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[BKARTS] The fairy dust that is required in making adhesive lay-flat bindings?

Thought I should give you all an update since in my last message I was
pretty discouraged with adhesive binding! Since my last message Rupert Evans
and Pete Jermann came up with some important information. Thanks very much
to both of you. Also thanks everyone for some of the other bits of

Now I know that fairy dust is definitely required in making adhesive bound
books. That fairy dust is knowledge in how to make better and better
adhesive bound books. I used the knowledge and just made a new set of test
lay-flat books which are far better quality. From some earlier books and
websites I had read in the past, it sounded like you take a clump of papers,
jog them a bit, slap some glue on and proto, it's easy for anyone to make a
quality adhesive bound book. My earlier books made this way were a disaster.
My latest double-fan PVA bound lay-flat book made by being much more careful
is now approaching a factory binding job. Now each page is attached
beautifully even and the binding is very flexible. It has already passed 220
doubled back bends of the Rebsamen "Subway Test" and 30 minutes of the Wiens
"Whip Test" with no pages falling out or letting go in any way. I made a
page pull tester which uses a slot in a board and an inverted pant hanger
from instructions Rupert Evans gave me. This latest double-fanned test book
averaged 2.54 lbs/inch, not great but better than most commercial books I
tested. I know that I will need to make even more improvements which I think
are possible.

Some of you were expressing a big discontentment with adhesive bound books.
I have even been thinking about this too and have been carefully inspecting
commercial adhesive bound books. My conclusion is that these commercial
books are often made with huge compromises to keep the costs down. One
commercial adhesive lay-flat book burst on one end after several minutes of
my "Whip Test". The PUR adhesive appears to not have adhered at all in this
area. The gal at the video rental place down the road showed my her software
lay-flat manual she was studying. She said she received the book with the
binding "loose" on 25% of the spine. On careful inspection there appeared to
be no adhesive in these areas of the spine. And it is a known fact that many
perfect bound books can't stand bending open, but these books are a series
of compromises to keep the costs down.

So what improvements did I make for my test book to turn out so much better
this time? Here are the details of my PVA double-fan test book. I also made
some test books without double fanning, but these did not turn out nearly as

   1. The pages in my previous test books had the paper grain perpendicular
to the spine. I know the rule. I assumed the paper grain on some preprinted
papers I had. In the latest tests I had the paper grain running parallel to
the spine.
   2. I switched to common multi-purpose office paper just to be sure I was
using usual porous paper stock.
   3. I did not sand the edges of the paper to even them. I marked the
original guillotined edge and used this against the spine edge.
   4. I jogged the papers much more carefully. This time they lined up very
evenly. This took a bit of doing.
   5. My best test book is double-fan glued.
   6. I was much more careful in applying the glue during double-fanning. I
clamped the bent book block between two boards and held the boards with my
hands while applying adhesive. I waited for 1 minute before bending the book
block so that the adhesive could sink into the paper then carefully bent the
book block the other way trying not to twist it, then applied adhesive
   7. I straightened the glued book block very carefully.
   8. I applied a 0.015 inch thick bookbinding cloth with fairly dense weave
to the spine and wrapped it around 1/2 inch on each side of the book block
and applied glue to the cloth after it was in place. In this form the book
is a lay-flat tightback. My previous test books used either thin paper or
nothing at all.
   9. I waited about 30 hrs before testing the book. It seems to take a long
time for the PVA adhesive to reach full strength. Previously I started
testing after about 10 hrs.

Here are the page pull test results of several books I tested. Notice that
my double-fanned book #3 is right in the middle for strength:

   1. Hot melt adhesive, Thermal Binding, noncoated paper, Page pull
average=6.3 lbs/inch
   2. Polyurethane adhesive, Clamped at spine single application, noncoated
paper, Page pull average=3.2 lbs/inch
   3. PVA adhesive, Double fan single application, nondiluted,  noncoated
paper, Page pull average=2.54 lbs/inch
   4. PVA adhesive, Clamped at spine single application, nondiluted,
noncoated paper, Page pull average=2.2 lbs/inch
   5. Polyurethane adhesive, Clamped at spine single application, coated
paper, Page pull average=2.09 lbs/inch
   6. Hot melt adhesive, Typical perfect bound, noncoated paper, Page pull
average=1.9 lbs/inch

After some of the comments I received, I phoned the bookbinder where I had
bought my PVA adhesive. Some people there were interesting in seeing my
problem. I showed them the bottle they had sold me marked P.V.A. They swore
that this was the glue they used for bookbinding. My PVA is apparently
quality bookbinding glue, not padding glue. We had a lively discussion on
binding. Their opinion is that the only way to make a PVA adhesive bound
book is to apply lot's and lot's of glue, several sheets of scrim cloth on
the binding plus lots of deep notches and strings in the notches. They say
the book binding is not supposed to curve very much on opening, like a
typical perfect bound book. If it curves it will come apart. Pete Jermann in
a short note to me recently said "I probably disagree with everything your
local binder has told you about adhesive bound books". I would agree with
Pete Jermann after reading his article

Rupert Evans and Pete Jermann may not agree with my testing methods but my
recent double-fanned test book and one better made commercial book survived
a good round of these tests while other lay-flat books with visible problems
did not. I now have also done page pull tests but to me page pull test
indicates little of whether the book will survive repeated flexing and
pounding. In the Rebsamen Subway Test a lay-flat book is doubled back on
itself repeatedly. In the Wiens Whip Test one side of an open lay-flat book
is held with one or two hands, and the other part of the book is whipped
open and closed rapidly from the fully closed position to the fully doubled
back position with the page ends rotating through about 360 degrees.

   1. It is hard to get glue applied evenly with anything but double-fan
gluing. All the other books I have made not using this method have problems
of uneven penetration, variable adhesion, or low page pull strength. It
appears that some pages are being shielded if clamped in a block and do not
receive the adhesive.
   2. Using a strong cloth glued against the spine I believe is what made my
latest double-fan book much stronger. Previously I used paper or nothing at
all. In a lay-flat binding there can be large forces trying to tear the
adhesive between pages. The cloth bends very uniformly creating less stress
on the adhesive. I was very impressed with the cloth. As I am working
towards softcover books this was not something I wanted to use.
   3. I tested two thermally bound test books using hot melt adhesive. Both
were incredibly strong. One was a commercially done lay-flat binding on a
Powis Parker machine. It used 0.004 inch thick paper glued to the binding
and so laid very flat. It did though have problems with gaps between some of
the pages. I would be curious to see books made with double-fanning and
thermally bound. Such machines used to be available. While penetration is
not a problem with thermal binding, uniformity sometimes is. I need a
process that is fast for my commercial softcover books.

   1. Any comments would be appreciated.
   2. It is presently a dilemma as to what process to use based on my tests.
I want flexibility of adhesive, double-fanning, and medium speed to do up to
500 books per day if pushed. I am undecided between cold glues and hot
   3. Any suggestions of better adhesives would be appreciated.
   4. I am wondering if the PVA glue I have is on the weak side. Has anyone
seen technical spec sheets for different cold emulsion adhesives or even hot
melt adhesives. It is better to have a spec sheet rather than saying this is
stronger than that.

Ben Wiens...applied energy scientist
Ben Wiens Energy Science Inc.
8-1200 Brunette Ave. Coquitlam BC Canada V3K1G3
Tel: 604-520-6321 8am-10 pm Pacific Standard Time
E-mail: ben@benwiens.com
Energy Website: www.benwiens.com

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