Monday 4 August 2014

How To: add a book-style spine to a junk journal

Hello there.

If you want to pick up a simple technique that can smarten up your junk journals and mini-albums ... then this step-by-step tutorial - on adding a book-style spine - might be just the thing!
Adding a spine is not something I do to every mini album I make, but I do like the way that covering up the open edge just seems to finish off the project giving it a more 'proper' book-like feel.

For this particular journal [which I'm using to house photos and ephemera from my summer 2014]
I wanted this lovely, soft, faded old map cover to be my focal point:
  • If you're inspired by the romance and nostalgia of an old map then check out my packs of old mixed map pages here.
  • And, if it's the idea of using a pre-existing cover for your own book covers then, while it's not a map cover, there is  a set of old Maths book covers inside this Junk Journal 'Bits' pack which have a very similar colour/feel.] 
I knew that, by using the techniques I'm about to show you, I could turn that flimsy, delicate, old cover into a sturdy book which I could look at, admire and handle for years to come! But equally you could use anything at all to decorate yours.

In the tutorial I'll provide you with a handful of measurements just to give you an idea of the scale of the elements involved in my photos - but you can easily alter the sizes to suit your own preferences.

So let's make a start ...

  • Enough sturdy cardboard to make two book covers. This can be greyboard/chipboard, any re-purposed packaging or even simply the backs from two notepads!
  • Corrugated card
  • Strong double-sided tape [eg. ATG gun / red line tape] or glue
  • A craft knife and ruler
  • Some sort of hole-punch [preferably a long-reach one [eg. Crop-a-dile] or a hand held bookbinders' tool]
  • 2 hinged bookrings [available here if you need some]
1. Cut two rectangles of stiff card for your covers:
Mine were cut from some old packaging and measured 15x19cm:
NB: Here I'd stuck my map covers on to the card already but you can decorate yours once you've completed the process; it doesn't make any real difference. Also ...

I didn't photograph the step where you need to punch holes and so ...

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you don't have a long-reach hole punch [like a Crop-a-dile] or book binding tools, you might want to make the holes for your book ring BEFORE fully assembling the book - while a regular depth punch might still fit! Just make two holes along the edge of each cover.

2. Next you'll need some corrugated card for the spine:
This should be fairly easy to find online but if you're having any problems then ...
  • Check the kids' crafting section of art/stationary shops; seemingly corrugated card is big in crafting for the under 5s! [NB: however may well not be nice neutral kraft coloured card. Lurid primaries are also big with the pre-school brigade!]
  • Try the parcel packing supply area of any stationary store. I found mine [which comes on a roll] at The Range, near the padded envelopes and parcel tape.
3. Now work out the size of your album's spine!

TOP TIP! Remember that corrugated card only curves around in one direction - make sure you cut it with the ridges facing in the right direction or you won't be able to bend the spine!
The corrugated card needs to measure:
  • the height of your journal
  • by a width which - once it's curved around, like a book spine, it will fit comfortably inside whatever book ring you plan to use.
** If you need a large book ring I sell the 3"/63mm ones I've used in this project here in my Etsy shop.

Plus ... it also depends on how thick you want to make the book!
It sounds more complicated than it actually is, once you've got the card and the book ring in your hands, you'll begin to get a feel for it. You can even test it out for size by placing a stack of papers inside - just to get an idea of the size you'll need.

However ... if you really don't know how big to make the spine [for example, if you don't know how thick your finished book will turn out]

... you can always add the corrugated card spine AT THE END OF YOUR PROJECT rather than at the start like I have here.

The principles are just the same, just make your covers punch your book ring holes and fill your book as you normally would. When you're finished remove the covers and join them together with a corrugated spine making sure to cover over the punched holes in your covers. Voila!

Once you've decided on the width of the corrugated card spine ...

4. Bridge the gap between your covers with the spine:
[This spine is approx. 12cm wide]

I ran a line of ATG tape down the edges of mine as I feel it needs a good strong adhesive to prevent it popping off! [Those curves have a natural inclination to spring back in the opposite direction!].

You might want to try ATG tape or strong red line tape or even a wet glue [but this will be a bit messier!].

TOP TIP! Whichever adhesive you use make sure to put it right up to the very edge - where the corrugated card meets the covers. This way it will help keep it flush and avoid it getting snagged and lifting up.

5. Flip over the joined covers to reveal the new spine:
At this stage - if you haven't already made holes [like I hadn't] and you have a long-reach hole punch or book binder's tools etc - you can mark out where you'd like the holes for the book ring. I punched them approximately 1cm in from the edge of the thick card of the cover.

Bend the book into a closed position to double-check you've left enough space or that you haven't gone too far in! Think of the spine as there just to hug around the edge of your pages.

6. Add another section of corrugated card to the inside of the spine to strengthen it:
Re-punch the holes , where the new layer of card will have covered them over, and finally decorate your inside covers!

7. Add in the book rings and start to fill your newly-bound book-style-spine junk journal!
So that's all there is to it; it doesn't really need to be an exact art ... but it's a nice simple way to create the artisanal feel of a hand bound book .. without the expertise!

Here are a few more examples of my spine-bound albums so you can see how the method works both in a different scale .. and using a different material too.

More inspiration!
[A] My '30 Postcards to Myself' journal:
This is a smaller scale [approx. 11x16cm] to the book in the tutorial, with just a single hole punched through and a fairly tight spine which - as I suggested above - I made once I'd added all my pages to the book, so I knew how big to make it:

 [you can read more about this project here]:
[B] A mini Christmas planner / album / tag book [approx. 8x12cm]:
This featured in my '10 Ways with Corrugated Card' feature which was published in Papercraft Inspirations magazine last year:
And finally ...
[C] A fabric alternative to corrugated card:
Using the exact same method as in the tutorial I made the spine of this travel journal from self-adhesive fabric paper. [Rather than just rely on the pre-existing adhesive I also used my strong tape along the edges just to be sure!]. Adding the strip of fabric on the inside of the spine adds a decorative touch as well as helping to reinforce the strength.

You could use regular fabric too; heavier weights like denim and canvas would work well for sturdy spines while flimsy fabrics, though not strictly structural, could still add an attractive finishing touch.

I hope you've found something here today that might spur you to go and pick up your crafting tools!

And if you have any questions or suggestions please get in touch in the comments or on my 'With Julie Kirk' Facebook page. 

If you've enjoyed this post please share it by whatever means you share things: Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, hieroglyphs ... mime ...

I truly appreciate any & all support for my free tutorials!

And don't forget you can rummage through lots more junk journal supplies and vintage papers in my shop.

Julie :-)


  1. That's such a great idea. Thank you :)

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  2. Love this idea. Now Ill have to hunt down some to use on my mini's. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Another great and inspiring idea! X

  4. I love this, it's is really a great way to gather up all sorts of wonderful things! I'd love to share it with a link back on my blog is you wouldn't mind?
    Shirley @Intelligent Domestications

    1. Absolutely Shirley - thank you for sharing it!

  5. Great looking albums Julie and thank you for sharing your method and tips!

  6. I'm a newbie at the junk journal land... I just got some good stuff at goodwill .... what is the best way to start the removing of pages out of my book. Best printable tag sites?

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