more delicate folds such as the corners of the cover material around the boards. In any case they are so easy to make there is no reason not to have one.

      Good luck with your first binding!


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