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Creating an Embossed Sketchbook

Jimmy DiResta

Project by

Jimmy DiResta
East Durham, NY

General Information

In this project we’re going to bind up a blank journal and give it an embossed cover made with the help of your 3D carver. View the companion videos at: and

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Material Description Price
Brown Chipboard Pads

Brown Chipboard Pads

Dimensions: 12 in × 24 in × .022 in, pack of 10 sheets, Type: Chipboard, Color: Brown

MDF Wood

MDF Wood

Dimensions: 12 in × 12 in, Thickness: 1/2 in


Skill Builder #1: Importing the artwork

The first thing you’ll do in this project is carve out the logo or design you want to emboss. Begin the process by importing your logo into Easel. If you have the logo as an SVG (scalable vector graphic), import it that way. If it is a raster image, like a JPG or GIF, use the image trace feature in Easel. Click Import, Image Trace, and then click Upload File. Choose your file from the appropriate location and click Open.

The threshold slider specifies a value for generating a vector from the original raster image. All pixels in the original image lighter than the threshold value are converted to white and become invisible; all pixels darker than the threshold value are converted to black and are available for import as vector elements.

When you are happy with your design then click import.

Once this is done you need to position the art on the part. The embossed letters will protrude from the front cover so we need to reverse them in the MDF. To do this click your logo so it is selected and then go to the Edit menu and click “Flip Horizontal”. Next, adjust the depth of the carve to 1/8" deep. Use the position tool to adjust the position of your art on the die.

If you are using the C-clamp alternative then you want to raise the letters up as you won’t be able to put as much force on the MDF. If you have access to a shop press then you want to engrave the logo into the material ?”.


Skill Builder #2: Carving the Die

60 minutes

Next grab the MDF and clamp it in your 3D carving machine on all sides. For the “DIRESTA” logo I chose I used the 1/16" fishtail bit, which has a blue ring on it. It’s a good bit to start with if you don’t know what you need. This bit has a small enough diameter to get the fine details right.

When you’re ready click the green Carve button and watch as your design gets carved into the MDF die.


Skill Builder #3: Gluing the Signatures

60 minutes

Begin by taking a stack of parchment and folding each page in half as neatly as possible. These will be your signatures, the double pages that you’ll glue together to form the book’s pages.

Once you have the pages all folded, secure the stack with clamps, using pieces of wood to protect the pages from getting dinged. In particular you’ll want to clamp the folds of the signatures tight so the spin doesn’t bulge out.

Glue the spine with Jade glue, also known as PVA. This is the classic bookbinder’s glue and I use it on everything from paper to wood to leather. You’ll want to cover the entire spine with a couple coats and then glue a piece of cheesecloth over the spine to keep the signatures together. The cheesecloth is called the mull in the bookbinding world, and it will help the spine bend without breaking.


Embossing the Cover With a Shop Press

Cut two pieces of chipboard the size you want your cover to be. One will be the front cover, and the other will be the back cover.

Next, let’s use the MDF die to emboss the book cover. First, make a stack of the materials. From bottom to top stack the MDF die, the chipboard, a hard piece of vulcanized rubber, and a solid piece of metal or wood.

Use the support pins to adjust the height of the press apron. This is where you will place your material. The press apron should be in the highest position possible with the book jacket open, laying flat, and as close to the ram of the jack plate as possible.

Inspect the work area to ensure there are no obstructions or debris under the arbor plates. If you have anything in between it will create an uneven surface and potentially even damage your press.

Using the jack handle, lower the jack plate until the ram of the plate contacts the rubber. Make sure the book is aligned vertically with your MDF die and continue to operate the handle to press into the workpiece and create the embossing.


Using a C-Clamp to Emboss the Cover

If you don’t have access to a shop press, you can achieve the same effect with C-clamps or a tabletop vise. Make a stack consisting of the die, chipboard, rubber, as well as a reinforcing plate called an arbor plate. Put the entire stack in a workbench vise (or several clamps) and tighten it as hard as you can. Leave the pressure on for twenty minutes, then loosen the vise. The chipboard will be embossed with the logo you carved.

Alternatively, if you don’t want to bind up your own book, you can repeat this process with a commercial journal and simply open up the book and slide just the cover into the stack.


Skill Building #6: Assembling the Cover

30 minutes

Having embossed the chipboard, let’s make it into a cover. Lay down a sheet of bookbinding cloth and use Jade glue to secure the two pieces of chipboard, with the embossed portion of the front cover face down. You’ll also need a small strip of chipboard for the spine. Use a ruler and L-square to ensure everything’s straight.

Next, cut out the cloth around the chipboard, leaving around half an inch of cloth showing. It doesn’t have to be perfectly neat and straight, because those flaps will get folded in.

Flip the cover over and work the cloth into the embossed chipboard, making the letters show up better.

Next, let’s fold in the paper edges. Cut the corners with two diagonal edges and a small flap. For each corner, fold in one of the sides, fold in the small flap, then cover the flap with the other side.


Skill Building #7: Attach the Cover

Set aside the cover for now and grab the endpapers. I used pages from a glossy catalog, but you can use anything as long as it’s not too flimsy. The end papers help secure the bound signatures to the front and back covers.

Cover the back endpages in glue and attach the signatures to the back cover. Glue the front endpages as well and press the front cover down.

Finally, use a bone folder to press in the cover creases, giving the book more flexibility to open and close.



1 minute

This project shares a couple different ways to emboss the cover of a sketchbook or notebook, whether your own creation or a store-bought product. To view more 3D-carver projects and a whole lot more, check out my YouTube channel: