Making Chatterbook

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I found actually physically making my book really enjoyable and so very satisfying. I wanted to share how it’s done and hopefully inspire others to have a go.

I put the illustrations and text together in InDesign. The pdf then gets sent to the printers. Chatterbook was made in two sections. A section is a number of pages that are sewn together to form the book. In order to not loose too much off the end of the pages when you come to trim them (called creep) it’s best to keep the number of pages in a section to about 4.

When the printer prints the pages they have to make an imposition pdf. This means they will adjust the spreads so the images are printed on the correct side of the paper, such that when the paper is folded and made into sections the right images will sit next to each other.

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This diagram shows where my pages needed to sit. A children’s picture book is usually made up of 32 pages. Mine had 16 spreads (a spread is a whole image, usually sitting over 2 pages), made into 2 sections, each section consisting of 4 pieces of paper sewn together, each section having 16 pages (stay with me!). These sections are then glued together. The end pages are 2 separate pieces of paper that are glued to each end of the book, near the spine, and then also to the cardboard that makes up the hard cover.

I’ve put as many pictures as i can below, I will add some photos of the sewing at a later date.

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The spreads from the printers

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Folding the pages and getting the tools ready. Using a bone folder when folding the pages makes a crisp folded edge.

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One section (in this case four of the folded spreads) are put into a cradle to hold them whilst the holes are made.

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By this point you will have made a guide so you know where to put the holes and they will then be the same on all your sections.

The sections are then sewn together….photo/diagram to come.

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The sewn sections are put between two pieces of wood, a weight is applied so as to stop the glue seeping too far into the sections. Glue is applied to the spine. Make sure the little gap in between both sections has glue in it.

Once the glue has dried, the end pages can be added.

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A magazine masks a strip of about 10mm down the spine of the folded end paper, so that glue can be applied to that strip only. This is then stuck onto the outside pages of the book.

The book with it’s two end pages stuck to it can now be trimmed. Use either the crop marks or a page where the colour bleeds out as a guide (you will have created your images with a 3mm bleed, so that any colour bleeds out 3mm beyond the actual size of the book. This stops the appearance of any white lines after cutting). At this point you may need a professional guillotine/machine, some printers will do this for you for a fee.

Creating the hardback cover: To find the size of the cover, the book is placed onto card (mine was 2mm thick). Overhang the spine side of the book by 5mm then make sure the other three sides of the book have 3mm of card around them. This is the size of the cover. Obviously you will need two the same size.

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You will also need a spine. The spine is another piece of card the same height as the cover. To find the width, squeeze the book between the two pieces of card and measure the distance between them all.

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Mine was 9mm wide. The two covers and the spine are then put on the cover canvas or cover paper like so.

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The distance between the spine and the covers is the 5mm overlap and the thickness of the board, so in my case 7mm, although I changed this to 8mm later to give a bit more room. Ignore the ruler in the photo, I had it lined up further down the ruler as less markings means it’s easier to read.

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A ruler width is a good guide to use as you cut the area of cover around the boards.

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An angle is cut into the corners. If you are doing a lot of this, then a little cardboard tool that sits on the corner of your board as a cutting guide is ideal.

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Applying glue to the cover. The edges are then folded in and pressed down onto the board, a bone folder can help with this, take care with the corners, make sure you press down as much as possible and fold neatly inwards (apologies no photos of that bit).

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The book is lined up on the cover, it wants to sit snugly up to the spine, so that when the spine is folded up it will sit upright. Glue is applied to one end paper at a time, then the cover is lowered onto the end paper, making sure to line up the front and back cover and that the spine is straight and upright before you push down onto the paper. Non stick paper is placed between the end papers and the covers and the whole book is put between two pieces of wood, making sure the spine is exposed and the only part that is not between the two pieces of wood.  Then into a press for a good while.

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The result.