I don't know if you'll have an answer, but I thought I'd ask: I'm currently planning on binding my own book to remake my Book of Shadows, and I was wondering if you had advice on papers to use. I want it to have lots of pages, but printer paper just doesn't feel right - I want something of a heavier weight and a little coarser. Do you have any suggestions? (I love your blog, btw!!)
Ah, you must have seen that I do bookbinding, because you’ve come to the right place, my friend!
Printer paper is fine for most simple journals - it takes pencil writing well, and ink (read: dip pen ink, ballpoint ink) doesn’t usually bleed through it.
(Sharpie will bleed through it. Sharpie will bleed through anything, it feels like.)
But it’s usually very thin paper - 20-22lb is average, and it’s not very opaque. You can easily see through it to the page underneath, and it’s flimsy.
I like card stock - it fits well in your printer if you need it to, it’s thick and opaque and archival quality, and that makes me happy.
I’d go for 60lb thickness at least for bookbinding, but that’s at absolute minimum - personally, I’d go even thicker, in the 80lb-100lb+ range.
One thing about all of that though, is that it’s usually a very smooth texture, like most printer-suitable papers, so that the ink can print evenly. For a rough texture, you can look for handmade papers, artists’ papers, or even some scrapbooking papers that have a more natural texture. You could even learn to make paper yourself, which is very fun, but also time consuming.
Unfortunately, artists’ papers and the like can be…expensive. Really expensive. Like, $3> a sheet expensive, which in a 250+ page book, is not something I can personally afford to work with, so I’ll probably stick to card stock, haha.
Now, fun facts about paper grain:
When paper is made, the machinery makes the individual grains of the paper all align in a certain way. And because of this, it’s always best to fold paper parallel with the grain. That way, when the paper expands or contracts (based on the humidity, moisture, temperature, etc), it’ll do so in a way that won’t hurt your binding. This goes for simple booklets and stuff too.
Most papers should tell you which way the grain is aligned, but I’ve found out that unfortunately, most don’t seem to. Especially if they’re just plain copy or printer paper. In general, if a paper says it’s “short grain,” that means that the grain runs parallel with the shortest edge of the paper. Opposite if it’s “long grain.” And sometimes it’s indicated by an underlined number - “8.5 x 11″ with the 11 underlined means long-grain, “11 x 17″ with the 11 underlined would mean short grain. Make sense so far?
(Edit: tumblr removed my underlines somehow, so I changed my phrasing)
So if I were making a fairly large book out of 11″ x 17″ paper, and wanted to make signatures by folding those pieces in half, I’d want it to be short grain paper, so that my folds would be parallel with the grain.
If your paper doesn’t specify the grain, you can test to see which direction the grains run - most of the time with copy paper, it’s unfortunately long grain. But take a piece of it, and tear it in one direction, and then in the other. Whichever way tore smoother, is the way the grain runs.
However, I will be real here - paper that runs in the right grain direction for bookbinding is very hard to find, and it can also be expensive. You may be able to find larger paper than you need, and cut it down, but…really? If you don’t own a professional paper cutter, that’s a ton of work.
So, I’m going to say this, and it’s going to upset a lot of bookbinders, but in my personal opinion, it’s okay to use paper with grain going the wrong way.
Let me be clear; paper with the grain lined up properly is always going to be better. It’s always going to look and feel better when it’s bound, and it’s going to be more durable. Even the pages are going to turn more smoothly.
But there’s no shame in using copy paper and other typical long-grain paper, if you have to or want to. I’ve made plenty of journals and notebooks with paper grain going the wrong way, and if you’re careful to not use too much glue, and press the books tightly, you’ll probably be fine. There might be some buckling down the line, or a bit of curling, but sometimes that’s worth not spending hundreds of dollars on specialty paper, because the paper industry is weird.
Anyway, I hope some of that ^ ends up helping you with your project! I can get kinda passionate and rant-y about bookbinding, haha.