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The 411 on Bookbinding Adhesives

Learn how to create wheat paste and starch adhesive, and understand the role of methylcellulose in bookbinding with this informative video guide.

In this video, we'll walk you through the step-by-step process of crafting wheat paste, starch adhesive, and utilizing methylcellulose. We'll also delve into the technique of mixing wheat paste with PVA in either a 50/50 or 60/40 ratio.

For our wheat paste recipe, we follow a straightforward formula: a 1/6 ratio of flour to water, which is cooked to achieve a pasty consistency. We prefer our paste slightly runny, akin to typical salad dressing. This consistency is suitable for tasks involving paper-to-paper or paper-to-board adhesion. If you desire a thicker paste, you can adjust the ratio to 1/5 or even 1/4, which works well for bonding boards and leather.

In contrast, our starch paste leans towards a thicker texture. We typically begin with a 1/4 ratio of rice or wheat starch to water. However, feel free to experiment with the proportions to attain the desired consistency; these numbers merely serve as initial guidelines.

While our video provides a practical overview, if you seek more precise recipes, we've attached a PDF document titled "Homemade Wheat Paste for Bookbinding" to this post, offering a detailed recipe for your bookbinding endeavors.

DAS Bookbinding has already complied a list of paste recipes of which I am sharing his compiled information here:


Bookbinding A Step-by-Step Guide; Kathy Abbott 2017

1 Heaped tablespoon of organic plain flour

1/4 ltr of cold water(filtered or distilled if possible)

Cook for 20 minutes in a double boiler


The Thames and Hudson Manual of Bookbinding; Arthur Johnson1998

3 1/2 Oz (100g) plain flour

1 level teaspoonful alum

7/8 pint (1/2 litre) cold water

2 drops of formaldehyde (DAS not recommended)

Cook in a double boiler


Bookbinding and the Care of Books; Douglas Cockerell 1910

2 Oz of flour

14/ Oz powdered alum

1 pint of cold water

Cook in a saucepan for 5 minutes


Bookbinding by Hand; Laurence Town 1963

1 cupful of white flour

1 teaspoonful of ground alum

3 cupfuls of water

Cook for 5 minutes (once it has thickened) in a double boiler

A complex story about the detrimental effects of alum on paper and the recommendation of adding precipitated chalk to neutralize free acid


The Restoration of Leather Bindings; Bernard C. Middleton 2011 reprint

340g (12 ounces) of plain wheat flour

2 litres (about 70 ounces) of water - except BCM has a personal preference for thicker paste and would use 25% more flour - 425g

Cook while stirring constantly (or will certainly burn)

10g of loose thymol crystals after cooling as a preservative



Link to the Talas Methyl Cellulose preparation instructions »



Methyl Cellulose (methylcellulose) is an adhesive with a wide variety of applications. Commonly used as a bookbinding adhesive for paper, as well as sizing papers and fabrics, thickening water baths for marbling paper, used to loosen and clean off old glue from spines and book boards, or added to PVA to slow down its drying time.


The adhesive forms a matte finish when used in dilute solutions. The powder mixes easily with cold water and with wheat paste and other adhesives. It is non-staining, will not discolor paper, will not decompose in a dry or liquid state, and is not affected by heat or freezing. Forms a highly flexible bond but is a weak adhesive.


Viscosity: 2000 cPs at 2% in water, pH 7.0.


Commonly referred to as methyocel, or methylcel. A technical grade product, and generally not advisable for conservation applications.


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