What Makes a Book ‘Well Made?’


On our website, John and I frequently discuss the mechanical aspects of our books. But sometimes I worry our technical jargon is lost on some.

To help remedy that, here’s a short video on the mechanical aspects of our books. If you’ve ever wondered about paper weight, edition binding and sewing signatures, this video should clear it up.

If you’d like a factory tour of the plant that prints many of our full-color books, check out this film that I made last year. That film shows how many of our manufacturing decisions play out on the factory floor.

We think book manufacturing is important. Many books today are so shoddily printed and bound that it’s no wonder many people prefer electronic books. We strive to ensure our books will last for a long time, can survive a shop environment (or worse) and still be a pleasure to read after decades of use.

— Christopher Schwarz


About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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16 Responses to What Makes a Book ‘Well Made?’

  1. Michael Rodgers says:

    Very interesting!!! Thanks,



  2. Corey says:

    Excellent, informative video Chris. Thanks for educating us on the printing process.


  3. Robert Taylor says:

    Thanks for taking the time to make this video man! Very informative.


  4. erikhinkston says:

    Love this, explains a lot about why some of my well read cheap books have fallen apart. I started out just buying the digital versions of your books, I like to convenience of carrying them on my iPad. When you published Virtuoso, the Studley book you couldn’t offer a digital version so I bought the printed one. Once I received it and had one of your books in my hands I started ordering all of the printed books I already had in the digital format. It really makes a difference and always passes the test of making me happy when I pick them up and read them.


    • Tim says:

      Totally agree, I got the latest book Cut and Dried with the PDF first as part of a pre order deal and when the hard copy arrived it was just a totally different experience.


  5. Salko Safic says:

    Your books are of outstanding quality, most informative and enjoyable to read. Without a doubt digital formats on iPads have their place especially that one can enlarge the font. The biggest downside to digital is that your hard drive can become corrupted and you lose the lot. You can make up back discs, but in reality few today have. Nothing beats a book and nothing beats a well made, well-written book.


  6. Larry G says:

    As the spouse of a librarian, I have been well educated in the miserable state of book binding. Thank you for not only being aware of the issue but taking care make sure that the craft of your books matches your woodworking. Books like yours are treasures that should last.


  7. rons54 says:

    Both of my daughters are librarians and both were impressed with the quality of the books when we visited the store front. While I find it convenient to read on my phone for entertainment, most of the books LAP publishes are worthy of being bound just as they are, to last for generations. Perhaps some other publishers will see the light and realize that there is a market for quality books and that getting them out as cheaply as possible is not the only possible business model.


  8. Ron Kanter says:

    The quality of your books is outstanding and the video is very helpful in explaining how and why. The video is well presented visually and the information is clear. As a filmmaker, I am surprised that the quality of the sound is not nearly recorded at the same high quality level. Given that your narration over the closeup is fine but the sound of you speaking during the wide shot of you at the table sounds like someone speaking in a tune, I’m guessing that you are recording the audio using the microphone on the camera. The problem is that the mic should always be close to the speaker, while the camera moves to different locations based on what needs to be seen. When the mic is too far from the sound source or speaker the tunnel effect is the result An inexpensive lavelier microphone cabled to the camera would give better more consistent sound. i appreciate the time and effort that went into making the video and i found it very informative. You clearly work hard at producing quality books. I hope my comments on the sound in the video can be heard as my small attemp to help raise the quality of your video to the same level.


  9. Richard Mahler says:

    As a graphic designer and production director for 30 years, untold press and production proofings all hours of the day and night, budgets in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, all in the pursuit of the utmost in quality design, typography, materials and bindings, I have utmost respect and appreciation of what Lost Art Press accomplishes.


  10. Neal McCormick says:

    The quality of the books you publish is outstanding. You have a blog post from a while back that I found to be very useful. You really can open a book to a page and it will stay open to that page – which is a convenience when refreshing your drink of choice. “Preparing a book to read it” is the blog post. The link is here: https://blog.lostartpress.com/2012/03/24/preparing-a-book-to-read-it/


  11. Kevin Hedin says:

    Being somewhat of a bibliophile, I certainly enjoy books of high quality. Although I am interested in most of the material you publish, and would most likely buy books from you regardless of the binding style, it’s nice to know that I also get to appreciate a well-made book when I receive an order. And, I don’t mind paying a somewhat higher price for the privilege.

    Nice video on the subject of book construction.

    I have to say that I hope you continue to stick with the straight cut edges instead of the deckle edge. The deckle edge makes flipping around in the book feel very awkward, and doesn’t contribute enough to the visual aesthetics to make it worth it, in my opinion. (Honestly, I don’t even think deckle edges look good in the first place.)

    Keep up the good work!


  12. CRae says:

    I didn’t realize that boards moved like wood. The front board of one of my Charles Hayward books curled slightly, and I just assumed I was not storing it properly. Thanks for the education.


  13. mjbukrey says:

    Chris, That was quite an education- Thank for sharing sir. I just ordered your “Anarchist Design Book” in both hardcopy and PDF version (so I can enjoy it while traveling over the holiday). Looking forward to dipping me toe into chairmaking. Many thanks Lost Art Press!


  14. Lex says:

    Nice explanation. The smell of acetone is nostalgic for me because I grew up going to a lithography factory and acetone is the thinner for printing ink. My mother bought my first LAP book, and after 35 years in printing books, she was impressed. Me too, though I only worked in binding and pre-press for a handful of years.

    I’m a nerd and at times go deeper in inspecting a book. That’s me checking the backup and maybe representively measuring gutter depths to see if they’re consistent.

    The care LAP puts into selecting material and a printer is heartening. I believe the hashtag would be something about keeping craft alive. As someone who got to know the craft and has watched it wither, i’m willing to buy LAP books as much for the craft of bookmaking they represent as I am the incredible content.


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