DIY Book Repair Tools

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DIY Book Repair Tools

syyskuu 16, 2021, 1:47 am

These are tools I use to repair and clean my books. I would like for others to share their recommendations.

Black Precise V5 rolling ball extra fine pen from Pilot: This pen is absolutely perfect for repairing slipcases, treated cloth/buckram, and leather. I used this pen on my LEC copy of Emerson's Poems which is a full black leather binding. The top and bottom of the spine had faded down to the original brown leather underneath but the leather soaked up the pen's wet ink and looks new. There is absolutely no sign that ink was used as a repair.

Tide To Go instant stain remover pen: I've used this pen to completely remove a chocolate stain from a treated beige cloth binding. I've also used it in tandem with a toothbrush on a LOA green cloth binding. In both instances the stains were removed and no stain from the liquid was left behind.

I'll add some more recommendations later.

syyskuu 16, 2021, 3:53 am

Knitting needles and book glue to reattach a separated text block to the spine.

It is surprising how often such repairs are needed, especially for more heavy books.

Pleased to say that Folio Society books are so well made I have never yet had to do this work on one of their publications.

syyskuu 16, 2021, 8:41 am

A standard pencil eraser - a “rubber” as we call it in the UK, although I’m aware that in the USA this means something entirely different.

So many books I order on ABE and sometimes Amazon have annoying black smudges on the page edges. This gets rid of them.

syyskuu 16, 2021, 5:15 pm

We call an eraser a rubber in Newfoundland Canada as well ha

syyskuu 16, 2021, 6:30 pm

>3 Quicksilver66: I have found that a high-quality artist's eraser will also do a good job freshening up old vellum bindings, though I've only tried this with several less scarce titles so far. I think the eraser binds to some of the grime that tends to discolor vellum over time. I took some pictures of this process a while back that I might share if I remember.

Muokkaaja: syyskuu 16, 2021, 7:04 pm

Bamboo skewers instead of knitting needles, to apply book glue down a detached "shoulder" to reattach a pulled-away endpaper ("Book glue" being Neutral pH PVA).

Arcare cleaning pads - I think there's less risk of accidentally creasing or abrading paper than using a pencil eraser/rubber.

Clean-cover gel. It contains petroleum distillate so I'm always a bit nervous about applying it.

A hair dryer to direct heat onto a price sticker - softening the glue helps a lot in removing stickers.

A blunt knife - a really old modelling knife for example - that can get under e.g. a sticker edge, or pick away at something stuck in the bookcloth, without cutting or scratching.

A large, quite stiff, artist's brush for dusting book edges, etc.

A smaller brush for getting into the gutter between pages and rooting out loose detritus.

Blu-tac can sometimes remove dirt and stains but be careful! I wouldn't use it on damaged paper or bookcloth where it could get caught in the weave.

Talcum powder on oily stains in paper. Not terribly effective.

A supply of cloths and cotton wool balls.

A couple of things that probably weren't advisable but I think I got away with:

Insecticide - I have had one or two books with book mites on them. Hiding in the spine I think, so they couldn't just be brushed off. There was flea powder in the house (we had a cat, and UK cats generally are allowed out, and can pick up undesirable passengers on their neighbourhood rounds. So it's good to be prepared for that). Blew the powder down the hollow of the spine, left it for a while, vacuumed it out as best I could.

Washing powder - I bought an old Folio Society book with a dustjacket. It had gotten mouldy in storage (it looked like it had been one of a pile of books left in a loft or garage, and the edges sticking out of the pile were exposed to the air). I know now that I shouldn't have bought it, but I did. The book itself smelt mouldy but after airing it for a year it was okay. The dustjacket I treated/attacked in various ways but eventually ended up washing it in soap powder used for hand-washing clothes - Dreft or something similar. Incredibly it stood up to the treatment and seemed to be left with discolouration but nothing more. Good thick paper stock, clearly.

syyskuu 19, 2021, 9:32 am

Yellow dusters are great for wiping dust and marks off text blocks edges. I've found vigorous rubbing with the book covers held tightly shut will not cause damage but does wonders for cleaning off the dust and muck on old books.

Mr Sheen (Spray Polish) for cleaning marks off many, but not all, book covers.

Obviously do not experiment with the above on your most priceless volumes first!

(I have tried "professional" petroleum based book cover cleaners but not impressed with the results and the books are left smelling forever afterwards!)

Muokkaaja: syyskuu 19, 2021, 9:45 am

>7 RogerBlake: Mr Sheen (Spray Polish) for cleaning marks off many, but not all, book covers.

Warning. Some aerosol cleaners will remove gilt titles and blocked designs and gilt edges.

syyskuu 19, 2021, 10:18 am

A stiff brush, like the kind used to clean wool suits, is good for cleaning cloth bindings, especially those in a dark color that have a tendency to attract lint.

syyskuu 19, 2021, 12:05 pm

Can you use a microfibre cloth?

syyskuu 20, 2021, 10:12 am

May i ask what you do with slipcases where a edge have split? Do you use some kind of tape or do you use a glue with a piece of paper underneath? Any recommendations are highly appreciated.

syyskuu 20, 2021, 1:52 pm

>11 SinsenKrysset: I've repaired one slipcase with a 2 inch split with glue IN the split and a horseshoe shaped piece of paper within the slipcase to give it some structure.

Put some large books or bricks next to the case to hold it in place as it dries. A 12' porcelain tile on top of the case can work as well.

Make sure to use acid free paper and archival PVA glue as well (it dries clear). Also a bone folder is a great tool for pushing down the paper inside the case.

syyskuu 20, 2021, 3:24 pm

I'd definitely recommend book repair tissue tape. This is an archival self-adhesive tape that is transparent, thin, and matte (kind of like self-adhesive tracing paper). You can use it to repair tears or detached pages and, if applied skillfully, is almost invisible.

Also, if you have books with a musty smell you can alleviate it by putting them inside a sealed container next to some bicarbonate of soda. The bicarbonate of soda will absorb the odour after a few days.

Muokkaaja: syyskuu 20, 2021, 5:59 pm

>13 ubiquitousuk: Does the baking soda trick work well? I was going to try it on some of my LECs which are otherwise in excellent condition. I've read about putting corn starch directly on the pages too.

syyskuu 20, 2021, 7:56 pm

Absorene for cleaning books.

Bookbinder's PVA glue and a blunt syringe for repairing split slipcases. Wipe excess with a damp cloth or paper towel. Use other books, etc to stack around the slipcase to hold it in place for 24 hours and it will be as strong or stronger than when new. No need for any tape. (I use this glue from Amazon: )

Bone folder to work out bumped slipcase corners.

Muokkaaja: syyskuu 21, 2021, 11:51 am

I received this book this morning, and can see that there are some spots on the fore edge pages. How do I remove these? Any suggestions?

Muokkaaja: syyskuu 21, 2021, 3:12 pm

>2 English-bookseller: Knitting needles and book glue to reattach a separated text block to the spine.

Please elaborate if possible, I have just posted a lengthy piece over at the Book Care and Repair group here.

>3 Quicksilver66: the USA this means something entirely different.

Sorry, I could not resist Jeremy Clarkson Poking Fun at Americans.

In response to the OP, may I recommend the following for heavy duty rebinding adventures - one that I hope to undertake shortly:

Sewing awl, single-stitched binder tape, linen tape, unwaxed linen thread, sewing needle - straight and curved, bone folder and pH-neutral PVA glue.

Edited to add:
2 links on how to use Single-stitched Binder Tape:

Muokkaaja: syyskuu 22, 2021, 1:31 am

>16 ironjaw: I quote,

"Removing the marks of foxing should generally be left to a skilled book conservator or preservationist. Experts may choose one of two approaches to reverse foxing:

- Using a reducing agent, such as sodium borohydride, on the paper. These agents are mild enough that they don’t have to be rinsed from the paper after treatment, but they may not remove the marks completely..."

Full article here:

Edited to add:
There appears to be a similar spot on the edge of the board. Look a little higher than a third of the way from the bottom of the 1st picture on the left edge of the blue cover. Perhaps you could try to wipe or treat this spot depending on the material of the board cover before moving on to the page edges.

syyskuu 21, 2021, 6:06 pm

Hard to tell from the photo, but it looks more like mould than foxing, a much more communicable disease. If that's what it is I'd put it in quarantine after treatment, or ditch it.

Muokkaaja: syyskuu 21, 2021, 9:39 pm

Does anyone here have a favorite method for cleaning very old deckled edges that have accumulated dust and other grime of the ages? I have a few books like this, printed on handmade paper, where the surface of the page is in perfect fine crisp condition, without a hint of toning or foxing, but that have accumulated dirty edges, probably from being stored off and on for more than 100 years on dusty shelves without slipcase protection or regular dusting.

Muokkaaja: syyskuu 22, 2021, 4:22 am

>17 mr.philistine: Regarding your query about my use of 'Knitting needles and book glue to reattach a separated text block to the spine'.

If you look down on a closed book you will sometimes find that the top edge of all the pages (i.e. the text block) have separated from the backing to the spine. This problem arises quite often when the text block has a high page count and is too heavy to be held by the adhesive used by the printing firm. It is not just unsightly but might lead to pages or groups of pages coming loose from the book.

My solution is to place some book glue in between the separated text block and the spine. There are various tools that might do the job but I find thin knitting needles work well as you first place one down the gap and probe how far down the separation of block and the back of the spine has gone. Then having used a knitting needle to paste some glue down the gap on the two surfaces of text block and spine backing, you hold them together for a couple of minutes for the glue to work and then rest the book on its spine (a good place is on a book shelf with the other books there keeping it upright) for some hours for the glue to dry fully.

If someone wishes to follow the above simple procedure on a valued book, I recommend you buy a couple of heavy hardbacks from a charity shop (there should be a number with loose text blocks) and practice with them first!

Some publishers (such as OUP) recognising that they publish often quite heavy non-fiction reference books have a different solution to this problem. The text block is here strongly glued to a half circle of material which is designed for much of it to be separate from the spine. This half-circular flexible backing is sometimes decorated to make what is a functional fix look a smart design feature. It works well in my experience.

Folio Society books are generally so well put together that this problem of a loose text block hardly if ever arises with them.

There are some inexpensive books on book repairs if you wish to keep your library in great condition.

syyskuu 23, 2021, 3:26 am

>14 Tom9019: I haven't tried the trick on a book with an extreme odour. But I recently took a 70 year old book that was noticeably pungent when opened and put it in a box with some baking soda for 3 days. The odour is still there, but now you have to stick your nose right in the book to detect it. So, in short, it at least seems to be somewhat effective.

syyskuu 23, 2021, 12:11 pm

>21 English-bookseller: ...the top edge of all the pages (i.e. the text block) have separated from the backing to the spine.

Many thanks for your detailed response. You mention a gap between the spine of the text-block and the inner spine of the book cover of heavier books. I hope you don't mean the Oxford Hollow (aka tube or hollow). This gap is by design and meant to allow heavily paginated books to remain open flat more easily.

The Folio Society made mention of this a few years ago here:

I believe all heavier books produced by FS use the the Oxford Hollow, where the spine of the text block is not glued to the spine of the cover.

Your mention of knitting needles piqued my curiosity as I half expected an ingenious method of sewing perhaps using the lockstitch method?

Muokkaaja: syyskuu 24, 2021, 3:46 am

>23 mr.philistine: Thanks for your helpful post.

Your excellent photos of the 'Oxford Hollow' are a much better way of explanation rather than the laboured verbal description I used. But it is exactly the same point I was making where I wrote:

Some publishers (such as OUP) recognising that they publish often quite heavy non-fiction reference books have a different solution to this problem. The text block is here strongly glued to a half circle of material which is designed for much of it to be separate from the spine. This half-circular flexible backing is sometimes decorated to make what is a functional fix look a smart design feature. It works well in my experience.

I used to refer to the 'Oxford Hollow' in my descriptions on books on ABE Books but it did not seem in general use. I will give it another try.

syyskuu 24, 2021, 8:42 am

>24 English-bookseller: Since you are not trying to 'fix' the Oxford Hollow, is your initial post referring to re-attaching the endpaper that may have come undone?

OR the super/ gauze-like fabric and paper tape applied onto the spine of the signatures?

syyskuu 24, 2021, 3:49 pm

>4 Atheistic: In Maine we say eraser, but 'rubber', usually in the plural form, can also mean rain gear, especially for fishermen. Yellow pants, coat, waterproof boots, hat, etc.

syyskuu 25, 2021, 4:34 am

>25 mr.philistine: Thank for your post and the great photos.

I only referred to the 'Oxford Hollow' in case someone who owned a book with this feature thought it might be a simple case of detached text block and tried to 'mend' it!

Perhaps I should have dealt better with the issue by simply writing 'An Oxford hollow does not need repairing!'

helmikuu 28, 2022, 4:00 pm

Not strictly a repair issue, but does anyone know where I can get hold of some Brodart-type clear non-adhesive archival film which is at least 18 inches tall. I know how to find Brodart film up to 14 or 16 inches but not more. I have just acquired a 3-volume set of views illustrating Captain Cook's expeditions but I can't protect the dust jackets.

maaliskuu 1, 2022, 11:07 am

>28 boldface: Grafix Dura-Lar comes highly recommended.

For multiple books in a slipcase and depending on how tight they fit, you might want to consider 2 to 3 mil (.002" to .003"). They are available in rolls of 20" to 40" high and 25' to 50' long.

Amazon UK link:

maaliskuu 10, 2:00 pm

I recently purchased a 5-book set in a split case, taped over with packaging tape (sigh) - books mercifully were fine.

Used a hair dryer on a low setting to heat up the tape, removed the left-over glue with the piece of the same tape
and then gently patted/wiped the surface with alcohol gel.

Fixed the tear using archival PVA, alcohol gel helped here too to soften the paper and mold it to the cardboard

Lined the case with support layer , using MC to allow flexibility while working in a tight space.

It took me about 2 hours on and off and I am quite happy with the results - even though the case is not pristine, it is now functional and looks good.

maaliskuu 10, 2:19 pm

>30 dar.lynk: from the pictures it looks like you did an excellent job.

maaliskuu 10, 2:49 pm

>30 dar.lynk: Impressive!

maaliskuu 10, 3:07 pm

>30 dar.lynk: great work and thanks for sharing the details. I with LibraryThing had a favourites feature to save useful posts for future reference.

maaliskuu 10, 3:17 pm

>30 dar.lynk: Great job. I had a similar issue with my Oscar Wilde set case but your fix result looks far better than mine.

maaliskuu 10, 3:22 pm

>30 dar.lynk: Great job! What’s MC?

maaliskuu 10, 4:07 pm

I recently picked the red leather special binding Chronicles of King Arthur. It has the not in common faded spine that a lot of them seem to get but was in very good nick otherwise. The day I received it i left them out on my table and when I wasn’t in the room my four year old wandered in and picked them up for a look. The problem was (I assume) is his hands were damp from washing and when he held one he left a mark on the spine. It’s been a few days but the mark is still there My question is will it fade on its own or is there a way to fix this? Or do I just leave it alone and accept that it is there to stay. I have read how unpredictable leather can be when using anything on it so I am hesitant to do anything.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 10, 6:28 pm

> 35 Methyl cellulose. It's transparent and dries slower than PVA glue, allowing for readjustment.

maaliskuu 10, 6:28 pm

>36 assemblyman: the stain color looks very similar to the original. Leather indeed is very tricky...I don't think the stain will go away on its own - if I had a problem like this, I would first try a good leather cleaner/conditioner, most of them dry out without darkening the leather but may even out the stain. If that did not help, I would use honey wax based conditioner which does darken the leather but use it on the faded parts only. This is not a recommendation of course :)

maaliskuu 10, 11:41 pm

>37 dar.lynk: Thank you. Is MC essentially the same thing as Klucel G which I use to consolidate leather bindings and treat red rot? When making or fixing slipcases I just dilute my PVA to allow more working time. Again, that was a. Very nice repair.

maaliskuu 11, 8:14 am

>39 kdweber: I had to Google Klucel G since I never used this product and found it on Talas; its uses are distinctly different from MC in my opinion. Here is the link to MC on the same site- - they explain its use much better than I could. As for PVA, I am diluting it with MC to slow it down at 60 pva/40 mc ratio

maaliskuu 12, 1:35 am

>40 dar.lynk: Here is the link to MC on the same site-

Excerpts from the description in the above link that potential buyers of Methyl Cellulose should be aware of:
- Forms a highly flexible bond but is a weak adhesive.
- A technical grade product, and generally not advisable for conservation applications.

maaliskuu 13, 6:03 am

>38 dar.lynk: Thanks for the reply. I would hate to damage it further by using a product I am unfamiliar with.

Would leather conditioners/cleaners affect or damage the gold lettering and design work on the spine?

maaliskuu 13, 8:18 am

>42 assemblyman: I don't think they would but it depends on how fragile the gold lettering is.. I would go around it, just in case it might... Best approach is of course to do a test by dubbing a tiny amount on a letter and pat it off with a paper towel without rubbing.