Leather Bookbinding and Impressions?

I have always been a fan of blind impression or gold on book covers. I can’t seem to find any information for just how you go about doing it from Google, however. So, I turn to you in hopes that someone who has done this utilizing a letterpress (or other means) can shed some light on the process for me.

I am just now getting into bookbinding after only dabbling in it a few times in college. I aim to work my way up to specializing in leather bindings, so any information on creating the impressions in the cover will be most appreciated!

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Hi mocha_san

This is done with a hot foil printer, they are very much like a letterpress machine except they have no rollers or ink disc, and instead have heating element to warm up the type or dies/plates and use a roll of foil instead of ink.

Its called lots of different names here in the UK: foil printing, foil stamping, foil blocking, dry stamping and many more im sure.

There are also specialist bookbinding tools for this… they look somewhat like an awl or a screwdriver, have a wooden handle with a metal shaft and have a single letter or pattern on the end. These are heated up and pressed into your printing material letter by letter.

I cant really help you much more than that… as thats pretty much the sum total of my knowledge on the subject but hopefully its given you a few phrases you can search google with. Goodluck!

Up to a certain quantity and quality a leading supplier is Kwikprint, which we use daily.

You will also want to look into www.guildofbookworkers.org.


foil stamping is done with all metal dies. copper,brass,magnesium, and some still use lead as from a ludlow… heat is transfered to the die from the press and the temp is adjusted for the given application. this can at times be upwards of 300 deg F so locking up with wood does not happen.
foil comes on a roll, with many colors available. with ink, you can mix colors to an infinite degree. where as foil color is ordered from a pre-made selection. you can order custom colors but you don’t want to know how much this costs and how much the minimum order is. Crown, Kurtz, and API are a few major companies today. Kluge used to build machines that would both ink or foil,(not at the same time)
the press is set to the correct temp, the die is attached to the heating unit, the foil is thread through the press, with the proper foil advance set. your makeready is quite similar to any other letterpress set up. foil becomes dissimilar to ink in that it is either on or off. there is no light or dark.
this a VERY general overview of the process as there are SO MANY variables to each situation. your best bet is to buy a machine made to do this. however, i have seen some that have a hot plate that can be locked into an open chase. you then still need to have something that pulls the foil in a measured fashion.
as i say this is Very general, i know, but, your best bet is to find someone to mentor you on this as it takes a bit of training to pursue this without wasting a bunch of money. small foil imprinters are available for cheap. this link shows a brief insight.

Thanks for your insight, everyone! Looks like this will be a dream item for my shop at some point.