Nearly weekly, I receive emails asking where one might be able to find hand bookbinding tools and materials in Singapore. As I tell my students, tools and materials are a) nearly impossible to find bookmaking supplies in Singapore or b) crazy expensive. Many book artists who I know import their tools and materials from the U.K. or Japan. I, on my annual visit home, hoard bone folders, linen thread, and needles for use in my classes.
Does that mean a hand bookbinding hobby in Singapore is a pipe dream? Of course not! I’ve shared my love of this quirky art with many who have not had the access or the means to procure expensive tools and materials. One can make beautiful books with popsicle stick, a needle, a nail, dental floss, a stack of envelopes, a cardboard box, burlap, and glue.
Still, if you are keen on building a professional-quality hand bookbinding toolbox, here is where in Singapore you might buy your materials (or a close approximation of)!
A bone folder, a flat, polished tool made of bone or plastic for turning corners on cloth and leather, scoring paper, folding, smoothing out surfaces, and burnishing surfaces, can be found at Art Friend (SG$9.95 for 6″; SG$14.95 for 10″).
Bookbinding needles, strong, blunt tip needles, are not sold in Singapore. However, darning needles, available at Spotlight (SG$2.30; packet of 10, size 1/5), are a good substitute.
A student quality (non-professional quality) binder’s awl, a tool used for piercing sewing stations, or the hole through which the needle and thread can pass, can be found at Diaso (SG$2; 1 3/4″ point set into a 4″ long handle).
Unbleached French linen thread in varying thicknesses is not sold in Singapore. However, six-ply cotton embroidery floss, available at Spotlight (SG$0.33-SG$0.86 per 8.7 yard skein), are a good substitute.
Acid-free pH neutral glue can be found at Art Friend (SG$3.20).
Acid-free binders board, heavy cardboard for making hardbound books, in varying sizes and thickness is not sold in Singapore. However, chip board (not acid-free), available at mapletreehouse.com (SG$0.95 per sheet; 12″ x 12″), is a good substitute.
Paper-backed book cloth, fabric used as covering material for book covers and boxes, is not sold in Singapore and there I have found no good substitute. I tell my more eager students to make their own.
A variety of handmade and machine-made papers in standard sizes (A2, A3, etc.) can be found at Fancy Papers. NBC (Nippon Beauty Card) sells a small selection of washi papers from Japan.
Additionally, the following books are available at the National Library:
Keith Smith’s Non-Adhesive Binding (Volumes I-V) series of books are a book arts’ student’s bible. These incredible reference texts are a must-have.
ABC of Bookbinding by Jane Greenfield is an illustrated glossary covering terms related to bookbinding and the book.
Japanese Bookbinding: Instructions from a Master Craftsman by Kojiro Ikegami gives easy-to-follow instructions for making all the major historically important styles of Japanese bindings.
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Questions? Leave ’em in the comments. The prices quoted above are based on my own recent purchases.