DIY Coptic Stitched Photo Album


Finished Book

finished spine

Those who have been following this site for at least a year know that I’m going to Alaska this summer.  Those who have been following this site for more then a few years know that I like to make things myself.  Those who have been following this site forever know that I am a crazy person, but that’s for another post.

Any Hootie and the Blowfish, I like to make things.  When I go on these National Park trips, I take a lot of photographs.  I don’t only leave them on my computer and my website for people to view, I make two different albums of them, one a professionally printed and bound album of my best, and most favorite prints, and one a scrap book.  The scrap book has the photos of me, and whoever else I went on the trip with.  I used to put all of my photos into one big scrap book, but, naturally, it got too big to hold itself.  If you remember back to my trip to The Badlands, I made my own album for those photos.  When I went to Yellowstone the next year, I made a better book.  Well both of those were nice, but I wanted something different for Alaska.  Also, both of those books were made after I returned from my trips.  Meaning it took weeks and months from when I returned until I had someplace to put those photos.  For Alaska I decided to be proactive and make an album before I left.

This is it.

Finished book

Hit the jump to see how I made it:

I started with a few pieces of 1/2″ thick pieces of white oak wood.  Originally I wanted to use the wood from the tree I cut down, but it wasn’t working well, so I just went to Home Depot and bought some instead.  I got 3″ wide, and 1.25″ wide lengths.  Now came the hard part of deciding how I wanted the cover to look.  The dimensions of the cover were determined by the paper.

I ordered 25 sheets of 270gsm paper in Cool Grey from Legion Paper.  The paper was 25″x38″.  I had a few different ways I could cut it to get pages.  I decided to go with individual pages 12″x16″.  This let me cut the paper in half to give me 12.5″x38″  Half of 38 is 19, leaving me 6″ of extra on each sheet.  I felt this was acceptable waste.  I ended up making a test book with the scraps that I cut.  I cut 7 sheets, giving me 14 pages, each representing 4 sides giving me 56 pages, which I think is good, at least for a starter book. I’ll probably end up making another book.

So, now that the dimensions are out of the way, I needed cover design.  I ended up going with a window design as you can see above.  Originally I planned on backing the wood with some leather to make pockets to put some photos in, but I think I like it the way it is windowed into the book.  I might laminate some photos to put in the first page, or put the dates on the paper.  Who knows.

After I had the design laid out and set up, the wood needed to be cut.  I decided to route out half of the bottom side of the pieces so that when the cover laid flat it wasn’t 1″ thick, but closer to 3/4″.  Sorry I have no photos of routing it out, it’s hard to do that and take photos at the same time.  Then we glued it and clamped it together overnight.


After some careful prying off of the board, I got the cover all to itself.  It’s pretty rough and needs some work, but otherwise it’s not bad.

rough cover

I sanded the glue off, then went progressively down to 220 grit sand paper.  I think the grain is pretty nice, it definitely looks better then the rough one.

sanded cover

The cover looks good, but I wanted something to make it look more unique, I decided I wanted to write Alaska on it.  We have a wood burning iron, so I printed out the word ALASKA vertically, and I got a vector map of the state.  It only took two tries to print it out correctly sized! Yay for me!


I traced the words onto the wood with a piece of graphite paper – you know, carbon paper, the thing that CC stands for – carbon copy!  Then I burned it.  Everything Burns.

burned wood

I think that came out darn good, don’t you?

Back Cover

I had a front cover, now I needed something to back it.  This was harder to figure out.  Eventually, I found a piece of Masonite, and some felt.  The felt was probably big enough, but I accidentally put some scrap leather down over it and fell in love with the two-tone red & brown.  So that’s what I decided to cover the Masonite with.

Covered Back

I stitched the leather through holes I drilled into the Masonite.  I didn’t measure 100% and so I had to pull the leather very tight over the edge.  This wasn’t bad though because it means that there will be less slippage.



Now that I have the covers, it’s time to get the paper ready.  I had folded the paper in half when I cut it, so I just needed to decide on where I wanted the holes to go.  I spaced out 6 holes in the cover and drilled them in.  Then I made a template to punch holes in the rest of the signatures.

paper with holes

Since this is a photo album, I needed something to put between the pages so that the photos wouldn’t stick to each other.  This is a problem I’ve had before, and I was prepared.  I had a roll of very light weight paper, 20lbs I think, I can’t remember, that was partially transparent.  I cut that to size and used some book tape to secure it inside the pages.

light paper

Since I decided to use a Coptic stitch to bind the album, the edges of the paper are visible.  This paper is very thin and tears easily.  Also, it didn’t exactly look great next to the rest of the grey paper.  I used some of the scraps that I cut off earlier to make covers for these signatures.

corner covers

I put the 14 sheets into groups of 2, this gave me seven signatures which is just enough to alternate the thin paper.

As I said above, I used a Coptic stitch to bind the book.  I’m not going to go into what that is, and how to do it.  There are tons of tutorials on the internet.  Plus it’s difficult to keep everything all tight and then take photos at the same time.  Watch Sea Lemon, she’s very good.  Instead here’s the finished product:


You’ll notice two black threads in between the white.  I wanted to see if I could use my thicker black thread that I sewed the leather with.  It didn’t work and was a huge pain in the neck.  I stitched 1 signature with it, then cut it out.

Oh well, there’s my coptic stitched photo album.  I think it came out really well.  Now I just need to fill it up.  Luckily I know exactly when that will happen – late August.

First Page


One of the benefits of the coptic stitch is the ability of the pages to lay flat.  Since this is a photo album, that’s a very useful attribute.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *