How to home print and bind a picture book in the time of Covid
March 18, 2020 5:46 AM   Subscribe

I make custom picture books for my son for his birthdays and Christmas. Birthday is coming up and the book is nearly ready, but I'm not ordering non-essentials for ethical reasons. He will have his hardcover eventually, but in the meantime, I want to make him a copy with materials on hand to give him on his birthday. Please advise.

I have a colour printer and ink. So there's the hard part.
I have a glue stick.
I have wood glue.
I have construction paper. (but only enough to get it right the first time)
I have some nice printer paper.
I have a tiny hole punch.
I have the other things people have -- string, scissors etc.

So my colour printer can't really print double sided. It has no duplex function and I think if I forced the issue by refeeding there would be too much bleed through and it would look terrible. But the book is spread-based, so I need the book pages to be double sided, not just all pics on the right or left page.

I'm thinking I print the pages, and glue them to construction paper. Thus each sheet of construction paper is double-sided. Then I have to bind them together somehow. I think the construction paper is slightly larger than the pictures, so I should have enough for a bit of a gutter.

BUt I feel like I have to score the folding point somehow? Yes? Just to not have it be a giant fanned-out floppy mess? The book is ~30 pages, so figure 15 sheets of construction paper.

Then I need to bind. Should I make the cover out of cardstock? A spine would be awesome. Please people who know of such things, show me what binding method I have.

My son will 3. This won't be that sturdy, and even though it is the temporary edition, I would still like him to have it to keep as an heirloom, so I will likely restrict access somewhat. But any thoughts on how to make this is as non-crappy as possible are appreciated.
posted by If only I had a penguin... to Grab Bag (10 answers total)
Response by poster: OH! DUH! I have a laminating machine and lots of lamination sheets. This surely is involved in the answer, right? But then how do I bind them and still make them book-like?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 5:53 AM on March 18, 2020

Do you have any spare binders kicking around? I would glue your printed pages to the construction paper, then punch holes and put the pages in a binder.
posted by MadMadam at 6:21 AM on March 18, 2020

Response by poster: I don't think I have a binder. However In do have some of those little binder rings.... I could maybe glue them to the spine of a cardboard cover/spine? I have gorilla glue and epoxy also.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 6:29 AM on March 18, 2020

It feels like you would be able to adapt this tutorial to suit your needs.
posted by ellerhodes at 6:35 AM on March 18, 2020

I would test the following:
- print the sheets one-sided, including the covers
- fold all sheets for their correct orientation (i.e. pair the 'front' and 'back' pages wrong sides together for each set) with a centre crease - a bone folder is ideal but you can otherwise lay paper or a clean cloth over to avoid creating a shiny patch while folding
- use a gluestick to adhere the 'front' and 'back' pages for each set
- bind using a needle and thread and pamphlet stitch (an awl is handy but a needle works fine if you protect your pushing finger)
- optionally, trim the page edges to avoid the steepling effect that will come from stacking them inside each other

If you want it to last, I would stay extremely far from construction paper if it's the standard type, as I don't think it's acid-free, so it will degrade and affect the adjacent pages too over time.

I probably wouldn't use the laminating machine but if you really wanted to, you could laminate each double-sided book page (so half the printed page, no longer joined in the middle where the spine would be), and punch holes to bind with ribbon or twine, like a handmade version of spiral binding. It'll be more chunky but I imagine it would also hold up to the love of a three-year-old more successfully!
posted by carbide at 7:02 AM on March 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

Oh! I have done this. What works is to print and bind accordian style.

How big is each page? Squareish board book size? Say 5" square. You need to print the two facing pages (if you are on a Mac, I cannot recommend Create Booklet enough, super easy to use for impositions, when you move pages around to print them for page order) with an extra overlap of 1" say for a hinge. Then you make a long long zig-zag accordian.

Now -if you only have copier weight paper, you can try just gently glueing the pages together. It's best if you brush the glue (Elmer's is great) from. the center out to lightly but completely cover the page) then flatten the folded up zigzag beneath a stack of heavy books. If glue has leaked anywhere or you are worried about sticking, baking parchment paper works to interleave the pages to prevent sticking while the glue dries.

After a couple of hours to overnight, your pages will be firm and look like they were double-sided printed. And twice the thickness.

If that's still too floppy, you can cut very slightly smaller squares (4.8" square say) of thin card and sandwich them between the two sides of the zigzag you're glueing together for extra strength. Very neatly fold the borders of the paper over the thickness, or at the end, use a good craft knife and very carefully trim all the bumpy edges down by 0.15" on the three open sides.

Then for the actual cover, use whatever very thick cardboard you have to make two separate slightly bigger than the pages (by like 0.25" max for a board book) and cover them with the outside cover page - that should be approx 6.25" square for a 5" square and then the corners trimmed with triangles that DO NOT quite reach the actual corner, a little smaller so they fold nicely over - glued on firmly again, and an inside page (regular copier paper is fine for that, cut to be about 0.25-0.5" smaller around the edges on three sides so the cover folded over peeks out like a C.

Then you make a spine. If you have duct tape that is great (although so non-archival) for this. Otherwise, you need thin flexible cardboard you can tape or sew onto the other boards. Stack your flattened accordian pages up, measure how thick they are and then make a spine that is that width in duct tape (the exposed bit between where the tape touches the two boards) or thin cardboard. Like this: [ ]||[ ]

Go slowly, use a thick ruler held firmly and constantly square things against the corner of a box or with a rectangular triangle and ruler.

To attach the accordian to this nice cover, you can either glue the spine of the pages and the spine inside of the dover, then use big bulldog clips to hold everything together neatly while it dries. OR for more sturdiness, use a knitting needle or compass point or awl to poke 2-3 tiny holes evenly along the inner folds of each accordian page. The easiest way to keep the measurements is to measure and punch into a tiny folded strip the same height as your book block, and then punch through that for every fold.

Then you sew them together. There's a bunch of ways to do it, but for you, I would just sew the pages in and out until you have a bundle of running stitches at the back, take another piece of thread (a regular sewing needle and cotton thread are fine for this - use proper square knots though) and then FINALLY knot your thread onto the lowest gathered running stitches at one end, through the same emasured punch holes on the center of the spine, and then back in to sew through another clump of running stitches between two holes, out, then back again. Do it neatly and tie off at the end. Make sure you yank gently to keep the whole thing tightly bound together, no slackness. Your book will be firmly attached to the cover, all done!

You will end up with a sturdy and handsome little book.

Sea Lemon on youtube has great straightforward bookbinding videos.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 7:30 AM on March 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: The pages are 8.6"(wide) by 7.5" (tall). That's the essential part of the page, not including the bleed, gutter, and some extra room for cutting variation that the publisher uses. Each spread, including everything but the bleed is 19" wide by 8" high.

It's not a board book, it's a picture book.

The book is currently being made in in-design.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:55 AM on March 18, 2020

Do you have clear packing tape? Clear packing tape + laminated sheets seems like it could be a really easy solution and fairly 3 year old-friendly.
posted by Sweetchrysanthemum at 8:41 AM on March 18, 2020

Laminate two sheets back to back and then punch two or three holes in that laminated sheet. Hopefully you can add a mark on each page that will help you space out the holes. Then use the binder rings to keep the pages together. I would number the pages even if you don't usually do it so if the binder rings open up, the pages are easy to put back in order. I don't think you need to worry about a stiffer cover if you are laminating the pages. Maybe just one piece of cardstock with a standard piece of copy paper on the other side with a small logo or some text?
posted by soelo at 9:14 AM on March 18, 2020

How do you feel about Japanese stab binding?

You can make wheatpaste glue with flour and water basically that will substitute nicely for the glue stick.

I've cut out pages to your size, but with width is 9.6" instead of 8.6". I used plain copier paper, glued two sheets together to make them more solid. Then I made a simple cover from construction paper - I did just the front, you'll do a back as well. These you could make from cereal box cardboard cut to size with the cover print out glued firmly to them. If you have white construction paper, I'd print on that as it'll be thicker, otherwise paint your cardboard white or use the Kraft side under the cover to reduce print seeing through. Paste a pretty endpaper on the side facing inwards.

Your measurements are enough for one page per A4 with a bleed of 5mm to allow for trimming. I cut and then glued them back-to-back, using the glue stick to go right along the edges over a piece of scrap paper, and pressing them for a bit under a heavy book so they stayed smooth.

Mark out holes - I always do too many, you could probably get away with five easily. As long as they are equidistant from each other it's fine. A pin or thick needle will go through easily. For the cardboard too. Or if you have pretty ribbon, you could hole punch bigger holes and weave through ribbon as a decorative element. I used crochet thread, embroidery or yarn will do. Sewing thread should be doubled so it's visible I think. Note that I sewed as 0.75" of the margin, allowing for space for me to fold the pages back flat. You'll get creep if you have more than a dozen pages - the paper folds will cover some of your image, so this way, you can fold back, using a blunt table knife's back to smooth a decent crease in the paper so when it opens, the pages lie flat.

Stab binding is pretty straightforward - Sea Lemon tutorial and looks nice. You can make fancy patterns, but even simple it looks fine.

You could laminate and bind those pages together with stab binding, but they won't fold well because of the stiffness. The quick n' dirty booklet I made with your measurements as an example can be seen here on IMGUR and the doubled pages feel fine. If your pages are heavily inked, on copier paper, you will have some see-through when the pages are held up. You could sandwich another blank copier page in-between for a 3-pg stack if that's an issue.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 7:47 PM on March 18, 2020

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