Friday, June 22, 2012

Tool Box of Rassilon is Opened, or Accordion book Tutorial

If you know about Rassilon you have watched and read to much Doctor Who!  In the unending things that Rassilon has left behind I have his tool box!  In it I keep my bookbinding supplies and glues and tapes and the tuning fork to align the Eye of Harmony.  I'm sure Rassilon is still wondering where he left it.  Inside I found some projects including three sewn and glued books just waiting for covers.  I was supposed to teach binding books so I made some ahead.  It saves a lot of time and bookbinding shouldn't be rushed.

The past few days I have been collaging two 4 x 5 canvases to be the covers on a accordion book.  But it is a book with a secret.  This was in the book "Cover to Cover" but without instructions.  So with a little work I have created at least something similar.  They make wonderful gifts!

Previous Book spine.

Previous Book spine open.

Sorry about the pictures, the covers were a beautiful collage of Japan with Kabuki images from posters.  But basically the book is two covers with an accordion fold and held together at the spine with bias tape loops and a dowel.

When you remove the dowel you get a secret picture.  So today I will show how to make this easy, lovely book.

What you will need:

Two bookboard weight cardboard covers or I was lazy and used two 4 x 5 painting canvases.  Decorated as a collage or just a picture, whatever you like.   You can make the book as large as you want.

A piece of cardstock for the accordion part.  I cut mine 11 x 4 3/4.  It just looks nicer a little bit smaller in height then the covers. 

Bias tape or ribbons.  Something sturdy to make the loops.  They need to be strong to hold the book together and survive everyone wanting to see the secret.

Dowel or I like to use a chopstick.  You could even use a pen with a flower on top.  Decorated as you like.

Paper!  You will need to make signatures for the book.  I cut some pretty red astrobright paper just slightly smaller then my covers.  For this book I am making five pages to each signature.  (A signature is a set of pages that are folded together.)  So my book will have 80 pages when finished.

Secret picture, the size of the accordion cardstock minus one section of fold on each end. Actually I like it smaller then the accordion section so I can put a decorative paper behind the image.  Decorate as you want.

Small pieces of some coordinating cardstock.

Paper or cardstock for the inside of both covers.

Pieces of thread or ribbon and a needle, something that won't stretch.  This is to sew the pages together.

Padding to use when piercing holes in the paper.

Instruments of destruction.  The usual paper tools and glues.

So let's start!

The covers

 Book covers.

The covers are fun to decorate but if you cut you own bookboard make sure they match in size and they are straight.  These cover were made by gluing bright pink paper to the small canvases and then collaging on top.  I used paper doilies a fabric lace collar, mirrors, a flower cut out of thin aluminum, and Valentine cardstock images.  The covers are very dimensional.

While your covers are drying.  Next we can work on the accordion spine.  Cut the card stock the height of your book or a little smaller.  Fold accordion style every inch, making mountains and valleys.  Use bone folder or other tool to give sharp folds. 

Accordion fold.

Now it is ready to decorate.  You only need to decorate one side.  Take into your planning that first and last sections of the accordion are used to glue the book together.  I suggest using a paper smaller than the accordion piece anyway.  Once you have the decorative piece done glue it to the accordion fold.  Once it is dry use the bone folder on it again.  It has been my experience that decorating the accordion before folding the piece makes it harder to get crisp folds.

Next we make the signatures, they are really easy.  With the accordion decorated side down, count the valley folds,  then subtract two valleys and that is how many signatures you will need.  The first and last valleys are part of the structure and will not hold paper.  Cut the paper the height of the book by twice the width minus at least 1/2 inch for both.  For my book I have six valley folds so I need four signatures.  I wanted each signature to have 20 pages.  So I cut 5 pieces of paper 4 1/2 x 7 1/2 inches and folded each to
3 3/4 x 4 1/2 and placed them inside each other.  That gives me 20 pages.  Four signatures gives me 80 pages in the book.  It looks nicer if the signatures are pressed under a heavy object overnight.

Working on folding the signatures.

To sew the signatures I have made a change to the usual method.  I didn't want the sewing thread to show through the accordion image.  So I cut small pieces of cardstock 1 inch x book height minus 1/2 inch, for my book that is 1 inch x 4 1/2 nches, and I cut one for each signature.  Fold the pieces in half. 

Cardstock pieces for signatures.

Put a signature inside the folded piece, so the folds are together.

Cardstock and signature together.

Open the signature and place it on a foam mat.  Piercing through the fold all the pages and cardstock making two holes about one inch from the each paper edge.

Holes made in signature and cardstock.

Then with the thread and needle sew through the small piece of cardstock and signature so that the thread ends are inside the signature. 

Sewing the signature together.

Tie a knot or bow, this needs to be tight but not so tight you tear the paper.  Do this to each signature. 

Bow tied finishing the signature.

Once this is done glue the cardstock on the back of each signature to the accordion fold.  Remember to skip the first and last valleys.  Make sure the signatures are lining up top and bottom as you glue them in.  At this point I put extra glue on the first and last pages and glue the whole fold to make it looks neater.   Let them dry.

Back to the covers, decide which is the front and which the back.  Get the bias tape or ribbon and the dowel to close the spine.  Next you need to play a little with the tape to see how big the loops need to be.  They need to allow the dowel to go through but still close the spine tightly.  Now this is the tricky bit.  Turn the front and back covers decorated side down, with the front cover on the left and the back cover on the right.  Then take the tape strips and place them so the alternate on the covers. 

Playing with the bias tape making loops.

Put the dowel in the loop to help gauge how big a loop to use and cut them long so they are deep into the cover.  Once you have them lined up glue them to the covers.  Now let the whole thing dry, waxpaper and a weight is helpful.  While the book covers are drying think about the inside covers and how decorative you want them.  Now all the really scary parts are done!  I used a take away chopstick that I cut to size, I left it a little longer to make another surprise element for my book.

Lining up the bias tape.  Alternating so the
dowel can be woven in to close the spine.

Now that everything is dry we can finish the book.  Making sure the secret picture and covers are right side up, glue the first and last tabs to the accordion.  Make sure the according fold is even with the cover edge.  If you close the book make sure you have wax paper over the glued areas.  You don't want to glue the cover to a signature.  This is sometimes easier if you do one cover at a time.

Aligning the cover with the front section of the according.

Another view of aligning, you can see the loops on the edge.

One final step!  The inside covers of the book need to be made.  But first insert the dowel just to make sure the loops are right.  I've had to tear the cover off many a time to put in a new loop.  Luck is with me today, it is tight but I can get the chopstick into it.  Cut two pieces of paper or cardstock 1/2 inch smalller on the top and one side than the size of your covers.  If you use cardstock it helps cover up the ends of the tape loops a little better.  Doing one side at a time makes it easier.  I used some pink paper that says " I love you".  Got to keep it cute!  Done!

Book with chopstick spine closed.

Book without the chopstick.  Now you see the secret picture.

Front cover of the book.

Sorry this is so long but I wanted beginners to be able to use this tutorial.  If you find any problems with this please let me know.
Thanks for your time.


  1. Thanks for sharing you great tutorial! It's amazing that you were able to figure it out on your own! WTG!
    Suzi #5563

  2. Thank you, I appreciate the compliment. I hope you will try making one they are so beautiful and different. Usually I do classic bookbinding, so it is fun to do something so different.