Cover the Cover

To cover the unsightly skeleton you’ve created so far, you’ll now cover the exterior of the boards with a single piece of decorative paper, which will wrap around the front cover, back cover, and spine. To accommodate this wrap, use your utility knife slit the mull by 1/2″ where the covers meet the spine at both the head and foot edges; doing so creates room to slide the paper’s turnovers over the edges of both the covers and the boards.


Now, you’re ready for your paper. Pick a piece of decorative paper or cloth that suits your project. It should be thin enough to fold easily (I’ve learned the hard way how hard leather and thick cloth are to work with) but strong enough to hold up to glue and wear. The piece you use should be large enough to more than cover your front cover, back cover, and spine.

Lay your cover paper face down and use your carpenter’s square and pencil to measure and mark the placement of your boards. Allow a 1/2″ (or the thickness of four boards) turnover (the area of paper that extends beyond the edge of the board, which you will turn over to finish the edge) for all edges and 1/4″ (or the thickness of two boards for each hinge (the area between the spine and cover).

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Attach the spine to the cover paper where marked by brushing the paper with glue, positioning the spine board, and pressing firmly. Turn the paper over and rub the paper with your bone folder to secure the spine to the paper and gently mold the paper over the edges of the board.

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Next, attach the front cover board. Brush the area you’ve marked with glue, working from the center outward to just over the line and slightly into the turnovers and hinge. Position the board precisely between your marks and press down firmly. Turn the book over and rub down the exterior of the cover with your bone folder, pressing from the inside out to remove any air bubbles or wrinkles.

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Now, it’s time to attach the backboard. Apply the glue in the same way you brushed it on for the front cover. To position the board without creating any creases or wrinkles, hold the back cover board with one hand and lay its fore edge down on the paper, lining it up to meet your mark for that edge. With your other hand, pinch the paper to the board on that edge, and slowly work your hand along the back of the book, pressing the paper to the board as you go.

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Turn the book over and rub down the back cover with the bone folder, just as you did with the front cover, working the folder into the hinge to seal the paper to your book block around the spine. Turn the book over again and work the folder into the hinge of the front cover.

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Wrap the book in wax paper and press for a half hour in your press, vice, or under heavy weights.

Before folding the turnovers, you’ll need to miter the corners, removing the excess paper at the tip of the corner to prevent an unsightly (and potentially damaging, over time) bulge where the head (or foot) and fore edge fold over each other. Use your ruler and pencil to make a mark 1/4″ out from the corner of the board. Draw a line at a 45-degree and cut away the excess to create your miter. Miter the remaining three corners in the same way.

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You’re almost done. It’s time to fold over the turnovers. Lay the book open and brush a sparing amount of glue across the length of the head turnover. Folding this turnover can be a bit tricky. Stand the book up on its foot edge and use your fingers to gently roll the edges of the head turnover over the top of the board, working from the spine out toward the fore edges. You might need to use your bone folder to work the paper into the spine, since this area might be a little tight, even though you’ve slit the mull to accommodate the paper (without doing so would have made this step impossible). Do the same for the foot edge.

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Before pasting the turnovers on the fore edges, apply a small amount of glue in the crease at the corners and fold over a small portion of paper to create a neat hem. Doing so keeps the paper seam away from the edge of the book and covered by the endsheets.

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Brush the first fore edge with glue, fold the turnover, press it firmly, and smooth out any wrinkles or air bubbles.
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Use your bone folder to tap each of the corners to make them a little blunt. Removing the sharp edges will help protect the book from wear of sliding it on and off shelves.


Lay sheets of scrap paper between the cover boards and your book block of signatures, and press under heavy weights overnight.


  1. Introduction
  2. Strip the Existing Cover
  3. Create Signatures
  4. Prepare Signatures for Stitching
  5. Stitch the Signatures
  6. Glue the Spine
  7. Build Cover Boards
  8. Attach the Cover Boards
  9. Cover the Cover
  10. Finish Up