Book Binding Howto

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(Tris Oaten) #1

Lots of people have asked me to write this up, so here it is!

I started off trying out a few different binding techniques: I have optimised this for 1. Effort and 2. Bulk-production

I chose “perfect binding” with PVA. Hot glue is the industry standard, but as we’ll be making the book by hand, it’ll set too fast for us to work with.

Narrator: “The margin was not 40mm”

The first step is to draft your paper printing. I typset my book with LaTeX (via, but you can use a regular word processor if you like.
I wanted to make an A6 book, so I started out printing 4-to-a-side, then guillotining them into 4 A6 pages. This not only was extra work, but I couldn’t make my printer use symmetrical margins.
I ended up simply buying a stack of A6 and printing directly on to that.

Clamp your pages neatly together. (I started off using the flower press that’s at the space, but then graduated to the quick-lock G-clamps) Then I recommend deeply scoring the spine with a blade or (my method) a saw. This will allow the PVA to make a much stronger spine, and also stop any tears propagating up the entire spine.

You can see I started off making 1cm marks in pencil, then cutting. In subsequent bindings, I optimised away this step; the reader won’t see them.

Glue the spine in 3 coats. Be as generous as you can with the PVA, especially on the first coat. I used a paintbrush to push the glue into the grooves, as gravity didn’t quite do the work.

DON’T USE A HEAT GUN TO DRY IT FASTER. It causes bubbles. Just chill out for an hour. Read a(nother) book.

Remember, we’re optimising for effort. Time waiting for glue to dry is time we can reclaim for other projects.

I used simple A4 card for the cover of the softback book. Calculate how wide the cover has to be. It’s very simply (2 * width + spine). Then guillotine it to size. I measured the spine using calipers, but a ruler will be plenty accurate. My spine always seemed to be narrower than my cover measurements. Don’t give it any play.

If your spine has come out curved, put a pencil under it while drying to provide the pressure to glue the cover to it. If not, rest it flat on the table

Job’s done! Go make some books!

To batch-make books, stack as many copies of your book as will fit in your clamp: Score all the spines at the same time, then glue them all together. After they have dried, separate the books form the inside with a thin knife.

Thanks to @petra & @Jonty_Bottomley and everyone who gave me feedback and tips!
More photos:

(EdwardBilson) #2

Marcus Aurelius FTW

(Tris Oaten) #3

Well spotted! I did indeed bind a copy of Meditations as an initial test. I’ve a mind to produce a whole set of classic philosophy books.