Rebinding DIY: Paul Allen’s Story

A lot of Bible Design Blog readers are interested in bookbinding. Most want someone else to do the work, but occasionally we catch the DIY bug. Paul Allen has an undergraduate degree in studio art and graphic design, so perhaps it was inevitable that, once exposed to Bible Design Blog, he would turn his hand to bookbinding. When I saw the photos of his first attempt, I asked if I could share them. Frankly, I’m impressed, and I think you will be, too. I can’t wait to see what Paul does with a little more experience under his belt. In the meantime, enjoy the photos, and Paul’s description of the process. — JMB

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I used a pretty thick goatskin hide to do the rebind. I used two layers of goatskin with a piece of fabric in between, so it’s pretty soft, thick and flexible––not as flexible as my Allan ESV Reader, but more than my NKJV Schuyler. I watched several videos on YouTube and learned from a few Bibles that I carefully took apart. Also, I had recently done one practice rebind (see below). I didn’t get any special tools other than some leather glue that I picked up at Hobby Lobby and one of those see-through rulers to help me with measurements. I already had a few good X-Acto knives.

From there I just kind of created my own approach. I couldn’t find any one video that showed me everything I needed to know, but thankfully a little experimentation here and there paid off. Corners were the hardest part. I found a simple way to practice:

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All in all, I’m thrilled with this rebind and this Bible is “priceless” to me. Reading it is a whole new experience for me.

Aesthetically, one of my favorite accidental improvements is how the ribbon naturally fades (due to age) from red to gold, and almost matches the new cover:

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As pleased as I am with this rebind, I already see many ways to improve. I have a nice, old Oxford KJV Long Primer (printer: Humphrey Milford) that I’ll be tackling next, and I have a really nice red goatskin hide that I’m debating using. I may save the red hide for a more personal rebind: my mom has given me her “The Believer’s Study Bible” NKJV to rebind for Christmas. I’m getting backed up already!

One thing that I’m struggling to learn is the “gold leafing” process. I’m trying to find a simple way to place gold lettering on leather. I’ve had a little success, but I’m hoping to find more info on this soon.


Here are some photos of my first “practice rebind” from October (2013):

10-13 (04) 10-13 (02) 10-13 (01) 10-13 (06)

This was an 1987 One Year Bible (NIV) by Tyndale with a worn out burgundy bonded leather cover. I used a very soft goatskin hide that I purchased on eBay. I hadn’t practiced doing corners yet, so it’s definitely unique. I learned a lot from this first attempt, and didn’t pressure myself to be too exacting.

11 Comments on “Rebinding DIY: Paul Allen’s Story

  1. Thank you all for the kind comments! And thank you – Mark, for taking the time and effort to post this to your site. It’s quite an honor. I’m working on a few more bibles and trying to get my own blog started… (all the while gaining tremendous respect for professional binders and successful bloggers!)

    • Could you explain how you attached the inner leather liner to the text block?

  2. Nice job, did you do the fold on the external cover’s edge after assembling & glueing it to the internal goatskin cover?
    If I may offer a thought & suggestion, if you were to do the fold on the external cover’s edge prior to assembling it to the internal cover, you could do the fold in sections & clamp it with a miniature bench clamp (avoiding the serrated edge by placing cardboard or wooden slats) which if using a good glue would enable the folds to be finer & thinner like the other books in photo 12, the comparison photo.

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