5. Punching Holes for Sewing the Sections

Part of the Bookbinding Tutorial
by Douglas W. Jones
THE UNIVERSITY OF IOWA Department of Computer Science

Paper is hard stuff, and pushing a sewing needle through 8 layers is no fun; it is far easier to pre-punch each section for sewing! To do this, make a jig out of a scrap of cardboard with a very straight edge. First, cut a shallow wide notch in the cardboard. The depth of the notch should be about the thickness of the 8 sheets of paper that make up your sections. The width of the notch should be the height of the spine of the book. Then, put the jig parallel to the length of the part of the cover that will be the spine, so the notch just brackets the cover, and carefully mark where each slot in the spine passes your jig. Finish the jig by making a V shaped notch at each mark. These notches show where the holes go in the crease of each section.

It's a rare day that you can get the slots in your spine perfectly symmetrical, so mark one end of your jig as the top, so that you can punch all of your sections the same way. Always make the up direction point towards the top of the page, and your book will come out with even edges.

Figure 5.1 illustrates the finished punching jig, resting against the spine of the cover:

Figure 5.1:  The punching jig against the spine of the cover.

            |   __       __       __       __       __   |
         ___|   ||       ||       ||       ||       ||   |____
        |   |___||_______||_______||_______||_______||___|    |
        |       \/       \/       \/       \/       \/        |
        |   /____ TOP                                         |
        |   \                                                 |
            |   ||       ||       ||       ||       ||   |
            |   --       --       --       --       --   |
            |                                            |

The purpose of the V shaped notches is to guide the tip of an awl as you punch holes in your sections. Slide your jig into the center of a folded section until the notched edge rests in the crease, then hold the back of the section against a scrap of wood and use a good sharp awl to punch a row of holes, one per notch in the jig. Keep the section folded fairly tightly, and the awl will find the center of the crease in the section and the center of the notch fairly naturally.