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Codex Book Binding

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Binding your own books is a great way to make a custom size/shape/paper type book to carry with you as a journal or sketch book or a way build a custom scrapbook for a specific event.  Codex book binding is an easy way to make a very polished hard cover book completely customized to meet your needs.

how to codex book binding, hardback book binding, and book making

Here is the full process in one video:

Before purchasing your materials decided an approximate size for your book.  The size you desire does impact the size of the materials you need to acquire.


Filler Paper –  Will be folded in half to create book so buy paper large enough to do this! (I’m using Gridded Paper)
Mat Board
End Paper – Also needs to be folded in half
Cover Paper – Large enough to cover the entire outside of the book plus a 1″/2.54cm margin which folds to the inside (I’m using an old road map)
Paste Glue like Yes or Mod Podge
Cutting Mat
Ruler – Cork Back preferred due to reduced slip risk
Straight Edge Blade – Xacto or Box Cutter with sharp blade
Cork Panels
Hand Sewing Needle
Paint Brush

Step 1) Prepare the Filler Paper 

To create a successful book you will need to make a series of codexes that will be sewn together.  Each codex should be 4-5 pieces of paper which will be folded in half and nested together.


Pull 4 sheets of your filler paper from the pack.

Fold each piece of paper in half.

Then nest them inside one another to create a small booklet aka codex.

Repeat this step until you have made all the codexes you require to make the size book you desire.

Step 2) Punch Holes for Sewing

Create a series of evenly spaced holes which you will use to sew the codexes together.  There need to be an even number of holes along the fold of the codes.   Holes should be spaced from 3/4″ – 1.25″ (2cm – 3cm) apart.  My gridded paper makes this step easy.  If you are using paper without evenly spaced lines stack all of your codexes together and mark the stitching points in the same places on each fold.


Open each codex ensuring that all the pages are nicely lined up and even.

Place open codexes on a cork board and punch through all layers of paper at the marked points with an awl.

Step 3) Clean Up Your Edges

You may have noticed that the papers which are folded together don’t line up at the open end.  This is part of the reason each codex is only about 4 pages folded in half.  The following step is optional but if you want your book to have a smooth edge (as most books have) you will want to do this.


Trim a small amount (1/8″ or 3mm) from the cut edge so all pages are even.  It is best to use something to make sure every codex is the same width like aligning all codexes the same way on a cutting mat.  Don’t attempt to cut through all layers with one pass – the paper will tear.  Using a straight edge blade and a ruler trim the open edges of the codex by applying a medium amount of pressure on the blade and taking several passes until all layers are cut through.

View Steps 1-3 in Video Form Here:

Step 4) Sew the Codex
Cut a piece of thread long enough to sew all codexes together.


Begin with the first codex.  Sew a running stitch through the holes – down through the first hole, up through the second, down through the third and so on.  If you punched an even number of holes the thread should end outside the fold when you reach the other end of the codex.  Leave a tail of 4″/10cm.

sewing a codex

To attach the next codex send the needle down through the first hole of the new codex and back up the second hole.  Then, send the needle down the second hole of the original codex and up through the third hole.

sewing a codex

Send the needle down through the 3rd hole of the new codex, up through the 4th.  Return the needle to the original codex going back and forth between the original and new codex until you reach the opposite end.


Use your awl to pull the threads taught.   When the codexes are sitting closely with one another, tie a square knot with the thread attached to the needle and the tail from the first codex.


Place a new codex next to the one you just attached and alternate between the new codex and the previous codex in the same manner.

sewing a codex

When you reach the opposite end of the codex there is a special type of knot to use.

sewing a codex

Before completing this knot make sure your threads are taught by using your awl to pull any slack from the thread.


Send the needle between the two previous codexes.

sewing a codex

Pull the slack of the thread through. A loop is created.  Send the needle though that loop and pull the thread tight.

sewing a codex

Here is the knot again at the other end of the book.

sewing a codex

sewing a codex

Continue sewing each additional codex to the previous codex in the same manner.  When all codexes are sewn together, tie off the thread with a proper square knot using the original thread tail left at the first codex.


Apply a coat of paste glue to the sewn edge to hold all those folds together. Set aside to dry.

Watch a Video of How To Sew the Codex Here:

Step 5) Measure Your Book

Before we can cut the cover boards and end papers we need to know the exact actual size the codex block is.  Take very careful measurements of the width, height, and depth of the codex. Write it down on a piece of paper as you will need it at a few different points through the next few steps.


Step 6) Cut Your Cover Boards

The cover boards are the heavy duty paper or cardboard that will make your book sturdy.  They will be completely covered and concealed.  Using simple white mat board is a good option because in addition to being sturdy it is acid free and therefore archival.


The cover boards for the front and back of the book need to be slightly larger than the codex block.  The overhang is up to you but it is standard to use a 1/8″/3mm overhang – but it is only added to 3 sides.


The cover will overhang the codex block at the top and bottom edges as well as the open side.  The folded edge of the codex block is the spine of the book and does not require an overhang.  Therefore…


Cut 2 cover boards which are 1/4″/6mm taller and 1/8″/3mm wider than the codex block.  The spine should measure the height of the codex block plus 1/4″/6mm overhang and be as wide as the depth of the codex block.

Step 7) Cut Your End Pages
The end pages or end papers connect the codex block to the cover.  These can be cut from a variety of papers including the paper used for the codex.  I cut mine from a bright blue art paper.


The end pages should be the same height as the codex block.  The width of the paper should be twice the width of the codex block. Fold the end pages in half to match the codex block.

Step 8) Cut Your Decorative Cover Paper or Fabric

The paper or fabric that covers the outside will naturally determine the look of the book.  For the photo tutorial shown here I am using an old road map for my cover paper because I liked the colors.  In the video tutorial version of this project I use fabric for the cover.  If using fabric find something of medium weight so it is sturdy and supports use.


The map has been folded up and in a drawer for many years (I think the map has a copyright date of 1989). The creases and folds of the road map are very set.

Before I measured and cut my map, I ironed it.  Use a cool iron, and slowly increase the temperature until the paper really begins to flatten and release the creases.  Keep the temp to the lowest necessary to get the job done so it does not discolor the paper.

The cover paper needs to be as large as the finished book plus a margin for wrapping around boards.


There needs to be a 1/8″/3mm gap between the cover boards and the spine for the book to work. Here is your required math for determining how wide the cover paper/fabric should be:


[1″/2.5cm margin] + [width of cover board] + [1/8″/3mm gap] + [width of spine]+ [1/8″/3mm gap] + [width of cover board] + [1″/2.5cm margin] = Cover Paper Width Measurement


The height of the cover paper is:


[1″/2.5cm margin] + [height of cover board] + [1″/2.5cm margin] = Cover Paper Height Measurement


If you have fancy or decorated cover material make sure you lay out your cover boards before cutting to ensure you will like the orientation of any decorative elements on the final book.

Watch Steps 5-8 in Video Form Here:

Step 9) Glue the Cover Boards to the Cover Paper/Fabric

If you are using paper with something printed on the back (like my map with the tourism promotional photos on the back) it is a good idea to test your glue/paper combo before you glue the whole thing only to find out that massive bleed-through occurred.

No notable bleed-though. All systems go.

When cutting the cover paper/fabric we discussed the required margin on the cover paper.  We added 1″/2.5cm around the whole thing.  When gluing the boards to the cover, you can place a ruler on the cover paper for alignment or before you get the glue out you can make tiny marks for aligning the corners of your cover board.

Apply a thin and consistent coat of paste glue (like Yes! or Mod Podge) to one side of one cover board.  Place the board glue-side down on the cover paper aligned properly with an even 1″/2.5cm margin from the cut edges.

Turn the board over and smooth out any spots or bubbles in the paper if necessary.

Let it dry completely under a weight.

Glue the spine in place leaving a 1/8″/3mm gap between the already glued cover board.

Apply a coat of glue to the over cover board and place with a 1/8″/3mm gap between the spine and the cover board.  Use a ruler to ensure that the cover boards are lined up.

Let it dry completely under a weight.

Step 10) Glue the End Pages to the Codex Block
The folded edge of the end page should be aligned to the folded edge of the codex block when glued together.

Apply a thin and consistent coat of paste glue to one side of the end pages.  Align the fold of the end page with the folded edge of the codex block when placing the end page glue side down to the codex block.


Let it dry completely under a weight.


Do the same to the other side of the codex block with the other end page.

Step 11) Finish the Edges of the Cover Paper

If you are working with paper pre-fold each corner of the cover paper over cover boards.  This is unnecessary with fabric.

Apply a small amount of glue under each corner and glue in place.  For best finished results, place the glued corner down on the cover board and fold the sides at the same time (without gluing the sides).  This with help the corner set into just the right shape.

Apply an even coat of glue to the long edges of the cover paper and press them to the cover board.

Apply an even coat of glue to the short edges of the cover paper and press to the cover board.

Step 12) Glue the Codex Block to the Cover

Make sure your cover boards and the end pages/codex block are all completely dry before gluing it all together.


Apply a thin consistent coat of paste glue to one of the end pages which are now attached to the codex block.  Align the folded edge of the codex block with the edge of the cover board.

Let it dry completely under a weight.


Apply a thin consistent layer of paste glue to the end page on the opposite end of the codex block.  Align it in the same way with the cover board and let it dry completely under a weight.

See How Everything Glues Together in Video Form Here:

Once it is dry your book is ready to go!