I spend a good deal of creative energy tearing apart books. But I put them together, too. I make blank books by binding paper between game boards, record album covers, and other pieces of flat thick cardboard with cool art.
To bind the books, I've relied on 2 methods: hand-stitching and comb binding. Here's how they stack up.
Hand-stitched booksAfter taking a class at the (now-defunct) Seattle Center for Book Arts, I began hand-stitching all my books using waxed thread.
Hand-stitched books have several advantages:
- The pages lie completely flat (Coptic-stitched bindings).
- The stitching on the spine (if done well) looks attractive and adds to the hand-crafted look of the book. Brass eyelets add to the effect.
- The binding is strong. It's unlikely that pages will fall out.
- The thread comes in lots of different colors, so you can choose one that accentuates or complements the cover design.
- Each page is part of a signature, folded in half, which means the paper needs to be twice as wide as the book itself. It's harder to find large reams of paper used, and they're more expensive new.
- Waxed linen or cotton thread is a specialty product. You won't find it at most craft stores. And it isn't cheap.
- Stitching takes time. Customers might not appreciate the effort and so undervalue the final product.
- It's unforgiving. If you underestimate how much thread you need, you have to start all over again -- you can't add to your thread once you start stitching. And if you want to add pages once the book is complete, you have to tear everything apart and start from scratch.
Comb bindingYears ago, I bought a comb binder at my local office store. I wanted to make photo calendars, and I didn't want to pay my local photo store to produce them.
This type of binding has pros and cons as well. The pros include:
- The pages lie flat.
- The paper only needs to be as wide as the book itself. That means you can use regular 8 1/2 x 11 paper.
- Plastic combs are cheap.
- If you need to re-bind the book -- add or remove pages or switch out the cover -- it's easy to remove the binding and re-use it.
- The plastic combs only come in black and white.
- The binding looks a little cheap and reminds me of workplace handouts.
- You can't bind thick books unless you have an expensive machine.
- The binding machine is heavy, cumbersome to move, and hard to store.
Recently I purchased a tool for binding books in a third way -- using coiled wire. I'll report on that method in a future post.
What about you? Do prefer one method of binding books over another?