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    I suspect most people aren't too concerned about the subject of book binding, at the same time I suspect anyone who is reading this page has at least a passing interest in the subject or they would be wasting their time elsewhere. As with most other subjects in the Handyman corner, I'm not about to teach you how to bind books, just offer some suggestions that might help those already practicing the craft.

    I do a lot of binding, mostly for myself and as give-a-ways since I can't find anyone willing to part with their money to purchase the work of my hands (and mind). For the large work I use a comb bider, pictured at your left (my right, or vice versa). I use heavy card stock for covers, sometimes gluing two sheets together when the stock is smaller then 90 lbs. When I want an attractive cover I glue a cover I printed for the book to the front card stock, using a spray glue designed for this purpose. For protection, or for special books, I cover the front cover  with plastic sheeting, a special product that's clear yet has a sticky surface on one side, which is expensive to do, or I use a standard sheet of binder cover acetate, which I trim to size.

    While on the topic of trimming, I have a very expensive and very heavy mat cutter (for framing) I've used until lately. After wrenching my back a couple of times setting it in place, I decided to attempt trimming with a cheap paper trimmer. I bought one, but it didn't serve my purpose because what I trim is too thick. I then tried using a trimmer knife, the kind with the breakaway blades and a ruler. This works fine as long as I make sure the ruler doesn't slip. To prevent slippage I glued a piece of felt to the bottom of my metal ruler. What's even more secure than felt is to clamp the ruler at both ends to a cutting board. Of course I'm here thinking about working with more than a single sheet of acetate, which only requires paying attention to what you're doing.




    Another form of binding I do a great deal of is what's called in the profession "saddle stitching." Saddle stitching is what you find on brochures and comic books. It's really just stapling, which of course requires a long-reach stapler as pictured. The major trick to saddle stitching is finding the exact center of your book. The best way to accomplish this is to fold a piece of paper so the fold is exactly where you want it. Then set your stapler so it hits that place every time. Once you find this spot, don't lose it. Mark the location, and unless you have other sizes to do (I don't but if I ever do I have a second stapler I can use for it), tape the gauger stop in place so it doesn't move.

    There are two ways you can fold your book, you can either fold the pages before you staple, or after you staple. The first way is slower it seems, but a little more accurate.



    If you've investigated book presses, you've seen some very complicated and expensive devices. For small pamphlets and comics you don't need any of these. I made one for another kind of binding, which I'll discuss in a moment, but for our purpose here this works even better. What you see in the picture is a standard, portable wood vice. I don't use this one as often as I use a regular wood vice that's permanently attached to my work bench. Any large vice will do however, even one with gripping teeth. Cut two pieces of 1/4 inch plywood to exactly the size of your project (I have several sets for faster production). Stack a few of your pamphlets or whatever needs pressed so the bound edges are exactly in line with one another. This is important, which you'll find out if you have some of them out of line when pressed. One extra step I will sometimes take is to clamp the stack of pamphlets together once everything is in place before I put them in the vice, but that's not necessary if you have a flat surface in your vice to set the pamphlets on when being pressed. Your arms can't apply much pressure to the books. I use a bicycle handlebars (almost straight) that I insert over the vice handle, and apply as much pressure as I possibly can without giving myself a double hernia, then let it set for a while.

    Keeping the flat pamphlets flat is another trick one must take, otherwise the stitched fold will tend to puff out of shape (especially if you live in a humid climate as I do). If you've seen how your books, magazines and other folded paper objects tend to curl, wave, and do other forms of gymnastics, you know what I'm talking about. Cut some stiff cardboard (I use mat board because I have so much I'm not using for any other purpose) the same size as the project, then stack the finished product between the cardboards and bind them with rubber bands. If you're stacking a lot of them in one set of cardboard retainers, alternate the books to the bound  edges aren't all on one line, causing the stack to go catawampious.




    Hard bound books are for the serious bookbinder. It takes me about two hours to bind a book, and that's when doing them all in sequential steps, not just one at a time. 

    There are good books and web sites that teach you how to make the equipment needed for book binding, so I'll not attempt to teach you what better, more knowledgeable people can teach you, and that for free. I'm just going to show you some things I found to be helpful.

    The book in the picture is one of only 30 I did (15 each of my first two books), using fabric purchased from a fabric shop. Nothing special. I suggest using a heavier fabric (or paper) so the glue you use doesn't saturate the material and show through to the outside.




    The inside cover. 

    I used wall paper for the two flyleafs of the books. Choosing the wall paper and the material for the cover and decorative aspects of the books was the perhaps the most fun, the rest of it being rather a difficult and tedious effort. The rewards come from having produced a product that few people have even attempted, and can in no way appreciate what you've done.




    Once you have the uncovered pages stitched (using needle and thread), then comes the hardest part of the process for the unwealthy hobbyist: figuring out how to cut that stack of signatures (pages) without causing them to look like some armature had taken a butcher knife to them. Professional book binders use a guillotine cutter that will cut through a stack of pine boards, but unless you're a rare poor-man hobbyist, you don't have any guillotine stored in your attic. Again, I used my mat cutter for this step in the process, but even it cut the stack at a slight angle. I had 90 page, that's 45 sheets of paper, I had to cut through. Any more and I don't think even my cutter would have done a decent job. How to cut your pages is something I won't suggest here, again, hopefully you can find something on the web (a resource I hadn't even heard of 20 years ago when I made my books)

    Two suggestions: when you finish your book, keep it wrapped in plastic. You don't want that treasure you poured out you blood to make looking like a crinkled potato chip from moisture in the air. And second, for the hard cover material, try using discarded book covers cut to the size you want. I once had a job taking old, unsalable books to the dump from the local library. I cut the hard covers off most of them, expecting to use them for my own books (after cutting them to size and ripping off the cover material). I finally threw the boxes of covers away since it was obvious I would never use them. One thing I learned from this experience is how very dense and hard to cut the board is that's used for hard cover books.



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