How to make a concertina book

This is going to have a lot of photos. You have been warned!

You need:

  • Two pieces of mountboard. Mine were 8 cm square.
  • Two pieces of painted papers, fabric, handmade paper or similar, slightly larger than the mountboard, to cover it.
  • Six pieces of painted papers (or however many you want). Mine were 14 cm square.
  • Gluestick.
  • Scissors
  • Old magazine or similar to do the glueing on.

how a concertina book is constructed

This shows how a concertina book is constructed. It has a cover at either end and six folded pieces of paper in between. I used some of my painted papers, both to cover the mountboard for the covers and for the folded paper.

board covered with paper painted using salt

I cut a square of mountboard (thick card) about 3 inches square – see below – and covered it with paper. This paper has been painted with very dilute Brusho powder paints and salt sprinkled on it to give the speckly effect. Brusho powder paints give a very delicate effect, almost like ink.

cover with horse stamp on

This is lokta paper from Nepal with a horse stamped on it.

back of cover showing mountboard

I cut a piece of paper slightly larger than the card and cut across the corners, glueing the paper to the card and over the edges. The paper needs to completely cover the inside edges but it is not necessary to cover the very middle because the folded papers will be glued on here. (This paper is tissue paper glued to drawing paper with PVA glue (scrumpled up a bit when put on), painted with acrylic paint and highlighted with a gold Markal paintstick)

reverse of cover with ruler showing size

As you can see, this is just over 3 inches square, but the exact size doesn’t matter. You can make them bigger or smaller as you wish. The inside folded papers, when folded into four, should be just a little bit smaller than the covers – mine are about 0.25 inches smaller all round. So my covers are 3 and one eighth inches square (8 cm) and the folded paper when laid flat is just under 5 and a half inches square (14 cm)(this will be folded into four). (I obviously used the metric side of my ruler when I made these!)

blue painted paper folded lengthwise and diagonally

Take a square of painted paper. This shows the folds. I painted this with Brusho paints, sprinkled grated metallic and coloured wax crayons over it, and ironed it (covering the paper with baking parchment before ironing!).

blue paper folded in half lengthwise

Fold this paper in half lengthwise, open it out, turn it 90 degrees and fold it lengthwise again. Then turn it over.

paper folded diagonally

Fold the paper diagonally, press the edge well and open out. Just do this on one diagonal, not both.

paper folded correctly

Turn the paper over again and push the corners with the diagonal folds towards each other so it looks like this. If you have done origami, this will be easy. When folded flat it will be a square a quarter the area of the whole piece. Repeat with all six pieces of paper.

6 pages folded correctly and lined up ready to be glued together

Put the papers in the order you want to glue them on. I lined up some blue paper and some blank white paper for this book when I took this photo but ended up changing my mind and using all blue ones – as you will see later on!

glueing the paper

Put glue all over one square side of the paper. Try not to get any glue along the edges or it may make them stick together. Wipe any excess off.

paper being pressed down on to cover

Place the glued side on to the wrong side of the cover centrally and press it down.

pressing hard!

Press down hard so that it sticks! If you use a gluestick it should stay in place fairly quickly.

Adding another folded paper

Put glue on to the second piece of folded paper and position it on top of the first the same way round (ie. so that the corner with the ‘flaps’ is towards you).

turning book round

Turn the whole thing round 180 degrees so that the folded corner without the flaps is towards you and the corner with the flaps is away from you.

more glue

Put glue on the next piece of paper and position it on top of the rest with the corner with the flaps towards you (ie. the opposite way round from the rest of the pages). Do the same with the next piece of paper and then turn it 180 degrees again and put the last two pieces of paper on top so that they are facing the same way as the first two you did. (If you don’t put them the right way round, don’t worry – it will just stand up differently to mine but still look fine – in fact, I did a couple where I did the first three pieces of paper one way round then I put the next three the other way, rather than two:two:two as I am showing you here). As you glue each page on, press it down well so that it sticks and doesn’t move around too much when you put the next one on.

three pages glued together and opened up

Here is the book with three folded pages glued together, one the opposite way round to the other two.

book waiting for top cover to be glued on

Here it is with all the pages glued on, ready for the cover to be added.

book with glue on last page ready for cover to be added

Put glue on the top page, line up the cover level with the bottom cover and stick it on, wrong side on to the paper.

pressing the whole thing down well

Now press the whole thing down well to stick it together nicely.

checking pages are not stuck together where they shouldn't be

Then open it up carefully and check none of the pages are stuck where they shouldn’t be. If they are, prize them apart. This should be fairly easy if you haven’t been too wild with the glue. It is important to do this now, before the glue has dried hard. If there are any gobs of glue on any of the edges, wipe them off carefully with your fingers.

book all opened up

Hey Presto! A concertina book!

View of lots of covers of different books I have made

Here are several books which I have made in this way. I hope you have enjoyed this tutorial. Happy glueing! If there are any points you are confused about, let me know and I’ll try and elucidate.


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