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How to Make a Junk Journal Cover

Junk Journal

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Before getting started with your cover, you need to decide what is going into your book. Organize your thoughts and start piecing together your signatures. If you’re not sure how to do that, check out our tutorial on how to make junk journal signatures first.

junk journal cover

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How to Make A Junk Journal Cover

Measuring Your Cover

Once you have the signatures ready, you can start to measure for your book board. For this, I’ll assume that your signatures are all about the same size. Measure the height and width of one of the signatures. Add ¼” to the height and ⅛” to the width, that will be the size of your book boards.

To figure the width of the spine, you’ll need to stack your signatures and measure the height of the stack. You don’t want to compress the stack, as you’ll want plenty of room in your junk journal for all the bits and bobs.

With the measurements in hand, mark and cut your chipboard. You can use a razor, exacto knife or industrial paper cutter, but should probably avoid using the light duty paper cutters if you want them to last. (This rotary paper cutter is the one we use and recommend.)


Placing Your Book Boards

Time to do a test layout of your book boards. Lay the boards on the wrong side of your cover material. I like to mark out the placement of the boards using a pencil. Leave ¼” between the boards and the spine as the hinges, and at least ½” (more is better) on all the sides.


Gluing Your Book Boards

When you are satisfied with the layout, start gluing the boards into position. For this application, I like to use a spray adhesive on the book boards. It gives consistent coverage, applies quickly, and this application doesn’t need to be flexible.


Trimming the Edges of Your Paper

Now you’ll need to trim your corners to allow the edges to be folded over the book boards. Cut notches in the corners, I usually trim at 60° and about ⅛” from the corner. You don’t need to be exact, just as long as the tabs overlap when you fold them over. Prefold the tabs.


Gluing the Inside of Your Cover

Apply a consistent coat of glue to each of the tabs and fold them into place. You can use a bone folder to smooth the tabs down and work out any air bubbles. With your finger or the folder, work the cover material into the hinge areas.


Letting Your Cover Dry

At this point, I will usually allow my cover to dry before moving on. Place something flat and heavy on the cover while it dries. If you are a fast worker, you could apply the lining immediately. The risk is that paper will sometimes wrinkle as it dries if it isn’t pressed. So, if you move too slowly putting the lining on, the cover could wrinkle. It depends entirely on the speed you work and the materials you are using. Up to you.


Cutting Your Liner Paper

Now you’ll need to measure for the lining material. The liner should be at least an ⅛” off each of the edges, but still cover all the exposed book board and most of the tabs. Cut the liner and do a dry fit before applying the glue.


Gluing Your Liner Paper

Then glue! As much as I like the spray adhesive for gluing the book boards, I don’t recommend spraying paper directly, it will often soak through and discolor it. I’ll usually use book glue and a brush to spread it consistently. Pay particular attention to the edges, you’ll want them very secure to avoid the lining peeling off. Put the lining in place and use a bone folder or your thumbs to smooth the lining. Just like before, work the lining into the hinge areas.


Letting Your Cover Dry Flat

Now really really let it dry, preferably under something heavy. This helps keep your boards from warping and keeps your papers from waving or bubbling.

Once the cover is dry, fold it. Work the hinges. This will let you start to see how it will look as a book. You’ll also want to able to find the edges of the spine when you start measuring for the signature holes, so this will help you prep for that.


Congratulations – you just made your junk journal cover!! Next you’ll want to work on stitching your junk journal together. 

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  1. I am enjoying your well thought out and easy to understand tutorials. I’m wondering if you have any plans on featuring “how to make a cover using book cloth”? I found that tutorial useful, but am left with a few questions. Specifically, is the heat n’ bond applied to just the measurement of the combined chip boards, or does it include the wrap around margins? (Hope you understand that question). Thanks

    1. So glad you are enjoying the tutorials! And yes! Making a cover using book cloth is next up on our list. That’s a great question! I’ll make sure that we cover it in that video but you would want to make sure that you include the measurement of the chip board plus your wrap around margins. Those margins tend to see quite a bit of glue, so its helpful to have the heat’n’bond applied there to create a barrier.

  2. Hi. After I let the paper dry on front and back of jj, the cover is difficult to bend and it is cracking where it bends on each side of the spine. I added another layer of paper just over spine on outside..it does not crack but inside does. Do I add more on spine on back? How do I get cover to bend like book

    1. Hi Kathryn, There are a few different things to try if this happens. You can use tyvek to reinforce the hinges of the book. This won’t necessarily stop brittle paper from cracking, but it can make it easier to bend the cover, and provide a solid hinge material if the paper is not. If you’re finding that the paper cracks it may just be that the paper isn’t strong enough for this kind of application, which unfortunately can happen. We generally find that scrap book paper and heavier card stock (60lb) are the best kinds if you want to use paper as your cover material. Another thing to try is to use book glue. We’ve used craft glue and spray glue because they are easy to use, widely available and affordable but book glue is definitely a better option, especially for trickier kinds of paper, if you can get your hands on it. What I do if I have paper I want to use as a cover but I’m worried about it being brittle is use book cloth to cover the book and then cut out front and back cover sized pieces of the paper and glue them to the book cloth. That way the book cloth covers the functional parts but I still have the paper for the aesthetic parts. Hope that helps!

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