Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Repairing a Broken Board Book (updated)

This post contains affiliate links.

So for a long time now I've been looking around for information on how to fix board books, specifically for ones with cracked spines. It's amazing to me that there's not much out there. I read through lots of websites that talked about how to repair regular books, but not board books. I finally decided to just take what I'd gleaned from my research and go for it.
Let me start with a picture of one of my repair candidates to show you why I didn't want to just slap some duct tape on and call it good, as so many websites said to do.
As you can see, Erik bends his books backwards until the spine snaps, typically in two or three places. From there it's way too easy for him to start pulling the book apart page by page. Even if he doesn't pull the book apart, the pages now have no foundation and start becoming misaligned, which makes turning pages surprisingly hard. I could just put a piece of tape over the spine, but that wouldn't do much of anything for us. 
Before I start I need to say that if you are repairing a book that you want to last for a long time (for your grand-kids to read some day down the road, perhaps?), you need to do a little research and be willing to spend a little extra money on glues and tapes that won't harm the paper in your book. I am not really looking to make my books last forever, but I don't want to buy Erik new books until he learns to take care of what he's got so I need these to last a little longer.
Okay, so what to do about your poor broken books? Let's gather our supplies:
-White glue, preferably acid free (I got mine for less than a dollar at my grocery store)
-Small paint brush (my preferred brush has a flat head, but I bet you could make any small brush work)
-Clamps (or anything heavy)

I did a lot of reading about what kind of glue to use (there are apparently "rules" about what ph your glue should be depending on the type of paper, etc) and finally decided that just regular white glue should be okay for my needs. I did finally find one blog that had a post about how to repair board books (she has removed the content though so I can't share a link), and she used the same method I'm going to show here except she used Mod Podge. It seems like that would work fine (again, if you're looking for repairs to last decades, you may want to do a little research before using ANY type of glue), but I didn't have any Mod Podge on hand and after reading this I wasn't about to try making my own. So far the plain old cheap glue has done great.
What to do:
First you want to apply a thin but even coat of glue to both sides of the insides of the cracks in your book's spine. Make sure the glue goes in as deep as the book is split, you don't want bubbles in your pages. When you're done with your brush, be sure to rinse it thoroughly if you intend to use it again.

Next, you push and pull on the pages in your book until the edges are all lined up (as much as possible anyway) and then clamp the spine. At this point I applied a light coat of glue all over the outside of the spine to just make sure every crack was sealed. Leave your book in the clamps for several hours (I've left my books anywhere from 8 hours to overnight) until the glue has had PLENTY of time to dry. 
*If you don't have clamps, you could just stack a pile of big heavy books on top of the book you just glued. Basically you're just looking for anything that will provide constant and VERY firm pressure to your book to hold it while the glue dries. 
Next, remove the clamps, and determine whether the little flap of paper that covers the spine is worth trying to save. On this book it was 95% gone, so I decided it wasn't worth saving. 
If you're like me and you've decided not to save the spine cover, than take some scissors and carefully trim the jagged edges so that it looks nice. I don't know about your kids, but if there is any kind of a flaw in a book Erik can't leave it alone and picks at it until he's destroyed the book. But, if I make sure all the edges are smooth and straight he typically won't mess with it. 
 If you've decided there is enough of the spine cover to try to save it, then..... Here I have to admit I have no experience, yet. (See update at bottom of post) I did not realize when I started this project that my hubby had polished off all the clear packing tape I had planned to use for book spine repairs. So, I have had to set aside all my books that need the spine cover repaired until after I get to the store. But, from past experience in making covers for some of my textbooks, I do have a tip. When taping the spine of your book, make sure you do so with the book closed. When a book is open the spine folds up on itself, making it smaller. If you were to tape a book while it was opened you would be unable to close it.
As soon as I get to the store, I will update this post with anything I learn from the experience of fixing the cover.
And now, just for showing-off purposes, here is the same book after the repair process is complete.

I was afraid the glue would soak through the pages and make them stick together, but it worked great!
*7/20/13       I just wanted to say that this has seemed to work really well with all the books I did this too. Erik is still pretty hard on his books, so every other month or so I have to pull the tape and things out and re-repair a book or two, but I think that would be the case even if we started out with brand new books each time. 

I never did do an update about taping the spines, but after doing it on my books I decided that it's pretty easy to figure out as long as you follow my suggestion to always tape the spine of the book with the book closed. The tape does get in the way if you need to do another repair later on down the road, but it's not too hard to cut it away and then put new tape on when you're done. 

*1/12/15      All the books that I repaired before posting this almost exactly two years ago are still in working order. There is one that is just about beyond fixing, but the rest are doing great. I think that's pretty good considering they've now survived Erik, Paisley, and Sharli!

*Diedre Mower is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to 


  1. Thanks! This is super helpful. I hope I the same success.

  2. This is such helpful information - thanks for sharing! I included it in a Hint Mama hint on tips for repairing broken board books

  3. Thanks so much for this! Any ideas how to repair a page that has come out of a thin, stapled kid's book? My regular-sized stapler is too small to handle the task.

    1. I'm so glad this was useful for you! I'm not sure what to tell you about your stapled book though, maybe take it to a copy shop and see if they have a bigger stapler they'd let you use? Sorry, I know that's not much help.

    2. You open up the stapler and place an eraser (or cork, or anything that a staple will stick into) on the underside of the spine. Use the open stapler to staple the spine, ensuring that whatever you're using to staple into is on the underside. Remove the eraser from the tines of the staple, and use a flathead screw driver or similar tool to manually fold down the tines of the staple.

    3. Thanks Melinda, that's a great solution to this problem!