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How I Corner

One of the first things folks starting out bookbinding want to know is how to make corners look nice and neat.  You can sort of just fold and poke and make it work, but it often comes out bulky and inelegant.  So here’s how I make corners look nice and pretty.

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So you might be doing this on an actual book, but for the purposes of this demonstration, I’m going to be using this board.  I’m using a really thick board here to better show what I’m doing.  The board is some green millboard which is slightly nicer than regular old davey board, and also slightly more expensive!  The paper is some Ingres that I’ve made into some pastepaper.

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First things first: figure out your grain direction.  If you have no idea what grain is, there are numerous explanations out there.  I’ve drawn arrows for my grain direction.  Make sure your paper and board have the grain running the same way (this holds true for bookcloth as well – yes, it also has a grain direction).

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I’m cheating here.  I’ve been told that typically you want to glue thin to thick, but I’m not doing that so I can show this a bit better.  Notice how much glue I have here.  It’s not a lot.  In my opinion, glue control is by far the hardest basic step to master in bookbinding.  It’s something I struggled with for a long, long time, and occasionally I’ll still have way too much glue on a piece I’m working on.  It’s key to realize your brush can also pick up and take away glue.

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Pick up your glued piece and put it on the paper.  I’m not showing that I’m taking a bonefolder to the other side here.  Trust me, I’m getting out all those bubbles.

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Here I’m trimming off excess with my blade and a piece of teflon.  This means the piece of covering material doesn’t need to be square starting off, as I’m trimming it up nice and square to the board now.  I’m butting this teflon piece up to the edge of my board and just cutting along its side.  That piece doesn’t need to be teflon, by the way.  I use a ruler or a piece of brass just as often.  Teflon is nice because glue comes off of it fairly easily, and there are times when my turn-ins are covered in glue.

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All edges trimmed.  Lovely.

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Alright, here’s the corner.  I actually just eyeball this since I do it so often, but this is the principle I’m operating off of.  Take two pieces of the same thickness board you’re covering and put it up against the corner.

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Seriously, right against the corner.  Try to make is as equilateral as possible.

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Mark it with a pencil.

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This isn’t the best example of an equilateral triangle, but it’s going to be okay.

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Do this to all your corners and cut on the line with a pair of scissors.

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Okay, now here’s the weird cuts.  Parallel to your head and tail, draw a line.  Just continue the line that the edge of the board is making.  There’s no measuring involved, I’m just using the ruler to indicate where the line should be.

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Like this.

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Cut along that line with your scissors.

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It’s cut all the way to the edge of the board, but no further!  Any further and your board might show.  This leaves you with a little flap that is super important.

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Now glue up that tail.

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Make sure you have good adhesion to the edge of your board.  You want that paper conforming to the contours of the board.

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Then put it down onto the inside.  Notice at my corner that I’ve pushed that little flap we made earlier onto the side of the board.  This creates a little “ear” that pokes up.

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Do that to the head as well.

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Now cut off that little “ear” that’s sticking up.   It’s hard to see, but it’s there.  Although not for long.  Notice how I’m cutting this here.  I’m resting the flat of my scissors on the board, and using it as a guide to insure I’m cutting on the same plane as the board.

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Now you can turn in your fore edge and in this case, spine.

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And there it is.

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This leaves you with a pretty nice corner!  Minimal bulk, elegant angles.  This technique is more difficult the thinner the board you use, but if you use this enough it becomes second nature and soon you won’t need to mark any of the lines at all!

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