Make a Book Press

How to make a simple book press yourself!

You only need a few things to make your own book press and you may already have them laying around the house.

Here is what you need to make a simple book press:

  • Two clamps
  • Two boards
  • Two Bricks
  • Some Packing Tape

This video shows step by step how to make a simple book press.


Book Repair Expert

Need help with repairing your books?

How to Repair a Paperback Book

How to repair a paperback book that has come apart.

I made this video to cover several different paperback book repair problems. It also shows how to make a simple press to hold the book up to work on it.




Knife used for paperback repair

Buy this book repair knife to help you with your paperback repairs.

Good glue for paperback repair

This is the glue I use in the video.

Caring for Leather Books

The conservator recommendations for caring for leather books has changed in the 21st century.

The first thing to understand when considering leather care is that leather is made from the skin of animals the most common of which are calf, goat and sheep. Other, less well known leathers include pig, kangaroo and even fish. You may be familiar with all kinds of  leather in your life such as shoe leather, upholstery leather and clothing leather, but book leather is different in some significant ways mostly having to do with how it is tanned and finished. If you want more specific information on how book leather is made go to Hewit's newsletter called Skin Deep.  The quality of the leather on a specific book depends on many factors. The way the leather was tanned may make it more or less supple. The decorative dyeing techniques will also make a difference as to how they hold up over time. Some decorative treatments may include a wash of acid to create what is known as the "tree-calf" effect.

Most of this information on what kind of leather your book is covered with is a bit of a distraction.  The variations of animal and history of how the leather got to be how it is now only leads up to the significant question of what do we do for the leather now to preserve it? Actually more important than what kind of leather it is is whether or not it has a deep grain or a flat grain. Is the surface pebbly or smooth? You need to test any pebbly leathers with the products you choose to use because it can get stuck in the cracks and not come out with buffing.

More important than what kind of leather your book is covered in is to understand the condition of it. Pristine leather that is simply dull will respond really well to just the Hewit’s leather dressing. Hewit’s is not the typical leather dressing. Since the late 1960s it was determined through extensive testing by conservators that the old accepted formula of lanolin and neat’s foot oil did nothing to extend the longevity of leather and in fact added a danger to the text-block through overly generous applications of the oily substances. Hewit’s is the best of the new era of book care. It is a wax based product that helps seal the leather. The previous thought was to “feed” the leather but leather is not a living thing so it just soaked up the oils like a sponge. Books are different than shoes or saddles. Those things are out in the elements and are constantly rubbed and scraped. They are not expected to last forever. Treatments that are good for shoes and saddles are not good for delicate books. First look it over and see if the leather is intact.

Leather Treatments


  1. Clean: Dry-clean with gentle eraser If needed. Microfiber cloths are also good for this. Gentle "scrub" with humidified cloth
  2. Color: Before coloring scuffed leather, apply Klucel-G aka Cellugel(brand) to keep it from absorbing too much moisture.
  3. Correct: Probably nothing needs to be aligned if the leather is undamaged.
  4. Paste: Carefully! Too much moisture and pressure can damage the leather. Probably use Glue rather than Paste if anything needs attaching.
  5. Protect: Hewit’s leather dressing which is an archival esther wax that looks like milk. Don’t use actual milk, hand lotion or any oil-based products. Test first. This may not work well on Goatskin.



Note the change. I added Clean/Protect to the beginning.

  1. Clean/Protect: Don’t use regular methods. It will only make things worse. Moisture will turn it black and make it crispy.  Possibly scrape off icky bits with the knife and then use Klucel-G to seal the area (possibly the whole cover). Undamaged leather can be cleaned with a white polymer eraser such as Staedtler Mars.
  2. Color: Only after Klucel-G application. Only on the damaged areas. Less is more.
  3. Correct: Line up the pages and text block as needed.
  4. Paste: Paste is frequently the wrong thing to use for repairing damaged leather because paste is too wet. Use Glue instead, as dry as possible.
  5. Protect: SC6000, which is a thick pasty archival wax, is good for sealing really rough areas. Hewit’s Leather Dressing which is an archival anionically stabilized emulsion of hard ester wax. This is good for undamaged leather. Test first always. Don't use anything that is wet on damaged leather or suede.

Buy this Leather Book Care Kit to try small quantities of these products and have access to videos on their use.

Avoid using Archival Tape to Repair Pages

I put up this video and then regretted using the deceptive Buzz-feed like title and format. There is some good information here on archival tape though.

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Just send an e-mail to with the subject "Unveil."

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Archival Page Repair Instruction for Beginners

Page Repair Instruction to go with the SYB Page Repair Kit.


Some page repair is very simple and some is more complicated. Hopefully you will be able to follow the page repair instruction here to be able to achieve archival page repairs with ease. I have broken it down based on my book repair hierarchy.


What you will need is the Eraser and 320 grit sand paper (Included).

Erase gently especially when near an edge. When you are next to an edge consider holding down the area with your other hand and carefully erase only toward the edge. Sandpaper can help with some dirt removal. Avoid illustrations and text. Tear off a tiny piece of the sandpaper (the kind in the kit has a sticky back) and stick it on your finger.


You may need Color pencils, archival pens and the like (Not included).

Because of the infinite variety of color issues I have not included any coloring devices. However, there are many situations where it is not a bad idea. Note that it is important to add the color to any areas before you apply any adhesive. The adhesive seals the fibers making it harder for the color to soak in. Keep coloring to areas that are already abraded and for coloring the Japanese tissues used in the repairs. Be aware that coloring on your original item is very tricky and often not a good idea at all. One thing to watch out for is creating halos. This happens when you are trying to fill in an abraded area and you extend the new color beyond the edges of the "loss" onto the original color. Another thing to watch out for is color that soaks through. Acrylic paints and watercolors can be archival but are also tricky to work with. Many pens are not archival and can introduce acid or an odd sheen to your page. Try coloring the tissues before applying them.

Correct (Shape and Alignment) 

You will need Japanese tissue Thick and Thin (Included) to correct the tears. Be sure to align the scarf edges first!

  • Sekishu is about 30 g/m2
  • Hinging tissue is about 12  g/m2

Also needed:

  • Poor Man's Light Table (Included)
  • Water Brush (Included)

Keep alignment, shape, size, thickness in mind as you create your piece of tissue for the repair.


Never use PVA on page repairs (and yes, there are always exceptions)

  • Nori Paste (Included)
  • Brush (Included)

You can use the paste full thickness or water it down a bit. Clean the brush when you are through with soapy warm water. Store it brush side up. The paste will last longer stored in the fridge but will last a long time out of the fridge too.


You will need the Wax Paper (Included).

Rubbing the repair with wax paper after it is dry can help flatten the fibers of the repair and also help keep it from sticking in general.

What does your page look like?

Simple Tear with scarf edges:

Clean first with the eraser. Place a clean piece of card stock (heavy paper) into the tear.This way you can clean one edge of the tear at a time. Gently clean the area always moving the eraser towards the edge. Never rub across edges because you are likely to create a new tear. Be careful not to create glaring clean spots. Does the whole page need to be cleaned? If you clean this page are you going to have to clean all the pages? Try to keep the book looking homogeneous. Clean both sides

   The reason to clean the area first is that once you have added an adhesive to the area you will not be able to clean it as thoroughly again. 

     Decide which side of the page you want to apply the repair tissue. The verso is always preferred to the recto but if there is an illustration or text to consider you may choose to repair the recto. It is also ok to choose it because sometimes it is just easier to work on the recto. Place a clean piece of wax paper beneath the page with the tear. This is so that the paste won't accidentally transfer to the next page. Do you need a weight to help prop open the book and weight down the page so the tear lines up? A baby-food jar full of pennies or even just a can of soup is handy here. Make sure you have easy access to the tear you are working on.

For a simple, straight, scarf-edge tear you can tear pieces of the Hinging Tissue to the right length. It is already a typically good width for most tears. Tearing is better than cutting because it leaves longer fibers on the edges.

Place the bit of tissue onto some wax paper or any clean waste paper. You can squeeze some paste directly onto the brush and then apply it to the tissue. If you are doing a few repairs consider putting a tablespoon of paste in a cup and then thin it down with about a teaspoon of water. This should give you a nice consistency but feel free to adjust as necessary. Have a damp paper towel nearby safely in a container.  This is to clean your fingers off as needed.

Hold the tissue in place with your fingers as you brush the paste on. Try not to get paste on the other side of the tissue. Pick up the tissue carefully and transfer it to the tear. Clean your fingers now. One reason this method is far superior to tape is that if you put it in the wrong place you can just pick it up again and move it. If it dries in the wrong location just get it a bit damp again. Being reversible is one of the qualities that makes this an archival repair.

     Once the tissue is in place, put a bit of wax paper over it and rub it down a bit. Be careful about moisture here. Rubbing down too hard could cause the moisture from the paste to transfer to the paper so strongly that you can create a stain. If the area gets too wet you can avoid creating a stain by misting or dampening the area around it and then drying it carefully. Make sure your paste isn't too wet in the first place. Don't soak your paper with water. This is not supposed to be a wet repair.

Drying the repair can be as simple as letting it sit between sheets of clean wax paper with the book closed. The wax paper will absorb any moisture and keep the pages from sticking together. If you are in a hurry though, you could use a hair dryer. However, drying it quickly can cause warping. Ironing with a tacking iron (a small iron with no holes for steam) can be the best and fastest method. Be certain to protect your page with some silicone release paper also known as baking parchment. Never iron directly onto a page. Be extra careful to make sure you don't iron wax paper onto your page. The wax would transfer and just like crayons it is impossible to get out.

Cut tear (no scarf edges)

The only difference for this kind of tear is that you will most likely have to apply a tissue repair to both sides of the page.

Old Tape / New Tape

If you are repairing a page that has already been "repaired" with tape you have my sympathies. This is always just a little heartbreaking for me.  Tape has a "plastic" carrier and an adhesive layer. When you are dealing with the old yellow cellophane tape you can usually just pull or scrape off the old "plastic" layer. What is left is the sticky residue which has frequently been absorbed into the paper turning the whole area yellow or brown. This is a very acidic area now. You could use a spray de-acidifier to keep it from getting worse. If it is sticky you can try using a crepe eraser to remove the stickiness. Don't use any of those citrus chemical treatments you can buy at the hardware store. They are meant for non-porous objects. If you use them on paper or book-cloth or leather they will soak in and do more damage than the tape ever did. This area will be very fragile and won't hold up to general erasing or sanding well.

The important thing is to remove what you can and then cover the area with Japanese tissue and paste to protect the pages around it while strengthening the area that has been damaged. See Losses for how to create a fitted shape when the Hinging Tissue is too narrow to cover the area.

Most newer "plastic" tapes can be re-activated with heat. With careful application of heat and using a lifting implement of some sort you can painstakingly separate the "plastic" layer from the adhesive. Sometimes you can even get the adhesive layer off. A tacking iron and lifting knife are my preferred tools but heating pads and microspatulas are fine too. Remember that heat is dangerous to paper and fingers too. If the area is still sticky, use the Japanese tissue and paste to cover the area. You don't want your pages to stick together!

Losses (Holes)

Your page has a hole in it. You could always just approximate the area and tear a bit of Japanese tissue to cover it. But hey, we have this handy dandy "poor man's light table" and water brush right here! Place the plastic part of the light table over the hole and the black part under the hole. Now put the Sekishu (The heavier tissue) on top of the plastic part. Hold it in place with your fingers or with weights while you trace the hole shape with the water brush. The water creates a weakened area that you can then tear out. This may take a few tries to figure out how wet to make it and where to tear but you can get very precise. The in-fill only has to overlap the edge by about 1/16th of an inch. Sometimes it makes sense to use more than one layer. If that is the case, create all your layers before attaching any of them. There are many different thicknesses of Japanese tissue out there. I have included the thinner Hinging Tissue and the thicker Sekishu. Try or for other varieties.

How to Tint Japanese tissue for Book Repair

 How to Tint Japanese tissue for Book Repair

I only learned how to tint Japanese tissue for book repair after many years of making do with whatever colors I already had around. When I finally did start color matching myself I couldn't believe how easy it was to at least get really close. Getting an exact match took longer but it is a fun process anyway so I do recommend trying it. And it only requires a few tools and materials.
A small but deep cup
A brush (maybe 1/4 inch or 1/2 inch wide).

Something to paint on that the paint won't stick to like glass, pyrex, plexiglass, or what I have here is an enamel photo processing tray.

Japanese tissue. I am using Sekishu here but many others will work fine too.
A Water Spray Bottle (optional)
The Acrylic Paints that will make the right color for you. That will be different for each situation but here is a list of a few sort of standard colors for paper. I like Golden paints particularly.
Titan Buff
White (whatever kind)
Raw Umber
Burnt Umber
Yellow Oxide

You will only need a small amount of each. A pea sized dollop is a good way to start but with fluid paints two or three drops will work.
Some colors go further than others meaning that it is best to start with tiny amounts until you get a sense for how much the addition will change the overall color.

After mixing the colors with no water added (or just a tiny bit), use the spray bottle to add water a bit add a time. The spray helps it blend in faster but you can just dribble some water in if you don't have a spray bottle handy.

Watch for lumps. It should be watery like milk rather than cream. You will need at least a 1/4 to a 1/2 cup of liquid to make it easy enough to paint with.

When you think you are getting close to the color you need, hold the cup near the object you are trying to match (end-sheet, page or cloth cover) to take a look. Don’t spill!

When you think you have a good match test it out on a bit of the paper you are going to color. Dry it. The color will change so make sure it is really dry. Hold it next to the paper you are trying to match. Notice: Too dark, too light? Needs more red or yellow?
This may take a long time to match the first few times but you will get faster at it. I think my first color match took 2 hours! Now it can be 15 minutes.

There is a color wheel that I have always liked called the Analogous Color Wheel. It is for oil paints but I like the muted colors. It can help you to see what direction to take the color in.

Hal Reed's Analogous Color Wheel

Once you have the color, get a bigger paint brush. I like a two inch Purdy for this. I used an enamel photo processing tray, but you could use anything so that the paint won’t stick to it.

Paint away. Fairly quickly to avoid leaving brush strokes.

Peel it up while it is still wet and then dry it. You still have to check to see if the color is accurate so waiting for it to dry can be annoying.

I will typically use a bit of paper towel to dry it but be careful. Letting wet paper sit on top of any pattern can imprint that pattern into your paper. So keep it moving!

You can use a hair dryer too of course.

Typically I will make a batch of several sheets of slightly different colors to match different books. This saves a lot of time.

Here is the book I was working on.

I matched the Japanese tissue for the hinge color.

For more on how to actually match colors, this Members Only Blog post and video will help.  go to…restoration-less/

Replace a Book Spine with Cloth

How to replace a book spine with cloth.

Repair or replace a book spine yourself. Here I will show you a fairly simple way to do it with very few tools. This particular book had the inner hinges intact and so I show how to replace the whole spine without removing the boards. In some ways this is easier than removing the boards. At least you don't need to wonder about how big the joint space should be. The video talks about different kinds of book-cloth and dyeing regular unbleached muslin to make your own book-cloth.

This is the shorter version of this video. Members have access to the longer one with more details.

Note from the video:

To create an inset panel for a label you need to line the case spine with a laminated paper liner. The first part of the liner will be board height by spine width. The second part requires that you make the label for the book which should be the width of the spine minus one sixteenth of an inch. and the height necessary to accommodate the title. Place the label on the first liner where you want it to be. Don't attach it. Then measure the parts that are uncovered and create two new pieces to be attached above and below the label. This side will be attached to the case. When you are attaching it to the case, make sure you emphasize the indentation. It is a good idea to make the label as a rough cut in case you need to trim it a bit to fit well.



Page Repair: Filling in Losses

This is the quick fix version on how to fill in losses (holes) in a page. With only Japanese tissue and paste it is easy to make a page whole again.



What is Red Rot?

What if your leather book has red rot. What is that?

Red Rot on Leather Books

Example of Red Rot

Red Rot or Red Decay is the term used to describe the decayed condition of leather or the process of becoming decayed. A book could be said to be suffering from red rot... and you could also say that the red rot (meaning the powdery red stuff) is getting all over my fingers when I handle the book.

According to the Roberts and Etherington Dictionary of terms called "Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books" red rot includes book leather that has become "hardened and embrittled"  but is more commonly known as leather decay that is dry and powdery.

Leather Book Care Kit for fixing red rot

Leather Book Care Kit

This kit includes Klucel-G the consolidant, SC6000 the sealant, and Hewit's Leather Dressing for polishing undamaged leather.

The AIC (American Institute for Conservation) Wiki page tells us that red rot is mostly the result of sulfuric acid that was part of the leather tanning process (especially vegetable tanned leathers). There is no cure for red rot; no reversal in any case. But there is a recommended treatment. It is suggested that the best treatment is a mixture of Klucel-G and SC6000 but creating the mixture is not simple since the SC6000 doesn't mix well. I have had very good luck using the Klucel-G and then applying the SC6000 as a sealant afterwards and so that is what I recommend.

Be sure to use a mask and consider using gloves whenever handling red rot. The fibers are insidious and can cause skin irritation when handled. Don't breathe it in! Sneezing on your books is never a good idea and you don't want that stuff in your lungs!

Also, Never use Klucel-G or SC6000 on Suede. Suede will darken and become stiff if you add moisture of any kind.