Making a board book

For those of you interested in  making your own board book, my advice to you, It's not that hard! In fact, it's really easy!  I took pictures while I was making mine and I hope they help you.

What you need:

  • Paper cutter and exacto knife(not strictly necessary, could use scissors)
  • Wood Glue
  • Color printer
  • Art chipboard (available in large sheets at your local art supply store)
  • Cardstock (I used 110 lb weight)

I started by making a paper prototype, just to check that the printed colors were close to what I was seeing on the monitor.  See this great help post on Adobe's website for more information about color profiles and color management.  I printed out the two page spreads on regular copy paper using a color inkjet printer.. You have to be careful about what size the printer actually prints, as it often scales the image to fit on the page. I measured using a ruler after printing just to make sure I could cut the chipboard appropriately. I trimmed the spreads to size using a paper cutter and then folded them in half, taping them together sequentially accordion-style.  I then made a spread of the front and back cover and taped that to the first and last pages.

Using the paper prototype, I was able to proofread the book and get a feel for whether the aspect ratio I picked felt good in my hands.

Once I was satisfied with the colors and the size, I printed directly onto the cardstock and trimmed the spreads to size. You can see I added a black line in the middle of the spread.  This helped me demarcate the pages when I was designing the layout, but is not really necessary.

I then cut the chipboard using an exacto knife to cut long strips and then the papercutter to trim the pieces to  the size of one page.

 I was using 0.040" thick chipboard, which I felt was too flimsy to be used on its own. I did several tests, gluing the chipboard pieces to each other with wood glue to determine what the best thickness was. More pieces laminated together meant more stiffness, but also meant a larger overall thickness to the book. Working within this tradeoff, I found that two pieces glued together worked best.

I then tested gluing a piece of cardstock to the chipboard.  I wanted to check how the pages turned if I simply glued two "pages" of the chipboard to one two-page spread.  (Side note: I used a small piece of cardboard as a spreading tool for the glue)

The black in the photos is a piece of cardstock. I thought the small gap between the pages was enough to allow the pages to open fully.  You may need to trim the chipboard a little bit in order to get enough clearance.

I then glued the spreads to the cardboard pieces in order, accordion-style, in a similar manner to the paper prototype. I thought of them as little chipboard and paper sandwiches.

I then made the covers.  This part is interesting because depending on how thick your book is you're going to need a significant amount of extra material. I ended up buying single sheets of 11" x 17" cardstock to make the covers.  If your printer can't print on 11" x 17", you could probably use legal size, as it's really the extra length you need.  I took a piece of the longer card stock and wrapped it around my book as if it were the cover.  I then marked where the book ended, laid out the paper and measured the distance need.  I then used illustrator to create a cover spread at that length, with both covers and the title on the spine.

I then printed this on the larger cardstock and glued it around the whole book.  Two things I learned when making this prototype. You don't want to glue the cover all the way to the end. By that I mean, there needs to be a section of the cover (up to a 1/2") nearest to the spine that is not glued to the chipboard.  This allows the spine to move when opening the book.  I actually used a ruler to help bend the cover up at the edge of the glue to give it a crease to facilitate the movement. 

The other thing that I did not do for my first prototype, but that I did for all subsequent ones, was to tape around  the spine before gluing the cover on. I tried several different kinds of tape and found that both packing tape and cloth tape worked reasonably well for this purpose. 

And there you have it, a finished board book. 

Ready for reading, or chewing, or throwing or whatever else you want to do with it.  

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