Introduction: National Treasure Book of Secrets. the Presidents Book Replica.

I love making things from movies I enjoy.

They may not be the best movies in the world, but making things from movies is something I enjoy.

One such movie is National Treasure: The Book Of Secrets.

I loved the idea of the Presidents book. A secret diary passed down from POTUS to POTUS.

So in this instructable I will outline how I made my replica of that book.

The insides of this book are not very well known so it will not be 100% movie accurate, my pages are full of things I have found or made up. The 'hero pages' will look as close as I can get them.

I cant share the whole of my book as there are hundreds of pages of PDFs that if you wish to make this yourself you can fill with your own research or conspiracies.


With all book or paper based props the supplies and tool needed are limited.


  • Computer, with some sort of layout software for text. I used Coreldraw as that what is on my computer.
  • A3 colour printer. If it has two sided printing that best, but this can be done with a standard A3 printer. (that's what I used)
  • Craft knife, scissors, cutting tools. (At one stage I used a Scroll saw to speed up cutting the paper.)
  • Clamps.
  • Needle and thread.


  • A3 paper, I used some recycled paper to give it the aged look.
  • Leather scraps of a decent size. two colours and thicknesses. one thick tan leather for the outer cover and one thin dark brown for the cover liner. ( the thinner one I used fake leather as that's what I had to hand.
  • Leather thong/string/strip
  • US military buttons. 16mm
  • Strong thread, I used some fishing line.
  • Paint. acrylic.
  • Instant coffee.
  • Glue, PVA, Contact or anything that will stick glue.
  • Canvas ribbon or similar.
  • Bandage material.

I think that's all that is needed, please read the whole Instructable to see if there is anything i have missed.

Step 1: Research.

This prop is hugely in the research.

There are many photos of the actual props used in the making of this film:

and Adam Savage on his youtube channel Tested, Did a great breakdown video of one of the props used.

Looking at these pages gave me a good idea of what is needed for the book.

and a search on the RPF forum will always get you so much information.

The Prop store description is where i got the sizes of my pages and thicknesses etc.

I did my pages at 10inch by 6inch Slightly smaller than the dimensions on the listing as the will have measured the cover. I also did some page number maths, this gave me a 14 signature book, with 5 leafs (four pages) per signature.

280 pages in total.

I found a list of inserts that someone posted on the RPF. it was useful to get an idea of what was happening at what stage in the book.

Step 2: Designing the Pages

Using the screen grabs and information found on the numerous photos I found online I tried to find a free font that matched those of the hero pages.

I used Wikimedia commons for each presidents signature, this gave me some very good high resolution images of their signatures and most time hand writing, then I could find a font that would match up.

I did a page layout for the pages I knew and for the ones I found refences for and then the take of filling in the gaps.

I started with a list of years which presidents were in office. Then using google I searched for notable events in time in office and made up stories for the gaps, or even just googled speeches they gave while in office and transcribed them into my book. A lot of the text in the book is nonsense.

Using the list of photos and inserts it allowed me to work out where notable things were meant to be in the book, and what things might be on the pages in-between. like the Titanic and Hindenburg etc.

The next stage was laying out and working out the pages to make the signatures of the book.

I created the pages in order so I could work through them in chronological order, once all the pages were designed it was time to put them in to their print order and to work out the signature order. its a little complex and there is an image that describes it better than I can do with words.

Step 3: Page 47.

In the movie when the President is talking the Ben Gates he mentions page 47. No one knows what is on that page, there are many theories about it.

I like to think it was about the Roanoke colony. so I made something up about that.

Step 4: Printing the Pages.

Printing the pages with a single side printed takes time and planning. You cannot batch print (well you probably can but it would take some planning and I didn't do that. I just wanted to get printing.)

I would put one sheet in and print the first pair of pages, for the first leaf 1 and 20 were on the same page, when that printed correctly I flipped the paper and printed the second pages, 2 and 19, and so-on until the first signature was printed. rinse and repeat until all the pages are printed.

The last third or so of my book was blank, like in the film, to show that it was an ongoing diary.

Keeping track of the order is very important, so i kept the signatures together and separated each one with a book mark of a blank piece of paper.

Step 5: Punching the Pages Ready for Binding.

The hole pattern for the binding is specific to which thickness canvas ribbon you uses.

I had 20mm ribbon for the binding so my six hole pattern was something like: first hole 15mm from the top of the page then 23mm to the next hole, 20mm gap for the ribbon spacing, 30mm to the next hole, 20mm gap for the ribbon and then 23mm to the last hole.

I made a paper jig that had the hole spacing marked and poked the holes through a signature at a time to keep them as consistent as possible.

Step 6: Binding the Pages.

I forgot to take photos of the stitching of the signatures, so i am using a couple of photos from my Grail Diary instructables, its the same process.

Keeping the signatures in order and lined up, I threaded in from the spine on the first hole on the lowest signature, up inside the pages and back out the second hole and over the canvas ribbon and back into the book, then repeating that for the second set of holes and second canvas ribbon.

working up through the signatures layer by layer trying to keep the treading as tight as possible but not pulling the thread through the paper.

once all the signatures are stitched I clamped the whole book with the spine slightly proud of the wood on each side.

I spread a generous layer of PVA glue onto the spine and put some bandage along the spine then added more glue to soak through the canvas.

Once the glue is dry I trimmed the canvas to the edge of the paper.

Step 7: Trimming the Pages.

Trimming the pages can be done in a couple of ways.

When I was drawing up each page I added crop marks for the size of the page. These allowed me to cut each page to the right size.

One can use a sharp craft knife or scalpel to cut each sheet at the crop mark, Clamping the book together and cutting along a straight edge like a metal ruler is a good way to get the edges lined up best as possible.

One could also use a bandsaw or scroll saw to cut the edges, this is what I did, Clamping the book flat and tight as possible I cut along a straight edged piece of wood.

I did it this way because I was being lazy and wanted to get the pages cut. I will admit that there are some errors in the cutting and the long edge isn't as straight as I would ultimately like, but you live and learn.

The paper may burn or get marked by the sawing method but that doesn't really matter, as the book is going to get weathered and that will hide most marks, or the marks will add to the weathering.

Step 8: Making the Cover.

The size of the cover is probably something that is best worked out once you have made the full book as it might change from maker to maker as the thickness of the paper and the number of pages will effect the size.

The short length needs to be a slight bit longer than the height of the book.

The long length of the cover needs to wrap around the whole books front, spine, back, front spine and then almost the whole front again.

I then added 10mm to each edge ( top, bottom, and each end) of the leather measurements to allow for the amount that will need folding over to create the edge of the cover.

I cut each corner at a 45 degree angle to limit the overlap at the corners.

I did each edge of the leather at a time, by spreading the glue along the folding part and the area its going to be folded onto. Working my way around the cover I glued each side at a time.

The inside of the cover is created by cutting three pieces of leather.

  • One piece to hold the front of the book, so it will need to be a tiny bit larger than the front page of the book.
  • One piece to cover the spine area of the cover. This piece is the height of the cover and just wide enough to be covered by the other tow pieces.
  • One piece to cover the space between the back spine all the way to the edge of the cover wrap.

Hopefully the photos will explain this part, as its hard to put into words.

I glued the spine piece into the cover and after it dried I glued the other parts only along the edges , or where the front and back pages wont be. So the larger part that holds the back page of the book can be glued all the way up to where the page would reach. This stops the inner leather sagging.

Step 9: Printing the Inserts.

Getting the inserts together is a huge game of google and forums and photo editing.

Using the list of inserts I found online I worked my way down and googled each one, found images and edited them to match what I felt they would look like.

Using Adam Savages Tested video :

It was a great help to know what the images might look like as, in the video they flip through the book looking at a lot of the inserts and photos.

Also using the auction photos from the Prop Store auctions had some very good photos and some very high resolution images that can almost be printed straight off.

Once I had created one that was good enough to print, I printed it off on suitable paper or card.

Then following the list, and my own writing in the book I put all the inserts in the book in the places that were listed or in between the pages that had the relevant text.

Step 10: Buttons and Leather Cord.

The buttons on the cover that are used to bind the book closed are Waterbury Button Co. USA military buttons. And there are two sizes 16mm and a larger one around 25mm. Using screen grabs and looking at the photos of the real props I worked out that it was the 16mm button that was used. But I may be wrong. They looked correct on my cover so I went with that size.

I weathered the buttons with acrylic pain and black shoe polish, and anything else I could find that would make them look dirty and aged.

The leather cord that was used on some of the props was a round leather lace, and other it was a flat leather cord. I went with the leather core. I found I needed around 1.6/1.8m of it to wrap round the buttons and then around the book 2 or 3 times.

The cord I found came in two colours as a set. One dark brown/black and one natural.

I used the Natural one and weathered it down to match the one used on the props. I Used the same paint and boot polish to get it close to what I wanted.

I measured the centre of the cover and on the back side of the cover I sewed on one of the buttons close to the edge. I put a bit of superglue on the thread to hold it in place. I cut a small circle of the inside leather and glued it over the reverse of where it was sewn on. This is as it was on the prop used in the film.

The second button was sewn where the back overlaps the front section of the cover. It was not sewn through the lining leather as that would make it impossible for the First page of the book to be slipped under the lining leather to hold it in place.

I tied the leather cord to the button on the front of the cover and added a dab of superglue to the knot to hold it in place.

Step 11: Weathering the Paper.

Using some instant coffee, mixed with a small amount of water to make it dark, I painted and dabbed and rubbed the coffee onto the edges of the book while it was clamped shut.

Once the paper had soaked in the coffee I placed the clamped book on the radiator to dry out.

Now the edges were dry I used a rag and some paper towels to dab and rub each page randomly with the coffee to make the pages look old and distressed and stained through years of use..

Step 12: Stamping and Weathering the Leather.

This step requires a metal leather stamp. I had a friend that has access to a router that can cut aluminium blocks and they carved out the stamp for the seal in the cover. (I have attached a PDF of the seal)

I did a test to see how well the leather would take a stamp, then a paint test to see how well the stamp marks would take the paint.

The stamping is a cold wet press. I soaked the area with water and then placed the stamp in position.

With a block of wood under the cover and one on top of the stamp I clamped the two blocks together, pretty much as tight as the cheap clamps would allow.

I then left the whole thing near a radiator over night around 10/11 hours.

When the leather is dry I took the clamps, wood and stamp off the leather and was left with a crest impression in the leather.

I painted black paint into the leather where the stamp impression is and then wiped it off and repeated this until the stamp was as visible as I wanted.

Using black, brown and yellow acrylic paint I weathered the leather. I watered the paint down slightly and painted it on the leather and then wiped it off with a cloth/rag, and repeated this with all the colours to get it to the desired dirtiness to make it look like a well used leather book cover.


Step 13: Finished Book.

Now it is time to assemble all the parts.

I put the last page into the rear pocket of the cover and then slid it in as far as I could get it, then gently bent the front page back and slid it into the front pocket of the cover, then centred the book so the spine is in the correct position.

You may need to trim the front and last page to get them to slide in perfectly but that is ok as you wont see them as they are inside the cover pockets.

Then I put all the inserts back in their respective pages and any leftover that I printed that didn't have a home I put them in the back of the book.

Some of the inserts I printed were used in the movie separately from the book so I just tucked them in the back of the book, I feel Benjamin Gates (Nicholas Cadge) would have liked to keep it all together.

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