I love the look of bamboo as a material, so I tracked down a supplier here in Melbourne and they sent me some samples to play with.

Leto Bamboo sent me the samples, and they were significantly larger than I expected. At nearly A4 size, I was able to make four A6 notebooks out of them, giving me plenty of practice working with the material.

There was some narrow grained, natural finish (the lighter ones). And there was some wide grained, carbonised finish (the darker ones). They also sent me one piece of wide grained, natural finish, but it was too small to do anything with. (but it makes a neat drinks coaster)

Notes on  my experience:

Narrow grain is a lint magnet.

When applying the finish, lots of lint from the cloth got stuck on the bamboo and it took a fair bit of prep work before the second coat went on to get all the lint off. This didn’t happen with either of the other wide grained samples they sent me.

Bamboo is strong.

Part of this test was to check out different thicknesses of bamboo. I was sent 4.3mm, 6.5mm, and 7.75mm samples. I was expecting the 4.3mm to be too thin for a book cover, but I was amazed at just how strong it was. For an A6 size (105mm wide), there wasn’t any noticeable give. I might want to use the 6.5mm stock if I went up to an A5 notebook (148mm wide). Also, the end grain of this stuff is lovely, so I don’t mind having a slightly thicker cover if just to better show off the end grain on the edges.

Bigger signatures

I also took on board some feedback about my books not having enough pages in them, so I made the signatures bigger, but in retrospect, I should have just added more signatures. The thickness of each signature is about as big as I’d want to make them. This series of books all consist of 8 signatures of 9 sheets per signature. The paper I’m using is about 80gsm. Next time I think I’ll go more like 9 signatures @ 8 sheets per signature.

I can’t wait to play with this stuff some more, but I’ve used up my samples, and now I have to buy a whole sheet of the stuff if I want to make any more books out of it. As a hobby maker, I can’t justify buying multiple sheets, so I have to decide…

  • Narrow grain? Or wide grain?
  • Natural finish? Or carbonised finish?
  • 4.3mm? or 6.5mm?

Sale (free shipping)

I’ve had some of my wooden covered, coptic bound books sitting around for some time now, and I’ve decided to have little sale to see if I can send them on their way into the world.

My Etsy shop has them listed with free shipping in Australia (sorry if you live outside Australia. The shipping costs me more that half  the sale price of the item for destinations outside Oz).

Sale starts today (5 March, 2018), and runs until 4 April, 2018.


I finished the new batch of leather bound journals I was working on.

The new (bigger) magnets did the trick, while still being small enough that I think they don’t upset the look of the journals, and I made a couple without magnets and used leather straps to hold them closed.

Magnet book
Magnet book
Leather strap book
Leather strap book

Book Press, Chapter 2

Progress on the book press has stopped.

My original design didn’t work with the wood I was using. I used the same cypress I use for my books. It’s the same stuff I buy from the hardware store, and it splits a lot. My design called for two big dove tail joints to connect theĀ main cross beam at the top to the uprights at the side. Appart from my joinery being sloppy, the wood split and the join just won’t hold.

Now I need a plan B.

Book Press, Chapter 1

I’m making a book press.

There are some great pictures online of old book presses. But mine isn’t going to be like that. For a start, I’m making it out of wood, not cast metal.

There’s plenty of instructions online for making simple book presses, but I’ve decided to design my own. I’ve taken inspiration from a number of presses I’ve seen online, but in the end, it’s my own design.

The pressure will be generated by a small bottle jack I bought off ebay. It’s rated as a 4 ton jack, so I think it’s will be sufficient for books. In fact I think I need to be careful that it doesn’t rip the whole press apart from too much pressure.

I’m not an engineer, but I think I’ve come up with a design that will hold up to a bit of pressure and not break or distort. It needs to be able to stay flat under pressure so that it doesn’t bend the books.

Today I cut up some bits of wood and squared them off (they had twisted a lot when they dried). Tomorrow I’ll hopefully get the first part of the frame done.

(I just went looking for an illustration of an old book press for this post, but I had trouble finding anything free of copyright. Then I found the British Library’s Flickr page. Still couldn’t find a book press picture but I found heaps of other cool images, like the one at the top of this post.

New journals

I’m experimenting with some new leather bound journals.

I sewed up the text blocks ages ago and didn’t know what to do with them after that, but we recently got a new couch and somebody suggest I use the leather from the old couch for book binding, so I decided to experiment with these ones.

Leather bound journals
Leather bound journals

After cutting all the leather off the couch, I glued it onto the text blocks. My technique could use some improvement, but I’m pretty happy with the final result. The four in the picture here all have a leather strap to wrap around and tie them closed.

There was one more that I tried using some rare earth magnets for a closing mechanism. I think it was a moderate success, but I need to come up with a better way of aligning the magnets, and use slightly larger magnets too. I’d bought some 10mm * 1mm magnets and they were just not quite strong enough.

Teaching Scouts

My son goes to the local Scouts group, and I volunteered to teach them how to make some books.

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We started with a simple folded book, then did a 3, and a 5 hole saddle stitch. The Scouts agreed that “3 hole saddle stitch” was a very boring name.

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Then finished off with a 4 hole stab binding. The Scouts liked the sound of stab binding much better because it has the word “stab” in it.

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I think the kids enjoyed themselves. I know I did.

In two weeks, I go back again to teach them how to make a long stitch book. I need to buy some more craft knives before then. And maybe some bandaids too.

I had put together a bunch of bookbinding packs, one for each kid. Each pack contains enough paper to make the 4 books, an instruction booklet (which I illustrated, printed, and bound myself). They also get a little block of bees wax, linen thread, and a needle.

I over catered with the bookbinding packs, so I’m thinking of putting the spare packs up on the Etsy site. I’ll update this post once they are available.


My father used to restore old player pianos, or pianolas, when I was a kid. He’d buy them at action and fix them up so they could play and then sell them. I don’t know if he ever made much money at it, but he seemed to enjoy it. He also acquired a huge supply for the scrolls needed to play on the pianos. We had mountains of them.

My dad died nearly 17 years ago and my mum sold the last of the pianos and all the scrolls when she sold the house not long after.

I was walking past a second hand store today and they had a stack of the old scrolls in the window and I couldn’t help buy a few. In a little homage to my father, I’ve tried making a little book out of one. I cut down the slip cover it came in to make the covers of the book, and I cut up the scroll itself for the paper. The paper was harder to work with than I thought it would be. It’s quite tough paper and has a real spring to it, and having been rolled up tight for years, it just won’t lie flat. I wasn’t sure how the paper would take ink, but I didĀ  a little test and was pleasantly surprised at how well it performed.

Ink test

In the end I have a nice little book.

Nice little book

Springy book paper

I have enough material to make a few more out of this batch of scrolls, so I’m sure my technique will improve.

Pianola scrolls