Glue the Spine

We now need to attach the mull (a strip of cloth) to the spine and tapes. Connecting cover boards to the mull, rather than directly to the signatures themselves, allows for a strong but flexible backbone (hint: this is the key to creating our lay-flat binding), reinforcing the spine and giving you something to connect the front and back covers to. The best cloth to use for mull is white linen fabric with a weave that’s loose enough to allow sufficient paste penetration but tight enough to remain strong under pressure. Your knowledgeable craft store clerk should direct you to the perfect cloth specific to this task.

Making sure to keep the work even on all sides and the spine straight, tighten your work in a press and tub. If you don’t have one of these lying around (and if this is your first bookbinding project, chances are, you don’t), no worries: a vice should work just as well. Just make sure to protect the work from any harsh edges of the vice.


Cut a piece of mull tall enough to cover your kettlestitches and three inches wider than the width of the spine.


Brush a generous amount of glue from the head kettlestitches to the foot kettlestitches and the full width of the spine, including the portions of the tapes that rest over the spine (don’t paste the free ends of the tapes).


Measure 1 1/2″ in from either side of the mull to mark the area where it will attach to the spine. Then, generously brush the spine area with glue.

Brushing Glue on Mull

Attach the mull to the spine, covering the head and foot kettlestitches, and work the cloth into the spine with your fingers and a clean, dry rag until the glue is set (brush on a little more glue, if necessary). Leave in the press to dry overnight. Your basic book block is now (finally!) ready to bind.

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  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