Let’s Make Some Photobooks: Improving the Binding

My book “Gone Quickly” has three signatures which are sections of folded paper that make up the body of the book. The signatures are sewn to a thick paper cover. After a few months of handling the first artist proof, the binding was becoming loose and the thread holes were getting bigger so I decided to reinforce the spine with bookcloth affixed with glue.

Because the book doesn’t use glue anywhere else, I was concerned about the additional time it would take to put each book together. I want the books to last so this is the right way to make them.

I also wanted to redesign the binding to use a single piece of thread for attaching the signatures to clean up the appearance of the spine, instead of the separate pieces of thread for each signature that the original design used.

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Back to work…

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The original binding had 3 knots on the outside of the spine.

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I acquired a new tool, a Fiskars rotary cutter. It’s great for cutting paper and bookcloth. It is a real pleasure to work with well-made tools.

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Trimming the bookcloth reinforcement for the spine.

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To make a right angle cut, I align the bottom of the strip of bookcloth to a horizontal line on the cutting board grid, then align the straightedge to a vertical line on the grid.

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Trimmed and ready to glue.

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Gluing setup. The glue is PVA. The bookcloth is on a pad of newsprint. After applying glue, tear off the sticky page of newsprint to have a fresh surface for gluing the next piece. Applying the glue is tricky, the cloth needs to be completely covered with glue without getting any on the reverse side. And when you put on the glue the cloth gets limp and floppy… Don’t screw up!

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Now put the floppy wet bookcloth on the cover without moving it around and getting glue all over the cover. I put pencil marks on the cloth and the cover to help line them up.

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Cover it with some wax paper. Or is it waxed paper?

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If you’re fancy you have a press to keep everything flat while the glue dries. I’ll take some help from Kertész and friends. Maybe some of their magic will rub off on my book.

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After drying overnight it’s time to score the cover on the Scor-Pal.

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When you score thick paper on the Scor-Pal sometimes the stylus will wander out of the scoring groove so I use a ruler to make sure the score is straight. It’s just a visual guide, the stylus isn’t running against the ruler.

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The other side of the cover with the bookcloth. Normally I score on the outside of the fold, but I was worried the stylus might affect the texture of the bookcloth.

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I like tools.

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I had to redo my piercing guide setup when I decided to pierce the signatures after trimming them to size instead of beforehand. A divider is useful for comparing measurements, for example checking if something is centered.

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The cover after piercing.

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The new spine. No knots on the outside, one knot on the inside The sewing pattern comes from Keith A. Smith’s “Volume II Non-Adhesive Binding: 1-2- & 3-Section Sewings.” It is the multiple section figure 8 sewing using two needles which is much more complicated than the original multiple signature pamphlet sewing but the results look great.

Coming up soon: another new tool…

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