Binding Basics Explore the different binding types: Case Binding, Sewn, Perfect Binding, Saddle Stitch and Mechanical
Binding Basics There’s so much more to binding than just paperback or hardcover. From the look to the weight to the longevity of the finished publication, it’s important to know how each binding technique can suit the unique needs of your publication and differentiate you from the competition. In this eBook, we explore how different binding processes are performed in a commercial setting and how they affect the final product. Case Binding �������������������������������������������������������������������3 Sewn Binding ������������������������������������������������������������������5 Perfect Binding ���������������������������������������������������������������7 Saddle Stitching ��������������������������������������������������������������9 Spiral, Wire-O and Comb Binding ������������������������������11
Binding Tips Valued for their durability, casebound products are designed to not only last for decades of frequent use but also to provide a beautifully crafted published work with seemingly endless possibilities.
Case Binding Case binding is a binding method used for hardcover books which involves encasing sewn or perfect-bound book blocks in covers of various materials. Valued for their durability, casebound products are designed to not only last for decades of frequent use but also to provide a beautifully crafted published work with seemingly endless possibilities. Assembly required The industrial construction of a casebound publication varies between machinery and binderies, but the basic process is as follows. Different binding methods can be finished with a hardcover to become a casebound product, but the most widely used process for casebound products is Smyth case binding. In this method, signatures are sewn together to create a book block. The book block undergoes nipping or smashing to compress the spine of the book and shape the spine to fit into its cover effectively. Adhesive is applied to the spine of the book block in the gluing off process and bracket tape is used to reinforce the spine’s binding and shape. An inline three-knife trimmer is then used to trim the three unbound edges of the book block to the final trim size. At this stage, a variety of embellishments can be added, including edge treatments, headbands and bookmarks. Edge treatments include enhancements like edge printing,
staining and gilding, where dye, colorants or gold leaf is applied to the non-spine edges of the book block. Headbands are strips of decorative cotton or silk that are attached to the top and bottom of the spine, and bookmarks are cords or ribbons which are attached to the top of the spine to serve as ornamental placeholders. Covers and endsheets are each prepared separately before the final assembly of a casebound book. Although there are many ways to design covers, the process of making covers consists of a few key steps. If the cover material is able to be printed on, such as paper or linen, the cover is preprinted before it is trimmed to size. Covers are cut to be larger than the case and cuts or fold marks are made on the corners to ensure the cover folds around the case cleanly. Some cover applications, such as lamination or UV, are applied to the cover before casing in, while others, like hot foil or embossing, are applied after casing in. In case binding, casing in is the operation of gluing endsheets of a book to the case and inserting the sewn and trimmed text pages into the cover. During the process of casing in, a three-paneled board is trimmed and fed into a case making machine, which attaches a backlining over the boards a cloth backlining over the board. This board is usually made of cardboard or chipboard and can come in various weights. The inside of the cover is then coated in glue and pressed onto the base board. The excess cover material is folded around the board and secured in place with glue.
Finally, adhesive is used to coat the endsheets, which attached the outside pages of the book block to the inside of the hard cover. The spine of the book block is then glued to backing material which wraps around the binding and spans between the spine creases. Use cases for casebound products The intensive case binding process produces excellent quality printed works that will last a lifetime, if not longer. This is beneficial for library-quality books, durable yearbooks and textbooks and great for special-edition runs. The professional look and feel of the finished product is a benefit for customers who value the artisanship of well-crafted books. In the Smyth case binding process, the spine of the book block is adhered to the backlining instead of the inside of the case, which allows the pages to lay flat when opened. The options for casebound covers provide virtually limitless opportunities for creativity and design. There are a large variety of cover applications, including the following options: • Spot or flood lamination with gloss, matte or gritty finishing • Spot or flood UV with gloss, matte, satin or gritty finishing for glow-in-the-dark, thermochromic or photochromic effects • Die options such as hot foil, metal gloss, embossing and debossing Cover materials like paper, cloth, leather or plexiglass can be used for case binding, and in some cases multiple materials can be used on the same case, known as quarter-bound, half-bound or three-quarter-bound covers. Slip cases, belly bands, trapper keeper covers and dust jackets can be created to wrap around the outside of the finished book. Weighing the options Case binding allows for an optimal balance of durability and design, and is an excellent option for trade books, coffee table books, art portfolios and children’s books in addition to textbooks, yearbooks and library books. If cover options are important to the finished product, case binding is a great method to impart creativity into a book’s design. Case binding results in a beautiful product that will outlast most other publications on the bookshelf. • Laser cutting for covers and endsheets • Branding (provides a partial burn into case) • Clear or colored silk screen • Graining • Lenticular or crack-and-peel tip-ons • Scented varnishes • Namestamping
Did You Know? Only 49 of the initial 180 Gutenberg Bibles are in existence today. These were the first books printed on Johannes Gutenberg’s movable-type printing press starting in 1455 in Mainz, Germany. The Gutenberg Bibles were leather-bound with gold-foil-gilded edge treatments.
Sewn Binding Sewn binding is one of the oldest binding methods in history, and it is still the most durable form of binding for printed products today. Sewn binding is a process which utilizes thread sewn through printed signatures to bind them together. There are multiple types of sewn binding, but the most widely used method is Smyth sewing. Sewn binding is most often used for hardcover or casebound publications, but sewn binding methods can be used for softcover products as well. Sewn binding is commonly used for premium novels, illustrated books, children’s books, textbooks, yearbooks, large catalogs and coffee table books. Assembly required Industrial manufacture of sewn binding products varies between machinery and binderies, but the main processes of sewn binding are as follows. In Smyth sewing, which is also called section or saddle sewing, thread is sewn through the middle of each signature out and into the center of the next signature in a looping motion. In another method of sewn binding, called McCain or side stitching, thread is sewn down through the sides of all the signatures at once. Before the sewn book block is bound with a hard or soft cover, the threads on the spine are compressed to reduce thread buildup and force out excess air. Thread buildup occurs when the thickness of the book block is increased due to the alignment of the thread stitches, and this extra thickness is compressed either through nipping, a process where the spine is clamped and pressure is applied only to the spine, or smashing, where pressure is applied to the entire front and back of the book. In another process called backing, the book block is clamped between steel plates and the binding edge of the signatures are bent outward over the clamped edges, resulting in a spine that is wider than the rest of the
pages. This is sometimes necessary to shape the spine to effectively fit into its cover, and it creates a slight nailhead for the covers to rest on and impresses hinge creases that allow the book to open. The stitched book blocks are then sent to a binder where they are glued and trimmed. For case binding, the sewn book block receives bracket tape in addition to being glued off, and the book block is trimmed before casing in. For softcover binding, glue is applied to the spine of the book and the cover is attached before it is trimmed to size. In reference to sewn binding methods, gluing off is a process in which glue is applied to the spine of the book block to reinforce the thread sewing and the shape of the spine. Here, a three-knife trimmer, most often attached inline on the binder, is used to trim the head, foot and thumb edges of the publication. In the process of softcover binding, endsheets are not required and the binding is complete after the book is trimmed and the glue has dried. Through a special method offered for Smyth softcover books, there is a layflat option which does not glue the spine of the book block directly to the spine of the cover. This layflat binding method allows the pages to be more flexible to stay open for use of the product. Endsheets are usually white, but they can be made with colored paper and can be printed on to enhance the subject matter in the publication. If a casebound option is selected, an adhesive is used to coat the endsheets, which are attached to the outside pages of the book block and the inside of the hard or soft cover. The spine of the book block can be glued either to the spine of the cover or to backing material which wraps around the stitching to span between the spine creases. Although there are many ways to customize the sewn binding process, the end result will always be a durable and long-lasting, high quality publication. Endsheets are usually white, but they can be made with colored paper and can be printed on to enhance the subject matter in the publication.
Use cases for sewn bound products Sewn binding is a popular method for premium printed products with exceptional quality. However, this option can increase the cost and take longer to produce. Thread sewing ensures a greater resistance to wear from years of frequent use, and sewn binding including adhesives provides more reinforcement to the spine and page stability than sewn binding alone. Publications produced through sewn binding are most often used for hardcover or casebound printed products because sewn binding results in a more durable, layflat books. Unlike perfect binding, sewn binding is suitable for publications with heavier papers. Enhancements can include edge treatments, headbands and bookmarks. Edge treatments include enhancements like edge staining and gilding, where dyes, colorants or gold leaf is applied to the non-spine edges of the book block. Headbands are strips of decorative cotton or silk that are attached to the top and bottom of the spine, and bookmarks are cord or ribbons which are attached to the top of the spine to serve as ornamental placeholders.
Since Smyth sewn binding sews each signature together one at a time, the binding it creates has more flexibility. If that spine is adhered to the liner and not the spine of the cover, the product will have the ability to lay flat. Layflat capabilities are important when there are images or spreads that span the gutter between the pages. This is great for art portfolios and coffee table books where design and longevity are equally important factors. Weighing the options When considering sewn binding for printed products, important variables to be considered are page count and layflat capabilities. The Smyth sewing process allows flexibility for the pages due to the layflat nature of the product. Sewn binding creates a durable finished product, and it is the
Through a special method offered for Smyth softcover books, there is a layflat option which does not glue the spine of the book block directly to the spine of the cover.
most suitable binding technique if a long-lasting, professional publication is desired. This is particularly beneficial when its readers will appreciate the craftsmanship of the finished piece.
Perfect Binding Perfect binding refers to a binding process in which the inside pages of a publication are ground down and glued at the spine before a soft cover is attached. Afterward, the cover and pages are trimmed on the non-spine sides to produce a publication with a clean, “perfect” edge. When perfect binding is used in the case binding process, endsheets are attached and the book block is trimmed prior to casing in.
binding. The PUR glue used for the spine can be followed with a different hot-melt adhesive for the side of the spine to adhere to the cover. Hot melts are comprised of a mixture of resins and polymers that bond in high temperatures and reach a solid state when cooled. A metering roller is used during the gluing process to remove excess glue and ensure the adhesive covers the backbone fully and evenly. Once the glue is applied to the book block, its cover is fed through a separate track where a feeding mechanism scores the inner spine at the width needed for the cover to fold neatly around the book block. After hot-melt adhesive is applied, the track carrying the scored cover rises to meet the spine of the clamped book block. While the front, back and sides of the book block are held firmly in place, the cover is pressed onto the backbone and the nipping station clamps the spine on the hinge scores, holding for a moment to allow the glue to seep fully into the backbone. The untrimmed publication is then placed on a conveyor belt on its way to the trimmer. The length and speed of the conveyor belt is designed to last the exact amount of time required for the adhesive to dry enough for trimming. For traditional hot-melt adhesives, this initial dry time only lasts 45 seconds, but the adhesive takes about eight hours to dry completely. The trimming unit takes the most time per product compared to the other processes in a perfect binding system, so some binding systems deliver overflow product to a stacker for off-line trimming. For on-line trimming, the conveyor belt delivers the publications directly into a three knife trimmer, where three large
Assembly required The industrial construction of a perfect bound publication varies between machinery and binderies, but the basic process in a perfect binding line is as follows. After the inner pages of a publication are printed and folded into signatures, a gatherer sorts them in the correct sequence to create what is called a book block. The book block is then compressed in a clamp, which carries the publication spine-side down as it moves through the binder. The clamp glides the book block across a backbone saw which removes the signature folds and grinds the spine. The spine is ground down, notched and roughened with brushes or sandpaper which exposes paper fibers and increases the surface area of the backbone so the side glue can adhere more effectively. Still spine-side down, the book block is carried through the gluing station. Many perfect binders use a type of hot-melt adhesive for the spine glue called polyurethane reactive, or PUR glue. Applicator wheels roll the PUR glue from heated glue pots up onto the spine of the publication. Side glue is applied following the spine glue, as a combination of hot-melt adhesives with varying viscosities is often used for perfect
Because perfect binding is the only softcover binding method that allows for printing on the spine, it is a popular choice for publications which are likely to be stored on shelves.
blades descend upon the three unbound edges of the publication, also known as the head, foot and thumb edge. This process removes the remaining signature folds and cover edges, leaving behind a clean-cut, perfect-bound final product. Use cases for perfect-bound products Because perfect binding is the only softcover binding method that allows for printing on the spine, it is a popular choice for publications which are likely to be stored on shelves. While it costs more than some other paperback binding methods, perfect softcover binding is great alternative to hardcover or case binding economically. Perfect binding also works well for a wide range of page counts and paper types, so it is a flexible option for many titles. However, perfect binding is not always the perfect choice for any given publication. While this binding type works well for publications between .125 to 2.25 inches thick, printed items with thinner or thicker backbones than this can jeopardize the integrity of the spine and result in a less durable product.
Perfect binding does not allow a publication to lay flat like Smyth-sewn or coil-bound publications. This should be taken into consideration for any publications requiring hands-free reading, such as instruction manuals or cookbooks. Because the cover of the spine is glued directly to the book block, the pages of a perfect-bound publication require larger margins, leaving less space available for design. The marginal space allotted for the glue and content that could fall into the gutter usually adds up to a necessary margin of .5 inches on all edges, which is double the size of margins needed for other binding types. Weighing the options Perfect binding allows for a desirable balance of durability and design, as the glue used during binding offers product longevity and the final trim lends to a clean, professional look. Perfect binding is often chosen for books, magazines, catalogs, journals and other publications when a durable yet flexible, attractive and sleek final product is desired. If perfect binding is the best choice for a publication, the result is a beautiful and long-lasting product that will be enjoyed for many years to come.
Saddle Stitching Saddle stitching, also called the two-wire stitch or stapled spine, is a popular, cost-effective binding method widely used for thinner magazines, catalogs and booklets. In this binding process, sheets of printed paper are folded and nested together, then metal wire is stitched through the fold line to create the spine. After trimming, the end product is a sleek, softcover publication bound with staples through its spine. Saddle stitching is a very popular binding method due to its simplicity, cost effectiveness, fast turnaround and flexible design. Assembly required In commercial printing, saddle stitching varies between machinery and binderies, but the basic process in a saddle stitching line is as follows. Once a publication’s parent sheets leave the printing press, a gatherer organizes the sheets into the correct sequence. The parent sheets are sent into gates in a folder machine which are set to the proper fold size for the sheets. The cover of the publication is usually combined with the parent sheets, so long as the substance of the cover is able to be folded alongside its pages. The folding process ensures crisp, precise folds along the spine. A heavy arm applies a final fold, called the knife fold, to the parent sheets along the fold line with great pressure.
The groups of folded pages, known as signatures, are intentionally printed and folded to be longer on one edge than the other. This creates a small lap which aids the machine in opening the unbound publication to the centerfold, assuring each publication is correctly pulled onto the stitcher’s conveyor. The publication travels along the apparatus with its outer spine facing up and each side of the publication hanging over the sides like legs on a saddle. This part of the binding process is where saddle stitching gets its distinctive name. As the publication travels along the conveyor, it meets the stitcher, which pushes metal wire from a spool down through the outside of the spine fold and back up through the other side. This process forms staples in the spine fold of the publication which are clinched on the inside fold of the centermost pages. Two staples are used most commonly, but publications with larger paper sizes may require more staples along the spine. The stapled publication is then plucked off the saddle conveyor and sent to the trimmer. This process removes the lap and signature folds of the cover and inside pages at once, leaving behind a clean-cut, saddle-stitched publication.
Did you know The first known pieces resembling modern publications were created in India circa 100 BCE and most closely resembled saddle-stitched products today. Used for religious sutras, the folded pages were made of dried palm leaves and bound with twine.
Use cases for saddle-stitched products
If the planned publication is to be more than 0.25 inches thick, it may be advantageous to look into other methods such as stab stitching or perfect binding, which can accommodate thicker publications. Keep in mind, these binding methods sacrifice the ability of publications to lay flat and gutter space will need to be considered in the design phase. A drawback to the design of saddle-stitched publications is the inability to print on the spine, which can limit the lifespan of a publication on the shelf. This design drawback is not much of a problem for many short, single run booklets, but it can be a disadvantage if it reduces the visibility of a magazine on a stand. In saddle-stitched publications with a large number of pages, it is possible for the pages to bow out from the spine and the stitches are more likely to spring out over time. Creeping also needs to be taken into account during the design of a saddle-stitched product with a larger number of pages. Creeping refers to the gradual edge protrusion of the inner pages of a publication as more pages are nested together. After assembly, the unbound edges are trimmed to create a flush edge, but it is important to allot for creep allowance to avoid errors such as page numbers getting cut off of the centermost pages. With more pages in a publication, more creep allowance is necessary. Weighing the options Saddle stitching allows for a cost-effective publication with a faster production speed versus other binding methods, while still producing a professional-looking end product. For printed works intended to have short-term use, or those with a smaller page count, saddle stitch binding is an excellent option. Saddle stitching is often used for workbooks, wall calendars, comic books and thinner magazines and catalogs. Binding Tips Because each parent sheet is printed on both sides before it is folded into a signature, the page count for this binding type must be in multiples of four. If the front and back covers are the same substrate as the inner pages, they need to be included in the page count.
Saddle stitching is a very popular binding method due to its simplicity, cost-effectiveness, fast turnaround and flexible design. This binding method is highly cost effective, both in production and shipping costs. If a large quantity of publications needs to be shipped over a long distance, saddle stitching is beneficial to shipping costs as this binding method adds only a minimal amount of excess bulk and weight. After being sent to press, saddle-stitched products have a fast turnaround relative to other binding techniques like case or perfect binding. Saddle stitching produces a durable product with pages that do not slip or fall out. Any softcover publication is less durable than a hardcover publication, but the longevity of saddle-stitched products can be extended with a thicker cover substance or cover coating. One of the biggest design benefits of saddle stitched publications is their ability to lay flat when opened. Since the pages open flat, images and text can extend across a double page spread, with the content in full view and without any content getting lost in the gutter. The ability to print without design-specific restrictions is beneficial for printing publications with large photo spreads, as well as items like maps and testing booklets. When considering saddle stitching for a printing project, the main determining factor is the page count of the future publication. This binding method is most commonly used for print materials with a small number of pages. Saddle stitching is best suited for printed page counts of 16 to 64, but products can have page counts as low as eight and as high as 80, depending on the chosen weight of the paper.
Spiral, Wire-O and Comb Binding
Spiral, Wire-O and comb binding are all methods of mechanical binding. Mechanical binding refers to binding processes involving the insertion of metal or plastic filaments through holes in the binding edge of paper sheets in order to secure pages together. Spiral, Wire-O and comb binding are popular, affordable methods for publications that need to lay flat and undergo frequent use without damaging the binding. These durable binding methods are most often used for printed items such as reference materials, guidebooks, notebooks and journals. Process The printing and trimming processes are similar for spiral, Wire-O and comb binding. The sheets are printed, collated and aligned, and the inner pages and covers are then cut to the finished size of the publication. After holes are punched or drilled through the binding edge of the sheets, the processes begin to vary for spiral, Wire-O and comb binding. Spiral binding Spiral binding, also referred to as wire or coil binding, is one of the most common binding methods due to its durability and versatility. In a spiral-bound publication, a long series of small holes is either punched or drilled through the binding edge of the paper sheets. Then, a continuous plastic, metal or plastic-coated metal coil is threaded through the holes. A coil-crimping tool bends and trims the ends of the coil to secure the binding. Wire-O binding In Wire-O binding, rectangular holes are punched through the binding edge of the paper sheets. This binding is also
called twin-loop binding, as a sturdy double wire is used to bind publications. All the inside pages and covers are placed on an open, “C”-shaped double wire, which is then pinched closed through the holes in the binding edge. When the publication is placed onto the wire, the back cover is placed above the front cover on top of the inner pages. This way, when the wire is pinched together, the portion where the wire meets sits between the last inner As the name implies, concealed Wire-O binding is a form of Wire-O binding with a hard or soft cover that continues around the binding to conceal the wire. This is most often accomplished by gluing the front and back covers to the first and last inner pages with extra space left for the wire binding to create a round or square-backed, concealed Wire-O publication. Comb binding Also called GBC, Cerlox or Surelox binding, comb binding uses a solid, cylindrical strip of curved plastic with a line of curved tines to hold pages together. Each flexible tine along the comb is preformed into a ring shape with a small amount of tension, so the tines can retain their shape after being manipulated. Rectangular slots are punched through the covers and pages of the publication, and the curved tines are spread open to close down through the slots in the binding edge. Some combs are designed to be openable after the publication is first bound to add or remove pages, and some combs are designed with locking mechanisms to keep pages in place after binding. page and the back cover of the publication. Concealed Wire-O binding
Use cases for spiral, Wire-O and comb binding With these binding methods, one of the largest benefits is the ability to lay completely flat. For instructional guidebooks or reference materials, this makes it easy to flip through pages quickly and stay in place so they can be referenced without the reader needing to hold pages open.
Because each page is separate on the coil, wire or comb spine, single pages need to be submitted instead of spreads. Unlike saddle stitching or perfect binding, crossover images are not possible for these binding types, and there also needs to be at least a 0.125” bleed on all four sides of each document page. An inside page margin of 0.5” should also be taken into account in order to avoid any content getting obscured by the slots or filaments in the binding edge. Since each page in a spiral, Wire-O or comb-bound publication is separate, there are abundant possibilities for paper types, finishes, foldouts and inserts. With these options, a cookbook could be laminated to be spill resistant or a student workbook could have foldouts for large diagrams. With these binding methods, printed works can also have indexing tabs for referencing and customizability. Weighing the options Spiral, Wire-O and comb binding methods are popular, reasonably affordable ways to create durable and versatile publications. Although these binding methods are not typical for standard distribution and retail channels, they are ideal for publications requiring frequent use or referencing, such as manuals, cookbooks, directories, calendars and planners.
Spiral, Wire-O and comb binding are popular, affordable methods for publications that need to lay flat and undergo frequent use without damaging the binding.
While comb-bound products can be opened fully flat, spiral and Wire-O-bound products have the added flexibility to double over on themselves. These 360 degrees of mobility provide full visibility of content and hands-free reading without causing any damage to the binding. It also makes it easier for publications to fit onto smaller work areas and provides a better writing surface for notebooks or workbooks. The wires, coils and combs used for binding come in various diameters to accommodate for a wide range of page counts. Wire-O binding has a recommended maximum of 200 pages, but spiral binding is a great option for larger page counts, as the coils usually range from about 0.25 to two inches in diameter and can be up to 24 inches long. Comb binding can contain a higher page count than spiral and Wire-O binding, as the diameter of combs can be as large as three inches.
Add Style To Your Next Publication Add some fun to your next print project by customizing the color of the spiral, Wire-O or comb used in the binding process
If you would like to speak with someone to discuss what binding options can work best for your next publication, our knowledgeable staff can help you find the best option suited to your needs. For more helpful information on printing and the printing industry, please visit walsworth.com or call us at 800-265-6795.
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