Making a cover for my Kindle from an old book
Sunday, November 14, 2010 at 9:53PM
Quentin in books, making, technology

Alanna and I recently got Kindle readers as a wedding present.  Woo hoo!  We both love them, and are enjoying them immensely. 

However, I'm pretty rough and tumble with my gadgets, and I knew that I would need something to protect the kindle.  There are some really nice cases available from Amazon, and elsewhere (I particularly like the oberon cases).  But I'm pretty broke these days, and that, combined with some inspiration, led me to the idea of making my own kindle cover. 

I decided to use an old book as the structure, rather than collecting all new materials as the Ipad case maker did, both for cost control, and for aesthetics.  I went around the corner to Circus books and music, and asked them if they had any old hardback books that were tattered or falling apart which I could cannibalize.  (Incidentally, Circus is a GREAT store and if you live in Toronto, it's worth the trip to Greektown.  You will definitely find something to buy.)  They very nicely gave me an old, ratty copy of "The Personal Life of Queen Victoria", published in 1897!  The interior pages were torn, but the spine and the cover were in great shape.  Just what I wanted.

I did a little internet research, and found that there are a number of people who have made their own kindle covers.  I took my design/idea from this one (technically for an ipad), and this one.  I spent the rest of the evening measuring and designing what I wanted to do--here's a "warts and all" scan of what I came up with:

Today, I collected the materials, and put it together.  I went downtown to Fabricland under the Bay, as well as to Curry's Art Supplies on Yonge St, and picked up some 10" of white elastic, a glue stick, some WeldBond Glue, a piece of masonite board, and a remainder of felt.  Total cost was around 8 bucks for everything.  Here are the supplies (minus the elastic, which I must have forgotten):

I started by cutting the Masonite board to make the spine that I needed.  This old book had a cloth spine, and the problem was that the pages of the book were thicker than the kindle.  I spent a lot of time fretting about this, then decided to make a hard spine that I would put into the cloth spine of the book and just let the excess be.  The other benefit would be that the excess would allow the spine to fold all the way around the back, so I wouldn't have to hold the cover flap while I read.  The wooden spine width was 3/8", which is the exact width of a kindle, by my measurement.

I cut the Masonite board using a very sharp blade from a victorinox leatherman, on my kitchen cutting board.  It was tough going, and I ended up basically scoring it and then bending it into place, cleaning off any excess that remained. 

From there, it was time to strip the book.  I had a really hard time with this--destroying a book just seems like an awful thing to do, but given the bad shape that it was in, and the fact that you can download and read the whole thing on, I gritted my teeth and got right to it.  I cut out the pages at the spine, and was left with this:

I made sure to clean out the excess paper on the spine, so I had just the canvas of the cover remaining.  Then I took some nice parchment paper (sorry, forgot to mention that in supplies, but I had it lying around), and using the glue stick and the WeldBond, I glued in fitted pieces on either inner cover, and over the spine. 

I probably didn't need to do this, but I wanted a nice clean base to start from.  After this, I attached the elastic, using the WeldBond.  I wanted the elastic to hold the kindle to cover, over the area between the keyboard and the screen so nothing was covered up.  The trick here was that I had to leave one end of it unattached, so that it could be threaded through the felt when I was ready to glue that on.  10" turned out to be the perfect length for the elastic.  I was able to glue half of it to the book, leaving the other half with enough room to stretch the width of the kindle and with another inch or two to attach to the cover. 

From there, I attached the spine piece of masonite I had cut earlier, using the WeldBond.  Then it was time to cut the felt.  I cut a piece large enough to cover both sides (8 7/8" x 13") , and the spine, and attached half of it to the side without the elastic.  I used a couple of school books to weigh it down and make sure it was completely affixed. 

Once I had let it sit for 30 or so minutes, I stretched the other side across and used a hole puncher to make small incisions in the felt where the loose elastic piece could go through.  This was a "best guess", but it worked out well.

From there, I used the WeldBond to glue to loose end of the elastic to itself, leaving just a little bit of slack for the kindle to fit through.  I let this dry for a while too, as I didn't want to put pressure on the elastic, since it  would be yanked on a lot in the future.

Then it was time to make the feet, which would keep the kindle from falling out the top or the bottom of the cover.  I used the same Masonite board, cutting small pieces that I could glue together.  Alanna suggested using our newly acquired cooking shears, which worked like a charm. I don't know if I could have done this with the blade. I did this before I glued the felt to the spine, or to the other (elastic) side of the cover.

I ended up with three stacks of four pieces of roughly the same size.  They weren't exactly the same, but were close enough, and in the end this didn't matter as I covered them with felt (stay tuned!)  I used the WeldBond to glue the stacks together, and then placed two at the bottom edge of the cover, evenly spaced about 1/2" in from each edge (so as to leave the bottom buttons of the kindle free), and one at the top of the cover, centered. These I glued in place, and left to dry for a while (another half hour). 

What I did next was to cut slits in the felt on either side of each of the feet, about 1" or so in length.  This meant that when I glued down the spine and the other side of the felt, there was a small flap of felt that draped onto the foot.  Because this felt was so stretchy, I was able to glue this flap of felt to the interior sides and tops of the feet. 

I don't have any good photos of this step, but the last thing that I did, after glueing the felt to the cover, and to the feet, was to cut small strips of felt, about 1.5" x .5" in length that I then wrapped around the exposed edges of the feet.  This meant that each foot was completely covered in felt.  There's a grainy picture here that gives you the idea:

I let all of this dry, and then I was done! The kindle fits perfectly. 


Okay, so a few things that I learned along the way:

1.)Planning is everything.  It wasn't so much that I ended up doing EXACTLY everything I planned, but I had a good sense of what I needed and what order to do everything in.  As crappy as those blueprints look, they were a lifesaver.

2.)I got very lucky with materials.  The book is obviously a great find, but I also managed to grab some particularly stretchy felt, unbeknownst to me.  I was even able to use it to patch up a few edges where the white paper showed through.  It also made covering the feet much easier.  And the WeldBond made the whole thing way less frustrating than it had any right to be.  I didn't know anything about this stuff beforehand, but it seems like great adhesive for projects like this.

3.)I like this design, but I'm not sure how well the WeldBond is going to hold everything together--particularly the feet and the elastic.  This Frankensteinian contraption may fall apart in two days, but hopefully not!

4.)I wanted to include a stand for upright reading, as well as a latch to keep it closed.  The stand I can probably life without, but I'm going to keep working to put on a latch. 

 Feel free to leave any questions in the comments!

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