DIY: Blank Bible (part 2) Cut, Rip, Clamp, Saw

DIY: Blank Bible (part 2) Cut, Rip, Clamp, Saw

[Read part one first]

“Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures.” (Acts 18:24)

So you are standing there, your arms criss-crossed over your precious bible pressed against your bosom looking at the cold table saw as if it were a monster about to eat your child. I’ve been there.

Deciding to take apart a precious bible (or a new one you spend good money on) is a difficult decision. But if you are faithful to go through these eight simple steps, you will produce a very useful tool in your pursuit of being “competent in the Scriptures.”

Let’s get it started…

1. Cutting

Like I said, for our purposes we are using the ESV English-Greek Reverse Interlinear New Testament. Since it’s a hardcover we will need to cut the cover off first. Using the utility knife, find where the boards are connected to the book pages, usually in the crease of the front and back cover. With the knife, simply cut down the crease. The boards (hard covers) should come off after this cut.

2. Ripping

Once the cover is off, you will be holding a brick of paper, still bound together on the spine. Put the cover aside or throw it away (it will not be needed from here out).

I have noticed (especially with Crossway bibles) there is a layer of glue on the spine you can rip off by hand. This will make the cut much easier and you will have less glue stuck to your table saw blade.

Here is what it looks like once you have the cover cut off and some of the binding ripped off …


Here is where you can take two different options. The most daring (but the most fun) is to get the table saw ready. The second option is to take this brick of paper to the local office supply store to have the binding cut off. (I first recommended people not do this because I once had an NAS-NIV interlinear mangled by one of the Kinko’s cutters. Because the binding holds it’s not like cutting a ream of paper, but can actually bind and stair-step cut the book.)

Since the first series of posts on the “Jonathan Edwards Blank Bible” I have been assured by those in the field that if the book is clamped tight enough you can cut the binding off very cleanly with a paper cutter knife. So that is one option I give to you.

But for the rest of you, put on the safety glasses and head out to the garage.

3. Clamping

Critical in cutting the binding off is clamping the bible tightly. I use two boards (one on top and one on the bottom) screwed together to sandwich the bible. I use plywood that is cut a little larger than the bible itself. The boards and the loose side of the pages should all be lined up flush against the guide on the table saw. I used one screw to hold the leading edge of the pywood and bible together while holding the back end down as I sawed.

[Note: on paperback books, as I will show you in the future, you leave the binding on and just use a board on the bottom side of the book you are cutting.]

This clamping ensures the bible is tight. If the bible is not firmly fastened, the blade can really mangle the biding edge. And secondly, having the bible clamped is useful when you are transitioning from a one-piece bible to 600 individual sheets of paper.

4. Sawing

Now we are ready to cut (insert Tim “The Toolman” Taylor grunting here).

Make sure you have a new blade because the sharper the better.

Line the guide on the saw to remove roughly 1/8” – 1/4” of the binding edge. I set the blade high enough to cut through both the top and bottom boards. Slowly, run the clamped bible through the saw until all the way through.

Don’t take the clamp off yet. First, check to make certain you have all your fingers and then look at the binding.

Look at this picture (to the left) of one of the bibles I cut. Something is wrong.

Can you see where part of the binding edge of the bible is white and part is yellow? The white part is where the binding glue has been removed but the yellow is existing glue. Trust me, you want to get rid of the glue now, otherwise you will be pulling each page apart in the future (and this is no fun). Simply set the saw guide to take off another 1/8” and check again.

When the binding is white, the pages will be loose.

There may be some slight roughness to the cut binding but that’s okay. All that will be inside the binding coil.

Take the clamp off the bible (making sure you don’t drop the loose pages) and you are ready for steps 5 and 6…


Coming up next … DIY: Blank Bible (part 3) Slicing and stuffing


DIY: Blank Bible (part 1)

DIY: Blank Bible (part 1)


In August we ran a short series on how to make a Jonathan Edwards blank bible – how to cut and rebind a bible with blank pages interwoven for note taking (see part 1, 2 and 3). I was hoping at least 10 of my friends would find it useful. At least a few readers would be entertained at some hombre loco who took a table saw to new bibles.

The actual response was overwhelming.

Over 4,000 hits in three-day period overshadowed all expectations. Jonathan Edwards fans from around the Web stopped by to have a look. Edwards scholars stopped to explain what the original Jonathan Edwards bible looks like and to give insight how his bible was made. Dozens of blogs linked to the series, pastors and Christians from around the world poured encouraging emails into my inbox as they took up the project themselves.

But that original series had its deficiencies.

Judging from the amount of questions that we raised at the end of the series, I had not explained certain steps well enough. There was a lack of photographs. We needed better explanations on how to clamp the bible before cutting and more info on the paper we used. After the first series was done, binding experts sent their insights into alternate options for those who cannot (for example) use a saw to cut the original binding off.

It was obvious I needed a do-over. So this series is my attempt to go back and recreate that original series, to highlight all the steps involved and give better directions.


I am firmly committed to keeping my notes on Scripture as close to Scripture as possible. Ideally I have always wanted a bible that will provide me enough room to keep a lot of notes bound with the text in which they originate (this is the genius of the Jonathan Edwards blank bible). I have looked at some journaling bibles, but I needed more space. I have looked at bibles in three-ring binders but they are very bulky and awkward and need my entire desk cleared out to open it up (and those three rings are always in the way).

But there was a bigger hurdle in my search for the perfect blank bible.

Those in the bible publishing industry tell me the cost of bible paper continues to increase. And because a blank bible doubles the amount of paper, it is unlikely that a blank bible will be published due to affordability. In other words, if you want one, you need to be willing to make it yourself.

So that’s what I did.

It wasn’t hard, just a simple process of taking my ESV bible through eight steps: cut, rip, clamp, saw, slice, stuff, punch and bind [insert grimacing sound from Justin Taylor here].

This time I hope to explain (more fully and clearly) each step as we progress.

[BTW: This exact process is also useful to make ‘blank books’ (like the Valley of Vision) or, minus blank pages, to spiral bind a book fitted for a cardio machine at the gym.]

The bible

In our first blank bible series used the English Standard Version, classic reference edition. We ended up with three volumes. If I were to do it again I would use the same bible. The paper is very easy to work with in the binding process (and the center-column references are excellent, too). I continue to use that first blank bible (although it’s funny that nobody asked me if my wife ever got her ‘Karalee’s blank bible’).

Last time we heard from a number of readers who wanted to create a blank bible with interlinear bibles of the Old and New Testament. And so with the recent release of the long-awaited ESV English-Greek Reverse Interlinear New Testament, we believe it will best suit our needs (though just the New Testament, it will be larger than the previous bible project).

Because this interlinear will provide more space in the New Testament than the previous blank bible project, it will be most useful for taking sermon notes where much space is needed. The blank bible, having less space is most useful for personal study reflections where I have more time to think and express my thoughts concisely.


The series will be broken into three sections

1. Cutting, ripping, clamping, sawing
2. Slicing and stuffing
3. Punching and binding

Provided these turn out, we will conclude the series with a little contest.


Next time … DIY: Blank Bible (part 2) Cut, Rip, Clamp, Saw


Special thanks… This project is possible by the graciousness of Justin, Stephen and Kay (go Huskers!) of Good News and Crossway publisher. Not only is Crossway committed to publish books that are doctrinally accurate but they are also very generous with their materials. They reflect in character what they communicate in print. Thank you.

Coming soon … another blank bible project

I have long awaited the arrival of the new ESV English-Greek Reverse Interlinear New Testament. But especially because I will attempt to duplicate the infamous ‘blank bible’ we completed earlier this year. It will give me the opportunity to answer (in pictures) the questions you posed in the last series like how I clamped and cut the binding. I will also take my camera to the office supply store to document the steps that take place there.

I will announce when I begin the project, which should be soon …

And maybe, just maybe, I will make two – one to use and one to give to one blessed reader (but please don’t email just yet).

Building a Blank Bible (part 3): The Blank Bible

… So here I was with three cut up ESVs. One is now lost, two remain and no successful blank bible. I needed a bible with a more comfortable binding and maybe even the option of adding more pages this time.

I made several calls to binding experts around town but none of them responded in confidence that a 2,100 page bible could be rebound without pages falling out and other future problems.

The future of the “Karalee’s/Jonathan Edwards’ Blank Bible” was looking doubtful. But maybe I was overlooking the simple solutions?

I could use a 3-hole binding system, but three-hole binders can get very big, bulky and awkward and the rings are always in the way of notetaking. The goal here is compact. And I don’t think the bible paper would last long with such a simple binding.

After one week of deliberation I decided to pursue one very common solution for my next attempt: Spiral binding. This was not a new option to me. Being someone who enjoys reading at the gym while doing cardio, I have cut bindings off and spiral bound several books so they lay flat (‘Industrious’ some would say. ‘Nerdy’ others would say).

So I took another cut ESV and had blank pages made. Then I inserted the blank pages. Here was my strategy …

Gen-Lev = 1 blank page between each page
Josh-Job = 1 blank page between each page
Ps-SS = 1 blank page between each page
Isa 40-66 = 1 blank page between each page
Jer-Eze = 1 blank page between each page
Matt-Acts = 1 blank page between each page
Rom = 2 blank pages between each page
1 Cor – 2 Cor = 1 blank page between each page
Gal – Eph = 2 blank pages between each page
Phil – Rev = 1 blank page between each page
Each OT book has at least 2 pages at the beginning of the book.

Then back to the office supply store. It took me about 90 minutes to spiral binding punch my Blank Bible (not to be confused with comb binding). Although I searched online and found some 3” spiral binding coils, they were expensive and required a bulk purchase. So I decided to stick with the 1-1/4” coils, the largest common size. This split the growing bible into three volumes (a perfect separation into Gen-Job, Pss-Mal, Matt-Rev). I now appreciate the three-volume format more than at the time.

It was simple to punch and coil the volumes. The final dimensions: 3” thick weighing 3 lbs. 13 oz (I used this ESV bible in all attempts – excellent paper for a project like this).

Here is a picture of my first successful “Blank Bible.”

The spiral coils handle very well with the thin bible paper, and they allow the bible great freedom in movement. In general, the bible is very comfy. Taking notes in this bible is graceful, as opposed to the last attempted Blank Bible and even 3-ring bound bibles. I can completely open the bible, giving me full use of each blank page. Because the binding is removable, I can add/replace/subtract pages in the future. Overall, this bible is a good fit for me.

Speaking of note taking (which is really what this bible is all about), I use a special Pigma Micron 005 pen. They come in several colors, are not expensive and available at most art and scrapbook stores.

So this is the story of my Blank Bible. I’m not done, though. In the future I want to try a 3” binding coil to see how the bible feels as a single volume. And I am working with a local university claiming they can bind the bible using an old sewing technique. I’m not sold yet, but it seems to me that even with all these options I will probably return to my 3-volume coil bound bible.

Your turn. What would Edwards say? (Besides the fact that I used a lot of very nice, clean paper). Let me know below. How can the Blank Bible be improved? Why would this fit or not fit your needs? Any ideas or suggestions?

Building a Blank Bible (part 2): The Failure

The impending arrival of my precious wife’s birthday in April is what started this all. I had been kicking around the idea of the “Karalee’s Blank Bible” for the special occasion.

Since my wife and I are in the process of transitioning into a Sovereign Grace Ministries church, I decided the blank bible would need to be an English Standard Version. I chose the hardcover version with fairly thick paper.

The first step was to cut the cover off with a utility knife so all that was left were the pages and a thick line of plastic glue on the binding.

Cutting off the binding is the next step is really the key to the entire project. For a carpenter, I chose to use my table saw. I sandwiched the pages of the ESV bible tightly between two boards and set the guide on the table saw to take just 1/8th of an inch off the binding. This was enough to get the glue off completely. Without the boards pressing the binding tight, the saw would mangle the binding edge pretty badly. So it’s critical to tighten the binding down when it’s being cut off.

You can see from the following picture what the binding looked like when I was done cutting (bottom stack – bible; top stack – blank pages).

I have also tried bringing books to Kinko’s to have them cut the binding with a knife. This does not work because the knife only works with paper that freely moves (like a ream of paper). The binding of a book holds and binds in the knife causing the knife to stair-step cut the book. Sadly, I had a Greek interlinear mangled this way.

Okay, once the binding is off I go to a local office supply store. I pick out a ream of acid-free paper and show them the exact size of my bible (now cut and with loose pages). The smiley attendant behind the counter uses a big paper knife to cut the new blank pages to the exact dimensions of my bible. Then I go home and in about 45-minutes insert blank pages where I wanted them in the bible. (It does take a little concentration to keep the pages in order.)

Be careful not to forget pages or you will end up with a Jefferson Bible and not an Edwards Bible. Big difference. More about how and where I inserted blank pages tomorrow.

For “Karalee’s Blank Bible” I clamped all the pages together so the binding edge was easy to work with. Here is where my regret begins.

I chose to work with a 2-part epoxy mix that would glue the binding of the pages together. It’s a very strong mix and for a few days did a great job holding the binding together. Two days after the birthday I noticed a few cracks beginning to develop and after four days, the bible had completely split in two areas.

There were two prominent problems:

1. The binding was too stiff and the bible was simply not comfortable to use.

2. The binding was too risky. The bible could crack at any place depending upon how well each piece of paper was glued. Most books are bound as several little books and then bound into one big book so the demands from each page are minimal. With this binding each page must be glued well and must hold well over time. Too much to ask from paper.

I was certain I had figured out the best way to remove the binding and a good process to get blank pages cut and a good plan for where to insert blank pages in the bible. But the “Karalee’ Blank Bible” was not an heirloom-worthy project.

So back to the drawing board I went …