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Author Topic: How To - 'Vintage Leather-Bound' Book/Box  (Read 19722 times)
Snr. Officer
United States United States

« on: May 19, 2011, 01:42:33 am »

While I believe I am posting this in the appropriate place, please advise if I have done so in error. Thanks in advance for reading (or at least skimming!) I don't have much to contribute to the community at this point, but felt this might be a small token of thanks for the wealth of knowledge and inspiration you kind folks have displayed thus far.

Today I would like to share how to create a secret hiding place disguised as an old leather-bound book. Whilst I should be inclined to say that it would deter most modern-day folks from investigating, one may be intrigued at such an old looking volume sitting on the shelf or bedside table enough to inspire further inspection. A rather simple process yields a rather convincing result, suitable for hiding way correspondence for safe keeping.

Right – let’s begin, shall we? First things first, our supply list (complete with images):

  • 1 paper mache box in the shape of a book, found at Hobby Lobby, Michaels, or similar craft supply shops - $5.00.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

  • Mod Podge (I prefer the matte finish, however you may use what you wish…or simply use a white school glue if you prefer). - $5.00, or on hand.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

  • 2-3 paint brushes or some other utensil of glue-spreadability…whatever that means. ☺ You’ll also need one or two other brushes to apply the gold finish.
  • Brown paper (or any other color suitable for a leather-bound book…navy blue, hunter green, burgundy, etc…not pictured) - $5.00, or on hand.
  • Brown, black and/or olive green stamp pads for distressing the paper - $1.00+, depending on brand or on hand (Michaels has some in their $1.00 bin).

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

  • Antique metal brads/fasteners - $3.00 (found in the scrapbook section)

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

  • Antique metal label holders - $4.00 (again, in the scrapbook section)

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

  • Metal keyholes - $5.00 (scrapbook section)

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

  • Gold Touch Wax Metallic finish - $4.00+ (with the gold leafing items)

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

  • Clear acrylic spray in matte finish - $3.00

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

  • Fabric – $1.00/yard (just a yard, to line the inside of the box)
  • Hot Glue Gun & Glue Sticks
  • Brown floral tape (optional, and not pictured.) - $1.00+ (Dollar Store)
  • Super glue - $3.00 (or on hand; not pictured)
  • Wire cutters & Pliers

Before we get started, be sure to cover your work surface as things could get a bit messy.


Begin with the paper…the paper I had was pre-cut in squares, so mine looks a bit pieced together. Next time I may try to tear the paper into irregular pieces if I cannot obtain larger pieces for more coverage. Being crinkling and wrinkling the paper (this is why it may be easier to have smaller pieces as opposed to larger sheets of paper). Just ball it up in your hands, squish and roll it around, unfold it, and repeat. The end result will be very wrinkled paper, naturally, which will simulate the look of leather. You are welcome to make it as crinkled as you wish. Mine were a combination of very, very crinkled and just a bit crinkled.

Smooth the paper out (not to the point of undoing all the beautiful crinkles!)…create enough paper to cover the surface of the book…you’ll need enough to cover all the spots where it would make sense for the leather to show through (in this case, in between the bands on the book-binding, etc). If you find it easier to cover the entire book, that’s certainly alright as well.

Using the Mod Podge, smooth a moderate amount on the surface of the book, working in smaller sections. (This may also dictate how large the paper pieces need to be when crinkling.) Press the paper onto the newly Mod Podged surface, pressing firmly to ensure a good bond. Continue this process until the surface of the book is covered. Allow to dry – it shouldn’t take too long, however better safe than sorry!

Once dry, select the distressing ink of choice – for my book I used all three colors. Simply remove the lids of the stamp pads, and one at a time, gently brush the ink pad directly onto the book’s surface – be sure not to press too hard, otherwise you’ll create a perfect imprint of the stamp pad on the book. You just want to highlight the texture of the crinkled paper to give a distressed, antiqued look.

Once the ink is dry (may take some time depending on the brand of ink/paper), take the book to a well ventilated location and on a protected work surface, spray with a light coat of acrylic sealant. This will fix the ink and give the paper an additional texture which will be important for the gold finish to be applied. Allow the spray to dry completely before proceeding.

Making sure the sealant is dry (should not be cold, damp, or tacky to the touch), it is now time to apply the wax gold finish. This gold finish is kind of a fickle beast – it will cover thick and heavy, so use sparingly. It also flakes dreadfully, so make sure your work surface is protected. Dab the brush sparingly into the waxy gold, and begin ‘painting’ on the binding – there are three sets of two bands across the binding, these can be covered in gold. Cover as much or as little as desired – less of a gold finished would make for a more worn, antique look. I also ‘painted’ the page edges with the wax gold as well – to give the look of the gilded pages. Once you’re finished with the wax gold, take it back to the well-ventilated area and spray again with sealant, this time a bit heaver coat (but not so much that it pools or drips from the surface).

We’re nearly there!!

Once the spray has dried completely (not tacky, cold, or damp to the touch!), we can attach the hardware to the book’s cover. Select the keyhole of desire for the book, and the corresponding brads/fasteners. Using the wire cutters, snip the fastener tabs off the brads; using the pliers, press the remaining stubs back into the brad cap. Using the superglue, dot the back of the keyhole and place on the book’s surface. Work quickly, but be careful to avoid contact with your fingertips!! There should be two holes where the fasteners would go when attaching them to paper – fill each hole with a small pool of superglue; using the pliers, place a brad cap on each of the holes. Let this set for a few minutes until the brads and keyhole no longer move.

The same process will be used to attach the label holder to the cover of the book, if desired. I left the paper blank, as I wasn’t sure what to put on it and I didn’t want to fuss with trying to write in a convincing Victorian manner. My label holders didn’t come with labels, so I made my own…I tore strips of paper, soaked them in coffee for an antique look, and then did the crumple/crinkle and distressing routine. I glued the label to the holder, then glued the holder to the book, finishing it off with the brad caps. Allow to dry for a few minutes.

Now the box is ready to be lined. Using the fabric and the hot glue gun. I didn’t document this process because I made a real mess of it the first go around…then sort of faked my way through it to get it finished. It’s not as neat and tidy as I had hoped, but it works well. Trim the edges neatly and that should take care of that.

The finishing touch may be using the brown floral tape to clean up the edges of the book. I used some Mod Podge to attach the tape; it made the inside covers look tidy and clean. This is also I made this for someone else, I wanted to be sure the edges were tidy.

If you want, you can give the book one final spray of the sealant to ensure no smudging or smearing of the gold finish or ink.

Now, stand back and admire the wonders of your handiwork!


~Miss Amelia Featherstone~
Adventurer and Tinkerer
NW Indiana
"Why Kate, you're not wearing a bustle. How lewd." ~Doc Holliday, Tombstone
United States United States

« Reply #1 on: May 28, 2011, 06:14:35 am »

O.O So much reading . . .

But, seriously, thank you for this.  I've got a few gift-giving events coming up and this gives me hope of giving my friends and family something cool and affordable. Cheesy
Zeppelin Admiral
Sudan Sudan

Capt of the "AO Victoria," Cdr of the Aeronauts!

« Reply #2 on: May 28, 2011, 07:38:54 am »

Another option (if you are so inclined) is to use actual leather rather than paper.  Michael's, A.C. Moore's, all the usual crafting places sells it by the square, and by remnatns as well.

Not sure how well it will take to the glueing process, but at any rate, it's an idea.

Also, might be a tad more convincing to have a leather strap coming from the keyhole.  I'm a stickler for detail (and also paranoid), and actually reaized my vocalists' firearm book was a false because of the keyhole, but no strap!

I have no advice on how to make the "pages" look like actual pages rather than paper mache...  Ah well, it is what it is.

Thank you so much for the how-to, I'll be adding this to my favorite's bar-Christmas is right around the corner, after all!

Don't let these shakes go on, it's time we had a break from it. Send me to the rear! Where the Tides of Madness swell, and men sliding into Hell...

Oh please don't let these shakes go on...
Will Howard
Zeppelin Admiral
United States United States

« Reply #3 on: August 22, 2011, 02:01:36 am »

You can add the "page" effect by scoring the edges with a very fine toothed comb or hacksaw blade before applying the final coat of finish.

"I'm a Barbarian by choice, not ancestry..."
Lady Ava
Zeppelin Admiral
United Kingdom United Kingdom


Adventurer, Dress-maker and General All-Round Awesome.

« Reply #4 on: August 22, 2011, 02:58:11 pm »

Excellent! I'll have to give this a go in a week or two, p'raps encase a gift for LYM inside it!

''I'm a loose bolt in a complete machine. What a match! I'm half-doomed and you're semi-sweet.''
‎"You want steampunk to be a novelty, a LOLcat, a meme. I want it to be my life. Which of us is going to fight harder for it?" - Dimitri Markotin
*DISCLAIMER*     This dungeon is fictional, and any similarities to other dungeons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Mention you're from BG when ordering for free shipping!
Herbert West
Zeppelin Captain
United States United States

Director of Preternatural Research, Arkam Museum

« Reply #5 on: October 24, 2011, 02:42:44 pm »

Thanks for the How To.  I just started on something similar, except I'm using an old ratty encyclopedia volume I picked up at Goodwill with the intent of hollowing it out and use as a costume prop (I can carry stuff in it as well). I kinda like the idea of using paper as a cover as its easier to paint whatever color you like. I really like the wrinkled texture.

 Heres a link that folks might find useful.

"I'm not a psychopath Anderson, I'm a high-functioning sociopath. Do your research!" ~Sherlock Holmes
Herbert West
Zeppelin Captain
United States United States

Director of Preternatural Research, Arkam Museum

« Reply #6 on: March 04, 2012, 06:58:36 pm »

Hope nobody minds my bringing this thread back from the dead, but thought I should post the results of my bookmaking efforts (first row of images).

I found the best way is to just apply thinned white glue and tissue paper to an existing book.

 Fear not book lovers. I've been careful to use only out of date computer books and the like.
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