Thursday, June 25, 2015


No, not the gambling kind . . .

My wife Karen had one birthday gift request for me: she wanted a hard copy of my webcomic "The Last Mechanical Monster." She'd only read it in installments online, and wanted to sit down and enjoy it all together. What she had in mind was a print-out of the pages, maybe slipped into a little binder or report cover.

I ran with it.

First I printed all the pages on good heavy paper, the type you'd use for a resume. I wanted to print on both sides without any bleed-through.
I cut, scored and folded a piece of thick matte board to be the guts of the cover.

First attempt at binding the pages. The pages are clamped in a homemade press to keep them lined up and tight.  Many of the Internet bookbinding tutorials recommend using watered-down "Gorilla glue," which is meant for wood. Makes sense. The idea is that the glue soaks into the first quarter-inch of the pages and sticks them all together.
While that dried, I worked on the cover. I found a nice red cloth remnant, ironed it (can't remember the last time I used an iron), and spray-glued it to the folded matte board. Things I learned: using diluted Gorilla glue warps the matte but spray adhesive works great, it's best if the cloth isn't stretchy, and the cloth has to be thin so that you can glue it down flat to the back (i.e., the inside covers).
Flipped the cover over to glue down the fabric and apply the end papers, which are the light blue images of flying robots I used as a background for the webcomic.
That's about when I figured out that the glued spine probably wouldn't hold up long term. It was OK, but I could imagine pages popping out pretty easily. Initiated Plan B, which was to sew the pages together using the bookbinders' stitch. I was worried my drill press would tear up the pages when I drilled the holes, but it worked like a charm.

Next I glued the sewn pages into the cover, creating a little crimp along the spine so that the front and back covers would attach up to the sewing holes before bending out. Clamped and let that dry for a couple of days.
Last step: Drew a jaunty flying robot on the cover. Wrapped it up and gave it to Karen.

She sat right down and started reading the book last night, so I guess it's a success.

I know I didn't hew too closely to traditional bookbinding methods. A lot of this was "look at five things on the Internet and combine them into something that seems like it'll work." But I'm really happy with the result. It was fun! And it looks like a real book!

I could see getting addicted to a cool craft like this. I'm looking forward to trying it again sometime.


RunningFromMoose said...

Nicely done! I used to use the gluing method to create custom pads of paper when I was in the printing business. They make special bindery glue that's a combo of rubber and glue with less liquid. I found out the hard way if you over applied it you ended up with pages that were warped from the moisture and glued together almost a quarter inch between the pages. Neither a pretty or useful outcome.

Are you taking orders yet? And can we chose the cover color? Custom books: it's in your future!

Unknown said...

Real birthday gift.Very interesting news

Mike Peterson said...

Okay -- time for the Kickstarter -- don't forget to price the Gorilla Glue by the barrel before you set your goal.

Brian Fies said...

Sorry, it's a one-off. The title page even has a little "1/1" down in the corner, and I can't break the artists' code to make more. They'd drum me out of our nonexistent society.

Kelly, I forgot you used to almost sort of do this stuff for a living! I would have asked if I'd remembered.