It is easier after you’ve made a few books. I haven’t kept count but it’s more than fifty so far. This time around I’m taking short cuts. The project is to make draft copies – not for the demands of daily wear and tear. Also I’m not 100% keen on landing the commission of making the final copies, so it is in my interest to do a poor job here. But one that shows off the contents well enough that they go ahead with the project.
So, shortcut one: using regular 80gsm Reflex copy paper on special from the Post Office. The lighter paper curls more, and jams more. This is plain and too white, but it works.
I’ve also changed the way I print and cut the pages. Now I’m using the whole width of the A4 stock. Only two slices and I get two books. It doesn’t print the thumbs right to the top and bottom edge, but I can live with that. Also means the guide on the guillotine can stay in the same place all the time – no realigning during or between book blocks.
So you line up the book in the guillotine, remembering to put in the end papers too, clamp it down good and tight, hope for the best and pull down the lever. Sometimes it cuts good (see right). Sometimes the stack can skew as the blade comes down and it cuts bad. And there’s no undo button. And it’s a 292 page book that you don’t want to print again. The first sign is the trimmings (see left). See the words of the thumbs sliced off a bit. This is where Patience is required. The way to avoid this is to clamp the paper down very tight indeed. It will appear to buckle a little but that is better than watching the bottom of the stack slide towards the blade as you’re halfway there.
Then you straighten up the pages. Now if pages were flat this would be fine. Tap tap tap, all ready. But after the printing the pages curl and it requires more patience to get the spine edge lined up perpendicular or orthogonal, and then to hold it straight while you transfer the block to the press.
I’m using two presses, a wooden one and one made of two rulers and two clamps. The ruler press needs a box to sit in. The wooden one sits on the table. Both ways work fine. The ruler way is a little easier getting the pages straight, but tends to sit closer to the gutter edge, leaving less room to glue the spinecloth down the sides, but you learn to compensate for that. The wooden one inspires more confidence and is a bit more stable.
Then you get lots of PVA glue and brush it liberally over the spine, being careful to avoid getting it on the other edges of the book that need to be able to open – you can always fix these with a craft knife afterwards, but better if you can avoid the need. My junior photographer didn’t get a good shot of this step. It is a bit daunting spread wet stuff on your newly printed and cut book, but it does generally work out for the best and is not so taxing as some of the other steps here.
Then you get your spine cloth. Hopefully you have some already cut to a handy size ready to apply to the wet glue. I’m not sure what this fabric is I’m using tonight. It’s something like very worn out sheets or pillowcases. Maybe an old shirt. It’s lightweight but still holding together. Some use a more open weave fabric like muslin, but others recommend a tighter weave. To my mind the more threads holding it together the better.
The spine cloth helps hold the spine more closed. It’s good that the spine fans out a little before you put the glue on because the glue can get at more of the pages. Putting the spine cloth on you sort of spread it out taught and then stick down the sides onto the endpapers to hold the spine fairly closed. Then I brush more glue on for good measure. The glue really shrinks away when its dry, so seems good to really go crazy. When this bottle is finished I can open my big 2L bottle – but probably keep refilling the little bottle so it doesn’t all dry our too much. Also this is where I wash the brushes, only to change my mind and do some more glue-ing and then wash the brushes again. The water-based PVA does wash out, but you want to be thorough so the brush will be bendable next time.
So then I decided to try glueing ribbons in place – a risky business getting them on the top of the spine, but we’ll see in the morning.Found decent size rolls of 3mm ribbon at the local Filipino run junk shop. Lots of colours and patterns available.
The books are not quite finished yet and i am done for tonight. In the morning I plan to apply self adhesive cardboard and cloth tape for the spine to make a simple cover.