Bookbinding is fun!

As i sometimes like to tinker on stuff that i totally don’t know about. This time it was bookbinding. Turnes out its easier than you might think. All you might want is some basic garage workshop material you probably already have at home, some glue, your PDF to print and some time – only about a hour. It’s really fun, really easy and the results are great.

So, please come in and read the actual Article/Tutorial :P.

First off you need a nice way to print the book you want. Assuming you have a PDF lying around you’d want to make a book of as it was in my case (script for university) you’d need to bring it in book form. This means that you print (duplex) on A4 or LETTER pages with half width – you wouldn’t want a fullsize A4/LETTER book. You want your pages printed so that you can “cut through the middle” of your stack (well, you can – given the right equipment – cut ~15-20 pages at once, so you still need to split). Anyways, back to topic. To achieve this it was (for a nerd like me at least) the easiest to use psnup and psbook, two postscript manipulation utilities. If you use GNU/Linux your distribution should ship them in nice packages, Mac users can ask fink and Windows users cygwin to provide the software in a nice manner. Given your PDF you might want to:

pdf2ps input.pdf
psnup -l -p -2

After that you have a landscaped PDF, two original pages on one (downscaled) with the ordering just to cut the stack in the middle and fold it together.

After printing remember to let the paper “rest” two-three days in a straight, flat position.

And now for the actual binding. I’ve added the description of what’s happening to the pictures, so feel free just to scroll through them and read up on what you gotta do.

What you'll need
These are the items you'll need, 2 bar clamps, two wooden boards (old cupboard, get from DIY market, etc.) a preferably old brush and some glue (wood glue or specialized bookbinding glue)
Now straighten out your stack of paper, put it on one board lying on the desk, then very carefully put the 2nd board on the stack. ask someone to tighten the clamps left and right leaving about 1-1.5cm of space for the stack of paper.
This is to show the alignment of the paperstack and the leftover space over the board.
Macros are fun 😛
and this one is to show you how to make it better... note the bad alignment of the paper.
To avoid having glue on the sides of your book wrap scotch-tape around the whole back of the book (vertically) to prevent the glue of pouring out.
This is roughly how it should look like when applied...
Now take a good load of the glue onto your brush and apply it to the back of your book. It should be well covered. Also note that pressing the paperstack downwards and upwards to make the glue go a little "inside" the pages can improve the results vastly. But be careful not to leave too much glue sticking to the tape to prevent "blobs" you'd have to cut off.
The first layer of glue applied
After waiting for the first layer of glue to dry apply some more layers to achieve a nice thick layer of solid glue.
Last layer drying
Now that the last layer dried take the book out of this a bit wild construction and cut two thick (>200g) papers to fit.
But before fastening front/back we need a solid spine. For this you need a piece of (80g) paper and some fabric (old textile shopping bag, whatever), about 2 times as wide as the back of your book (note: you can also use only the fabric without the paper if you prefer a fabric-looking spine). Glue the two together, apply some more glue to the bookback (only the back, be careful not to drip on the sides of your book) and apply the Spine you just made (paper/fabric should still be glue-wet)
Roughly like this, just without the glue drops on the bottom of the book.
This is how the front looks like with the spine applied.
Now that the spine has dried you can simply put some (not too much) glue on the front/back and apply them. Easy going :P.
A first test shows that it's ... a book! Congrats, you made it!
Also the thick layer of paint backed by the fabric spine the book is quite tough, here bended it like you sometimes do with commercially made books to make them keep open on a page, worked multiple times without any harm!

With that you should have a not quite perfect but already very very useable book in almost no time. This one took me about 01:30h of work (subtracted the drying time as you will probably do something different then). Some hardcore bookbinding nerds would probably kill me for this tutorial/technique, but … it works, it gets you nice results, you can use the books in quite rough enviroments (ie carry around in your school/uni backpack every day). If you have a printer that does not choke on thicker paper you may also want to print the cover on your book-front – or just scribble or draw something neat on there :P.

I hope you liked this tutorial and also start making books yourself – as making things is really fun and somehow makes you just feel good :p. Enjoy


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