Here is a technical posting for all you bookbinders out there, or anyone trying to glue paper to another surface. I hope you'll find it to be a helpful resource! I originally wrote this article for our BEST team blog and have incorporated the information left in comments and have some new information as well based on my latest personal experience.
With all the adhesives and glues on the market today, it can be difficult to know what to use for the application of bookbinding, particularly if you’re new to the art.
When I first started tinkering with bookbinding, I had no one to mentor me and was just learning from experience. I certainly learned what NOT to do!! I got a book on simple bookbinding and they recommended using glue stick for their step-by-step projects. Lesson one—DON’T use glue stick! It may be quick and easy to use, but over time the glue hardens and cracks, causing the paper to pull away from the book board, ruining all your lovely work. Someone recently recommended Tombo’s glue stick to me, which reportedly does not do that, but I have been unable to find it to give it a try.
Another product on the market is YES stik flat glue found at most craft stores. A bookbinder I took a class from actually recommended this glue (!!!!). It won’t wrinkle delicate papers and is water based making for easy clean up, but it's messy to use and I invariably end up with most of it on my fingers and transfer to everything I touch! I've been told YES paste will darken paper over time, even though it claims to be acid free. For that reason, I don’t recommend YES. I've particularly had problems with it pulling away from the board with slightly heavy weight papers. In fact, I'm trying to use it up on a project I've been working on and that very thing just happened! Now I've got to re-glue the entire thing! Grrrr!
Why is it that when you're trying to to conserve something, it goes away twice as fast, but when you want to use it up, it won't ever go away? That is my story with YES glue.
**Note added later- I just threw away my jar of Yes glue. It ruined my project and this is the last straw! After my paper popped off my project, I tried to reapply first PVA, then white glue over top of the dried Yes glue. It acted as a stripper, peeling off the Yes glue and not sticking to the paper. I had to strip the entire sheet first before being able to reuse it! The sheet is now damp and wrinkled and I'm hoping a night in the press will flatten it out.
Wheat paste is a glue used in traditional bookbinding and is still in use today. The great thing about it is it can be made in batches according to how much you anticipate needing. There are many recipes for wheat paste or rice paste; here’s one from Solar Cooking. About.com has a video tutorial on making wheat paste.
PVA is another highly recommended glue and can be mixed with methyl cellulose to slow down the drying time, allowing for repositioning. Menthyl cellulose is also good as a thinning agent for the PVA glue. It is not a good idea to thin the PVA with water because it can affect the stability of the glue over time.
Noted bookbinder Peter Goodwin recommends SuperFlex PVA glue by Fuller in his YouTube video, appropriately titled “Glue”. This very basic tutorial shows the technique he uses to apply his glue and some helpful tips.
Cindy from The Paper Studio also recommends a PVA glue and demonstrates the technique of gluing for book covers in this YouTube video, “How to Glue for Bookbinding".
One last resource is this great site that gives glue advice called "This to That". I love their slogan--"Because people have a need to glue things to other things"! I wish I'd had this info years ago!! Oh, the trials I could have avoided!