So You Wanna Make A Box

by Susan Hartman for the Colorado Preservation Alliance

There are many reasons to opt for boxing a book. The basic reasons usually include protecting the book from further damage or deterioration, especially books with some value – either monetary, informational, or local interest. Putting a box around a book offers protection from the environment as well as some protection during a disaster.

Protective boxes can be purchased but the better the fit of the box to the book, the better the protection to be offered. What follows are directions for making a perfect-fitting box. Like all things created by following directions, a little practice may be required to hone your box-making skills.

Supplies needed:

  • Acid-free board (thickness depends on item to be boxed-.02″ for pamphlets and thin items;
  • .04-.06″ for larger items)
  • Calipers or ruler
  • Straight-edge (or ruler)
  • Sharp cutting knife
  • Bone folder
  • Pencil
  1. Start with a piece of board laying fully supported on a flat surface, grain running vertically. Lay the book squarely in the lower right corner of the board with the spine to the left side (you’ll be looking at the front cover in the normal fashion.)
  2. Carefully roll the book onto its HEAD, being careful it doesn’t slide on the board. Continue to roll the book over onto its front cover. You’ve just measured the height, thickness, and height again of the book.
  3. Carefully roll the book onto its SPINE and on over onto the back cover, again being careful not to let the book slide on the board. The book is now laying on the bottom of its box.
  4. Carefully mark all four edges of the book onto the board and remove the book. Extend each line to the edges of the board, using a ruler.
  5. Measure the thickness of the PAGES (opposite the spine), including the covers, at several points. If the book is flat, there will not be much variance and the average is acceptable. However, if the book is warped or made with one area thicker, allowances will have to be made. After determining the thickness, measure the same distance onto the board to the right of the center rectangle (where the book was outlined) Draw a dotted line connecting the two parallel lines.
  6. Measure the thickness of the SPINE of the book and measure this distance onto the board to the left of the center rectangle, add twice the thickness of the board. (You may need to estimate if you are using thinner board.) Draw a dotted line connecting the parallel lines.
  7. Measure the width of the front of the book and measure the same distance from the dotted line just drawn. Draw another dotted line, then add about two inches for a flap and draw a final solid line.
  8. Make slight angles on the top and bottom edges of this last 2″ section to make it easy to tuck in the flap when using the box. (see diagram)
  9. Measure the thickness of the HEAD of the book. Measure this same distance above the center rectangle (where the book was outlined), add one thickness of the board and draw a dotted line between the two parallel lines.
  10. Measure 3 1/2 – 4′ but less than half the height of the book, and draw a solid line. This last section is the top flap.
  11. Measure the thickness of the BOTTOM of the book and measure this distance below the center rectangle, add one thickness of the board and draw a dotted line. Add the same length you did for the top flap and draw a final solid line.
  12. Make a slight angle on the right side of the flaps to make it easier to close the box. (see diagram)
  13. In each corner, extend the dotted lines outward until they intersected (see diagram). These should be solid lines. These become the corner flaps to keep dust from getting into your box.
  14. Cut out along the outside perimeter (solid) lines of the box using a straight edge and a sharp knife. Make several cuts if necessary rather than one heavy forced cut, cut the corner flaps loose only on the HORIZONTAL line between the box and the flap; cut a slight angle on the inside edge (see diagram).
  15. To shape the box, place a straight edge along each dotted line and crease on the dotted lines, using a bone folder. After creasing a line, carefully lift the edge to a vertical position.
  16. Place the book in the center rectangle, fold the right side over the top of the book, then fold both top and bottom flaps over top (these flaps shouldn’t overlap), tuck the corner flaps around the book but inside the box, and fold the left side over the top and carefully tuck the flap under the top and bottom flaps.TA-DAH!! You have now made the perfect-fitting box.

There are many types and varieties of boxes with many different styles of closures. The one included here uses no glue, sewing, buttons, cotton bands or such. It is a simple self-closing box.

Figure 1