What Do You Do with Paper Offcuts?

Bookbinders always produce lots of offcuts. Paper, leather and book cloth are usually manufactured in sizes that are at least a bit larger than you need for your book. You also cut many elements a bit larger to trim them to exact size during the later stages of making a book.

Larger productions often tend to cheat a bit. For example turning large pieces of paper before printing the text to fit more pages into one sheet. The pitiful result is wrong grain direction and potential loss of stability of the book structure.

That said, proper procedures often lead to heaving lots of offcuts. Lots and lots of offcuts. That’s just how the things are.

My recent visit to the workshop of a Bucharestian bookbinder Mihai Vartejaru reminded me of that subject. Naturally, Mihai also has plenty of offcuts — he even was very kind to share some of his smaller goat leather pieces to use during my bookbinding classes in Moscow.

In my own workshop, I always keep all the offcuts that are not too small. All these same-sized stripes of paper you get after trimming a book. And everything that is left while pre-cutting sheets from paper rolls. For some of the finer offcuts (like Arches watercolor paper or something) I always think there would come a day when I make a new paper mix. Shouldn’t I say this never ever happened?

Reasonably large offcuts sometimes make a good source for a small Japanese binding journal. Or some other bookbinding projects.

Mihai shows how to use a paper offcut as a gauge for a rounded spine


However, when I asked Mihai about his experience with offcuts, he confirmed my thoughts. His main uses of the offcuts are the same as mine:

  • Paper gauges (e.g. when you need to measure the length of a curved spine);
  • Building hollows on the spines;
  • Lining spines: in case you want to mask cords to a flat cover surface.

What is your experience with paper offcuts? We would be glad to see your ideas in the comments below!

Updated on January 11th 2017

Below you can find some ideas from the comments.

Make Small Books

Here are some examples from Stephanie Vikernes (Australia):

And from Emadam (Germany):


Small books and other things from María Belén Martínez García (Spain):

Small books by Linda McKeen (UK):

Make Paper Jewelry

Here is an example from Chris Carey (USA):

Some tutorials:

Make Bookmarks

Including letterpress printed bookmarks like the one Gordon Chesterman (UK) shared with us:

Make Collages or Some Other Stuff

That’s a one more option. And if you have kids, you can always invent some fun ways to dispose of the paper offcuts hadicrafting =)

Here is a photo from Victoria Lozano Diaz (Mexico):

Sell Them!

If you don’t want to make anything with your paper offcuts, you can sell them (at Etsy or somewhere else). There are many other paper crafters who make different things with small pieces of paper. Including small books, jewelry and other stuff.

Please check other comments at our Facebook page and share your own thoughts with us!

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