DIY Leather Rebind

I came across J. Mark Bertrand’s Bible Design Blog and love just about everything I read there. His reviews of fine Bibles leave me longing for Bibles I don’t have. I don’t have the money to invest in those super high quality Bibles. When he had a guest post by Matthew Everhard about DIY Leather Rebinds I was intrigued. After watching several DIY book binding videos on youtube I felt ready to try it myself.

I was ready to try rebinding my favorite Bibles, but my wife gave me wise counsel to practice on Bibles I wasn’t as attached to, and work my way up to the Bibles that are irreplaceable.

So my test subjects are a 1977 NASB, and a NA27/NRSV Greek English diglot. Both Bibles had a thin cardboard cover with flexiplastic coating on the outside. The NA27 diglot has already experienced cracking and fraying along the spine and edges. Notice the nice black duct tape book repairs that had already been done.

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Duct tape doesn’t last as long as you would think. So this one really needed to be repaired. I used scissors to cut along the spine, then gently pulled the cover away from the end sheets.

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The NA27 diglot has beautiful maps on the end pages, I really wanted to preserve them. It wasn’t perfect, but I was able to keep most of the maps. The ’77 NASB lost the first few pages, but the rest of the text block including the back end sheet remained in tact.

I glued the front pages back on the ’77 NASB, and added new ribbons and new headbands. I obtained some nice leather on amazon from Reed Leather Hides. Burgandy sheep skin and green lamb skin, both were in great condition. The skins were expensive, but they will cover a number of Bibles. I went to the local fabric store and got some vinyl fabric for the interior liner.

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I used the green lambskin on the ’77 NASB, there is only a thin sheet of cardboard (cereal box) on the spine, dark brown ribbons, and a tan vinyl interior.

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For the NA27 diglot, I used the burgandy sheepskin, gold ribbons and the same tan vinyl interior, and the same cardboard spine.

I didn’t try to add bands on the spines, or do anything fancy. There is special PVA book binding glue. I used Elmer’s Glue All, I think it is also PVA. It seems to keep arts and crafts just fine, it’s easy to obtain, and it’s not expensive. I used my weightlifting weights for my book press. About 15 lbs to press both books.

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For the NA27 diglot, I tried to use cardstock paper as an end sheet, and linen fabric over it to give a nice texture. It’s not beautiful, but I think I could polish it up to be a nice end sheet. I totally failed on skiving the leather. I probably didn’t get my knife sharp enough. I’m a long way from nice rounded corners like I wanted. Also, vinyl probably isn’t the best choice for the liner, there is already cracking along the crease. I’ll look into other fabrics on future rebinds.

It was a fun process. It makes me want to pick up these two Bibles more as well. They aren’t perfect. I have so much room for improvement. But the leather smells really nice, it is a major upgrade over the plastic on cardboard covers these Bibles had prior to the rebind.

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