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Blank Bible Project (Updated)

Blank Bible
One Thinline became five thick volumes.

As I mentioned yesterday, I have had a small project in the works.  I thought I’d post some photos and a brief explanation of the project today.  I’ve been working on a “blank Bible”–so named not because the Bible had all it’s words removed, but because it has many additional blank pages inserted for note-taking and outlining.  The idea is an old one, and there are plenty of Bibles available that do a better job of providing a quality-bound, wide-margin, note-taker’s Bible, but I thought it would still be a good use of an ESV I’ve had sitting on the shelf for a couple of years.  This particular ESV is the Thinline, and I picked it up at Costco for about $10 on a whim (which is a good deal considering its current price on Amazon).

If you want, you can click past the break for the pictures & project description.

Update: I added an electronic copy of the cover I created in Word.  The link is at the bottom of the article.

So the basic approach was to take the Bible to Staples and ask them, “Can you chop the binding off a Bible and then rebind it?”  They replied, without hesitation, “Sure.  Why not?”  This is far-and-away a much easier approach than Mr. Reinke’s (he recommends a table-saw and a pair of custom clamps.)  The gentleman at the counter pulled out an X-Acto knife, and within five minutes had the Trutone (read: pleather) cover removed (though he preserved the front & back in case I wanted them) and the stitched binding sheared off.  For an additional charge, he chopped a stack of printer paper to identical proportions, and I went home happy.

I spent that evening listening to the Golden Globes (I still can’t believe Inception lost to Facebook: The Movie), and sticking blank pages between every printed page, w/ a few extras at the front of each book (for outlines/key terms/author/date/etc), and after about 6 hours, I had the whole thing ready in three stacks.

Problem: Staples (and AlphaGraphics, and Kinkos) can’t ring-bind 2″ stacks made of tissue paper, so it was back to the table to break it out into five portions.  I have it broken down into the Pentateuch, the Histories, the Wisdom Literature, the Prophets, and the New Testament.  This feels good, and it binds well.  I took it back to Staples yesterday and picked the whole thing up this morning.  They had only two pages (at the beginning of Luke) kick out during the binding process, but they were able to re-insert those at the correct location.

As for the covers, I made those on Word because I’ve just got mad-skillz with Microsoft Word.  I lifted the ESV logo from their site, which I think is probably fair-use, since I bought the Bible and since I’m going to add the following phrase to this page: You should buy an ESV Bible!  There, that should cover any legal issues, probably.

The total cost of this project was right around $30.  I paid a little extra to have the nice, leatherette backing board bound onto these volumes, and I’d recommend it if you’re considering a similar project.  Total time invested–maybe 7 hours counting trips to and from the Staples.  Let me know if you do something similar; I’d be interested in hearing how it turns out.

Grace & Peace,
Dan J.

UPDATE: The cover I created is available as a downloadable Word 97-03 or a Word 2007 file.  Feel free to edit or modify it as you see fit.

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  1. Okay, now that is really neat. I’d never even heard of a blank bible till you mentioned it yesterday.

  2. If the publisher has a problem with your using their logo, you can point out that it went on their ESV bible. Marketing might also see a new product opportunity.

  3. Dan

    Thanks for the positive comments, folks! It’s a fun Bible to use; I’m beginning w/ Ecclesiastes.

  4. Dan, was there still glue on the spine even though it was sewn? The reason I ask is that a couple of weeks ago I tried the same thing with a glue Penguin KJV paragraph bible and Staples said they would not cut it because the glue would get hot in their machine and get all over the place.

    I tried the cutting the glue off my self (even tried an iron – seemed like a good idea at the time – but turned out very very bad!) but my skills with the blade turned out not so good. So I gave up the project.

    Just wondering if a sewn binding would be easier to cut through then a glued binding.

    Any thoughts?

  5. Phenomenal post. This was much much cheaper than anything I’ve seen before. In fact, it’s so cheap I’m going to have to do it myself. Thanks for this invaluable post.

  6. I’ve had glued binding soft-cover books cut and ring bound at Office Depot – they’ve never had an issue with it, though with glue, you end up losing a little more on that inside margin, as they need to cut a bit deeper.

  7. I think you should market this. I really do! I’d buy it!

  8. I wonder how thick this would be if it was done with an ESV Study Bible.


  9. This would be such a great gift to give! Thanks for this!

  10. Suggestions: Buy some 10- or 12-lb bond, which is about the same stuff as the bible is printed on…it will save a LOT of space

    A real print shop has a hydraulic press cutter that can shear off the binding much closer to the actual page edge, thus saving some margin space for your new binding.

    Most office stores can now use wire binding instead of the plastic comb stuff…it looks better, the pages turn easier without tearing, and it will last longer.

    One of the publishers has now released an ESV bible in the loose leaf format, saving you a step (cutting) if you want.

    If you ever run out of space on a notes page, you can always insert a new page yourself or have it re-bound with a new page inserted.

  11. Nice Project! How much margin is needed on the binding side for this to work? Where did you obtain the leatherette backing for your volumes that you talked about?
    I’m thinking that using a Large Print edition and intervening pages would be awesome for preaching Notes/Outlines.
    Thanks for the inspiration and the helpful comments that followed :-)

  12. Hey Dan Oxford University Press used to have a “loose leaf bible” which was a Scofield bible, it was not a ring binder but had it’s own unique system (4 small steel poles, 2 on each side) and came with a pack of lines sheets that you could insert any where.
    I would love to be able to get a NKJs or ESV in a loose leaf but the only thing I can find on the market now is a ring binder loose leaf bible.
    I would follow your example if I could make it into one book.

  13. I made one about six or seven years ago with a loose leaf NASB and five binders. I really like it. The good thing about using a binder is that it is easy to add more blank pages if you have to.

  14. Dan

    First off–thank you Mark Bertrand & Tim Challies! I appreciate the mention!

    @Derek: I was fortunate in that this thinline was sewn. Crossway moved over to sewn bindings on almost all of their TruTone line, so that helped a lot.

    @Jim: I didn’t have much margin; maybe a 1/2″ on the inside. Staples offered the leatherette, which was nice, and I have heard that other colors are available at Michael’s (or similar places). The large print is a great idea.

    @Graeme: Hendrickson Publishers have recently released an ESV Loose-Leaf Bible which looks pretty decent, but it runs in the $50’s unless you find a deal.

  15. Copy and Paste, a google doc (or one for each chapter or two) and the print shop when “done” commenting.

  16. Can you post the word doc for each cover I dont have as “mad word skills”

    I have a wide margin ESV that I got for $50, but need more writing room.

  17. Dan,
    I worked on a similar project this past year. I divided into 5 volumes. But I printed the Bible text (ESV) out on 28 lbs paper from Staples and/or Office Depot. L found that this heavier paper has a slight gloss to it and prevents bleed-through to the other side.
    I printed the Bible text on one side of the page and then printed a sheet of lines on the other side of the page. I had them plastic spiral bound so that the Bible text is on the left hand of the book and the blank sheet (with lines) is always on the right hand side of the book.
    I did this because I am right handed and it is easier for me to write on just the right page of a book laid flat.
    The lines were created in Microsoft Word at a spacing that would allow me to write very small. I print with .03 pens of different colors.
    I also added some blank (lines only) pages in each volume for extra notes.
    I used the black vinyl/leather look covers both front and back.

  18. Dan

    @Josh: I’ve updated this w/ a .doc file that you can edit as you need.

    @Mark: That sounds like an excellent project! I’d love to do something similar, but I’m not sure how to get a “printable” ESV–did you have to copy/paste from Logos or some similar program?

  19. Dan,

    I used Logos to cut and paste the ESV text into a Microsoft Word file(s) – one per book of the Bible. It took several cuts and pastes!

    I have purchased several ESV Bibles in paper form, but none of them were formatted the way I wanted.

    I formatted the text in Calibri font size 12 (better for my aging eyes to read) with .5″ margins on the top, left, and bottom; and with .75″ margin on the right. (This allows for my “right” handed binding which keeps the Bible text on the left hand side of the book when opened flat.

    I printed blank lines on the reverse side of all of the pages with .75″ margin on the left, and .5″ on the top, bottom, and right.

    The only drawback is trying to flip through one of the volumes to find the intended scripture. I usually look at the top right hand side of the pages and now I have to look at the back of the pages. Kind of like having to read a book backwards.

    If the above doesn’t make sense, just let me know and I will send a couple of pictures to illustrate my finished product.

  20. Dan

    @Mark – That’s a great way to pull it together–especially the freedom to pick a font that works best for reading. Calibri is nice on the eyes, but the sans-serif fonts always leave my eyes wandering up and down the page. If you want to send along some pictures, I’d be happy to throw up a post showing folks your work!

  21. @Mark — About how much did it cost you to print out the Bible in the method you described?

  22. Alli

    this is very neat. you mentioned that you can purchase Bibles like this. Do you know where? I dont want just margin room, I would like a full page, like you made. Thanks in advance for all of your help!

  23. Dan

    @Alli: I know of a couple options, but not many that allow for a full page like this. The wide-margin Bibles I know of include the Cambridge Wide Margin, and the ESV Journaling Bible.

    There is a product that provides a whole Bible in a ring binder, to which you can add full size sheets of paper without limit:

    This has wide margins, and the ability to add full pages. BDB did a review here:

    Hope that helps!

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