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[BKARTS] Flex Binding

I've been enjoying the discussion of adhesive bindings, and very much appreciate
the interjection of engineering methodology.

Polly Lada-Mocarski was proselytizing flex binding in the 1970's, and converted
me. About 1976 the Center for Book Arts produced a small flex-binding press,
with about 12" between screws. It was very simple, made in a friend's wood shop
across Houston Street, using mahogany 2x4's from crates he received from the
Philippines. Perhaps some folks on this list still have theirs. They were only
produced for a few months, until the crates were used up.

It's like a small headbanding press, with a stand that holds it a few inches off
the table. You drop the book spine into it, jog on the table, tighten the
screws, flip the press over, and flex glue the spine in both directions. A
brick and board until the adhesive sets is generally adequate, but if more
pressure is needed you just wait until the adhesive stops being tacky, insert
the book into the press up to about 1/32" from the spine, and tighten the

In order to do a true laced-in binding, sawed in cords are used. The cords are
laid in after flex-gluing, before rounding and backing. Crash (mull, super) is
applied after backing, or when flex gluing if a flatback. Cords can be glued on
top of the mull if you want to do a tight back binding that looks like raised
cords. Since the boards actually are laced in, the decorative addition of raised
cords holds the illusion well.

Rounding and backing is easy, and can be done as soon as the glue stops being
tacky. If you get distracted and the glue sets, it's no problem, if you use a
thermoplastic PVA. Running an iron over the spine (through paper) softens it
enough to back easily. My old favorite was "Elvace 1874", though "Jade 403" has
improved in thermoplasticity and is what I now use.

Sometimes I have to finish backing commercially produced glue bindings, that
were machine backed with insufficient shoulders for my needs. I have to do a lot
of that with The Bill of Rights edition. Even though I bought hardcover books to
rebind, they are unsewn and generally glued with hot melts. The backing is
adequate for the publisher's case binding, but not for the look I am trying to
achieve in certain works, such as Amendments II and VII:

On that same page, Amendment X is flex-bound.


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