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Book Assembly Photo-Journal [Jun. 4th, 2005|08:44 am]
Hi, this is really, really long and has lots of pictures, so I've just gone and cut the whole thing. It's a goofy little photo-journal of the book assembly of my stuff for the upcoming MoCCA show. I hope you like it.

6/5/2011 UPDATE: Sorry, comments are LOCKED, I appreciate your enthusiasm and use of the information herein, but I'm really, really tired of Ukrainian spam.

3/8/2015 UPDATE: Found all but one of the missing assembly pictures that were lost when someone deleted the old ithinkican.com site way back when. Hopefully this is useful again.

In a previous journal entry I posted a bunch of stuff about scanning my pages. After I scanned everything for the first two parts of my book (96 pages) I set about fixing any really nasty problems in photoshop, but I made a conscious effort this time to just ignore stray pencil marks or places where I painted outside the lines. I wanted the final printed copy to reflect more of the look of the actual page than a perfect looking page.

When I had final high-resolution artwork I set about shrinking them and moving panels around for my final book. The web formated pages are around 10" x 7", but my book format is around 6" x 7". More of a square. I usually planned my drawings in tiers. Each page has two tiers. So to fit the rectangular piece into the more square book I just take one page and add to it half of the next page, creating a three tier final artwork. (What was two rows on the web, is now three in print. I hope that makes sense).

So I've got a square page, reduced down to 300 dpi, and then converted to CMYK mode for printing. I take each page and place them in my book design software (sometimes Quark, but in this case I used InDesign at work). My layout was created to print on a sheet of legal sized paper, two pages on each side with the fold in the middle. I ran a few tests to make sure my software and my networked color copier/printer were talking to each-other properly. Eventually I got my InDesign color settings to be as accurate as possible for the printer I was using.

I broke my book into two parts. The 96 original pages had been broken down and reconfigured into 64 print pages. I then cut that in half and basically created two 32 page comics (8 folded sheets). I could have gone even further down to four 16 page comics or eight 8 page comics. These "comics" will actually become what is known as a "signature", (a connected set of pages within a book). The more signatures I had the more binding I would need to do later, but the pages would be bound tighter and look cleaner. *The plan to bind the two books into one didn't come up until after printing. I was initially planning to send two 32 page books to a Print-On-Demand place and just get some standard saddle-stitched books back, but I didn't have time. Luckily I think the book turned out even better than if I had sent it off to a POD. So yay.

Now I've got my printed and folded signatures and it's time to start binding. This is a variation of "Sewing Multiple Signatures on Tapes" that is used for making hardcover books. While making some hardcovers a while back I simplified my method and created an odd little way to make soft-cover versions. I'm going to literally tie my two comics together with thread then glue my cover to the spine.

First I'm going to need some holes, so I need to measure and mark where I'm going to punch those holes.

Next I spread out the signature and pierce it with a needle at each pencil mark (For this I got one of these nice paper punches I found at a craft store).

Now I need to get some thread ready. I've got a five foot work bench that I work on. For every two signatures I usually stretch out my thread from one end to the other and cut that. This will give me just enough thread to get it done and some extra to play with. I take the thread and put it through my needle. You want a needle that is big enough to maneuver in your hands, but not bigger than the holes you made, or so big as to be unwieldy. After threading it, bend it in half and tie the two loose ends together with a fat knot (depending on your thread weight you might need to tie two knots on top of each-other. You don't want the knot pulling through the holes in the paper while you're working.)

Now I've got my punched paper and threaded needle. I put on some comfortable shoes, some background noise (20+ hours of Northern Exposure on my DVR), and have a gallon of water standing by to quench my thirst.

I put my first book down on the work table facing away from me. Grabbing the first signature and flipping the spine back towards me I start with the far right punch and send the needle through.

Then I send it back through the next punch.

Then all the way down to the third punch.

Finally out through the last punch on the far left. I pull the thread tight, careful not to snag the thread inside the book (It tends to ball up inside and if you forget to check you'll get a nice surprise when you open your finished book) also be careful not to pull the end-knot through the starting punch.

Now I flip my second signature onto the first. Take a bit of time to make sure you're putting them in the right order and that the finished book will be correct. This is especially important when you have a lot of signatures, you don't want to sew them in the wrong order. I send the thread up through the far left punch of the second signature.

Then back out through the next...

Now we send it back down to the first signature into the second punch from the left, then back out through the third.

Then back up through the third punch on the second signature, then back out the final one on the far right. You've now returned to where you began. I like to pull the slack back through the holes so that I can pull the loops tight. You want your signatures to be pretty snug. Be careful not to rip the paper or break your thread.

When you've pulled the thread tight and your signatures are bound together it's time to finish off these two signatures. You can just tie a knot with the two ends of the thread or I've taken to sending the needle in-between the two threads just behind the fat knot. Then going back around and through the loop to create a kettle stitch.

Here I'm sending the needle behind the knot.

This goofy diagram hopefully shows the "kettle stitch". (1) Down behind the knot (2) make a loop out away from the book (3) go between the signatures and behind the thread (4) pull the thread back through your new loop. Pull tight.

In this case I'm done with my book so I tie a double kettle stitch. Going back between the signatures and pulling through another loop. If you have more signatures to go then start with the first hole and work back through the others, crossing back and forth between the second and third signatures, then the third and fourth, etc. When you've got all your signatures together finish it off with a double kettle stitch.

The stitch is nice at the end of every pass because it will keep your previous work tight and together while you add your next set of signatures to the book.

Cut off the excess thread and get your needle ready for the next book.

Here's the finished "guts" of my book. If you don't like the results, just get out your scissors, cut the exposed thread and pull the signatures apart. I always mess up on a few books at this stage, it's easy enough to just pull some new thread and start over.

At this point you might want to measure the width of your spine so you can create your cover. I measured 1/4 of an inch and sized my cover to fit. Then printed those out on some tabloid sized paper with a artwork bleed of an 1/8th of an inch.

I printed out my covers on the same networked copier/printer, using a heavier cover stock. Measuring from the left I find my spine edges.

In this case 8 1/4" and 8 1/2".

Now I flip my cover over and measure from the left as before. I put a couple of pencil marks at 8 1/4" and 8 1/2".

Using the backside of a kitchen knife I "score" the paper along the marks. Depending on the cover stock, be careful not to accidentally cut through the paper. You just want to create a groove.

This makes a nice clean fold.

Now I've got an empty cover shell to glue my sewn signatures into.

I've gotten my cover and signatures laid out for gluing. You can use any paper binding glue. I used what was left of my Sobo Glue until I ran out then I used my bottle of Craft Bond. Both work well. I think you want something that will bond to the paper well and still be flexible when dry.

Put a nice coverage of glue on the spine of your signatures. I also like to put some glue on the inside of the cover along the spine, making a little side to side pattern. Try not to get any glue on the face of the pages or the inside covers. If you make a mess just wipe it up.

Squish the signatures into the cover and rub them together (watch out for that glue on your hands!).
After I've glued about five books I like to grab them and slam the spines down on the counter in a stack. Then I put them square on my counter and put a heavy object on top. I keep a bunch of hardbacks, art-books, and phonebooks handy for this reason. I double check to make sure the signatures are as flush as possible inside the cover and rub the spine some more. If you used a lot of glue some may squish out the side, that's okay.

I usually let them dry overnight under the weight before taking them out for cutting. I've had a nice guillotine style cutting machine for a few years, but there are plenty of other ways to cut the books square using a knife, scissors or scraping rig. You could even find a local book bindery and get them to cut down your books. Some copy shops may have book trimmers in house as well.

Here are my finished books. I made 31 copies of my new "Punish the Dead" book and 10 new copies of my "Death Swamp" book (the orange ones) this past week. The sewing takes the longest, I did most of that over a whole week, a few hours a day. The gluing was done in one two or three hour stretch. The cutting goes pretty fast.

This isn't the only way or the best way by far, but it's how I made my books for MoCCA. There are tons of great books on bookmaking and bookbinding. There's even a neat LJ community called "handmadebooks", there are probably other good ones too. Well, that's it. I hope it was somewhat interesting. Please add any questions or point out any errors.


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From: garybartos
2005-06-04 07:25 am (UTC)


So that's what they're called: signatures.

This looks like something papa_monzano should link to from his ComicSans blog.

And I'd also recommend posting a link to this from the STAPLE! forum. Hrm. I'll talk to Uncle Staple to see if he thinks Staple! should host how-to information. I think it'd be cool to have a Wiki site dedicated to info about the independent press, though.
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[User Picture]From: tobycraig
2005-06-04 08:20 am (UTC)

Re: signatures

yea. I only just had time to put it up before I had to run out to the gym (and now I'm heading out to the postoffice and the comic shop. When I have a moment I'll disseminate the info to various places. All of those sound good. There are several LJ communities I should probably link on. The Independent Propaganda blog too, of which I'm a sad, sad, non-posting member.

I actually tried looking up the "kettle stitch" up on Wiki, but didn't find anything.
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[User Picture]From: goraina
2005-06-04 10:05 am (UTC)

and i thought folding and stapling took a lot outta me! O_@
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[User Picture]From: tobycraig
2005-06-04 12:31 pm (UTC)
Yea, though I've done it, it's not a super conductive process to last minute mini making. A few at a time is usually the way to go. Make them as you need them, etc. Sometimes I need a bunch though. hah.
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[User Picture]From: owlyfriend
2005-06-04 10:54 am (UTC)
Nice tutorial, man! I was actually gonna ask you how you did those at MoCCA. I like the stitching better than my old contact cement method and I can't wait to see the end results in NY! If I really start making minis again I'm going to have to invest in a cutter like that. I was close before, but I'd have to sell a lot of minis to make up for that $1200 investment. ;)
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[User Picture]From: tobycraig
2005-06-04 12:28 pm (UTC)
My biggest and most stress inducing ebay purchase ever. I wanna say mine was $450-500 brand new. Maybe $600, but not higher than that. I need to take the blade out and get it sharpened. Too many books have gone through it since I got it. (which is good, at least it's not gathering dust.)

I've got some old bookbinding books show a kind of clamp rig with some sort of scraping plow that looks straight out of woodshop. I do want to build me some kind of book press though. That would be cool.
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[User Picture]From: himynameisjamie
2005-06-04 11:10 am (UTC)
... wow you rule. now i have all sort of technical questions and shit. ummm let me go read the other scanning thing first.
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[User Picture]From: tobycraig
2005-06-04 12:32 pm (UTC)
Yea, lemme know. I'll try to answer. Sometimes I don't know if I'm making any sense. You can send me a huge honking email of want-to-know's if you want.
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[User Picture]From: lunchbreak_pat
2005-06-04 11:50 am (UTC)
Wow. I just followed Jamie's link here. This is extremely helpful, and your final product looks amazing! Thanks for sharing!
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[User Picture]From: tobycraig
2005-06-04 12:36 pm (UTC)
Thanks a bunch for checking it out!
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From: malaisia
2005-06-04 12:16 pm (UTC)
Toby, this was awesome! You should make THIS into a min ^_^ James Sturm should hire you to teach bookmaking at CCS. Thanks for the incredibly detailed answer to my question.
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[User Picture]From: tobycraig
2005-06-04 12:35 pm (UTC)
Thanks for asking :) A big anthology of know-how stuff would be fun. It's no repro-guide, but I think it came out okay. Maybe needs a few more diagrams. There's some inbetween stuff that probably got left out. I still make a mess everytime. hah.
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[User Picture]From: galsan
2005-06-05 12:41 pm (UTC)
holy labour intensive, batman! That's amazing!
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[User Picture]From: tobycraig
2005-06-06 08:33 am (UTC)
Batman would probably make poor ol' Alfred do all the work. Or Robin. hah.
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[User Picture]From: chris_ycrtft
2005-06-06 05:50 am (UTC)


You know we could probably use this method for binding YCRTFT when it's done, in the likely event that we can't find a publisher. I agree with Gary that we should have this kinda stuff on the STAPLE! site. Not only that, but maybe have a self-pub workshop type thing at the show next year - interested in being involved in something like that?
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[User Picture]From: tobycraig
2005-06-06 08:37 am (UTC)

Re: Neato!

I could probably put something together if someone more cool couldn't be found. I think we could have a big fake cardboard computer and copier (with someone hiding inside to feed out the paper) and put on a comic-making pageant skit. hah. And/or make a book from start to finish in a one-hour panel.
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[User Picture]From: ericthemage
2005-06-06 02:05 pm (UTC)
You're on www.boingboing.net :)
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[User Picture]From: goraina
2005-06-06 03:05 pm (UTC)
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Link-ed! - (Anonymous) Expand
[User Picture]From: chr0me_kitten
2005-06-06 05:45 pm (UTC)
Hi. Found you via Boing Boing. These are beautifully done. The folks over at handmadebooks would love this.
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[User Picture]From: chr0me_kitten
2005-06-06 05:47 pm (UTC)
oops. missed your comment on the bottom there.
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[User Picture]From: bovinity
2005-06-06 07:31 pm (UTC)
Nice perfect bind tutorial. I love binding my own books.
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[User Picture]From: tobycraig
2005-06-07 03:15 am (UTC)
Thanks! Me too.
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From: (Anonymous)
2005-06-06 08:53 pm (UTC)

say it ain't sobo

Sobo's not really the best bookbinding glue--it yellows some and though it's more flexible than Elmer's, it still gets stiff instead of remaining flexible, and your books come apart. It's also not likely to be pH neutral. Try another polyvinyl acetate (PVA) glue--'Yes' glue is frequently used for bookbinding--or wheat paste.
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[User Picture]From: tobycraig
2005-06-07 03:19 am (UTC)

Re: say it ain't sobo

I've recently heard some misgivings along those lines about SoBo as well. I checked my older copies and stuff from college and they seem to be holding up fine. The old, old books are a bit crunchy.

I can't say that I've experimented with a lot or done all the research, but I'll be looking out for some others to try.

The Sobo ran out early in this run and I finished up with some Elmer's Craft Bond. Hopefully that is ok. :)
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[User Picture]From: castewar
2005-06-07 12:16 am (UTC)
I used to man the counter at a comic shop, many years ago. Chatting with one of the accounts one day, he told me he bound his comics into books. I was a little baffled and asked him what he meant. And this (what you've descibed) was basically it, though he apparently had some skill with making hardcovers and so went a couple steps further.

He'd collected a comic until a story arch had come to a conclusion, and then he'd bind it for storage.

"I like putting them on my bookshelf" he said, when asked why.

He instantly became my hero. And now that you've explained the process (something I never got from him) YOU'RE my new hero. I've got to try this.
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[User Picture]From: tobycraig
2005-06-07 03:23 am (UTC)
Libraries bind up their old magazines in a very similar fashion. (Good for storage, kinda rough when you need to copy an article). Most of the bookbinding info I find now days seems to come from library binding/repair information from books and websites.

I like comics on my bookshelf too, but usually I just buy bunches of trades and hardcovers.

Thanks for reading! Good luck on your bookmaking, it's a lot of fun.
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From: mildlydiverting
2005-06-07 03:44 am (UTC)

Bone Folders

This is excellent! Thanks.

I always used to bind stuff using the japanese side-stab method. But here's my tip - get yourself a bone folder. They look a little bit like ivory shoe horns, and they're great for getting sharp creases and no greasy fingermarks on soft stock...

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[User Picture]From: tobycraig
2005-06-07 07:25 am (UTC)

Re: Bone Folders

Thanks, That's a good tip, probably beats my kitchen knife. I think we had some of these in school, but someone else always grabbed them up and I usually ended up with the old palet knife.

I think I'm going to experiment with some japanese bindings on a little sketchbook for my next project.
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[User Picture]From: niceandlucy
2005-06-07 04:34 am (UTC)
Thanks for the tutorial :) I found it through 'drawn'. I have done bookbinding a couple of times... but always under expert supervision... I always end up losing my confidence when it comes to trying it all by myself :) so maybe this'll help! Thanks a lot.

ps) I first learnt bookbinding in a workshop back at uni and the guy who took the class refused to give us photocopied notes or a written tutorial to take away with us because he is a professional bookbinder and didn't want us running off with his secrets! booo! So your tutorial is extra-appreciated. - Lucy :)
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[User Picture]From: tobycraig
2005-06-07 07:28 am (UTC)
That's crazy. I'm all about "open-source" on the how-to's. I learned the basics for hardcovers in a printmaking course, but instead of instruction we just got a short little handout with three diagrams. Guess that's better than showing, but not sharing.

This is just a simplified version (but expanded) of the stuff from that old handout. There are plenty of cool, but complicated ones in some books I have. Hope to try them sometime, but they are pretty daunting. Just gotta get in there and make a big mess sometimes.
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[User Picture]From: drugaddict
2005-06-07 06:07 am (UTC)
I added you as a friend

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[User Picture]From: tobycraig
2005-06-08 10:24 am (UTC)
Cool, hopefully I can make more posts worth reading. Thanks.
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From: (Anonymous)
2005-06-07 06:15 am (UTC)

Nice Job ... and My Own Photo Journal

Very nice job. I've documented a couple of my own bookbinding projects here (http://www.flickr.com/photos/olivepress/sets/14697/), though the results were far less professional and my presentation of the process was certainly not up to par with yours either. You've inspired me to blog the how-to behind the pictures, though I can't imagine when I'll find the time.

Anyway, thanks for this. I love seeing how others tackle their own bookbinding projects.

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[User Picture]From: tobycraig
2005-06-08 10:26 am (UTC)

Re: Nice Job ... and My Own Photo Journal

cool pictures! I need to investigate your method for attaching a hardcover, my current one is kind of hit-and-miss (which is one reason I started doing the softcover variation).
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[User Picture]From: denial_land
2005-06-07 06:50 am (UTC)
Awesome entry!

So what do you suggest is the best number of sheets for those "signatures"? How many are too much, or too few?
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[User Picture]From: tobycraig
2005-06-07 07:35 am (UTC)

I think the "pro's" do things in sets of eight. This book was two sets of eight sheets which comes out to 32 pages each, so 64 total. My last project was four signatures of eight for 128 pages total. If the paper was really heavy (like a book of intaglios) I guess you could get away with as few as 2 sheets in a signature?

Probably enough to warrant sewing them together, but few enough so that the signatures don't aren't so thick that they fly open on their own.
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[User Picture]From: brenner
2005-06-07 09:15 am (UTC)


I haven't even read the entire post yet, but, wow, what a comprehensive lesson on binding! Very kind of you to share the knowledge ...
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[User Picture]From: futurebird
2005-06-07 10:06 am (UTC)
This is so helpful!
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[User Picture]From: bonniegrrl
2005-06-07 10:25 am (UTC)
wow thanks for posting that! I've been wanting to bind my own books for years but thought it would be way to hard to figure out. Your tutorial makes it look so easy I may have to try it myself!

Thanks! You're one crafty fella. ;-)
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From: (Anonymous)
2005-06-07 01:36 pm (UTC)
omg, i learned this technique YEARS ago and i've been trying to relearn it ever since!!!!!! thank you!!!!!!!!!! you rock!!!!!!!!!!
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[User Picture]From: umbrella_term
2005-06-07 03:22 pm (UTC)
Thanks for that! I design books too. There's actually special adhesive that is of archival quality that I get at the book-binding store. I can't remember what brand it is, though!

I hope it's okay if I add you!
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From: (Anonymous)
2005-06-08 02:07 am (UTC)
I believe you are refering to "YES" paste. It is archival quality and has a very slow drying time (too slow if you ask me, but still).

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From: stephka_smit
2005-06-07 10:11 pm (UTC)


All I want to say is .....WOW! but I have to say more because I am very impressed! I can't believe you hand bound every single one of those! Are you like my new hero or what! Ah!
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From: (Anonymous)
2005-06-08 02:03 am (UTC)

Book Binding

I just wanted to comment on your book binding. It is very informative, I wish I'd had it last halloween.

Last Halloween I was producing a Haunted House and I wanted a "Necronomicon" aka: Book of Dead Names. Well there are ones you can but they are not REALLY the Necronomicon and they are all cheap paperbacks.

I spent two months researching the Necronomicon and bookbinding and finally made my own. It is a leather bound, 8.5x11in page size, 19 signatures at 32 pages per signature or 608 pages.

I finally got it done a week before Halloween.

I'm simply saying this because when I was trying to make my book, it was hard to find information on bookbinding. I think all that try something like this in the future will appreciate the work you've put into this tutorial, and use it to make great codex style books.

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