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Bookbinding: A Tutorial (1995) (uiowa.edu)
203 points by jstrieb on Dec 8, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 41 comments

I started getting into book binding as there's a lot of stuff online that I want to collect into volumes for future preservation and reference, and then I discovered that there's book binding[1] and then there's bookbinding[2].

The rabbit hole runs deep and there's a long tradition of craftsmanship that I really hope is being passed along and not lost.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Av_rU-yOPd4 [2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DtJK_fcrLlY

There's quite an active community as far as I know. It intersects with the calligraphy practitioners. Here's a journal that discusses it which is still actively published http://www.johnnealbooks.com/prod_detail_list/Bound-and-Lett...

A lovely example of super-fast-loading 1995 webpage. Pure content. No garbage. We should find a way to get back to that.

B-b-but think of how much bandwidth could be saved if the whole thing were a webapp! We could replace the images with low-res copies which are always downloaded, and only download the full-res copies when they are viewed. Of course, that requires JavaScript, but every browser that counts (/me glares at eww, links, lynx, elinks et al.) supports it. And never mind about the fact that downloading low-res images and high-res images is more downloading than just high-res images to begin with.

Really, this could best be written as a single-page app. We'll have to rewrite it every six months, of course, in order to comply with current best practices and trends.

It's kinda embarrassing to see someone using static HTML for static text. Think how much better this would be with spinners, animation and ads!



This site is perfect. It allows my browser to convert it into "reading mode", so I can simple read the content with my preferred size, colors, font, etc.

I want to move to more content focused simple sites like this with my own content.

My own website has gone from being a WordPress site, to a custom CMS, and now finally to a static site with zero JavaScript and minimal CSS.

You have to be the change you want to see in the world.

It would just need a bit of CSS to make it look modern without making it slower.

Why does it need to look "modern?" If it's not broken, why try fixing it?

At very least there are some modernizations you could do for text legibility. Screens are bigger now, and today lines of text that run the entire width of the page are unnecessarily difficult to read. Similarly, with more screen real-estate you could pump up that font-size and line spacing a bit.

I'm having none of these problems, it's more legible than all of the "modernized" websites I've seen. Reasonable serif font, pure black text, pure white background. More legible than any posts on here, with the choice of gray text for certain things.

Now for smashing magazine to change their font colors to #000, for legibility's sake.

The line length is the main problem i would say.

It needs a max-width somewhere. This website was not designed for 25' screens.

I've just tweaked the page with:

    body {
	    width: auto;
	    margin: 2em auto;
	    max-width: 40em;
	    font-size: large;
	    line-height: 1.4;
	    background-color: #fffff8;

    * {
	    line-height: 1.4;

Consumer perception, mainly. It depends on the target audience of the page. Modern consumers have come to correlate certain appearances with quality. It's not an awesome cultural development, but you're not likely to gain much traction by fighting against that momentum unless you already have an oversized influence on that readership's expectations.

Now this is an ideal crowd and topic to ask a question that is niggling me for a long time. What paper could you use with regular laser printers to get professionally looking printed book? The regular A4 is just too thick, and books printed this way look clumsy.

Regular office paper is 80gsm. Many books are printed with 80gsm paper. Books with lots of pages often use lower paper weight (so they are not so thick) but opposite is also true. You don't want too thin book. Books with like 150 pages usually use papers with 120+gsm and books with lot of pictures or photos even more (childrens books, photography/art books etc.).

What i am trying to say - paper weight does not matter. 80gsm is used because it is the thinnest paper that will reliably not get stuck in the laser printer.

Try more creamy less bleached (ultrawhite) paper. Since they are not used too much in offices they look immediately less cheap. It can be challenge to find some adjusted to laser printer formats because professional always need big sheets not small ones.

Laser printer will often look not so professional because the color is baked layer on top of the paper and it does not bleed into the paper at all. Offset printing bleeds into the paper tiny bit and it becomes part of the paper. It also has much higher resolution so it is more detailed. The difference is even bigger when you print pictures/photos. You will not get good looking pictures out of laser printer.

In my experience, the paper weight doesn't matter all too much for whether the book feels "professional"- what I find makes a real difference is in how well you trim the book (http://homepage.divms.uiowa.edu/~jones/book/trim.html) and the quality of the materials used for the cover- no matter how nicely you bind a book, if you choose a too-flimsy material for the cover, it'll feel homemade.

Absolutely! I bought a heavy duty paper cutter off eBay for less than $100. Just search for heavy duty paper cutter or guillotine paper cutter. They have a huge clamp and mine came with an extra blade. One of the best investments I've ever made.

Came here to say the same thing. I printed and bound a couple of books using the very instructions from this site back in the early 2000's. I tried to trim one of the books myself with the "chisel method" and I was displeased with how it turned out. The one that I had a buddy cut with a guillotine paper cutter at his workplace was much, much more pleasing.

"Regular" paper is usually 20 lb. or 24 lb.; I am not sure what that is in gsm. So far I've found it to be too thin, actually, though I'm using an inkjet printer (modified for a continuous ink system).

I've used 28 lb. and 32 lb. paper, although next time I see it I'm going to buy something thicker (36 lb. or 40 lb., assuming the pattern for commercially available thicknesses holds inductively). Thinner paper seems to be a bit too transparent, but that might be a function of the type of paper or my printer's generosity with regards to ink.

Having sewn and bound a couple of books following similar tutorials, my advice is to actually get a professional print shop to make your books if you want something of professional quality[0]. Doing it by hand is a viable hobby, but even with my continuous ink system, it's probably not economical because of the time required to bind everything together. Printing with laser is probably more expensive.


0. If you just want to get some notes together in a reasonably permanent form, here's my three step approach to creating usable, but necessarily "beautiful" books. First, print off your book, arrange the pages, and add a blank page before the first page and after the last page. Second, align the pages carefully, ensuring that the spine is flat. Clamp the pages together, using something flat (another book, or a piece of wood works) to distribute the pressure. Finally, apply some Gorilla Glue (or similar) to the spine of the book, ensuring that the entire spine is covered but wiping away excess insofar as that is possible. Leave overnight, or until the glue cures.

The result: a surprisingly durable book from a process that takes less than 10 minutes, assuming you've got the materials handy. You can make it more presentable by adding a cover (I cut folders or cardstock into a book cover, and then glue them onto those blank pages).

A few things.

Typical laserprint paper is pulp, more especially so for recycled paper. Archival stock is rag and acid-free. Back in the day, this was required for thesis and dissertation submissions, for archival purposes -- rag paper will disintegrate in time.

The other factor, though, are the size of the sheets and how they're assembled. For blunt edge-glued paperback or perfect covers, this isn't a big deal, but a printed book is produced on signatures, which are sets of sheets sewn together, and generally in quarto (four impressions per side) format (eight impressions total including the verso). Octavio is another standard, though generally for books of smaller dimensions.

You're not going to get a sewn-book feel from A4 or US Letter sized paper. And I don't think even running up to larger A3 will quite work, you're looking at about A2 for a proper quarto. Though this is out of my depth.


the gsm of paper determines it's thickness https://www.stuprint.com/news/what-does-gsm-means

In general yes, but a better measure of thickness specifically is it's caliper. These are usually strongly correlated with gsm for a particular type of stock, but not necessarily for different types of stocks.

For example, we use uncalendered cotton stock for our letterpress printing and which has a thicker caliper for a given weight than typical, allowing better impression when printed.

Paper can be a beautiful thing when you get into it... :)

Back in the late 80's and 90's I used to download programming manuals from BBS file hosts (using a self-built 300bps modem, patience being a virtue) which I then printed out on a dot matrix printer (Panasonic KX-P1080 on a C64, later modified with an EPROM from a KX-P1081 to be compatible with the PC clone I got my hands on). The printer used chain-fed paper which I first fed through one way to print the odd pages after which I swapped it around to print the odd ones. After that I took of the chain-feed edges, separated the sheets, made a cover (first on the C64, later on that clone using Harvard Graphics - I had modified a Hercules-compatible graphics card to double the vertical resolution, 720 * 768 pixels of green on black...) and finally - which is the relation to this article - combined the whole stack together into a book.

I did not bind these books though, instead using a press I made from some 2*4's, threaded stock, washers and nuts and a piece of heavy plywood. I put the whole stack into the press, clamped them tightly together at the back end (just above the 'binding', doused the edge in PVA wood glue and overlaid the back with a strip cut from some old jeans. This way I ended up with a whole shelf of blue-jeans-bound books. It might not have been as classy as a 'bound' book but it certainly had style...

This sounds very interesting. Do you have any pictures of these books or your press? I'd be very interested in seeing them.

I still have the books hidden away in a box in the barn. The press did not survive the onslaught of ages or rather the need for its constituent parts, it has been recycled. Of course this all took place in a time when photography was still analogue and there was no venue to easily show this type of project to the world at large, i.e. no pictures were taken.


Alas indeed. :(

This is an finicky method, imho, and it was hard to explain clearly. If you can follow some of those sewing diagrams, purely from the picture, I'm impressed! Unfortunately a lot of older bookbinding resources assume quite a level of craft. I've been trying to learn (leather) Italian bindings recently, and it is difficult to find the right help.

Much easier, to start out with, if you want to create a multi signature binding (i.e. multiple groups of paper sewn together) is what's called a case binding. There you make the book block and the cover separately. Which makes it much easier to get a good final effect (at the cost of some longevity - it will outlast you, but perhaps not your grandchildren). Here is a very simple example that doesn't assume many tools[0][1].

She does the simplest thing possible to sew the signatures together. It won't look as good or be as secure as it should be, but will work. Here's a video showing how it 'should' be done[2]

I've been bookbinding for about 10 years, as a hobby. I started with a weekend residential course. It's good to start with practical input, I think. I had an old Dover manual of bookbinding for a few years before that, and didn't get very far.

(Also, craft bookbinding on HN! Things I never expected I'd see...)

[0]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGQ5P8QVHSg

[1]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Av_rU-yOPd4

[2]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IBxZp8PJF2o

I've had good success with a completely amateur method I learned from my dad (who was anything but a bookbinder):

1. With a saw, cut vertical slits along the "spine", 1 or 2 cm apart, and just 2 or 3 mm deep (that's roughly 1/2" and 1/10" respectively, for the metric challenged).

2. Take some dental floss. Make a knot on one end, jam it in one of the end slits.

3. Run the dental floss alternatively up and down through the slits, in a S-like pattern. When you get to the end of the spine, run the thread again towards the other end, covering each slit again but in the opposite direction. After this, each slit has two bits of thread, and each cover and back segment between the slits is covered once. Secure the thread with another knot.

4. Apply carpenter's glue on the spine. Spread it so it covers the spine and thread fully.

This proves to be incredibly sturdy, and usable even in thick books, although for these it becomes difficult to keep open in the middle, as the spine is a bit stiff.

>2 or 3 mm deep (that's roughly 1/2" and 1/10" respectively, for the metric challenged).

2mm is much, much smaller than a half inch. a half-inch is closest to 12mm.

Millimeters (mm) Inches (") (decimal) Inches (") (fraction)

2 mm 0.0787 ″ 5/64 ″

3 mm 0.1181 ″ 1/8 ″

Yep, sorry I wasn't clear enough. By "respectively" I meant that the first measurement I mentioned (1-2 cm) was equivalent to 1/2", and the second one (2-3 mm) was equivalent to the second one (1/10").

What a surprise to see my teacher's home page on HN. Also, totally no surprise that he gets limelight not for his CS stuff but bookbinding :D

I once say a video tutorial, 80s I think, from the US Navy IIRC, on book binding, manuals and such. It was great.

I think it was on the Madame Trash Heap, A.K.A. YouTube.

Anyone have any searching clues? I'd like to see it again.

I used "Hand Bookbinding" by Aldren Watson to learn how to bind a book.

I learnt because I wanted to rebind "The Road to Reality" by Roger Penrose because the original paperback that I has was just too thick. I ended up with a three volume set.

The Penrose book came with signatures glued into the "paper" cover, so I didn't have to make them. But many paperbacks come "perfect bound" where each page is a single sheet and glued individually to the cover, which makes rebinding more challenging.

I love bookbinding. It's not too hard, you can be creative and still get a solid book if you have the basics right, and it's not an expensive hobby. I found W.J. Eden Crane's Bookbinding for Amateurs, free from Google Books, a good resource, as well as a number of modern books: https://books.google.com/books?id=oxhRZ_l3kGcC&printsec=fron...

Should go along well with this: https://diybookscanner.org

Be sure to check out the forum, lots of information.

Or this book scanner, which I saw at a Makerfair: http://copybooks.childrenofmay.org/

Thanks for posting this!

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