Chapbook Tutorial

I’ve been crafting hand bound poetry chapbooks which are available right now on my Etsy shop, and I thought it might be neat to do a bit of a pictorial tutorial on how to make your own if you were moved to do so. Please understand that I am a novice, having researched various methods and found a system that works for me. It may work for you too and it may not, however this is a highly customizable medium which you can adjust as you go based on your personal skill level. Let’s begin!
1. WRITE, MOTHERFUCKER!!! 


Whatever your passion may be, sit down and get it done. Poetry, prose, short stories, a model by model review of the latest hot wheels toys… The topic matter doesn’t matter. What matters is that you create. You need content for these chapbooks, right? Sit your ass down and do it! Go with your passions. Go with what speaks to you. Write for you, first and foremost. The readers will notice and appreciate this fact. 
-Tools Required: Your hands, computer or writing implement, your goddamned beautiful mind. 

2. Compile Your Content


Choose pieces of poetry, prose, short stories, whatever it is that you can’t stop writing about. I find it best to choose a theme, so that the pieces within the book are cohesive and speak the same language for the reader. Themes are not a requirement, however if you want to showcase certain areas of your work, I highly suggest going with one. 

Once the pieces are chosen, choose a title that is fitting based on your chosen theme. Try choosing something that can instantly cue the reader in on what they can expect within. Or don’t. These things are highly personal and whatever you feel you want and need to do, do it. 

Once you’ve chosen content, and possibly a title, you can decide whether you’d like to include cover art or not. Again, this is your book, let it speak with your voice. 

You will then need to compile the content in a word processing program. Before you slap me, let me tell you about the glorious Google and how simple templates that are compatible with your word processing software are a keyword search away:


 For my projects I simply plugged in the kind of template I wanted and which processing program I utilize and voila! The Internet coughed up more than enough choices for my needs. Most word processing software also come with built in templates for things like booklets and brochures that will probably suit you just fine, especially if you are looking for more of a blank slate. A template will hold your hand better, might lean in for a kiss, and if you’re a beginner you will need this sort of courtship at first before you get comfortable with your word program. 

I use a template that uses standard 8.5 x 11 paper which is folded once to create the chapbook. There are many different types of templates, some that involve folding the paper twice, but if you’re just starting out, I suggest keeping it as simple as possible. 

-Tools Required: CONTENT, A digital device of some sort with word processing software, the Google, Template that suits your needs, moxy. 

(Keep in mind that if you can hand write each piece if you so desire, however you must keep in mind the volume at which you plan on producing them and your sanity. As always, go with your heart.)

3. Choose your weapons


You’re gonna need a shit load of paper. This is my favorite stage as it is one of the more creative ones. After the technical organization of your work, you’ll relish it. It is also the most intimidating part. There are so many different types of papers to choose from, from artisan handmade paper to simple printer paper. Take into account your theme and go from there. I also suggest using cardstock for your cover. Not only is it more durable, but I feel it gives the chapbook a more professional quality. Cardstock and paper that are home printer compatible come in a variety of colors and textures, even metallics, so you are bound to find something fitting that is also within your budget. I want to reiterate that this is the most personal step beyond creating your content. So, if you want old newsprint for your cover or found paper like from old books or maps or thrift store finds, have at it. Make sure interior pages aren’t too busy and will print legibly.

-Tools Required: Hella paper

4. PRINT THAT BITCH


Once Content has been created and compiled with a suitable template, and you have chosen your materials, you are now ready to print. Don’t ask me why, but this stage had me nervous as fuck. I’d never tried it. If you’re nervous as fuck as well, take heart and remind yourself that you are simply at the prototype phase. This baby will never have to see the light of day if you hate it or screw it up. You’re simply getting comfortable with the process. Give yourself some wiggle room for mistakes. And buy a cheap ream of standard printer paper for this stage (buy recycled and recycle the leavins), or use scrap paper so that you’re not wasting the good stuff on goofs. 

The template I’ve chosen requires printing on both sides, and unless you have ultra mega printer 5000 at home, you’ll need to babysit each printing a tad to ensure its done correctly. I hand feed the appropriate papers into my machine, starting with my cover cardstock. Using scrap paper first, test the printing method needed for your template. Mine prints cover first and then final page second which doesn’t require printing on the back. The third page is when double sided printing begins. Your printer will make all sorts of noises at you when you hand feed the pages for double sided printing, but just ignore it. It’ll quiet down when you feed it. Once you’re comfortable with the printing process, break out your chosen paper and hazard a prototype with it.

-Tools Required: Standard home printer, patience, curse jar, voodoo rituals.

5. PLAY TIME


I’m going to list the required tools here first otherwise not a goddamned thing I say will make any sense. 

From left to right in the above picture: 

-Spool of waxed linen thread

-Bone Folder (metal as fuck)

-Xacto knife

-Bookbinding needle

-Beeswax (if your thread isn’t waxed. This prevents tearing as the book is used.)

-Various sizes of paper awls

All of these glorious bastards are sitting on a self healing craft mat which will ensure you don’t carve the hell out of your dining room table or desk. 

6. Holes & Fold

Once your pages are printed (I also suggest trying this stage out on the scrap/cheap stuff) you will arrange the paper on the self healing mat in chronological order thusly: 


Keep in mind to flip through the loose leaf to ensure that it is indeed chronological.

Here is where you can make a choice. You can make the hole for the binding at this stage for a neater hole appearance. Find the center of the paper and start making holes by applying steady pressure to the awl. Against the mat, this may require you to turn the awl back and forth to puncture all of the pages properly: 


Using this method will create a cleaner puncture but can present problems if you are not exactly center when it comes time for binding. My binding method requires 5 holes down the center. I chose this to ensure greater longevity and durability, however there are methods that require more or less. These methods are easily searchable online. Find one that fits your wants and skill level. The end result should look like this: 


There are probably folks who are more exacting than I, who can use rulers to ensure proper distances between punctures, however I am not one of those folks. I also really enjoy knowing that every single chapbook I make is unique in my imperfections. 

Using this method, once your holes are created, it’s time to fold:


Make the initial fold by hand, ensuring that the edges are aligned. 

For the second puncture method, the steps are reversed. Fold your paper first in the way pictured above and then you have a crease guide for your puncture alignment. I use this method, though it gives the paper a more ragged quality, because it helps align the punctures better and allows you to see the structure of the book before the holes are in place. Every one will be slightly different because you’re not a machine. There will be overhang or differing distances. This adds to the book in my opinion, rather than subtracts. 

-Tools Required: your printed project, craft mat, paper awl, self loathing, forgiveness

7. Sew That Shit


Measure out your waxed linen thread to twice the width of your folded book, ensuring you have enough thread for the entire binding 

With your bookbinding needle and waxed linen thread, start at the center hole and thread through:


The method I choose calls for you to thread through the inside for the initial stitch, so that any knotting would remain on the inside. However I liked the aesthetic of the knot on the outside and begin my stitch from the outside. Ensure length remains on the outside for tying at the end: 


Stitch up to the first hole above the center and pull taught: 


Stitch back through the top hole and pull taught: 


Thread back through the second hole working your way back down: 


Now skip the center hole and stitch into the one after it: 


Repeat the steps you followed for the first two stitches, sewing down to the bottom hole first and then back up to center:

You should wind up with both ends on the outside of the center hole: 

Remove the needle and tie in a bow: 

Finally, finish the edges with your bone folder. Any straight edge will do, but please tell me who wouldn’t want to use something called a motherfuckin bone folder? 

-Tools Required: your printed project, bookbinding needle, waxed linen thread, bone folder, for your soul to leave your body a couple of times, stimulants and or depressants, broken heart

Guess what
Guess.
You just made yourself a GOTDAMN BOOK!! 
Cradle that shit and cry. Not saying that’s what I did when I was done… What? Why are you looking at me like that? Ok I did. 
Enjoy! 

Leave comments with any questions you may have, and keep creating! 

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4 thoughts on “Chapbook Tutorial

  1. You have helped renew my passion for writing. I have been in such a drought wondering who would be interested in what I write…but I realize that doesn’t matter. Thank you for your inspiration.

    Like

  2. Thank you so much for this tutorial. I stumbled upon your blog, whilst searching for ways to hand make a chapbook. Love your blog!

    Like

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