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Build a Custom-made Clamshell Box for Your Book

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Clamshell boxes are custom-fit cases made for a precious bound book or set of books. They provide a stylish and professional appearance, while offering the necessary protection against harmful light, dirt, and usual wear. Follow this tutorial to learn how to make your own cozy clamshell book box.

Supplies

what youll need

You can also use book cloth in this tutorial to cover the outside of your box. Typically, the material chosen for the outside of the box should somehow match or complement the book it will encase. For example, if your book has a cloth cover, consider using a flattering book cloth for your box. You will still need a handmade paper to line the inside. Click here for a tutorial on how to make your own archival book cloth.

The Anatomy of a Clamshell Box

A clamshell box is composed of three important parts: a small tray to hold the book, a large tray to close over the small tray, and a case that hinges the two trays together. It is crucial to build your box in this order because each piece is measured according to the one that goes before. Where do the measurements for the small tray come from? Well, since this is a custom box, it all starts with the book.

1. Measure Your Book

Step 1

Measure and record the height of your book. This is the side of your book that is parallel to the spine. Round up your measurements. If you round them down, your book will not fit its box.

measure books height

Step 2

Measure and record the width of your book. This is the side that runs perpendicular to the spine.

0b_clam_shell_box_measure_book_width

Step 3

Measure and record the thickness of your book (also known as the width of the spine).

measure your books thickness

Repeat steps one to three to ensure your measurements are correct. This will save a lot of possibly wasted time and materials.

2. Determine the Size of the Small Tray

Each tray is made from one piece of board that is scored and folded to make the sides. To figure out the size of the trays, you will have to do a little math. Double check and clearly label all measurements to prevent any mistakes.

Step 1

Take the height of the book and add two times the thickness, plus two times the thickness of the binder’s board. For example, the height of my book is 11cm, the thickness is 2cm and the thickness of my board is 0.2cm, so 11 + 4 + 0.4 = 15.4cm. This will be the height of the small tray piece.

Step 2

Take the width of the book and add its thickness plus the thickness of the binder’s board. The width of my book is 13.2cm, so 13.2 + 2 + 0.2 = 15.4cm. This will be the width of the small tray piece.

3. Determine the Size of the Big Tray

Step 1

Take the height of the small tray piece and add four times the board thickness, plus 0.8cm to provide some wiggle room for the small tray. My small tray is 15.4cm and 4 x 0.2 = 0.8cm, so 15.4 + 0.8 + 0.8 = 17cm. This will be the height of your large tray.

Step 2

Add four times the thickness of the binder’s board to the width of the small tray. This will be the width of your large tray. 4 x 0.2 = .8cm and the width of my small tray is 15.4cm, so the width of my large tray is 16.2cm.

4. Cut and Score the Tray Pieces

Step 1

Using your measurements calculated in the previous two sections, cut the small and large tray pieces from the binder’s board. Make your cuts as straight as possible or your box will be crooked.

cut out the small and large tray pieces
cut out the small tray piece

Step 3

To make the walls of the small tray, take the X-Acto knife and score a line along three sides that measure your book’s thickness away from the edge. To score the board, cut only half way through the thickness of the board. It usually takes around three to four passes with the X-Acto knife to make a good score mark.

score a line along three sides measuring one book thickness away from the edge
score a line along three sides measuring one book thickness away from the edge

Step 4

Make the sides of the large tray by scoring a line across three sides that measures the book thickness plus 0.3cm.

cut and scored trays

Step 5

Cut off the four corner squares that were created with your score marks.

Cut off the two corner squares that were created with your score marks

5. Fold Up Your Trays

Step 1

Take the tray pieces and fold the edges along the score marks. If it is not easy to fold, check the score mark and make sure it is cut halfway through the board.

fold the sides of both trays

Step 2

Make sure that your trays and book fit correctly by placing the small tray in the big tray, and the book in the small tray. If the trays do not fit, you will have to go back, check your measurements, and make the proper adjustments.

Make sure that your trays and book fit right
Make sure that your trays and book fit right

6. Make the Tray Covers

Step 1

To make a tray cover, you will first have to mark the perimeter of the tray onto a piece of your cover paper. On the cutting mat, lay down the handmade paper you chose for the outside of the box. Place the small tray on its side, 5cm away from the edge of the paper. If your paper is deckled (the edges are uneven), place the tray 7cm away from the edge.

Put the small tray down on its side 5cm away from the edge of the paper

Step 2

Roll the small tray along its three walls and make a mark on the paper with your pencil or X-Acto knife.

roll the tray along its three sides and mark the paper

Step 3

Mark the width of the cover by measuring two times the thickness of the tray plus 6cm. Again, add at least 2cm to this measurement if your paper has a deckled edge.

measure the thickness of the cover strip
measure the thickness of the cover strip

Step 4

Cut the tray cover.

Cut the tray cover

Trim off the deckled edges if your paper has any.

trim off the deckled edge

Step 5

Repeat steps one to four to create the cover for the large tray. You should now have two folded trays and two tray covers.

Repeat steps 1-4 to create the cover for the large tray

7. Cover the Outer Walls of Both Trays

Step 1

Grab your small tray, small tray cover, glue brush, and glue.

Grab your small tray small tray cover glue brush and glue

Step 2

Apply glue to one of the side walls of the small tray.

Apply glue to one of the side walls of the small tray

Step 3

Place the glued wall down onto the tray cover so that there is 2.5cm of paper sticking out from the bottom and the open side (the side of the tray without a wall).

place the glued wall down onto the tray cover

Step 4

Rub the glued wall down with the bone folder to smooth out any air bubbles.

Rub the glued wall down with the bone folder

Step 5

Continue to glue the cover to the two remaining walls of the tray. Pull the cover tight while gluing to keep the cover flat and smooth.

Continue to glue the cover to the two remaining walls of the tray
Continue to glue the cover to the two remaining walls of the tray

Step 6

Trim the cover so that an even amount is sticking out on both sides.

Trim the cover

Step 7

Repeat these same steps to cover the outer walls of your large tray.

8. Cut Flaps in the Tray Covers

Now that the outer walls of your trays are covered, you will need to make some necessary cuts in order to wrap the rest of it. Think of it as if you are wrapping a present, but with glue.

Step 1

Take your scissors and cut straight down each of the corners of the cover. There are two on the top and two on the bottom of each tray.

cut straight down each of the corners of the cover
cut straight down each of the corners of the cover

Step 2

Turn the small tray on its side so that the bottom is facing away from you and the open side of the tray is facing your left side. On the flap that is on the table, make a straight cut that starts 0.2cm down and 0.2cm in from the left side of the wall.

make a straight cut that starts 02cm down and 02cm in from the left side of the wall

Step 3

Then make a diagonal cut that is 0.2cm above the left corner of the wall and connects to the straight cut you made.

make a diagonal cut that is 02cm above the left corner
make a diagonal cut that is 02cm above the left corner
make a diagonal cut that is 02cm above the left corner

Step 4

Repeat steps 2 and 3 on the other side of the small tray, and on both sides of the big tray.

Step 5

Looking at the open side of the small tray, hold down the bottom flaps, and cut straight into the fold lines. This will create one flap to cover the wall, and one to fold up over the tray. Do this step for the large tray as well.

hold down one of the bottom flaps and cut straight into the fold
hold down one of the bottom flaps and cut straight into the fold

9. Glue Down All of the Flaps

Now that all of the flaps for your covers have been cut out, it is time to glue them down.

Step 1

Start with the bottom of the small tray. Glue the three bottom flaps down and rub with your bone folder.

Glue the three bottom flaps down
Glue the three bottom flaps down
rub with a bone folder
Glue the three bottom flaps down

Step 2

Two tabs should be sticking out from the bottom flaps. Glue each piece and fold them onto the inside of the tray.

glue the tabs sticking out from the bottom of the tray

Don’t forget to rub the glued area with your bone folder.

glue the tabs sticking out from the bottom of the tray
glue the tabs sticking out from the bottom of the tray

Step 3

Glue down the tabs sticking out from the sides of the tray.

 Glue down the tabs sticking out from the sides of the tray

Step 4

Glue the remaining flaps to the inside of the tray.

Glue the remaining flaps to the inside of the tray
Glue the remaining flaps to the inside of the tray

Step 5

Repeat these steps to finish covering the large tray.

Repeat these steps to finish covering the large tray

10. Line the Inside of the Trays

Step 1

Take the paper you’re using to line inside the box. Cut a piece that has the same height as the inside of your small tray, and the same width plus 2cm.

Cut out the tray liners

Repeat this step to make the liner for the large tray.

Cut out the tray liners

Step 2

Glue the liners onto the inside of the trays.

Glue the liners onto the inside of the trays
Glue the liners onto the inside of the trays
Glue the liners onto the inside of the trays

Step 3

Rub the liners down with a bone folder.

Rub the liners down with a bone fold

Step 4

Fold the flaps over and glue them to the bottom of the trays.

Fold the flaps over and glue them to the bottom of the trays
Fold the flaps over and glue them to the bottom of the trays

11. Cut the Board Pieces for the Case

Step 1

Cut two pieces of binder’s board that measure 0.5cm wider and 1cm higher than your large tray. These pieces will make the front and back sides of the case.

Cut two pieces of binders board
Cut two pieces of binders board

Step 2

Cut out a third piece of binder’s board measuring 1cm higher than your large tray, but with a width equal to the thickness (or outer depth) of the large tray. This piece is the spine of the clamshell case.

cut out the spine for the case

Now you have all of the pieces you need to make the case.

now you have the pieces to make the case

12. Cover the Case

Step 1

Take the leftover paper you chose for the outside of the box, along with the case pieces and two scraps of binder’s board to use as a spacer.

materials to cover the case

Step 2

Arrange the three case pieces onto the cover paper with the spine in the middle. Use the scraps of binder’s board to measure two board thicknesses between each piece.

Arrange the three case pieces onto the cover paper
Arrange the three case pieces onto the cover paper

Step 3

Trim the cover paper so that it is 3cm wider on all four sides of the arranged case pieces.

Trim the cover paper so that it is 3cm wider on all four sides

Step 4

Remove the case pieces and apply glue to the cover paper.

Remove the case pieces and apply glue to the cover paper
Remove the case pieces and apply glue to the cover paper

Step 5

Arrange the pieces down on the glue, using your board scraps as a spacer. Make sure your boards are lined up straight or the finished box will be crooked.

Arrange the pieces down on the glue using your board scraps as a spacer
Arrange the pieces down on the glue using your board scraps as a spacer

Step 6

Trim off the four corners of the cover paper by placing a board scrap 0.2cm, or one board thickness, away from each corner and cutting with your X-Acto knife.

Trim off the four corners of the cover paper
Trim off the four corners of the cover paper
Trim off the four corners of the cover paper

Step 7

Fold the side flaps over and onto the case boards.

Fold the side flaps over and onto the case boards
Fold the side flaps over and onto the case boards

Step 8

Work the cover around the corners of the case boards with the tip of your bone folder.

Work the cover around the corners of the case boards

Step 9

Fold the top and bottom flaps onto the case boards and spine.

Fold the top and bottom flaps onto the case boards and spine

Work the cloth into the spaces with your bone folder.

work the cloth into the spaces

Step 10

To finish covering the case, you will need to cut one last piece of the cover paper that is about 0.5cm smaller than your case on all sides. This piece will line the inside of the case and cover the spine piece.

cut a piece of cover paper measuring 05cm smaller than your case on all sides

Step 11

Glue and place the last piece of cover paper to the inside of the case. Center the piece so that there is an even space on each side.

Glue and place the last piece of cover paper

13. Glue the Trays to the Case

The last thing we have to do is glue the trays onto the case.

Step 1

Glue the bottom of the small tray.

Glue the bottom of the small tray
Glue the bottom of the small tray

Step 2

Place the glued side down onto the right side of the case with the open side facing the spine.

Place the glued side down onto the right side of the case
Place the glued side down onto the right side of the case

Step 3

Make sure the tray is centered on the top and bottom, and flush with the spine of the case.

Make sure the tray is centered and flush with the spine

Step 4

Turn the case and glued tray upside down and apply pressure to allow the glue to bind.

Turn the case and glued tray upside down and apply pressure

Step 5

Follow the same steps to glue the large tray to the case.

Follow the same steps to glue the large tray to the case

Step 6

Center the large tray so that it is flush with the spine and folds over the small tray.

Center the large tray so that it folds over the small tray

Step 7

Close the box and apply pressure.

Close the box and apply pressure

Step 8

Let the box dry. If you have a big book or another flat heavy object, set it on top of the box to help the glue bind better.

Let the box dry

Enjoy Your Custom-Made Clamshell Box

Well done, you’ve now created a custom-made clamshell box for your special book. You can use these skills to make boxes for other objects as a storage option, or for gift wrapping.

completed box
completed box

Did you try this tutorial? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Please leave any questions or comments in the section below.

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