This guide will explain to you and show you with pictures how you can make your own writing journal. You don’t have to go out and buy an expensive one when you don’t have the money for one, you can make one right at how with stuff that you most likely already have around the house. Just think of the pride you will have in knowing you finally did something with all that paper laying around that you never use. Can you just imagine how you will feel when you get to show it off to all of your family and friends. This is one project that you are going to make use of for the rest of your life so make sure you read it well and look at the pictures in the gallery at the end of this guide.
Most writing journals that you find at the store are just not worth the paper they are made from. Many will just fall apart and disintegrate if they get wet. The ones that are made well cost a lot and once you have made your own you will understand why they cost so much. While it is true that they are mass produced the basic principles are the same, it just takes them a quarter of the time or less to make one. So lets start looking at how you can make your own treasured diary or writing journal.
It doesn’t take that many different types of materials to make a journal. To start with you will want to have 60 sheets of 8.5 x 11 inch sheets of paper. They don’t even have to be all the same color just make sure that they are easy to write on. You also want to make sure that it is paper that you would want to write on. If the paper is too dark why would you be putting it in a book to write in? Make sure that the paper that you use can be easily folded and does not crack and takes the ink of pens or the lead of pencils well. Those are the only real requirements that you will want to keep in mind.
For the end sheets of the journal you will want 2 to 4 sheets of heavier paper that can be used to protect the pages that are going to be booked. Make sure that they are 8.5 by 11 as well so that they will matchup with the rest of the project. Some people might want to use one sheet of marbled paper with another sheet sewn into the back and front of the book that is not so decorative. The fun part of this who project is that it is all up to you. You get to decide what you want your journal to look like and what paper it is going to have in it. You wont have to go looking to find just the right one because you are going to be making the just right one yourself.
You are going to need to have on hand a needle, I find that a short straight glovers needle works best. It is slightly flat and short so that you can use less thread when it comes to knotting the spine of the booked pages. You will also want to use some bees wax if you have it to keep the thread from knotting up and tangling on you. As to the thread a good strong nylon thread will be the best to work with. A note about the thread when working with it, do not double it, instead thread the needle and then make a small knot just below the eye of the needle. This means only running about 2 to 3 inches through the needle before making the knot. You really do not have to have a double threaded strand of thread while doing this project.
You will also need to have some boards to make the cover and spine protector from. The boards can be anything from a heavy Bristol, a file folder, a stiff piece of leather or even an actually piece of thin ply board. The point is that you can make the board covers out of just about anything including the cardboard of a cereal box. You are going to need to have some heavy twine or 1/4 inch ribbons to help hold the booked pages and covers together. You will also need some extra fabric that can be used in the stiffening and protection of the spine of your journal. If you have any more scrap fabric on hand that will help to in making sure that your cover stays attached to your journal.
Most are not going to want their journal to look naked so you will wanted to have some cloth, thin leather, vinyl or heavy paper to use as a cover over the cover boards and spine. Sure you don’t have to have them but they will make your finished project look so much better. As to the size of the cloth it will need to be able to cove the boards as well as the spine with the journal closed with about 3/8 inch overlap so that you can attach it to the inside of the cover. If the board is thick then adjust the amount of covering as needed to have a 1/4 to 3/8 inch overlap on the inside.
Now as to how to hold it all together, you are going to need more then just thread. You need to have a glue to use when attaching paper insets, cloth to the binding and so on. I recommend using a good quality wood glue that is for both interior and exterior. This will insure that your journal will survive the elements and will be with you for years to come. If you use just a normal white glue with no waterproofing then it just might fall apart at the first hint of moisture. Good wood glue is not really that more expensive then regular white glue and can be used for oh so many things.
I have a tendency to make things overly durable as you can see from the list of things you will be using. Because of my attention to the details of what I am making and wanting to make sure that I will have it when I need or want it I still have some journals that I have made years ago. They have been soaked and left in the rain and yet I am still able to use them. I also make sure that I use an ink that is not just going to fade away to nothing or just wash away. If you want to see how to make your own ink You can click here to see how to make your own ink from berries. Just like making your own journal you can have fun making your own inks as well.
Now that we have most everything at hand we need to start getting ready to book the pages for your journal. To do this it is best to make stacks of 5 sheets of paper each. You will want to keep them positioned in such a way that it is more wide then tall. The reason for this is that each of these books are going to be folded in half. Each set of these pages are called books and putting them all together is booking or binding, you choose what you want to call it. As to how to put them together you should make a template of where you are going to punch your thread holes. The easiest way, at least for me, is to notch a piece of cardboard and then just dot the paper where the holes need to go.
After you know where the holes are to be then you need to punch the holes. In the past I have used heavy embroidery needles, ice picks, awls and even a finishing nail and a hammer. This time I used a drill with a very very small bit to make the holes. As I am not holding all the pages together with clamps and vises I just drilled stacks of 20 to get the holes set up. What ever way you decide you can see why it is good to make a template beforehand. It just makes the job easier and you can see the holes can be made any way that you want. For this projects I made a template that had notches at 1in, 1.25in, 3.75in, 4in, 4.5in, 4.75in, 7.24in and 7.5 inch. This gives you a nice set of holes for a 8.5 x 11 in paper folded in half. It also gives you a good pattern for the ribbons that will be attached to the spine of your journal.
Once you have your stacks of 5 setup and punched as well as lightly folded over it is time to sew them together. Take the needle and the thread, I talked about how to thread that earlier, and start in the first quarter inch hole set. Gently start the threading so you don’t pull it out as you are not going to knot it. Also in this first quarter hole area, on the spine edge, you are going to loop the thread around either the ribbon or the twine being used to attach the covers. These pieces of twine or ribbon should be about 3 inches in length or so. Once you have that first set done you just sew the threads back and forth making sure to sew in each ribbon in the quarter inch areas. Once to the end just start adding the next set of book pages. You just keep doing this till you have no more pages to sew in.
Two side notes here, if you don’t want to use the pages that you are sewing to be used to connect the cover pages then you will want to sew in an extra set. Those are going to be what helps you finish the journal off later with the end cover pages. Also to those that do not use inches as your unit of measure, that really doesn’t matter as you could use any unit of measure as the process is always going to be about the same and the spaces somewhat universal in understanding.
To make sure all the books are bound together securely pull the ribbons or twine tight so that the pages go firmly together. After you have done this you will not run thread behind the ribbons and cinch everything together even tighter. The tighter you get it without breaking the thread the better your journal is going to be after it is finished. Once you have them as tight as they will go you will apply your first varnish of glue to the spine of the books. This will help to keep the whole thing together as you are working to finish your project.
Once this first coating of glue has set up you will apply another coat and then apply a coat of glue to filler strips. These strips will be between the ribbons and are used when you connect the cover boards to your journal. Gently pat and burnish them into and onto the spine. As you do this try to keep them as straight as possible for easy to work with later. After the glue on those has set some you will add another coat of glue over the ribbons and fillers. Over this you are going to lay one final strip of cloth over that. You can if you want add end rolls to the ends of the strip but it is not required, it is just something to make things look nicer. Make sure that the strip is pressed firmly into the glue but not to the point that it is squishing out all over the place. Now set this aside to dry as you work on the covers of the book.
You will want to get your supplies together as the spine dries. You will need the material that you are going to use for the cover and spine board as well as what you are going to use to cover it all. No need to rush to do this as the drier the spine the better before proceeding. Once the spine is not going to drip all over the place to tack everything up you can lay it down on your cover material and trace outside of it. You are not trying to trace an even outline but a bit of the ways out from it as you want the cover to be able to overlap the pages like a normal hardbound book does. This is to help protect the pages that are being bound in them and a way to keep them looking nice and easy to use. Myself I go about 3/8th of an inch or slightly less on all three sides. The spine side is actually going to be about 1/4 inch shorter so that the pages will be able to bend properly when you are leafing through the book.
With what we just went over with the cover that means the dimensions, at least for the one I made, will be about 5 and 6/8 in. by 8 and 3/4 in. You will need 2 of those, one for the back and one for the front. As to the spine, to stiffen what is behind the cloth, measure the height of the bookings or rather the thickness where you did all the sewing and cloth strips. That is going to be how wide your backing spine strip ois going to be. In my case it was 7/8 inches. That means that my final spine board is that of 8 and 3/4 by 7/8 inches.
Important to note about the placement of the boards when being placed on the cloth or other backing cover material, you are also going to have about 1/4 inch spacing between the spine and the back and front cover boards. If you don’t do this your writing journal will never close properly if at all. So make sure to take your time when laying them out and even mark them so that you know where they go in relation to each other and the material that is going to be attached to them.
Now lay the 3 boards on the material and then measure for your overlaps and for the spacing that is going to be needed between them. Remember that depending on the thickness of your board you want to have enough material to go into the other side of at least 3/8 of an inch but really no more then half an inch. The reason you need so much is that you want to make sure that when you attach your end pages they will cover the edges of the cover material and seal them in. This is not just to help make it look nicer but to also keep the book together better and make it last longer. Think about it, if it wasn’t needed would the commercial bookers makers bind the books in this way? They do it to make sure the book stays together.
After you have the material cut set it aside and take the boards and start affixing them to the bound pages. The ribbons will be glued to the outside of the material and the wider cloth strips will be affixed to the inside of the backing material. Having something on the inside and on the outside will make sure that it is good and secure. It will also make it so that you can keep working while everything is wet, just make sure that you have a scrap fabric or paper to keep the glue off your booked pages or it will ruin them for writing on. Once the back and front are there you will see how much like a book your journal now looks. All that is left is to attach the cover material over the backing boards. To do this glue the spine board to the material and then place it at the spine and gently lay the material over the face of one of the covers that you have fully glued. Gently smooth it out and make sure it is attached and then repeat on the other side.
Once you have the book to this stage you will see just how much it looks like a store bought versions. Can you imagine it you started with nothing but some paper, some cloth and some thread and here you are almost finished with your creations. You made it, you are the one that made it happen and no one and nothing is ever going to take that away from you. Sure you might mess up now and then but can anyone other then you say you made it just for your desires your thoughts and your needs? It is your and forever will be unless you give it away as a gift.
Now to finish the book you will open the cover and glue the edges of the cover so that you can fold down the fabric to protect the covers edge. When it comes to the corner just fold it in as much as possible and then cut away the part that sticks up. Once you do you will have a 45 degree angle that you just smooth out. Just keep smoothing it all out till you are satisfied with the results. You could just stop here but to make a really great journal you need to take it just one step or rather two steps further. You will want to fill in the now uneven area with some Bristol so that it is even with the backing cover material that you chose. Once you have glues that in you are going to have a truly fine cover. The only thing left to do now is to glue in the cover end pages. To do this fully cover the inside of the cover with glue leaving a bit of the edge exposed and then line up your endpaper and smooth it into place. Made sure that you have used a bit of glue on either your sewn in end page or the first page of the bound pages. You need this to make sure that it wont just pull away.
Once you have the end pages in place you should take and gently fold it closed and then place it between some other books with some weight on it. You will leave it set all night and then in the morning you will have a custom made writing journal for you to be able to use. You can now do what ever you want with it and if you used the wood glue it is not going to just fall apart on you. So now enjoy your pages and write to your hearts content. Who knows you just might be the next great best selling author.