Bookbinding Tools and Equipment

One of the major impediments to serious bookbinding for the hobbyist is the large, specialised and expensive equipment that professionals seem to have. Doing a first bind with no presses or sewing frames, looking at the long list of things the books want you to have, the gap can seem insurmoutable. This problem is even worse in the UK, since all of the things that come up on ebay would cost twice the purchase price to ship over here.

Some bookbinding writers maintain that you can't make proper bindings without the proper equipment, but there are also plenty of books out there that tell you how to make your own stuff. The Craft of Bookbinding and Hand Bookbinding both have excellent sections on how to make your own equipment. Still, both books seem to assume you have a workshop, both to make and to store the equipment.

When I started binding, I made most of my own stuff, using a couple of power tools (a drill, a jigsaw, and a sander) and a few hand tools (a woodsaw, a hacksaw, a hammer, and a screwdriver). Since my storage space was limited, I tried to make the equipment either fold, dissasemble, or at least serve several purposes in one compact form. Furthermore, I tried very hard to minimise costs, despite the astonishingly high prices UK hardware stores seem to charge.

Although I now have "proper" equipment for most operations, making my own kit allowed me to limit my investment in bookbinding until I was sure it was a pursuit I wanted to spend money on. I would recommend that any beginning binder consider home made kit at first, for that reason. I've even compiled a list of the minimal equipment necessary to start traditional bookbinding.

Can I take a moment, when talking about wood- and metal- working, to suggest you use safety glasses? Your safety is of course your own responsibility, but I'd hate to think anyone lost their sight while working on these projects.

working press
Working Press
book press
Book Press
sewing frame
Sewing Frame