Heirloom Photo Album

Brass miniature continuous hinges are a cinch to cut with a pair of metal shears. Make your cut at the joint where two hinge leaves meet nearest your ideal length.

Brass miniature continuous hinges are a cinch to cut with a pair of metal shears. Make your cut at the joint where two hinge leaves meet nearest your ideal length.

Given the current craze for scrapbooking, I thought it high time we woodworkers weigh in with our own version of what a memorable photo album should look like.

And if you are tempted to rip out these magazine pages before your spouse sees them and places an order for say, a dozen or so, fear not. This truly is an easy project. It could even be simpler than what your see here if you skip the resawing and bookmatching of the 3/4″-thick front and back covers.

In fact, if you were making five or six at a time, you could probably spend no more than a half hour on each one. Or, you could go in the other direction and make it more complicated with inlay or chip carving on the front.

There could, in fact, be many variations on this project. You could easily alter the size of the covers for smaller photo album sheets, you could set it up with blank pages for use as a personal journal, or documents from your family tree research.

An ordinary paper hole punch enlarged the holes that were pre-punched by the manufacturer of the photo album sheets.

An ordinary paper hole punch enlarged the holes that were pre-punched by the manufacturer of the photo album sheets.

No matter what direction your version of this project takes, two simple elements will make it all possible: the post binding screws that fix the covers and pages together, and the small-scale continuous hinge that allows the covers to open, making them truly functional. The hinges and post binding screws can be ordered through the Lee Valley woodworking catalog.

Getting Started
A trip to an art or office-supply store is the first step. Select the photo page size you want to work with. Some pages simply are plain sheets that are inserted in clear plastic sheet protectors. The protectors, in turn, are usually punched for use in a three-ring binder. The sheets I used were hole punched for post binding and “hinged,” meaning each sheet was made to fold at a given place along the edge where it would be bound into the album.

I selected a sheet size that was 12″ x 12″. Next I ordered my post binding screws and hinge from Lee Valley. The screws, called “Chicago Bolts” in the catalog, come in various lengths, with each length allowing for a 1/4″ adjustment. The brass hinge comes in a 3′ length and is easily cut.

The page size and hinge gave me dimensions I could start to work with. The wood covers’ finished size is 1/4″ x 12-1/2″ square. This allows ?” for the cover to overlap top and bottom. The bound side has 1/8″overlap, leaving 3/8″ for the open side. When I cut the pieces I made the width 12-5/8″. This allowed a table saw cut to separate the binding strip from the cover piece. The cover thickness was 3/4″, which is perfect for the hinge leaf.

A Word About Wood Choice
My album covers are made using feather-figured walnut that was resawn and bookmatched. It came from a tree in my neighborhood that was taken down and sawn into lumber about three years ago. Although it’s been air drying all this time I was nervous as a cat about my pieces warping after resawing and glue up. Highly figured wood often has a mind of its own. I know that walnut is a relatively stable wood, like mahogany, but I kept my pieces on a flat surface with a weight on top until I was able to put a finish on them. Even at the thin 1/4″ dimension, I was lucky and both pieces have remained perfectly flat.

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