Thursday, October 3, 2013

Bound to succeed -- which method of book binding is best?


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 books

After taking a class at the (now-defunct) Seattle Center for Book Arts, I began hand-stitching all my books using waxed thread.
Coptic stitched binding
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.
They have disadvantages too:
  • 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 binding

Years 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.
 comb binder
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 downsides:
  • 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.
book bound using comb binding

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?

1 comment:

  1. I really like the hand-stitched bindings but maybe selling some of both. You're right - many folks will not care that they're paying for a hand-stitched binding so having a less expensive alternative might be nice. This is why I don't sell handspun handwoven articles - the majority don't care if the yarn was handspun and handspinning adds a tremendous amount to the cost.

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