Guild of Book Workers Newsletter
Number 108
October 1996


As a volunteer doing binding-repair at our local library, I get a few very thick books, such as dictionaries, reference-histories, etc., on which the book block is more or less intact, but the covers are either loose or off and for which repair can be made by attaching new cords over the old.

I have done this by sewing them on, starting with the stitch on either side of each cord, around the new cord, and out at the next stitch, then down to the next section, anywhere from 1/4 to 3/8 inch away, then back around the cord and out the first stitch again. I usually use a separate needle and thread for each cord in order to more easily tighten up everything when done. However a problem arose in running my needles from the back, through the spine, and precisely back into the middle of the hinge. Often, I found the point of my needle emerging up onto the page rather than into the hinge.

My solution is shown in the two accompanying drawings. I cut the tip, with a jewlery saw, from an old ball-inflating needle, such as is used with hand pumps and basketballs and are made of brass or aluminum. It could be taken off with a grinder or, with patience, a file. I inserted the tip of a sewing needle into the hole to eliminate any rough edges made in cutting it, then filed the shaft back to a taper, away from the tip. I drilled a 1/4" hole on the end of a 5" or 6" length of 5/8" dowel, tapered the end of the dowel back and screwed the ball-needle into the hole.

Now, opening the heavy book to the middle of the section to be sewed, I pre-punched the holes for sewing with my awl, using a drawn template laid in the hinge to ensure identical spacing for holes in all sections. Pressing my tool through the punched hole, I inserted my sewing needle into the tip of the tool, raised the upper part of the book slightly to relieve pressure on the tool, and pressed the needle against the tip of the tool, following it right through the hole, exactly in the middle of the hinge.

An extra bonus to this technique is that it avoids the possibility of the sewing needle splitting a thread on its way through and having to be withdrawn and resewn.

Having sewn all three cords with three different needles and threads, I was then able to go all the way down the spine with my awl, tightening each stitch in turn and making the cords and sections firm and snug. This simple tool reduced my drudgery enormously and made an otherwise mean task quick and easy.

Charles E. Schermerhorn,
The New Leaf Bindery, Lompoc, Ca.