What does a bookbinder do?
Bookbinders use machines that automatically cut paper to the correct size, fold the sheets, and glue or staple the sections together. Craft bookbinders work by hand, using traditional materials, such as cloth or leather, to cover and bind works.
As a print finisher or machine bookbinder, tasks would include:
- setting up machinery
- feeding the machinery with paper
- reporting machine breakdowns
- taking away and stacking the finished products
Craft, or hand, bookbinders work on a much smaller scale, and tasks would typically include:
- hand-binding small numbers of books, such as family histories or books for libraries, museums and special collections
- using specialist hand tools to make bindings for books and to sew pages
- adding decoration, such as gold lettering and edging, or marbled end-papers
This role may also involve restoring and repairing antique books, cleaning discoloured pages or using leathers and papers to match those originally used.
What do I need to do to become a bookbinder?
To be a bookbinder you will need good practical skills and the ability to pay close attention to detail. You may not need formal qualifications to be a print finisher or machine bookbinder and you would usually receive on-the-job training. You will need to attend bookbinding skills courses to become a craft bookbinder.
You may be able to get into this type of work through an apprenticeship scheme. The range of apprenticeships available in your area will depend on the local job market and the types of skills employers need.
To bind books by hand, you would need to start by attending courses to learn the craft-skills and techniques required for this type of work. Colleges and private training providers offer part-time and residential courses. Visit the Society of Bookbinders (SoB) and the Designer Bookbinders (DB) websites for details of courses and training providers.
There are also higher education courses available in design crafts, art conservation and restoration, some of which will cover techniques used in this field.
Where to find out more
Where could I be working?
You would work in a factory or workshop. Some machines are noisy, so you may need to use ear protectors.
As a self-employed craft bookbinder, you would set your own hours according to your workload. You would usually work from home, but may need to travel to meet clients.