Learn the secrets behind making these priceless Mini-Book Charms!
Over the past few years, I've had the pleasure of meeting so many amazing people in this crafty business. I've been part of book launches, keepsake collections, and my personal favorite: gifts to spouses. The charms have been put on necklaces, bookmarks, key chains, convention IDs, Christmas ornaments, wine glass tags, and crafted into many creative things (like book mobiles!)
Since I've gotten so busy with book design work, I've decided to put this crafting aside and share what I've learned about the process. Anyone can make them - it just takes time.
If you're SERIOUS about making these,
Now that your covers are printed, give the ink at least 30 minutes to dry. Be very aware of dust and fingerprints at this stage. In fact, wipe down your work space BEFORE you print, and make sure you're not wearing a fabric that sheds when you move. ONE piece of lint can ruin the whole book. (Depending on how picky you are - I tend to be very picky.) If you see lint/dust on your cover, wipe it off gently with micro-fiber fabric or soft cotton. DON'T USE YOUR FINGERS! You'd be surprised how the faintest touch can leave a permanent smudge.
Next, trim your covers to workable sizes. DO NOT trim them all the way to the image - wait until they're sealed before you make "final" cuts.
Scotch tape is Acid Free acrylic sheeting. How cool is that!! I've tried many "ways" to apply the tape, but this what I've found works best for me.
Your goal is to put tape over the entire image without creating wrinkles or entrapping dust particles. You can do this any way you choose. For me, I like to lay the tape on my work space sticky-side up.
Before you commit to any serious folds lines, make sure the top and bottom edges line up with each other, and that the front and back sides are parallel (They should NOT line up with each other, because of the spine).
Do not make a solid fold... just bend the paper enough to create a slight corner. Trust me on this. A rounded spine allows for more flexibility when you start adding the interior paper.
Choosing the right watercolor paper is important. As I said before, you want a heavy weight (such as 140#), NO texture, and make sure it's Acid Free. If it's not Acid Free, your pages will turn yellow and your photographic paper will break down and shift colors within a few years.
Don't waste your time with heavily textured paper. The texture will emboss itself on your cover when you put it in the press. (or when you put it under a pile of heavy books)
Cutting the paper sounds easy enough, but there are some tips and tricks I've learned:
I like to start by laying out 3-4 books at a time. Pages are divided into 3 groups. This particular book has 8 pages, so the groups contain 3, 1, 4 pages. This middle page is where the eye hook will go, but first we need to make some adjustments.
These eye hooks (pictured) are 1.25 inches long. FYI, don't go with the cheapest ones you can find - the finish doesn't hold up. You can EASILY use longer eye hooks and trim them down with wire cutters. 1.5 inches works perfectly fine.
The width of the watercolor paper is dang close to being exactly the same width as the eye hook. If you are using paper that isn't quite thick enough, you may have to cut a channel in two pages to hold the eye hook in place.
If you end up with an even number of pages, put the higher number of pages in front of the hook. (that way, if your hardware makes a slight bump or dent, it'll show more on the back than it does on the front.
I can't stress enough how important it is to work with CLEAN surfaces when pressing your book - even when pressing in a temporary situation. Inks on scratch paper can get pressed into your cover. Scratches on board books can cause unwanted textures in your cover. Globs of glue from the day before can make big dents in your cover. (If you used a piece of computer paper and a speck of glue oozed out and dried...then you use the same page for the next round of books.. you'll press that bump right into your cover.
Books can be re-pressed to fix certain things (this works 80% of the time), but once the glue is dry, there's not a lot you can do about anything.
I have an old flower press that I got from a neighbor's garage sale. It's awesome for this job. However, a stack of books works just as well. Just make sure the heavy books are pressing evenly on your book charms. If your stack isn't balanced properly, your book will be pressed with odd angles applied. Spread your books out for a better foundation, and feel free to put book charms between books if you have a lot of volume - there's no need to have more than one tower.
Again, make sure you protect your "pressing" books by placing a piece of plain paper between the charms and books. Otherwise, they will surely get a little glue on them, and then the glue will dry and cause problems later.
I keep the books in a pressed state overnight. This allows plenty of time for the glue to dry. If you pull the charms out too soon, the glue on the edges might be dry, but it's still wet in the middle. As the middle dries, the paper shrinks and causes the book to warp. If this happens, you can try pressing the book again to straighten things out.
After the book charms have been removed from the press, look carefully at all the pages and scrape away any remaining glue that has bubbled out. An X-acto knife is helpful for this, but I find that prying small beads of glue with my nails works too.
Drying the Acrylic
Now is the time to add additional jump rings. With these additional rings, you can then add key chain rings, earring clasps, other charms that go along with your theme. Have fun with it!! Browse around in the craft store and you'll be flooded with possibilities.
I realize this post is long-winded, but these charms really are quite simple to make. I can tell you from my heart, and from hundreds of authors, these mini book charms ARE worth the effort. Maybe you don't want to make dozens to give away, but DO make them as a reward for your own accomplishments. I have a collection of my personal books hanging on my computer bag, and people ask me about them all the time. It's a wonderful conversation piece.
If you have ANY questions about the process, leave me a comment and I'll be happy to share what I know.