If the above embedded video doesn't work view my short video on punching sewing holes in signatures on YouTube.
Recently an email friend who has started making books asked me about punching signatures. I made the above short video to show people how I do this without a cradle. My philosophy of bookbinding is that people should be able to make beautiful books at home without expensive or bulky equipment. I also like to do things without fuss. And when I travel to teach it is not possible to bring bulky equipment with me. Therefore, with only an awl and a towel you can punch your signatures.
I create a paper template as shown in the video for books that are multi-signature. If I am working with a single-signature book I simply punch holes directly into the gutter of the single signature. For purposes of this video however, I only had a single signature book sample I was working on, so I made a template as if I were working on a multi-signature book. Please don't waste time with that if you're doing single-signature books.
If you are sewing a book on tapes your hole pattern will have a hole at the head, at the tale, and then one hole on either side of each tape (or cord, if you're sewing on cords). How far in you make your head and tail holes will depend on a number of factors. Probably most important is height of the spine. Also important is the number of tapes arrayed along the spine. I find that 1/2 to 5/8 inch in from the head or tail will do for most situations. Once you have your head, tail, and paired tape holes marked on the template, simply use it as shown in the video.
Sewn-on-the-spine structures require more thought and the layout of a template that can be placed on the spine of the book and punched, and then used to punch the signatures themselves so that they will correspond to the appropriate vertical row of holes on the spine. That's a process to show you another day—when I have a video camera and am not shooting instructions in 60 second increments on my compact digital camera!
Hope this little video helps.