The Bindery

The very first thing I learned in my bookbinding class was about the workplace. Now I can’t guarantee this is the norm for every bindery out there but this is what I learned through my class.

First a few pointers:

  • Stand while working (this helps you when lining things up, keeping things straight and when cutting. The only time we really sit is when we’re sewing)
  • Always work on clean newsprint (this lets you see if you got adhesive or paste on your work area as it will show up easily on the newsprint which prevents you from getting any of that on your work!)
  • Tools are kept to the left and materials are kept to the right (reverse if left-handed)
  • Adhesive is kept far left!

4. Day 1 - Frames cut.jpg

As you can see in the photo above, the project is on clean newsprint (beneath that is the cutting boards). When I’m working at Dan’s bindery I keep my tools to the right and my materials to the left (this is just due to space). Really what is important is to keep them separate and to keep your paste far to the side to avoid accidentally spilling it!

Environment of the Bindery

There are five important things to keep in mind about your bindery’s environment. So let’s go over them!


visiblespectrumConsider the lighting of your work space. Natural light is no good! You should try to eliminate all direct/indirect sources of sunlight. If you look on the light spectrum the area near ultraviolet is the area that causes problems. This light will bleach and damage your material. If you’re repairing old books you don’t want to cause more damage too them from sunlight! Fluorescent tube lighting is not good either, but these can be covered with sleeves. The best light is incandescent light and L.D.


Most materials are comfortable with room temperature. When working on repairs or restoration projects you should be mindful, as temperature can damage materials directly.  Temperature also has an effect on humidity.

Humidity & R.H (relative humidity)

Relative humidity is the amount of water the air can hold at a set temperature. Rising temperature has a direct effect on the RH, so keep that in mind when the heat goes up! High RH encourages mold. So that’s something to watch out for! Another problem it can cause is deformation, especially in bindings. Paper can yellow and break easily and book pages will warp and the book will swell. Based on library and archive guidelines: 13°C to 20°C is a good temperature, this keeps the RH to 35° C to 60° C. Dan says an RH of 45° C is pretty safe.


Whatever you’ve got to work with — you’re good! Having a lot of space is nice but you can work anywhere. Keeping your work area clean and organized really helps. I work in my dining room. I use the kitchen table for a workbench — which is a bit low when I am standing but for now it works! I put a small bookcase in the dining room to hold tools and books, my presses sit on the floor and I have another table set up for papers. I am still working out a better arrangement for everything but while I live in an apartment and get started this is good enough!



  • Food & drink
  • Jewelry – metal can stain and mark leather
  • Make up/lotions

And there you have it! Not a lot, but really all you need is a clean and organized working space. As you can see I have a window in my dining room, depending on how sunny it is I’ll close the curtains to prevent the sun from bleaching my paper or I’ll just cover my paper. The paper you can see in the left there in the corner. I don’t have any newsprint out on the table but I’m not working at the moment. And I usually take the table cloth off but sometimes my table does need to entertain guests (hence the tablecloth!)

That’s all for now, hope this helps you went you’re considering setting up a work space for your bookbinding! If you have question feel free to ask.

Until next time,








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