Create Signatures

If you turn a hardcover book on its end and look into its spine, you’ll likely see the pages grouped into signatures. Grouping pages like this makes the book’s spine much stronger and more durable, keeps pages from falling out (as sometimes happens in a perfect-bound book when the glue wears out), and allows larger books to lie flat, which will particularly come in handy for a magazine like this one, which contains instructions you’ll want to keep open for review as you work. Since our perfect-bound magazine is now just a collection of loose pages, we’ll now need to create the signatures.

Collect your pages into six groups of 32 pages each, discarding the leaf of ads. Clothespins do a good job of keeping them sorted while you work. (Note that I turned around the first page, so that the book now begins with the Table of Contents, rather than an ad—just a small personalization you might as well make if you’re going to all the trouble to hand-bind the darn thing anyway).


Start with the first group, moving the others to the side. Opening the group as if it were a book, split it in half, such that pages 16 and 17 are facing as verso (left) and recto (right) pages, respectively.


Now, pair pages 16 and 17 together and set them aside. The facing pages beneath those should be and 14 and 19. Keep them facing each other and set them aside. The next facing pages should be 12 and 21. Keep them facing and set them aside, and continue through in this way through the rest of the group.


Perhaps this grouping seems strange, but it serves an important purpose and must be followed precisely. You’ll now glue these facing pages as you’ve paired them, so they’ll retain the original sequence of the magazine when they’re folded together where pages 16 and 17 meet.

On page 16 (and, as you join the other pairs, on all verso pages in the group), make a mark 1/4″ from its right edge and use your ruler to extend the mark the height of the page.

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Cover the left side of the verso page with a piece of scrap paper (you’re going to use a lot of scrap paper for this project, so you might want to stock up now), up to the line you’ve drawn. Using an acid-free, nontoxic adhesive (I’m a YES! man, myself) and a brush, apply a thin coat of glue to the 1⁄4″ gulley on the right side of the page. Line the recto page up with your line to glue the two facing pages together.

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Do the same for each pair of leaves in the group and return them to the order the pairs were in when you first split the group in half.


Jog the group together to stack them evenly, and fold them along the center of the facing pages. Holding the outside edges of the pages and making a crease at the top and bottom first helps keep the fold uniform and centered. Optionally, and for the smoothest fold, use a bone folder (found by that name in the bookbinding section of most craft stores) to smooth out toward the crease. You’ve just completed your first signature.

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Do the same for each group of pages and collate the finished signatures in their original order.


To make sure your signatures remain in the correct order when you stitch them together, you might want to use a pencil to lightly sign each signature (this is where the term signature actually comes from) with a number near the spine. You’ve now turned your loose pages into a collection of folded and gathered sheets and are at stage of the publishing process known as F&Gs.



  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