Tag Archives: 4 hole basic

Teaching oriental binding

The Canberra BookCraft Guild’s next challenge for the year will be to create a stack of books, according to some binding themes, which will be explored over the coming months at their regular meetings. Doesn’t sound too hard. Perhaps I can be whimsical.

Different sewing patterns including Korean 5 hole

Different sewing patterns including Korean 5 hole

The first binding technique is Japanese Binding. We really should be calling it oriental binding, considering the Chinese invented it and used it for centuries.

In my vocational class at Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) I usually spend an evening exploring two or three patterns.

The Basic four hole pattern is used in China, Japan and Korea. They are not as indiscernible as one may think; in China the 4 hole basic is more likely to have uneven hole spread, whereas in Japan the holes are equidistant. In Korea, on the other hand, they have 5 holes.

Kangxi, Hemp and Tortoise patterns

Kangxi, Hemp and Tortoise patterns

The other basic patterns are Kangxi, Hemp and Tortoise. Any other patterns that you may learn or see all stem from these four basic patterns.

I tried to teach myself from Kojiro Ikegami’s Japanese bookbinding. And although it is simple enough I couldn’t understand how to start properly so I just made it up. Eventually I had to travel to Buenos Aires to take an oriental binding course with Dana Adamoli at the Papeleria Palermo. It took all day, but I left with 8 booklets, all sewn with the pair of internal stitches that really hold the book together, and I finally learned how to begin sewing from inside the book.


Now when I peruse Ikegami’s book I understand so much more. And I can see that there is a little bit more to oriental binding than meets the eye.

japanese styles

Decchoso, Recchoso, fukuro-toji, yamato-toji, yotsume-toji; so much jargon, so many different spellings, but I think all important to know and remember,

In my classes I like to give well rounded information, so that the student doesn’t just have blinkers on. Oriental bindings can be concertinas, scrolls, butterfly. Within the concertina style, there are at least 3 ways of making the concertina itself.


latest demo model for students

latest demo model for students

Double concertina – Pasted at the egdes and sewn individually with pamphlet stitch.

However when I surf the Net or browse other books, there are many small details that teachers simply either do not know or skip over completely. The internal sewing is more often than not left out; but that is the most important part of the binding as it keeps all the pages together. The outer stitching is simply decorative.

Certainly in Japanese bookbinding, the mind set is about the process and the binding; it’s not about making 4 holes slap dash and doing a quick sew. It is about the beauty and form of the lines. I’d like to think that my students are learning “the real thing” so that they can then choose to adapt and create from that point onwards. This shows a form of respect for what one is trying to re-create, imitate, learn or propagate. Otherwise it’s a bit like making chicken Caesar salad – in a true Caesar salad there is no chicken!

I’ve been finding some fascinating bookbinding manuals at the Library.

Zukai seihon / Ueda Tokusaburo jutsu ; Shimo Taro hitsu ; Takei Takeo ga ; [henshu Onchi Koshiro] – OJ 9463 2621 –

Japanese bookbinding manual

Japanese bookbinding manual

Silk corner on manual

Silk corner on manual







Chinese traditional bookbinding : a study of its evolution and techniques / by Edward Martinique – 686.3 M386

Another book, a copy of which I had to order from Princeton Library ,is David Helliwell’s Repair and binding of old chinese books. This one is well worth the read, especially with the upcoming Chinese exhibition at the Library next year.

I like browsing the binding images online; there really is some wonderful work out there and wonderful ideas abound.

At the moment I’m into mini books. I’d like to see if my new Epson WF 7610 printer can print on Japanese paper; I want to replicate the Helliwell book as  a mini fukuro-toji (pouch style). I might make a little book out of each chapter and then house them in tao, the chinese word for the traditional flap folder or box


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