The Toronto Book

I was lucky to receive a discarded calendar featuring vintage tourism posters from across Canada. I immediately set to reviving my bookbinding practice, making a coptic-stitched sketchbook from the “Toronto” page. I’m quite rusty, so this was more a beta test than anything; I’d forgotten how much I love book making, and I’ve already started on another, this time using a map of the area around Mbarara, Uganda that I rescued from the University of Calgary Library in 2014.

I found the videos Coptic Stitch Journal Tutorial! and DIY Coptic Stitch Bookbinding Tutorial helpful in reminding me of the stitching pattern; they compliment each other, and if you’re going to try your hand, I’d recommend watching both.

Side view of the book on a green cutting mat, showing signatures and coptic stitching.


Andrea's picture
Andrea on January 11, 2021 - 19:44 Permalink

This is very nice. What tools does one need to make this? (I guess I could watch the tutorial and find out.) And I can't recall what sort of paper trimmer you use in your studio. Do you have the guillotine style cutter or just use a sharp blade and a ruler?

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on January 11, 2021 - 20:05 Permalink

For punching holes I use a purpose-made awl from the London Centre for Book Arts, but any sort of pointy metal thing will do. 

I am a longtime fan of Olfa 9 mm utility knives, after using them professionally in the newspaper composing room for paste-up, so that’s what I use for cutting book board down to size, trimming signatures, etc. 

I could cut paper to size with the Olfa knife, but I use a public school-style guillotine that inherited from a flower shop. 

For sewing the binding I use bookbinding needles, from Modulor in Berlin, but I used regular sewing needles when I first started out, which are only a problem if their eyes are wide. 

The thread is baker’s twine (from The Bookmark); the book board was repurposed from a pad of paper; the inside papers were from the Japanese Paper Store. 

The wonderful thing about this particular style of binding is that you don’t need any frames or strings or clamps: almost anyone can make a book from things in their kitchen drawer. 

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on January 12, 2021 - 15:30 Permalink

Ack: I forgot the bone folder, which is really the only “yes, you absolutely need one of these” tools in my toolbox. I’ve tried using other things — spoons, other smooth things, plastic bone folder-like tools — but in the end only a bona fide bone folder seems up to the task.

Andrea's picture
Andrea on January 12, 2021 - 15:57 Permalink

I have a bone folder! I don't have a guillotine, but could try using a utility knife. I'll see what I can do. Thank you!

vbj's picture
vbj on January 11, 2021 - 23:16 Permalink

There's something about "public school-style guillotine" that is unsettling! How many pages do you use in your signatures?

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on January 11, 2021 - 23:26 Permalink

For 24 or 30 lb. copier paper I use 5 sheets per signature; for the book I’m making now, with heavier sketching paper, I’m using 4.