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Re: [BKARTS] Is fairy dust required in making adhesive lay-flat bindings?

Hi, Ben:
Pete Jermann and I and lots of other people have been making durable books for
many years. Indeed, more than ninety percent of the hard cover books produced
today and virtually all of the soft cover books are adhesive bound. Since you
are having more problems than other binderies, perhaps we should look at your
    1. Consider the adhesive(s) you are using. There are vast differences
between and among the PVA, EVA, VAE, and PUR adhesives that are available.
They differ in flexibility, in strength, in viscosity, and in many other ways.
Some of them are completely unsuited for bookbinding. For example, Elmer's
Glue won't work at all well. Padding compound is low in tensile strength so
that pages may be pulled off easily. Use an adhesive that is suitable for
    2. Consider your treatment of the paper before you apply the adhesive. You
say, "I sanded the edges (and) removed the dust." To the best of my knowledge,
no one has ever recommended sanding paper before applying adhesive. Perhaps
the "fairy dust" which is produced by the abrasive interferes with adhesion.
Commercial binderies sometimes do mill and notch the spines of books for
several reasons, but the single sheets of "porous copy paper" you say you are
using need, and should have, no treatment before the adhesive is applied.
    3. After double fan gluing, you say that after gluing you "Pulled book
block back and clamped not too tight near edge of binding." This tends to
separate the sheets. Instead, remove the book from the clamp, and lay it face
down on a sheet of waxed paper. Place another sheet of waxed paper on top,
followed by a flat board, and weight lightly, e.g. with half a brick.
    4. Do not thin adhesive 3:1. This is far too much. Preferably, buy two
adhesives of different viscosity. If this is not practical, thin a thick
adhesive with no more than ten percent water for the primer coat.
    5. The Wiens "Whip Test" sounds like a procedure guaranteed to destroy any
book, no matter how bound. The subway test, devised by Werner Rebsamen, can,
itself, destroy or at least damage any type of binding if the doubled-back
book is pressed hard together.
    6. You don't mention page pull tests. These are routine in commercial
binderies, and are easy to do with home-made equipment. You should be able to
produce books which require more than a pound per lineal inch to pull any
single page out. This is a straight-line pull. Pulling the page out from the
top or the bottom as you would tear a sheet off a pad requires much less
    7. PUR hot melt is, indeed, superior in pull strength to PVA, EVA, or VAE.
However, it produces dangerous fumes if it is overheated, so it is not
recommended for binderies which lack binding equipment specifically designed
for PUR, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, with powerful exhaust
systems. Many efforts have been made to produce emulsions of PUR that can be
applied cold, but with little success to date.


    >===== Original Message From "Book_Arts-L: READ THE FAQ at
http://www.philobiblon.com"              <BOOK_ARTS-L@LISTSERV.SYR.EDU> =====
>This Sunday I came home from a bicycle club supper barbeque and decided to
>turn on my computer. I found Pete Jermann had just posted his article
>"Flexible Strength" http://www.temperproductions.com/flexible_strength.htm,
>a discussion of lay-flat binding theory. After months of studying binding
>methods for my own books, this is the first article I have seen that
>literally zooms in to the details of the lay-flat binding.
>Also the university library where Pete worked for in the past was lucky I
>think. The library's in my city mostly like to staple together books or glue
>them so heavily that it is almost impossible to even read them. I would like
>to introduce yet another definition for these latter bindings as leg-hold
>trap bindings. I guess this is a good way to protect the contents of the
>books as no one even wants to read them...and read with a buddy in case one
>of these snaps shut.
>Armed with some more explicit information from Pete's article, I made
>another PVA lay-flat adhesive bound book before I hit the sack. I checked
>the book the next day and it was a disaster. Roughly 30% of the pages are
>falling out. This is not much different than all adhesive bound books I have
>tried making by all kinds of methods and using various adhesives such as
>thermal hot melt glues and cold glues. Information I have read makes it
>sound easy to make an adhesive bound book, like there is nothing to it. I am
>not a klutz with my hands as I have done fine woodworking, made a beautiful
>musical instrument, and done intricate machining. I used various jigs not
>unlike I have seen in articles and books. Now I am wondering if I need to
>say a certain kind of prayer before making each book, or perhaps bookbinders
>are not telling me that I have to sprinkle fairy dust on each and every
>binding I make.
>I have bought, borrowed, and downloaded many articles and books on
>bookbinding. I made several adhesive bound books with various methods, all
>paper in the tests was porous copy paper with paper grain parallel to spine.
>I jogged the pages to line up the binding edge in my book clamp. I sanded
>the edges, removed the dust and observed under a powerful magnifying glass
>that all page edges were even as far as I could tell but had rough edges. I
>used commercial quality PVA and hot melt glue in my tests. I also tested
>commercially made books.
>(1) PVA vigorous brushing...in the latest book I clamped the book block with
>none sticking past clamp bar. I applied undiluted PVA glue with vigorous
>brushing on spine five times, then glued on bookbinders scrim. Allowed to
>dry with binding end of book block inverted. About 30% of pages either fell
>out or were easy to tear off. Many sections of the book block with pages
>that seemed well adhered could be torn apart.
>(2) PVA double fan glued...stuck 3 inches of the book block past the clamp
>bar. I applied medium coat of undiluted PVA glue with sponge brush during
>fanning book block over 90 degrees bend first one way then another coat
>while fanning the other way, while applying pressure in a way to keep pages
>even. Allowed to dry with binding end of book block inverted. Pulled book
>block back and clamped not too tight near edge of binding. When dry, many
>sections of pages were not glued at all and some pages pulled out.
>(3) PVA double stage application...clamped book block with none sticking
>past clamp bar. I applied two coats of PVA adhesive, first thinned 3 :1 then
>undiluted, one hour apart and applied thin paper for binding reinforcement.
>At first book appeared to be wonderfully bound. Did repeated subway test in
>which the book block is doubled back on itself and also did book whip test
>by holding one half of book while whipping the free book pages open and
>closed vigorously. Many pages started popping off the binding glue and
>gradually 30% of pages fell out.
>(4) Hot melt thermal binding...used two types of specialty bookbinders EVA
>hot melt adhesive. Used book clamp over a metal plate on hot plate at
>300-350 deg F. Used various thickness of hot melt. Appeared to be bound
>evenly. I could pull many of the pages apart with not much trouble. The hot
>melt appears very weak and stringy.
>(5) Commercial thermal binding...went to a dealer for thermal binding
>machines. Person produced a sample lay-flat book on latest expensive model
>of machine. Many pages appeared to be solidly bound, but there were gaps
>between several of the pages and this makes the book feel like it had breaks
>in the spine.
>(6) PUR bound coated stock...received sample of polyurethane bound lay-flat
>book from local bindery. Sample had coated stock regular thickness pages.
>Claimed that polyurethane adhesive made super strong book even with coated
>stock. Did repeated subway test in which the book block is doubled back on
>itself and also did book whip test by holding one half of book while
>whipping the free book pages open and closed vigorously. Many pages started
>popping off the binding glue and it appeared that there was little
>penetration to the fibers in places even though knurling of page edges was
>(7) PUR porous stock...had 1992 Autodesk computer software manual which I am
>sure must be a PUR lay-flat binding as it doesn't melt and is not soft like
>my PVA bound books. Did repeated subway test in which the book block is
>doubled back on itself and also did book whip test by holding one half of
>book while whipping the free book pages wide open and closed vigorously.
>Book seems to handle this kind of abuse quite well. Pages seem to be glued
>very well and have a very slight arc when opened but glue line is visible
>and shows no visible milling.
>(1) The PVA adhesive  I have which I got from a commercial bookbinder seems
>to be extremely weak as I can tear apart pages with ease even when I observe
>some glue on edges of the paper. Run a fingernail over a spine with PVA
>exposed, it feels mushy soft and ready to tear.
>(2) I have never seen a thermally bound book with even gluing of each page,
>there always seem to be gaps between some pages. Run a fingernail over a
>spine with hot melt exposed. The adhesive feels very inflexible more like
>wax than rubber or plastic.
>(3) PUR or polyurethane adhesive appears to be super tough compared to PVA
>and hot melt glue. It seems almost impossible to tear apart pages when the
>glue has penetrated. Run a fingernail over a spine with PUR exposed. The
>glue feels very durable like regular plastic.
>(1) Why are my experiences with PVA adhesive or hot melt adhesives different
>than all the articles I read?
>(2) Are the page gaps in thermal hot melt binding due to typical poor
>clamping of book blocks?
>(3) Why isn't PUR used more in short run bookbinding or even library binding
>if it is so strong? I was told recently by a bookbinding expert that while
>it is trickier to work with than hot melt or PVA it is even possible to do
>short run bookbinding with it. As long as temperatures are kept below stated
>limits no toxic fumes are created I'm told. Does anyone have any experience
>with PUR used for short run bookbinding?
>Ben Wiens
>Ben Wiens Energy Science Inc.
>8-1200 Brunette Ave. Coquitlam BC V3K1G3 Canada
>Tel: 604-520-6321 8am-10 pm Pacific Standard Time
>E-mail: ben@benwiens.com
>Energy Website: www.benwiens.com
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Rupert N. Evans
501-391 S LaPosada Circle
Green Valley, AZ 85614
Author of Book-On-Demand Publishing
I love to print and bind books

            BOOK_ARTS-L: The listserv for all the book arts.
      For subscription information, the Archive, and other related
            resources and links go to the Book_Arts-L FAQ at:

        Archive maintained and suppported by Conservation OnLine

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