In Do It Yourself Book Binding Tutorial – Part 1 we looked at the some of the options I found for creating books by hand and the reasons why I settled on a trade paperback style glue-bound book for my project. Now it is time to take a detailed look at the steps I took to produce my first paperback book.
This technique is ideal for making photo books, journals, short story collections and more. If you have bought an e-book that you wish was in print form for reference – print it and bind it. Anything you can print on your desktop printer will work. Make gifts, create books to sell, reprint public domain books for your library, or just collect your personal writings in a more substantial and powerful way.
Here is the step-by-step paperback bookbinding process:
|My low cost bookbinding tools: Gorilla Glue, 4 large binder clamps, 2 paint stirrers (free at the local home center’s paint counter), fine grade sandpaper, and a couple of Q-Tips for spreading the glue
|1 – Stack your pages together in order. If you want to make a book with pages smaller than 8 1/2 x 11 inches, you can fold the pages in half and then stack the folded pages together. I had previously printed out this e-book and placed it in a 3-ring binder (hence, the punched holes.)
|2 – Clamp the pages together along the spine edge. You can do this a number of ways and even buy a press device if you wish. The clamps and paint stirrers work fine, but it would be much easier to line everything up if I had a press. It takes a few tries to get the paper edges lined up exactly. Place the paint stirrers along the outside edges of the spine (leave a little space between the spine and the edge of the stirrers so you don’t end up gluing them together) and clamp it all together. The stirrers will help spread out the effect of the clamps and keep them from marking up or denting the paper.
|3 – Sand the pages. Take a small piece of fine sand paper (200 or 300 grit should work) and rough up the paper along the spine edge. This will expose the fibers of the paper and allow the glue to bond firmly with the paper.
|4 – Glue the edges of the paper together. Use a small brush or a cotton swab to spread the glue around evenly. (Gorilla Glue and Power Poxy Contact Cement are good adhesive choices. Good old white glue will even do the job if that’s all you have available. I like the way the Gorilla Glue soaks in a bit. It makes the spine feel more sturdy – but don’t apply it to thick. Gorilla glue expands as it dries.) Wait a few minutes and apply a second coat then let everything dry thoroughly.***Check out the Glue Options for Perfect Bound Paperback Books article for more information on choosing the right glue for the job.
|5 – Glue the cover. When the spine has dried, it is time to glue on the cover. (Note how the glue has soaked into the edges of the paper to create a solid binding.) Remove the clamps. Fold the cover using the edge of a ruler so that it will wrap neatly around the pages. Then, apply more glue to the spine and place the cover. You may wish to clamp everything together again while the glue dries. For this book I glued plastic report covers on the front and back and wrapped white cloth tape around the spine to finish it. (Those were the materials I had around at the time.)
|6 – Finishing details. When the glue is dry, remove all clamps and trim the edges of the cover with a knife or razor blade.
|7 – The finished book layed open. With a perfect binding, this book takes up much less shelf space than it did before.
For many of the books I bind, I use half-sheets of standard letter-sized paper for each page. This creates a 5.5″ X 8.5″ book. Since it is nearly impossible to find paper cut to that size, the options for printing are to cut the pages in half before printing (you really need a good stack cutter to do this efficiently) or print four pages onto the front and back of each sheet and fold them in half after printing. I generally use the second approach to avoid all the cutting.
One of the trickiest parts of this whole process is printing out a book with the pages in the right order for binding – a task called ‘imposing’ in the professional bookbinding world. This used to be a black art, but there are some software tools that will help. One is called Clickbook. Clickbook intercepts a print job between the word processor (or any other program) and the printer where it re-sorts the pages. Definitely worth a look.
If you are working with PDF format e-books as your source, I came across an inexpensive program called CutePDF Pro that costs about $50 US and will let you impose the pages for book or booklet style printing. There is a free trial version available to get you started.
If you want to print on full sheets of paper, the print options in most software will allow you to print only odd or even pages. Print out the odd pages, flip them over, and print the even pages on the back. If your printer automatically prints on both sides (called duplex printing), just tell it to do so. Most printers will require you to do two passes and flip the pages.
If you, like me, prefer those half-page sized books (5.5?x8.5?) and don’t have access to a stack cutter, there is another (sometimes expensive) option for cutting down the paper. You can buy a fresh ream of paper from your local copy center and ask them to cut it in half with their stack cutter. Then, print the front and back as before.
Microsoft Word also has a booklet printing setting which will allow you to impose your pages. You can select between 4, 8, and 16 page imposing orders or choose to print your whole document as one booklet. If, for example, you choose to print a 30 page booklet with the 4 page setting, Word will impose the pages to print in a 4 page per sheet grouping and repeat the process every 4 pages. Word will also add 2 blank pages at the end to make the total page count even out (it must be a multiple of 4.) These 4 page signatures, when folded in half, will be in proper reading order. When all of the signatures are stacked in order, the pages will be in proper book order.
Open Office has a booklet printing function, but I have not had a chance to try it yet. On first glance, it doesn’t appear to be as simple as the Word approach and also not as flexible.
I recently built a binding jig out of scrap lumber to speed up my work and improve the quality of my results. It worked so well I made a little demo video. Now you can watch me binding paperback books.