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  • Writer's pictureBel Mills

The Most Overlooked Bookbinding Tools, Part 1

Updated: Sep 17

Are you wondering what tools can turn salvaged paper into books that really sing?

I'm glad you asked!

Like every other bookbinder, I have my favorite tools. They are trusted companions, helping me transform ordinary household paper into amazing handmade books.

But, as you'll soon find out, my list is a little different from most. In fact, none of the standard bookbinder's tools made it on my list.

Not a bone folder, not a metal ruler, not a craft knife not a...

Wait--you don't know what the standard bookbinding tools are?

Not to worry! I'm currently working on my comprehensive list to share with all of you! So stay tuned for that.

Either way, they don't make my heart race.

As an upcycled book artist, I work with paper that is cheap and easy to come by. So...nothing to mess up.

Also, tools that precisely measure, trim, fold etc. are necessary, yes, but not at all sufficient for someone who upcycles found paper.

In upcycling, you need tools that transform common paper into something spectacular!

In other words, tools that don't just process your materials, but elevate them. So this series showcases tools that will help you bring polish and style to materials that would normally be boring and mundane. I've also included a few tools that make my work faster or help me disguise mistakes.

So, which tools are an upcycled bookbinders best friends?

I'm glad you asked!

(NOTE: THIS IS AN UNSPONSORED LIST and none of the links in this series will bring me financial benefit of any kind)


Nothing turns an ordinary piece of paper into something special like a corner rounder. Nothing. Corner rounders take any random, rectangular scrap of paper and turn it into something that looks intentional.

Consider this thought experiment: you have a small notebook you'd like to create a quick label for. You cut a rectangle from a scrap of paper, you write a name on it, you glue it to your cover. How does it look? Like you phoned it in.

Now take the same rectangular scrap of paper and round the corners. How does it look? Super polished!

Let's take the thought experiment a little further-- you cut a variety of rectangles from plain and patterned papers, round the corners, and place them in a cellophane bag with a pretty ribbon. What do you have? The first listing for your Etsy shop dedicated to pretty labels for junk journals and bullet journals. See what I'm getting at?

Rounded corners = professional and smart.

Now let's get back to books, since that's what we really care about. I use corner rounders to transform inexpensive, or free, household paper--like blank greeting cards, cereal boxes and file folders-- into cute covers for little notebooks. Like so:

Planning to collage on a scrap of cereal box to create a sturdy postcard? A corner rounder will spiff that up as well.

Not to mention the fun of rounding the corners of an accordion to create a collaged artist book....

In other words, there are few simple paper projects that can't be elevated with a corner rounder. And I only say simple because those are the only projects that a basic corner rounder can tackle. If I could get my hands on an inexpensive, high-quality rounder that could handle stacks of pages and thick book board, I'd be one happy bookmaker. Let me know if you find one.

In Part 2 of my tools series, I'll wax happy about another fantastic processor of ordinary paper.

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