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most people will agree that it is much easier to read a conventional book than to try to read a book on computer. (Marshal McCluan (?) might have said that hard-copy book is a "cool" medium, while a digital format is a "hot" medium.) I've been experimenting with do-ityourself bookbinding for about 15 years and think it valuable to pass on some low-cost methods and tips I've picked up along the way. The digital format is ephemeral, highly susceptible to corruption and loss of files, while it is easy to exchange and circulate. For your most highly prized material, printing it out and making a relatively permanent book out of it is the best solution. At the rate digital format is taking the place of the printed word, in the event of a catastrophic break down of our computer systems, we may be left in illiterate world in the matter of decades. For the bibliophile as well, files for many books are available on the internet, as in Gutenberg's 12,000 or so digital books, containing many rare books that are not obtainable or prohibitive in price. [And now in '09, Google's huge library] Once one gets the techniques down and with a minimum of materials, one can have his own permanent copy for a few dollars by printing it out and binding it into book form. A CD is only good for maybe 30 years or so, or until formats are outmoded or other computer problems, while a hardcopy book will last a 100 years or more. (In this file are a
few images of some basic bookbinding equipment and some jigs I have made myself.) Notes: - While .html or .pdf files are the only way to go publishing on the net, .rtf or .txt files are the best for printing out a copy for yourself. [And now in '09, pdf book scans are ideal for readability in print-outs] .html files are usually difficult to reformat, while the conventional "Wordpad" or "Notepad" can be formated however one wishes before printing out. It is difficult to read a complete 8 1/2" x 11" page of text because of the simple physiological reasons of the difficulty of continually following one line of text to the next, especially with the smaller text one may wish to use in a printout to conserve paper and ink. The optimal printout size I've found is an approximately 5 1/2" width with about a 12 pt. print size. (This is the old ASCI DOS default.) (I ususally do 10 or 11pt type, but this is pretty small....) In your "page setup" for your printer you can conserve more paper by making your top and bottom margins smaller. Its important too, to make the LEFT margine larger than normal - say at least an inch, and inch and one half is better - to give room for binding the book on the left hand margin. I'm not familiar with laser printers, but in the typical ink-jet printer it is only practical to print one side of the paper, and thus your print-out book will have twice the number of pages as a normal book, since the back is blank. About 300 single sheets of paper is about the max for a practical
print-out book. [The most economical printer for books is a mono-chrome (black only) laser printer.] If you can refill your ink-jet printer cartridge, you can get a lot of mileage out of one cartridge (25 refills is my record so far), but you have to make a lot of mistakes to get a technique down. The biggest secret I've found so far is to never let a cartridge run dry printing itself out. In the US (and the US only) they have put a microchip in the cartridge and software to prevent the user from refilling them. If you want to refil your own cartridges, doing some research on the internet is one of the best things you can do. Pre-XP printers and computers don't have the software and microchip, but refilling one's own cartridges can cause a lot of frustration and expense if one thinks it is a cheap way to get your own books. - The best method I've found for binding printouts is to use a plastic comb binding machine (usually $60 to $100 at the big box office supply store - see photo) and instead of the plastic comb, sew the pages together using doubled carpet or button thread and a 2" to 3" large conventional sewing needle. One can punch the slots in the left margin of the pages, and put them in order using two 8-penny nails on each end and run them through the slots at the end of the paper. You have all you pages held together through the slots with the two nails, and you can weave your needle and thread up and down through the slots and twice over the length of the book, and tie the thread off to itself, taking the nails out as you lap them.
For covers to the book, use some card stock which you can buy reams of where you buy your paper. I add a few extra pages of paper at the end and one at the beginning to protect the title page and for notes at the end. Double-sewing the pages together in this method might be "good enough" for one-time use, but the pages will slip around over time, and I use a hot glue gun and shoot some glue into each hole (generally from each side) and this makes the binding permanent and prevents any slipping around of the pages. Over an inch thick, the glue may not reach the center of the book, and I open the book in the middle and put more glue in. (One can also use padding cement [Poly vinyl acetate] and a syringe from a ink-refill kit, with the needle torn off, and inject some glue into each page hole. This takes a day or two to dry, is messy, and one has to position the work over wax paper to prevent sticking to table or paper.) - The above method will make a long-lasting book, but for esthetics and a title on the spine for your book shelf, you can add cloth tape or glue on cloth for the spine. Just cutting a piece of cloth tape or duct tape on the spine can give you something to write a title on with a magic marker or white-out pen. I use the following method, however, which requires some materials. Padding cement (PVA) in quart bottles is available at some office supply stores or orderable (summer-time, it freezes in the winter.) Get the white or clear stuff instead of the pink stuff. This looks and acts just
like Elmer's Glue (“school glue“, but it dries flexible, while Elmer's dries brittle. Also, if you want a nice straight spine, use a paper cutter to cut a piece of cardboard (cereal box cardboard is just right) and glue it to the spine of the book before you put on the cloth tape or glued cloth. You can position this in the middle of the cloth tape or cloth before you put the cloth on the spine, and just position the book down the middle of the cardboard and bring the edges of the cloth or tape up to the sides of the book while holding the book centered on the cardboard strip. - I use bookcloth and PVA to bind the spine. Bookcloth is not the easiest thing to get and I only know one source personally that will sell to individuals. (TALAS, 568 Broadway, New York, New York 10012. (212) 219-0770 They are a bit difficult to deal with, have a catalogue of book binding supplies, and don't much like little orders....) Others can probably be found on the net. If you can't buy bookcloth - which has a coating on one side so glue doesn't leak through, you can make your own substitute out of any relatively heavy fabric, and starch it thorougly on one side with spray-on starch and iron it out afterwards. With the cloth, I put my padding cement in a tupperware bowl (most can be diluted with water up to about 1/3), and using a small paint brush, brush the padding cement on one side of the cut-to-size cloth laying on a piece of newspaper. I position the cut-to-size spine cardboard down the middle of the piece of cloth (cut to length and so an inch and a half or so will lap over the sides of the
book), brush some more glue on the cardboard strip, and brush some glue on the book spline and a little on the sides. I then take the book and position it directly over the cardboard, and bring up the cloth to the sides of the book and smooth it down. After it is all in position and smoothed down, I place the book on a piece of wax paper on the table and against wall or back of the table, and gently push the book against the wall or table back, and place a brick on top of it to keep it in place. (If your table has no back or wall, you can do without this step.) It'll be dry enough to pick up in a couple of hours, and to use in about a day. If you have cloth or cardboard sticking over the edge of the book, you can trim it off with sharp scissors. After your spine dries, you can past a label on the back of the book for a title, or print it on yourself using a typewriter "white-out" pen, or some of the paint pens that are purchaseable, or a magic marker for light-colored cloth. All this may seem rather complex, but after you get your "system" down, you can do it quickly. After printing a book out now, I can bind it completely in about a half-hour. Wax paper can be used in any situation where pages or cover would stick together while drying. This can be reused several times where little pieces of dried glue on the paper possibly sticking to your work doesn't matter. -----------
I add an addition step to all this, which makes a more finished looking book, but would cost someone about $600 for a table-top paper trimmer, which will cut up to an inch and half thickness of paper. (Your about $30 table-top paper trimmer will do only about 10 pages max at a time, but is very handy and good for cardboard and cloth too.) You can trim the edge of your book to smooth cut all the way around (I do this before adding the cloth and cardboard spine.) If you are real cajoling, a local print shop would probably do it. At least one trimmed edge makes pages in a book easier to open. --------------------------BOOK BINDING If you want to get into book binding as a hobby or skill, one has to get a copy of one or several of the old-style book binding manuals that covers all the old skills. The illustrations help a great deal and one can pick up all sorts of ideas to adapt to his own methods. I'd recommend buying some books or xeroxing them if you can get them through your library. A couple good titles are: "The Thames and Hudson Manual of Bookbinding," Thames and Hudson, 1978, 217 pp. and "Bookbinding - A Manual of Techniques," by Pamela Richmond, Crowood Press, 1989, 158 pp. There are smaller hobby books, but they usually only supply a single technique or two. Book binding spans from a "rough carpentry" -type practical skill all the way to a true art-form. I use the roughcarpentry form for making practical long-lasting books and cutting corners on price with substitute materials. In book
binding as an art form one has to search out a commercial suppliers of special materials like line thread, cloth, glues and special tools and jigs. Some of the substitues I've found for these are the following: - cover cardboard - I use 1/8" hardboard available at most lumber yards and use a circular saw and radial arm saw to cut it to size. The cover cardboard you can buy comes in varying thicknesses, but the shipping cost is a killer. Hardboard works well on smaller 5x8 books, but for 9x12 books is too heavy and cumbersome, although useable. Also, one can laminate together more easily available cardboard to get adequate thickness - like artist board, and cereal box cardboard. - Linen thread - You can use ordinary "carpet & button" heavy guage white thread. - Glues - Padding cement in quart containers is worth searching out and relatively inexpensive. (dilute up to 1/3) Elmer's glue is less expensive and diluted up to 1/3 is good for glueing paper to covers in quarter-binding, but it dries brittle, and can't be used for the back binding. Some construction glues might be a substitute for padding cement, but I haven't had to experiment yet. (There are carpet cements and wall-paper cements for two.) - Cloth - Buying commercial book cloth in a quantity is worth it if you can get it, and if you use quarter-binding in your work it will last a long time, needing only a small amount for the spine with every binding job. Starching cloth heavily is supposed to work relatively well (to keep
the glue from seeping through) but I haven't used it enough to know. - Sewing tapes and backer cloth - For the sewing tapes in signature-sewn books, I substitue 1/2" Bias Tape, single fold, available in any sewing and cloth department store. Any type of light material can be used for backing cloth. I use just white bedsheet-type cloth or even rags. Cheesecloth is usually used in commercial binderies, but I think it is too light-duty to use. - Decorative tape - at the top and bottom of the spine is a little decorative tape that sticks over the pages of the book. I don't know any easy way to make this, although someone handy on a sewing machine might. It is relatively inexpensive if you can find where to buy it. Some sort of decorative border tape or ribbon might be a substitute. - Tools and special supplies: All these things are expensively available if you can find a supplier. Many you can make yourself. - A jig for tape-sewing signatures can be made from a piece of 3/4 or inch plywood, some 1/2" pvc plumbing pipe, some fittings, and some wood screws. (see photo) - A jig for punching holes in book signatures before sewing together, can be made from two pieces of 3/4" plywodd, some 2x4 scraps, wood screws, a piece of angle-iron and a drill. (see photo) Put a "stop" on the end of the V-shaped pieces of plywood and mark on an appropriate piece of angle-iron where to drill holes for the punch to pass
through to punch holes in the signature below it, for what size paper and number of tapes for the binding you are making. (I made two jigs for larger and smaller books.) To make a punch, I used a large sewing needle (about 3-4"), drill a small hole in a block of wood, just slightly larger than the diameter of the needle. Then press wood glue or Elmer's into the hole, run a short piece of thread through the needle and smear it with glue. Press the needle into the hole on a hard surface, glue and all. Let dry, and the bond is relatively permanent. - To glue the backing cloth on your book you need a press to hold it in place or compress it while the glue is drying. I make these (2 sizes for big and little books) out of 2 pieces of 3/4" plywood, some 5 inch 3/8" carriage bolts, and the appropriate wing nuts, nuts, and washers. (see photo) They are also easier to use if there are a couple of springs place on the inner carriage bolts to separate the 2 pieces of plywood. I made these springs from some stiff wire, by winding the wire around a 1 1/2" pipe in a vise and then cutting the wire off. Heavy foam rubber might work. -------------------- Most conventional printer paper you can buy today is acid-free paper (good for a hundred years, compared to the old paper used that would fall apart in 40 or 50 years.) It is a "long-grained" paper, which indicates how the paper is manufactured and along which axis the paper easily bends - like the grain of wood, it will easily split or bend with the grain, but not against the grain. The orientation of
this grain makes all the difference in the world of how easily a book opens and stays open when you are reading it - something even many of commercial paper salesmen are ignorant of. (One asked me once "What difference does it make!?") One has to use paper for the size of the book so that the pages will open with the grain (which means using and cutting long-grain 11" x 17" paper sometimes.) If in doubt about the grain of a paper, you can wet an edge with your finger, and the paper will curl or cup along the direction of the grain. ----------- One method I used for binding paperback books which produces a very strong binding, was drilling many holes along the spine and shooting hot-glue in. I made a jig of a piece of hardboard for drilling holes along the back of the spine, used a hammer to flatten the small bulge that would result over each hole drilled, and then shoot glue in with a hot-glue gun. A folded piece of end paper was then glued in and over the glue holes to cover them, and a pre-folded and titled piece of cardstock over that for the cover. --------------Experiment! to find your own methods! -----------------
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