Essential bookbinding tools and supplies: How to get started

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What if I told you that you don’t have to be a master bookbinder to create your own handmade booklets?

With the right tools and a little bit of guidance, you’ll be taking on all sorts of bookbinding projects in a snap. It’s all about knowing how to get started!

That’s where I come in — grab a notepad and a pen and start jotting down all of the essential bookbinding tools and supplies listed in this guide to get the show on the road!

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Essential bookbinding tools and supplies

Essential bookbinding tools and supplies_FEATURE IMAGE
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

Bookbinding may seem like a craft for the pros, but this isn’t the case.

It’s not as complicated as it looks, and honestly, I wish I had started learning earlier (my 3rd-grade book binding ventures were a good start, though!). 

In my opinion, it’s one of the most gratifying and relatable creative hobbies you can explore, and there’s no doubt having a complete toolset from the start will enhance your learning experience. 

That said, I’ve compiled a list of essential bookbinding tools and supplies in this guide, whether you’re aiming to create small leather notebooks, simple folios, or intricate Japanese-style booklets.

And now, let’s get into the good stuff!

Paper

Paper for bookbinding_essential bookbinding tools and supplies
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

If you’re a long-time crafter, you’ll know that there are trillions of paper types for just about any project you can think of.

In the case of bookbinding, paper is a central element and, therefore, deserves particular attention, both in terms of functionality and aesthetics.

When choosing paper for your bookbinding projects, there are quite a few aspects to consider, but overall, you want to focus on durability, versatility, and compatibility.

The most popular types of paper used for bookbinding tend to include coated, uncoated, white, and natural color paper.

As a beginner, I advise using acid-free, uncoated paper. This type of paper is porous, which gives surfaces a soft appearance and feel. It’s ideal for text-heavy projects while also compatible with a wide range of drawing media.

In addition, as mentioned above, always aim for acid-free paper to ensure that your paper does not yellow over time.

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Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

Paper weight is another critical consideration. The adequate paperweight is something to evaluate once you’ve defined the density of your projects.

For example, lightweight paper is best for skimming through booklets with many pages, while heavyweight paper is better suited for thick, hardcover books.

Paper texture also plays a role when choosing the right paper for bookbinding. Smooth, rough, and embossed paper are among the most used for this activity.

However, remember that besides visual appeal, it’s important to consider how your paper will interact with your media of choice (ink, paint, colored pencils, etc.)

When crafting a book, you also need to think about paper size and dimensions. Always take the bookbinding techniques you plan to use into account, as well as the layout you want to achieve.

Defining these factors in advance will help you ensure certain technicalities, such as how effectively pages turn or how/where to apply stitches. Always consider the usability of your projects!

There’s a lot to look into when selecting bookbinding paper, but keeping these basic notions in mind at first is a good start.

If you want to try something unique, make your own paper! We have a complete guide on the best paper-making kits if you’re feeling particularly crafty.

Book boards

Book boards_essential bookbinding tools and supplies
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

Book boards are sturdy panels made of cardboard or similar rigid materials and are used to provide structure to book covers.

They’re placed between book cover material and endpapers to offer support and stability. It’s crucial to select boards of specific thicknesses to match your project’s overall size and weight.

Besides their functional purpose, book boards can also be aesthetic elements and are often covered with decorative paper or cloth for visual appeal.

Just remember to customize them with quality materials that can stand up to wear and tear.

Bookbinding awl

Awl_ essential bookbinding tools and supplies
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

Bookbinding awls are specialized needle-like tools used to pierce accurate, tiny holes in paper/cardboard for sewing signatures together (folded pages).

Awls have super pointy, sharp tips, making piercing paper effortless, which, in return, reduces the probability of tearing materials.

Using an awl is easy, but you do need to learn how to position it accurately and adequately for successful outcomes. Metal rulers are very helpful during this step!

Let me reinforce that awls feature very sharp tips, so be careful with your fingers and work surface — I advise using a cutting mat to protect your craft desk!

Bookbinding awls come in different sizes, too, with some models being less heavy-duty for thinner paper and others bulkier for thicker binding.

Beginners will do more than well with a basic awl at first!

Thread

Thread_essential bookbinding tools and supplies
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

Thread is a must-have bookbinding supply as it’s what holds pages together. Without it, your pages would fall apart!

Besides being used to sew and assemble pages, thread also plays a role in reinforcing the binding process, ensuring projects remain intact over time. 

Cotton and linen threads are popular picks due to their sturdiness, flexibility, and organic look and feel. They’re also very adaptable and easy to work with.

On the other hand, natural waxed thread features extra coating, providing additional strength and durability — an ideal choice for projects you’ll actually put to use, such as notebooks, agendas, scrapbooks, etc.

Polyester and nylon threads are other alternatives but aren’t as sought-after since they’re less environmentally friendly and long-lasting than natural fibers.

Apart from functionality, thread is also considered an aesthetic element in bookbinding and is available in many colors — Etsy is a great place to look!

Most importantly, ensure your chosen thread suits your project’s specific needs and paper type.

Needle

Bookbinding needle_essential bookbinding tools and supplies
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

Can you use a regular sewing needle for bookbinding? Well, I wouldn’t recommend it — unless you’re working on an itsy bitsy folio project.

Bookbinding needles are typically longer and thicker than standard sewing needles and are designed to thread through multiple sheets of paper simultaneously.

Different needle sizes are available, including smaller models for thinner booklets and thicker ones for denser, heavy-weight projects. There are also bookbinding needles with curved tips, which some crafters find especially convenient for sewing through larger stacks of pages (you won’t need this as a beginner, though!).

Bookbinding needles also come in different materials. The more affordable option is usually nickel-plated steel needles, although they aren’t the most long-lasting.

Stainless steel needles are the more durable alternative and endure threading more effectively — I say go with these from the get-go!

Bone folder

Bone folder_essential bookbinding tools and supplies
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

If you’re a papercraft buff, you probably already know all there is to know about bone folders. However, did you know that they’re a must for bookbinding?

Bone folders are undoubtedly at the top of the list when talking about essential bookbinding tools and supplies and are items you don’t want to skimp on.

The primary purpose of a bone folder is to create clean, precise creases on paper and effectively burnish book spines — they’re very useful when applying bookbinding tape for repairs.

In addition, bone folders are used to fold and crease fabrics, from cotton cloth to leather, and are particularly helpful for smoothening out glued book cover surfaces.

These tools are available in different materials, with the most common being authentic bone, plastic, and wood.

Personally, I love the visual appeal and natural materials of wooden bone folders, although I have to admit they aren’t as sturdy as polished bone and plastic alternatives.

To learn a little more about what to look for, check out our comprehensive guide on the best bone folders!

Bookbinding glue

Bookbinding glue_essential bookbinding tools and supplies
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

Bookbinding glue (also referred to as bookbinding adhesive) is essential in the bookbinding process. Its primary function is to securely bind book pages and prevent them from becoming loose or falling out.

This adhesive is also applied to book spines and covers. Glue for bookbinding comes in several forms, made from various materials, from animal hide and starch to synthetic polymers.

In addition to bookbinding glue, there’s also bookbinding tape. This type of adhesive is designed explicitly for bookbinding and is mainly used to reinforce and repair book spines and torn or loose pages.

Bookbinding tape is crucial in preserving, salvaging, or keeping projects in one piece due to excessive use or loss of stability over time.

Book cloth

Fabric for bookbinding_essential bookbinding tools and supplies
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

Personalizing book covers and interior details with beautiful materials is one of the most enjoyable aspects of bookbinding.

There are a variety of materials to choose from, including cotton, linen, rayon, polyester, and leather, that work well for bookbinding.

However, aesthetics are only one part of selecting these materials — functionality is key. Choose durable, flexible options that withstand external elements such as moisture, dust, and light.

Your chosen material should also be strong enough to endure wear and tear and be easy to glue or sew onto book covers without affecting the integrity of your project.

There are many ways to customize your covers. For example, leather binding is a very popular option — there are many leather binding kits for beginners with everything you need to craft booklets with this material.

You can also use art pens as well as screen printing techniques to create unique custom designs or images directly onto your book cover cloth.

Other bookbinding tools and supplies

In addition to the items above, there are a few more essential bookbinding tools and supplies you’ll want to look into to complete projects from beginning to end.

Here’s a quick list!

Cutting tool

A good-quality cutting tool is a must for bookbinding; you’ll need one to accurately trim/cut paper, book cloth, etc. Especially if you’re using leather!

Using a cutting tool will also help ensure all your pieces are the same size and shape. Utility knives and rotary cutters are good options for this purpose.

If you decide to bind with leather, I advise purchasing a basic leather tooling kit.

Scissors

I also recommend having a good pair of scissors for bookbinding. They’re practical for cutting off and trimming excess paper, fabric, and thread.

Electric scissors are very helpful for cutting through thicker cloth. Left-handed? We have a complete guide on the best scissors for left-handers!

Metal ruler

Metal rulers are incredibly resistant, sturdy, and perfect for bookbinding. These tools will help you mark paper accurately and create precise guides for awl hole-piercing.

Bookbinding press

A bookbinding press is crucial to compress handmade books while glue or adhesive dries; they help create a tight, long-lasting bond.

Bookbinding presses are available in different sizes and styles but can also be DIY’d! If you have some woodworking know-how and own a set of woodworking tools, you can make one yourself!

If you happen to own a flower press, you may be able to repurpose it for bookbinding, depending on the size of your project.

Find our top picks in our best bookbinding press guide if you want to start looking for options right away!

Bookbinding tutorials, kits, and online classes

Bookbinding tools and supplies_materials
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

If you’re a beginner in bookbinding, I encourage you to explore as many resources as possible to learn the basics and gain inspiration.

For example, bookbinding kits for beginners are excellent segues into your own custom-made projects. These all-in-one sets provide comprehensive instruction and fundamental materials, making learning easy and convenient at first.

You can also find leather craft kits with bookbinding themes if this is an approach you’re interested in exploring.

In addition, taking an online bookbinding class is an excellent way to learn from experienced crafters while staying on a budget. Here are a few online courses that I recommend for beginners:

Visit our page on bookbinding guides and tutorials for more resources, including project ideas and YouTube tutorials to help you get started in this creative hobby!


That’s it for all of the essential bookbinding tools and supplies you need to get started! Feel free to drop any questions, comments, or tips for other readers below.

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