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Binding and Finishing

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Binding Methods

There are many ways of combining multiple pages into a single, finished piece. At home, we use staples, paper clips, or binder clips to consolidate sheets of paper. The methods used in printing plants are rather more elaborate.

Saddle Stitching

Take another look at the magazine that we've been using as an example. The staples that anchor the pages at the spine of the magazine are actually created from a spool of wire. For the binding process, the loose sheets of printed pages that constitute the magazine are draped together over a saddle-like holder (hence the term saddle stitching). The wire is fed into position, cut to a short length, bent into shape, and then the legs of the staple are driven through the pages. Finally, the legs are bent into the final staple shape (Figure 3.22). Of course, this all takes place at high speed, in about the same amount of time it takes you to say the word magazine.

Figure 3.22

Figure 3.22 In saddle stitching, wire is fed from a roll, and then cut to form staples, which are driven through a sheaf of paper and then crimped.

Perfect Binding and Case Binding

There is another method of binding—perfect binding—that is used for larger publications such as textbooks (and some high-page–count journals). In perfect binding, creep is not as large an issue as it is with other binding methods, although it can still occur. Whereas magazines might combine over 100 pages in a saddle-stitched issue, when perfect binding is used, pages are gathered in much smaller groups—such as 16–page signatures—which are likely to result in less-pronounced creep. Then, multiple signatures are stacked together, trimmed (or ground off), and glued at the spine (Figure 3.23). Finally, a cover is added to enclose the pages, which is held in place by glue along the spine. For larger books such as textbooks, the spine is reinforced by adhering a cloth strip to the spine of the gathered signatures before affixing a hard cover. This is called case binding.

Figure 3.23

Figure 3.23 In perfect binding, individual signatures are stitched with thread to keep their pages in place. Then, multiple signatures are gathered together and anchored with adhesive on the common spine. Finally, a cover is added.

Although the smaller constituent signatures in a perfect bound book are not subject to the degree of creep that you might see in a magazine, you still have to consider some of the side effects of combining a high number of pages with the relatively stiff spine of a perfect binding. Even in a comparatively slender magazine of 192 pages, there is pronounced pinching of the pages at the center of the finished magazine, making it difficult to read some text near the interior bound edge. You can compensate for this by using wider inside margins when you build your pages (Figure 3.24).

Figure 3.24

Figure 3.24 Anticipate the pinch of perfect binding by setting wider inside margins (right).

Comb Binding

Often used for publications such as cookbooks, textbooks, and workbooks, comb binding allows a book to be opened flat. Rectangular holes are punched in the pages of the book, and then the teeth of the plastic comb are pushed through the holes. Because the combs are coil-like and curly, the teeth curve back under a spine-like collar that forms a solid spine for the bound book (Figure 3.25). The plastic combs themselves come in a variety of colors and diameters. Comb-bound books usually use heavier stock for the front and back covers, or they use clear plastic sheets as a protective first page.

Figure 3.25

Figure 3.25 Comb binding allows books to be opened flat. It's great for cookbooks and workbooks, but makes it challenging to add a printed spine.

Comb binding has one disadvantage: It's a challenge to put a title or other copy on the spine. It's possible to apply adhesive labels or even imprint the plastic combs by using silk screening at extra cost.

In preparing artwork for a publication that will be comb bound, you have to provide sufficiently wide inside margins so the punched holes won't damage any content. Your print service provider can give you specifications for their punches.

Most print service providers and many office-supply stores can perform comb binding for you. But if you frequently produce short-run books or other small-quantity publications that require comb binding, you might consider purchasing punching and binding equipment of your own.

Coil Binding

In coil binding, a spiral of wire or plastic is threaded through round holes punched in the book (Figure 3.26). As with comb binding, coil binding (also called spiral binding) allows a piece to lie flat when open. However, there's no way to imprint a spine, and you must create a wide inner margin as you design the piece so that the printed area of the page will clear the punch holes.

Figure 3.26

Figure 3.26 Coil binding is suitable for notebooks, cookbooks, and textbooks. While this binding method allows a book to lie flat when open, there's no way to imprint a spine.

Other Binding Methods

If you're creating textbooks or notebook-like workbooks, you'll encounter other punch–and–bind methods that are similar in configuration to comb and coil binding. Wire binding uses tooth-like loops of wire similar in appearance to the teeth of comb binding, but it produces a sturdier binding than the plastic combs. By now, you're probably reciting the mantra, "Use wider inner margins to avoid the punch holes." Hold that thought. It applies to most specialty-binding methods.

For heavy-duty books with constantly changing content, such as a wallpaper sample book, post binding may be the most appropriate solution. In this binding method, metal posts are pushed through punched holes in the book and anchored with bolts that thread into the post centers. This method has the advantage of allowing you to add or replace pages, and it's possible to have an exterior cover with an imprinted spine.

Special presentations or other artistic publishing concepts may involve custom binding solutions such as handmade covers or cases and decorative binding devices such as screws or ribbons. Such pieces are usually used in very limited print runs and entail a considerable amount of handwork. Consequently, these undertakings require extremely careful planning.

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