27 November 2017 Finishing

The timeless appeal of case bound finds new fans

A case bound book can be a thing of beauty, creating an impression that few other printed products can match. No wonder hardcover books have seen off the threat of electronic books.

Case bound binding is on the increase. It is suitable for a special job, for a memorable volume that is for keeping, more an artefact and work of art than an ephemeral piece of marketing material. Not surprisingly many printers are used to producing all kinds of marketing material.

However, not every printer has the capability of producing case binding, nor even has the experience of handling a case bound job, to the extent perhaps that they will walk away from the opportunity. There is no need to do this.

The UK has a number of trade binders able to cope with hand binding, and with machine binding in larger or lesser quantities. Other book binders will offer trade binding services, though often with their own work taking precedence.

All are able to advise and make suggestions for those that handle just a few case bound books a year or perhaps have never tackled this sort of project.

From the specialist hand binders like Ludlow Bookbinders, Skyline Bookbinders, Diamond Print Services, UK Bookbinders, and more – advice is available.

They have a vested interest in ensuring that the printer delivers the work correctly, apart from establishing a relationship such that the printer will return for a future. The binding is the last stage of the process and should a mistake arise at this point, the cost of putting it right will include the cost of every production step up to this point, including paper and printing, while the cost of the binding may amount to 10% of the job’s total value.

“Any printer can print a book, but they need to know where they can get it finished,” says Diamond director Peter Wright. “A lot of hand-holding may be necessary, and the earlier we can get involved in the process the more pitfalls we can help people avoid.”

At Skyline, production manager Garry Smith adds: “Case binding is very easy, and it’s also very easy to get wrong. There are end papers to consider, grain direction and you have to think about the printed cover and allowing the space for the flaps.”

The cover will be bigger all round than the book block inside it. The binders will be able to provide templates and ways to calculate the spine width depending on what paper is specified. There is also a 3mm overhang to allow for on all sides and the extra that wraps around the cover and tucks inside. Allow 20mm for this, says Smith.

“And there is a difference between a sewn section block and a perfect bound block. They may be used to perfect binding where a few millimetres is lost when the spine is milled off to allow the cover to be glued in place. This will make a difference where the job is sewn,” he explains.

The extension of case bound binding as a marketing device for the property sector, luxury cars, product launches, event days and do on has been joined by local history enthusiasts, photographers, cookery bloggers in wanting to publish a case bound book.

All binding companies will advise the printer to create a full dummy, if possible with printed pages, but certainly with the correct number of pages of the paper that is to be used. This will show whether grain direction is going to be an issue.

Paper merchants are used to supplying short grain B1 format papers. When this is folded to create a 16pp section, the grain will still be across the book. While a common fault, it may not be fatal, provided the paper is not too stiff and the book’s format not too large.

It would be better to run with the grain in the correct direction for the final product. The book will fall open and the pages have a much greater chance of staying open. When the book has an instructional or reference element, like a cookery book, or needs to be seen as a full spread, grain direction is vital.

A way around this, if the merchant cannot supply sheets in the correct orientation, is to run a 12pp section instead. The paper will fold better and the finished book will open as it should.

All book binders will advise on grain direction for the text section of a book. Equally all will insist that grain direction on the end papers is correct. The consequences of using an incorrect paper are likely to be devastating. As the paper, wet from an application of glue, dries it will pull in the direction of the grain. This means that a cross grained paper will pull and warp the cover as it dries, wrecking the impact of the book. It is simply too risky for a trade binder to work with the wrong style of end papers.

Papers themselves are an issue. Designers are keen to use tactile high impact papers, those sold by GF Smith, Fenners or Fedrigoni for example. Some of these will be bulkier than the weight which means that the rule of thumb where the thickness of a paper is equivalent to it thickness does not apply. Some will suggest reducing the weight of the paper without a negative impact on the final job.

This can also have an impact when used for a cover. Uncoated papers will need a laminate to protect against scuffing, but the cover may delaminate if care is not taken, says Lewis Kervin from Masters Bookbinding in Reading. It is more of a craft binder handling limited runs than one with the full complement of Kolbus equipment as Skyline, Diamond and Gomer Press have.

The advice is to leave the sheet to dry for 24 hours after printing and then a further 24 hours after lamination. “We would want work presented to us to have 10mm trim all round and a further 10mm for the fore edge to make it easier for use when binding,” says Kervin.

Case making is another process where time must be built in for the glue to go off properly before the book block is applied to the case. It means that where a printer is used to completing 5,000 copies of a perfect bound book in four or five days, he must allow additional time for the trade binder to turn the same volume of case bound books. A prestigious project will have taken several months, if not years, to reach this point, there is nothing to be gained in rushing to the finishing line.

For some kinds of work a 10mm gutter may not be ideal, because of the changing nature of paper. As paper makers have used increasing amounts of fillers in their coatings, folding, cutting and any action to break the surface of the paper will result in paper dust. Where the gutter is just 10mm the folding action may mean that dust is trapped against print areas of the sheet, only noticed when the page is opened. With a double width gutter, the dust is still trapped, but is taken away with the trim at the end of the process. Likewise dust will be formed when the needles of the sewing machine pierce the paper’s surface.

On a sewn section book, application of a hot melt glue to the protective gauze is all that is needed. If a glued block is required, PUR or hot melt is the choice. A cold applied PVA glue will result in a strong very pliant bind, which is why it is preferred for open flat working music books. Cold glue will restrict the options on paper, suited only to uncoated papers where the glue has no impediment in reaching the fibres.

Layflat is increasingly desired, usually achieved through gluing pages to each other for photobook products. Cold glue may become an interesting way to deliver this, but ask too about Otabind and Swiss binding techniques let alone the more esoteric Japanese binding and Sussex binding that Masters Bookbinding can offer.

It is worth investigating the options, bringing in the finishing company to talk through the techniques at an early stage with the designer. If a printer is unsure about handling a case bound book, a designer will likely have even less experience.

However, there is nothing intrinsically for a printer to be alarmed by. And the finished result will be worth it. A well presented book will always be better appreciated than a mere brochure.

For Diamond’s Peter Wright this is the appeal of case binding: “A beautiful hard cover book is an artefact, not something easily disposed of. It will be something that you want to hold in your hands and will keep for years.

“People are still prepared to invest time and effort into a project like this. It is not about print as a commodity.”

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