Making a Leather Book Cover

One of the most requested leather craft projects is how to make a book cover. Luckily, it’s one of the easier projects to construct. This cover, strictly speaking, is not for a book, but for a memo-pad or journal. I take a lot of notes, and I find that cheap memo pads or note pads tend to get misplaced. However, put one in a nice leather binding and it suddenly becomes more valuable. (I think it even makes me take my own notes more seriously!)

To keep it simple, we’ll just call this a leather notebook cover. If you just landed on this page, you may wonder where I got the leather with that nice little design carved onto it. That design was the reason this cover took two days rather than one, and you can see an overview of that process in this leather carving tutorial for beginners.

So, for day 2, I finally got to put things together. The carving and painting was done, and I had a nice rectangular piece of carved leather that needed to become a book cover.

1- The first thing we did was to choose a liner. I chose a black leather with a bit of an oil sheen. We then used the existing cover as a template to cut it out. A margin of error of maybe 5cm was added to all sides. Easy enough to trim off the extra later.
2- It's true that the cattle being bred for Kobe beef get regular massages. So does this leather. We don't massage it all, just the part we want to be soft. Since a hard book cover is fine, we focus on the fold only.
3- We took the same leather that we were using for the lining, and cut out smaller bits to provide a backing where we have punched holes in the cover. This will give us a nice three dimensional look.
4- Four pieces all together, ready for glueing.
5- The edges only get the glue - at least as much as possible. We try to avoid getting glue on areas that will be viewable through the punched holes on the cover.
6- All four patches of lining leather have been glued on. Now we are ready for the liner.
7- This is how those pieces of leather will be viewed on the finished cover. You can't see it clearly in this picture, but some glue slipped into view and had to be cleaned up later.
8- Now we need to cut two pieces of cardboard to firm up the cover. We have allowed about 10cm for the foldable part, which of course will not be covered by cardboard.
9- Here's how one side fits over the cover leather. We have 2 of these, with a gap in the middle where the fold is.
10- The cardboard is glued and attached.
11- Now we take the full liner and glue that around the edges only.
12- Then we attach the liner to the cardboard sheets, leaving a gap for the fold. We attach it slowly, step by step rather than all at once. We do this to avoid wrinkles or bubbles.
13- Look closely and you'll see the second sheet of cardboard just under the last bit of leather liner being rolled on.
14- Here you see Tony taking astrip of liner leather and determining the length to cut for the two pockets. It is into these pockets that the notebook cover pages will fit, so the book will be held in.
15- The leather for the sleeves is cut, after confirming dimensions and angles with a triangle.
16- And here they are, ready to be glued on.
17- At this point, we also decided to cut out the pen holder tabs. We looked at a previously made notebook cover for rough guidance.
18- For a better idea about size, we wrapped the leather around a pen we might be using to see that it fit snuggly - but not too snuggly.
19- We ended up with these 2 tabs.
20- Back to the sleeves. To make them more attractive, we ran a crease up each sleeve.
21- After roughing up the surface to be glued with some sandpaper, we applied glue to the edges.
22- For just one of the sleeves, we cut a slot that allows a card or drivers license to be inserted inside the cover.
23- And now the sleeves have been attached, along with the slot cut for a card.
24- At this point, we cut the leather around the edges for the final time. This is where all the excess is cut off and we get a nice clean edge.
25- Now we rub CMC along the edges using a dolly made with a sponge gourd. This is followed by the application of black dye, also using a dolly (though you can also use a brush). You have to be especially careful when dying to avoid getting it on the surface of the cover. Better to err on the side of too little dye, rather than slopping on too much and having it leached onto the surface leather.
26- The tabs for the pen holder are attached one at a time with glue.
27- And a creaser is used to form a line around the edge of the leather cover to prepare for stitches. This needs to be done with a steady hand, and preferably with one motion. Some people heat the creaser, but you would have to be careful not to burn the leather (unless that's what you want).
28- Finally the book cover is stitched. A machine is fastest, though you may decide to hand stitch.

At this point the leather cover is essentially finished, as is this beginner’s leather craft project. Yet, there is still a a bit more. First, we run the triangle under the sleeves to make sure that the glue hasn’t closed them up to much. They need to open enough to accept the notebook pages.
Sleeve check

Then, we still need to cut off the extra bits of leather that we used for the tabs that hold the pen…
Cutting leather tab excess

And, after that, I used a toothpick to pick out the excess glue that you could see through the holes on the cover. It took a while, but finally the nice black liner leather showed through. The final picture of this leather craft cover can be seen below. With practice, this could be done in a couple hours. I repeat, “with practice.” As always, the first time is slow and we learn from our mistakes. Not too unhappy about the leather carving, though it more than doubled the time put in.

Leather book cover inside

Leather book cover side

Leather book cover back

Leather book cover front

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