Instructions: Linked Hinge Binding, a Dreamed Structure

On February 16, 2019, I woke up with a book structure. But that only meant I had an idea; I've tried out dream bindings in the past and sometimes they only work in the dream, but when I put this one together I was pleased to see that it works in waking life as well.

It has elements of the Crossed-Structure Binding by Carmencho Arregui and the Piano Hinge Binding by Hedi Kyle. But it is glued, not sewn like CSB, and the pattern involves the whole structure, not just the cover. It has the alternating effect like Piano Hinge, but there are no extra rods or pieces. It also is comprised of single sheets, which is like neither of the two. It also has the spine pattern like my spouse Michael's Slot and Tab. So, while it seems to have the flavor of a little of this, a little of the other, it is its own self.

I'm calling it "Linked Hinge Binding" since the pages link at the spine with tabbed hinges. While you could case it into hard covers, the spine is attractive and sturdy, so I'm letting it show and just using folded paper covers front and back. It opens flat for writing or drawing, and it is flexible enough to open 360 degrees and stay there.

I made three models before I took photos for the instructions. I started by using scraps of Stonehenge, a heavyweight 100% cotton printmaking paper. It tended to leave indentations on the pages, so the tabs would work as spacers if I had art tipped in with photocorners or a little collage on each page. This one has eight pages plus Stonehenge black covers front and back, and is just over one-quarter inch thick.

Second model was with Canson Mi-Teintes paper. It is a medium-weight paper, often used for drawing and bookbinding, and it worked very well for this structure. The color possibilities are intriguing. I just used scraps that I already had to see how that might work if you alternated colors. This model has ten pages plus Stonehenge covers front and back, and is one-quarter inch thick.

After making the two I suddenly remembered that the book in my dream was earth-colored, very textural. Naturally, I had to use my last two pieces of Velma's eco-contact-printed paper (you can see the papers at the previous post here). Her printing was created on Arches Text Wove, a favorite of calligraphers, and it, too worked beautifully. The miniature book (under 3" in any direction) with Velma's paper was the look I wanted. It would be nice to see a larger size so the paper is more prominent, but that's the last of what I had. This one has sixteen pages plus covers front and back, and is just under one-half inch thick. It has a bit of tendency to pop open, which I think could be remedied by a thicker cover paper, a belly band, a closure, a slipcase, or just a wider paper to start. The miniature book has half-inch instead of one-inch tabs.

Here, then, are the instructions for the Linked Hinge Binding!

Tools: pencil, metal ruler, bone folder, X-Acto knife and cutting mat, scissors, PVA (with squeeze top or use a paper plate or palette and a small piece of board or brush to spread it)

Materials: 8-16+ pieces of paper, 5" square; 2 cover papers, 8.25 x 5" (grained short); one piece of sturdy paper or cardstock, 5" high, for a template; waxed paper to protect your work surface and pieces of waxed paper to interleave while the book dries (optional, but just in case); heavy book or clamp or clothespins (optional)

For this example, the completed book will be 4.5"w x 5"h, made from painted Arches Text Wove. This size fits comfortably in my hand and would travel well. This model has ten pages and is one- quarter inch thick.

1. Test for the grain of each piece of the square papers by bending gently in one direction, then bending gently perpendicularly. The easier it is, that is the grain direction. Orient the papers so the grain is all vertical, which will be parallel to the spine.

2. Measure and mark 1" from the left edge, top and bottom. Align the ruler with the marks and make a score with the bone folder, connecting the marks. (You can also use a gridded mat for this and omit the marks.) Mark the template paper as well, but draw a line with a pencil rather than a score. (Right-handed folks, this is easier to do from the right edge, so if the papers are patterned, keep that in mind because you will be rotating the pages 180 degrees.)

3. On the template paper, measure and mark at one-inch intervals along the 5" side and along the parallel pencil line. Connect the marks so you now have drawn five squares.

4. Cut out squares 2 and 4. This is your final template.

5. Align the template over each of the pages in turn and draw horizontal lines.

6. With a scissors or knife against the metal ruler, cut slits on the lines.

7. Set one paper aside. This will be your first page. All tabs need to stay intact on the first page.

8. Divide the rest of the pages into two piles. You'll have one extra in one of the piles.

9. In the pile with the extra page, use the knife against the ruler to cut out squares 2 and 4 in each sheet, one at a time. (For right-handed folks, it will help to orient the pages so the score is on the right.)

10. In the remaining pile, use the knife against the ruler to cut out squares 1-3-5.

11. Get your glue ready. Take your first page (the one with slits only), and bend up tabs 1-3-5.

12. Flip the page over. Align the back of page two (one with tabs 1-3-5) with page one and from page one, bend up tabs 2-4.

13. Apply glue to the two tabs and press down onto the back of page two. (You will be working front to back, pressing down firmly on the glued tabs as you go.)

14. Align third page (with tabs 2-4) with page two. Apply glue to tabs 1-3-5 from page two and press down to back of third page.

15. Continue to alternate and glue tabs interlocking the pages, linking the hinges. (You will notice that whatever tabs you just glued is a signal to the type of page that comes next.)

Adding the Covers (the folds will be at the fore edge)
16. Fold each of the cover papers in half the short way, to make a nearly square shape.

17. On the last page of the book, apply glue to the exposed side of the tabs 1-3-5 and slide one open end of one of the cover pieces under it. Make sure it is aligned. Press down. (The fold is at the fore edge.)

18. Apply glue to the top of the tabs and press the cover into place.

19. Repeat steps 17 and 18 for the front cover, gluing and sandwiching the exposed tabs between the folded cover paper, the fold at the fore edge.

20. Hold together at the spine for a few minutes, or wrap and interleave with waxed paper and clamp or press under a heavy book for an hour or overnight. (I used a few clothespins for the miniature book.)

21. Check the pages when the book is dry. You may need to re-glue a few of the tabs, especially if the paper has been painted, treated, or sized like the Arches Text Wove.

Linked Hinge Binding

I've found that five tabs, with three tabs connecting the covers front and back, make a sturdy book, so I would recommend a minimum of five tabs; for a larger book or smaller tabs you could use seven or nine, but an odd number will be the most secure. Save yourself some measuring time by using a divider to mark out the tabs.

Here's another model with Arches Text Wove that I soaked in a combination of tea leaves, turmeric, rock salt, and hot water in a rusty jelly roll pan for about thirty minutes. Kitchen counter dyeing! Turmeric has been used for centuries in palm leaf books in India as a coloring agent, and also as an insect repellent. A sunny yellow. I dried the dyed paper flat on a scrap of Stonehenge, then decided to use the stained Stonehenge paper for the covers. This book has 15 pages (but would have been sturdier with an even number, 14 or 16) and is about one-half inch thick. The final book measures 3.5 x 4.5".

With the sun shining through you can see the shadows.
Three glued tabs show on the left, shadow of two glued tabs on the right.

The covers could be made from folded book cloth, or make a thicker book cloth cover by backing cloth with Stonehenge or other thick printmaking paper. Try experimenting with the size and number of the tabs, size and number of pages, the colors and textures. Many possibilities!


Leslie said…
I love this--that it came to you in a dream and also, your as=ever generous spirit in sharing it with us. Thank you, Alisa:)
Alisa said…
You are very welcome, Leslie! The book culture that nourishes me is one of sharing, so I hope to keep that spirit flowing.
Me said…
Amazing dream; thanks for sharing. Took me a couple of tries with scrap paper to get it right (the instructions are fine; I just needed to pay more attention.) Then I made a 4-page one with colored printer paper, cardstock covers, and a glue stick for practice. I think this is a really good example for a beginner to illustrae the importance of very careful measuring, cutting, and assembling since you end up with something that is useable but where you can easily see the direct causes of slight imperfections: in my case misalignment and a slight gap between front cover and spine.

Alisa said…
Great to hear about your efforts, and I'm glad the instructions worked out. Ah, yes, accuracy and precision in measuring and cutting and assembling! A great way to slow down.However it comes out, I hope people can feel comfortable writing or drawing in it, too.
Jessyca said…
Hi Alisa: Thanks so much for posting this. I just made the reverse piano hinge today, that I had found on your site a while ago. I went to post some photos of my adventures with it on Instagram and wanted to credit you, and when I came back, found this post! A dream, really? How great is that? I can't wait to try this one.

Thank you for taking the time to share these and with such clear and detailed instructions. Your generosity of spirit shines through.
Alisa said…
Wow, Jessica, that's great! And thanks so much for your kind words. Feel free to email me with the link to your post!
Alisa said…
Friends, Readers, Lurkers,
If you make one, please send me a jpg or two. If I get a few, I'll post them all together. I'd love to see and share how you approach it!
Jan said…
This is a really fun structure, and a good use of scraps.
Is it right that the first open page doesn't show hinges, or have I missed something?
Alisa said…
Thanks. Yes, good eyes! That's right: no hinges show on the front or back of the first page. The forward hinges are sandwiched between the covers, the back hinges go behind the second page.
Jan said…
Thanks for this gift to us bookies. Very nice of you.
Alisa said…
You're welcome, Janice. If you make one, please do send me a photo!
Me said…
I too at first wondered why no hinges on the 1st page but then realized, as you explained, why not. However, I liked the appearance better when I glued in some discarded tabs so the first page has the same appearance as the others. (Plus if you do it carefully it makes it harder to figure out how the book works when looking at a finished one!)

Now two questions:
(1) Is there any reason not to add extra pages at the beginning and at the end that are just held in by the covers? They would need to be glued in at the same time as the tabs that hold the covers on.
(2) Is there any reason not to put the covers on upside down and turn the whole book upside down if you prefer to have the tabs on the right-hand pages of a spread?

Alisa said…
I kind of like the first page being the title page, so it could be different from the rest, but I can see why you like the symmetry of it.

For (1) My first thought is that you could add extra pages front and back and you would only need a score and fold; you wouldn't need to cut any tabs. It sounds like they would still be connected to the tabs, so that could work. It might make the cover bulkier at the spine, though. But it is always good to try it out! as for (2), there is not any structural reason for the tabs to be on the back, so whatever you like!

My preference for working out structures is to make them as streamlined as possible, but there are endless variations! Have fun!
Anonymous said…
Thank you so very much for sharing this info - I made my first hinge book today and am so pleased!
I used some of my misunderstood watercolour paintings and I will make a few more books!
Your generosity of sharing this tutorial is much appreciated.
Ursula Kuisma

Alisa said…
Ursula, that's wonderful! I'd love to see it. Will you send me a picture of it?
jonna said…
I will certainly try to make your dream. It looks so nice!
kind regards, jonna
Alisa said…
Thank you, jonna!
gerry said…
I've had this on my to-do list and finally had a chance to make one today. It's an interesting structure! I used Fabriano Artistisco soft press watercolor paper for pages and cover, and plan to use the finished book for sketching. looks good, but my spine slants at about a 45 degree angle, rather than forming a 90 degree angle with the covers. any idea what I could have done better?

thank you for taking the time to create these instructions and share them!
Alisa said…
Hi gerry,
Thanks for writing! Best guess on the slant is that the pages weren't exactly aligned when you glued the hinges in place. If every page walks even 1 mm, by the last page you would end up with a slanted spine. Probably the easiest area to watch is the fore edge, the part of the book opposite the spine: making sure all the pages are perfectly even as you go. Each paper may have its own issues, too, so always good to make at least two.
Keep on going!
Alisa said…
One more note regarding a slanted spine: this structure is all about precision, so all the pages must be exactly the same, and why the template is important and necessary.
gerry said…
Thank you very much for your suggestions! will try again with a new template and with cut, rather than torn pages this time, as that may have contributed to the imprecise alignment.
Christina said…
Do you have a video of making the marks/scores on the paper. For some reason I'm not grasping this step.
Alisa said…
I'll try again. In step 2: you measure 1" from the left edge across the paper, first making a mark at the top of the paper, then making a mark at the bottom of the paper. You can see the ruler aligning marks those marks, both 1" from the left edge. Use the bone folder (or thumbnail) as if it were a pencil and draw a line down the edge of the ruler. That puts a score into the paper.
I hope that helps. Good luck!
Marilyn said…
Just tried this Sept 2023. Love how it came together even though I used thinner paper just so I could get it right. My plan is to use Arches Text Wove. I love the idea of eco dying the paper first. Thanks for the very detailed explanation of putting this together.
Marilyn, Alberta, Canada
Alisa said…
That's great to hear, Marilyn! You are welcome!

I used it again with my book Not Yet Nest with paper that was eco dyed by Velma Bolyard. See the posts:
and the video of it here:
Suzanne Lee said…
This is such a cool idea and I love that it came to you in a dream. The design phase is so much fun and your brain just didn’t want to stop. Thanks for sharing it and doing the detailed post about your process.
Alisa said…
Thanks for writing, Suzanne!