Fix a broken book?
August 15, 2005 7:04 AM   Subscribe

How do I fix the binding on a cheap, glued together, book?

The book I need to fix is an automotive repair manual that sat on the package shelf of a car for a couple years. The UV has both faded the cover and turned the glue holding the pages together into something resembling hard toffee. Subsequent opening of the book has caused the pages to separate into a dozen mini books.

Is there a way to reglue this book or should I just cut off the hardened glue and bind it some other way. If the latter what is the best[1] way to both separate the pages and then bind them together again? I was thinking of just clamping the book between a couple pieces of wood and running the bound edge thru my bandsaw. Then 3-hole punching it and putting the pages in a binder. Better approaches?

[1] Keeping in mind the book is only $35 brand new.
posted by Mitheral to Writing & Language (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The cover has also seperated from the rest of the pages. (Stupid server outage)
posted by Mitheral at 11:47 AM on August 15, 2005

I'd do the bandsaw thingy (testing first) and then take it to a copy shop to get spiral bound. Cost you only a coupla bucks.
posted by Specklet at 11:47 AM on August 15, 2005

Is it perfect bound or hardbound? I'm gonna guess perfect bound (which is like a paperback novel).
You have a couple of options. There are book binding machines, which some Kinkos have, and most any city will have (scan your yellow pages for binderies), and there are a lot of small shops that'll do it for a song. Or, you can clamp it, run it through the bandsaw (be careful not to take off too much) and get it tape bound (which they'll do at any Kinkos). Or you can go buy some stickflat binder's glue (a lot of scrapbooking places have this now, along with art supply shops, some hardware stores, and- again- binderies), cut a piece of cloth to the right size, lop off the binding at about 1/16th of an inch (you might even sand it off, if you have those long wooden clamps or can jury rig some), then glue the cloth to the back of the pages, clamp it and let it sit (it'll help to glue the cloth to the covers as well, as that'll give it a better seal). It's really not that hard at all, but it can take some time for the glue to dry all the way. I happen to like using a bit of denim or canvas for my binding projects, as they hold up well.
You should expect to spend less than $10 on the project.
posted by klangklangston at 11:49 AM on August 15, 2005

Yeah, Kinkos can do spiral binding too. As well as tab binding. You'd probably be better off going to a local print shop if you want that done, but I know that Kinkos are all over, and I used to work at one of 'em, so I know the machinery they have.
posted by klangklangston at 11:50 AM on August 15, 2005

Spiral binding would probably be the best for an auto manual - that way it can lie flat either when opened or when folded all the way back.
posted by matildaben at 12:36 PM on August 15, 2005

I rebound one of my books that had poor quality glue. I did something similar to what you already had in mind. First I sheared off a small amount where the bad bind was, then I drilled about a dozen small holes in a line up the edge. I strung twine through the holes, looping it around the bind of the book every few holes. After that, I applied glue, then replaced the original cover over my handiwork.

I'm sure there's a more sophisticated way to do this (i.e., particular patterns to wrapping the string) but I don't know them. It seems like someone here linked to a "How to Bind Books" site awhile ago... maybe you could look for something like that?

this was in about 6th grade, and of course when I returned that year, the inevitable jibe was laid against my book that now looked unopened; "Hah, didn't even read it didja!" - "Actually, I read it, and the whole thing fell apart from overuse, so I rebound it myself." - "er..."

posted by odinsdream at 12:39 PM on August 15, 2005

We repair books daily at the bookstore where I work, and we usually don't charge at all if a customer brings in what you describe. Maybe $5 if it's an atypical case. But this sounds *very* easy to fix yourself.

klangklangston's method is a good one, but seems more appropriate for a book that's not "a cheap, glued together" paperback. I've found that a slightly less involved version, without cloth, works just as well for 90% of the paperbacks we see with loose covers and pages falling out: Scrape off as much of the hardened glue as you can, while leaving the "mini books" intact. Then just line everything up, break out the Elmer's glue, use your finger to smooth a thin layer of glue over the mini books' spines (don't overdo it), place the cover over them, make sure everything's lined up again, apply pressure up and down the spine and hold with thick rubber bands overnight. Ta da. People are usually surprised at how easy it is.

Special kinds of binding glue really aren't necessary for this kind of job, either. If the hardened glue is fairly thin, you can even get away without scraping it off; just make sure the cover and pages can be in close contact (this is where the piece of cloth can come in handy, but it's usually not necessary for a something like your typical Chilton car repair guide). You may also get a signature or two still loose after the first try; just repeat the process for those.
posted by mediareport at 12:46 PM on August 15, 2005

[Er, sorry, "signature" just means "section of pages" in this case.]
posted by mediareport at 12:49 PM on August 15, 2005

I think it's perfect bound. There isn't anything but paper and glue holding it together. No cloth or thread or anything and the cover is just paper.

I don't have any Elmer's. Will any white glue work for this (like Weldbond or Titebond) or is there some special property of Elmer's that makes it better?
posted by Mitheral at 1:53 PM on August 15, 2005

Spiral bound doesn't hold up well. Yes, it'll lay flat, but pages will start falling out in weeks. This is why you'll seldom see a spiral bound book in a library.
posted by QIbHom at 3:13 PM on August 15, 2005

Mith: Either of those glues should work fine. The only real reason to use a better glue is so that it's archival, but it doesn't sound like that's a concern of yours...
posted by klangklangston at 4:05 PM on August 15, 2005

Yes, that's right. Elmer's = generic cheapie glue, which should work fine for your purposes. Anything better is icing on the cake.
posted by mediareport at 6:28 PM on August 15, 2005

Here's what I do when that happens to old books. I have access to plastic library glue which seems similar to Elmer's - I'm not a chemist so I've never analysed it. But anyway, instead of cutting off the icky edge, I get cheesecloth - you can find it anywhere you can buy canning supplies and often supermarkets will carry it even if they don't have canning jars. I cut the cheesecloth to fit the length of the book's spine and fold it over a few thicknesses. Then I spread the glue on the cheesecloth and also on the book's spine. Then I slam the whole thing together, lining it up as well as possible and I rubberband it all together several times. I let the book dry for at least 24 hrs - wipe up all glue drips first, of course. Bonus points for pressing while drying. Then I get plain old masking tape and tape the front and back covers to the first and last pages of the book. And that's how we fix cheapo paperback books (that cost $35, yes, I know) chez Lynsey.
posted by Lynsey at 8:41 PM on August 15, 2005

This always used to happen with Robert Jordan's novels in paperback. The FAQ for his fantasy series contains a section on repairing shoddy glued bindings.
posted by jbrjake at 9:58 AM on August 16, 2005

That's hilarious, jbrjake; I was going to use Robert Jordan books as an example. We see the covers falling off all the time.
posted by mediareport at 7:25 PM on August 16, 2005

At work today, I checked the Elmer's we use for this kind of thing, and it's not the usual Elmer's but Elmer's "tacky" craft bond glue. It keep flexibility better when dry, and you should use it for books. It's still a really cheap glue, though - nothing special. Sorry for the misinfo; I use the stuff every day but thought of it as regular Elmer's.
posted by mediareport at 1:29 PM on August 17, 2005

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