How To Replace Leather Book Covers

Lovers of old books are a rare breed in this era. Since the emergence of the Internet, books you hold in your hand are becoming obsolete. Seldom does one meet persons who love books for their esoteric value. When you do, it's a thrill to discuss ways of preserving books without covers. I've gathered a few tips on this craft, and would like to share with lovers of leather-bound tomes.

First, choose the leather you want to re-bind your book. While calfskin is popular, it's the thinner leathers you should use, unless it's for a very large tome. Goatskins are thinner and more supple, making it easier to apply to your base. Some calfskin may be thin enough, but you need to determine if you like the feel of it. Try for the 4-6 oz. grade.

Set up a work area where you can leave the work in progress, as you will be returning to it. You need a flat surface with weights or book presses. Other tools include exacto knives, different adhesives, marking pens and stiff paper on which to draw patterns. You may need sewing thread and needles appropriate to the leather you use.  And although exacto knives may do, scissors are usually handier.

Lay your book open-faced on your paper and trace about a quarter inch around it. Leave about another quarter inch to accommodate the bend of the spine. Mark out the pattern in separate pieces, or leave it all of a piece. For one piece, carefully mark and gouge the folds of the spine. Cut out the pattern and lay it on your leather. Don't angle the grain, but keep it smooth and straight. Trace around it, then cut it out.

Place your leather face down on your work area. Spread with leather cement. Let dry until it loses the shine. Now attach it to your book. Assuming it has a hard cover of sorts, apply the leather to this. Leave room for the corner pockets, as you will be doing those next.

Tuck corners and glue them in place. Choose your lining. You may use cloth, parchment, or cardstock paper. Cut these to fit the inside covers, leaving enough to fold down and in to make smooth edges. Again, apply your cement and let it dry to non-glossy.

Put the book in the binder or lay a heavy weight on it. Leave it for a few days, then display your work of art!


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