Best glue for bookbinding?

I purchased a paperback book for a friend on eBay, and the cover came loose from the contents a few days after I received it. I’ve tried a whole bunch of glues to keep it together and nothing seems to work. Can someone give me a hand here, and before Christmas?? :slight_smile:

There is such thing as bookbinding glue, but I would think any really heavy duty glue would work just as well (as long as it’s formulated for paper/cloth). Try an art supplies store.

Unfortunately it’s a problem with paperbacks that they aren’t sewn together in sections, so it has only the glue and the cover to hold it together. So not only do covers come off but the book itself often comes apart pretty easily.

The best thing for your specific task is good old white glue–Elmer’s. This is a cheap adhesive that is close in formulation to a bookbinding product called PVA (polyvinyl acetate). It is good because it dries quickly and remains flexible. (The quick-drying part can also be a drawback if you need extra working time.)

From your question it sounds like the entire cover came off. If it’s just the front or back cover then that’s a different process. But here’s what to do to put the whole thing back on:

  1. Set out everything you need: book, covers, glue, some clean scrap paper, waxed paper (a couple of pieces) and something heavy like a big dictionary or a brick
  2. If you can do it without taking chunks of paper off, clean up whatever other glues you have tried before; take them off the book itself and off the cover material.
  3. Tamp the book spine firmly on a table or countertop, to make sure it’s flat and straight.
  4. Put a not-too-thick but very even layer of white glue down the spine of the book, NOT on the cover.
  5. Holding the book with your hand at the fore-edge (the front where the pages open), and holding the cover in your other hand, fit them carefully together. Be sure FIRST that they are both right-side up. (It helps to do a “dry-run” sort of rehersal first…)
  6. Make sure the edges are all lined up, then gently use the palm of your hand to rub down the spine so the glue makes full contact.
  7. Place a sheet of wax paper between the cover and the end-sheets at both front and back of the book to keep any extra adhesive from sticking the book together more than you want.
  8. Tamp the book to the spine again to flatten it.
  9. Lay the book on its side on a clean flat surface and put a weight on top
  10. Let dry completely; with white glue this only takes half an hour or so.

All done! Hope this helps. DO NOT use this technique on clothbound books or books that have any value beyond paperbacks, as white glue is not appropriate. Good luck!

Whoa. Welcome, Booklady, to the Straight Dope Message Board. Great answer! I hope we’ll see you around more.