How to bind a sheaf of paper together?
May 25, 2023 11:34 AM   Subscribe

Sometimes I need to print a long PDF. Fifty to a hundred pages. Occasionally more. The result is a pile of paper that instantly explodes all over tarnation. How can I bind the pages together As One?

For this purpose, I want to actually read the book, make notes in it, flip through it, etc.

I could probably get this done at a copy shop. I'll resort to that if it's the only option. But it seems like overkill. And it's expensive.

I'm aware of three-ring binders, but those things suck. They're flappy and awkward, the pages aren't securely held, and the rings are always slightly misaligned.

There has to be a better solution, right? Don't people in offices need to do this all the time? How do they handle it?
posted by trevor_case to Education (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Punch a hole in the top left corner and thread all the page through one O-Ring (like this). You can even do 2 or three of them if you want it more book-like.
posted by hydra77 at 11:40 AM on May 25 [1 favorite]

Spine bars/slide binders for shorter docs. 50 sheets would be pushing it.

For longer documents an office would use a comb binder, but that needs a quite large specialised punching machine.

Or hole-punched with treasury tags - but that's an inferior option to three-ring binders if you ask me.
posted by Lorc at 11:41 AM on May 25 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Prong fasteners!!!! They're so great. If you've already got a decent 3 hole punch you should be able to adjust it to the appropriate 2 hole width. Those bad boys can easily fit 100 pages with room to spare.
posted by phunniemee at 11:46 AM on May 25 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Report covers like this have prongs that go through the top and bottom holes of 3-hole punched paper. They hold pages securely and are durable; the downside is they don't lend well to editing (inserting or removing pages from the middle of the report) as you have to basically unbind the entire report to add or remove sheets. And, different from ring binders, the opened pages don't lay super flat.

GBC/Swingline has a binding system called ProClick that looks like comb binding, but opens and snaps closed rather like a ring binder; you can do this by hand, but they have a zipper tool that makes it much easier. Pre-punched paper is also available, so you can reasonably DIY at home without expensive binding equipment.

For ring binders, Avery Heavy Duty ring binders are pretty good, and the rings have a sort of nipple on one side and recess on the other, so when closed the rings are self-centering and stay aligned. "Reference" or "Heavy Duty" binders generally have features like this, as they are meant for intensive use, while cheaper "archival" binders are intended for those cases where the binder mostly gets stored on a shelf and infrequently used, so they are built much more cheaply.
posted by xedrik at 11:47 AM on May 25 [3 favorites]

When I worked in architectural offices where we printed large amounts of multi-page documents, we'd do the following, depending on scale (thickness and size of the paper), desire for permanence, and desire for presentability:
1: binder clip, multiple if needed - temporary, can handle various paper sizes and thicknesses depending on the clip.
2: comb bind: we had the machine Lorc mentions; mostly for smaller (11x17 or smaller) stuff that we want to look nice, like for clients.
3: giant staples: like a stapler, but with 1/2" long (or more!) staples. You need a special remover as well.
4: Chicago Screws: large format paper, large number of sheets
posted by LionIndex at 11:52 AM on May 25 [3 favorites]

I’m a big fan of binder clips. I use them to join the pages along the top so I am free to mark up both side margins with wild abandon.

They come in lots of sizes. Clipboards work, too!
posted by mochapickle at 11:52 AM on May 25 [4 favorites]

Can you open it in Word, or do you have Adobe for editing (your library might have it)? I love being able to print double-sided, and you should be able to specify a gutter, a wider margin on the bound edge that is quite helpful on double-sided docs. Then a report folder or cover with prong binding is cheap and effective. You can buy 3-hole punched paper and load carefully; Word and Acrobat can use this.

Learning how to use margins, paper and make Word and printers/copiers do my bidding (mostly; they're evil critters) has been a useful life skill. They should teach it in high school.

I print at the library, not cheap, but they have all the tools and I don't have to give space to a haunted demon-machine in my home. Staples has the big staplers and stuff and they don't care who uses it. They might mind your self-printed doc; there are options.

If there's an old-school huge stationery store in your area, go browse.
posted by theora55 at 12:14 PM on May 25

When I have accumulated ~100 pages of Important Stuff, I clamp the pages together, drill neat holes 2cm apart along the gutter margin about 5mm from the edge and use a bodkin to sew the pages together with string. Has the option of incorp more robust covers. Takes about 20 mins from a standing start.
posted by BobTheScientist at 12:39 PM on May 25

Best answer: Don't people in offices need to do this all the time? How do they handle it?

The thing about needing to do something all the time is that it makes it worth spending money on to tools to do it quickly.

If you only need to do this occasionally, you might want to play with half-assed home-made perfect binding.

Add front and back covers cut from a manila folder to your stack of double-side-printed pages. Use three or four woodworking clamps to squash the stack together tightly between two polythene cutting boards, with maybe 1mm of paper projecting beyond the boards along what will become the spine. Rough the spine up with 80 grit sandpaper. Paint it with contact adhesive and let it cure until it's no longer tacky. Tape over that with cloth-backed gaffa tape or library tape. Unclamp the cutting boards, carefully peel the tape off them (the tape should pull the excess contact adhesive off the edges of the polythene without much complaint) and then fold it down over the covers.

It won't make a perfect perfect bind but it won't be too bad. You might even find that it lays flatter than a real perfect bind would when you open it.
posted by flabdablet at 1:01 PM on May 25 [6 favorites]

There are lots of good answers above, but I also wanted to mention that you could go to Staples/Fedex(kinkos)Office DepotMax and have them spiral bind it for you. I prefer this binding to comb binding as I think the pages turn more smoothly.
posted by sarajane at 1:04 PM on May 25 [3 favorites]

Seconding sarajane. I assume you're not printing 50 - 100 pages at home; why should you? Hopefully there's an Office Depot or Staples or the like near you. You can upload your document to them and they will print it and bind it to your specifications and not charge you an unreasonable cost.
posted by DanSachs at 2:23 PM on May 25

The last time I did this at a kinko's-type place, it cost under $20 and was so much better than I could have rigged up at home.
posted by BlahLaLa at 2:43 PM on May 25

To simplify the process, you can purchase paper that is already 3-hole punched.
posted by Silvery Fish at 4:12 PM on May 25 [1 favorite]

If you have a wide inside margin, you can drill holes through it with a literal drill (clamp the paper together very tightly in between where you want to drill so it doesn't tear), then stitch string through those holes to hold the book together.

I learned this technique ages ago in a bookbinding class, and I think it had a name, but I don't remember what it was. I do remember it was way, way faster than the other techniques we studied -- even than perfect binding.
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:48 PM on May 25 [1 favorite]

I meet this need for myself by printing in Acrobat’s “booklet” print mode, which gets four pages onto each sheet — shrunk to about half size, which is still readable for me with my reading glasses. They come out in the right order to be folded in half and stapled, so with 8.5x11 paper you get a booklet that is 5.5x8.5. I print academic papers this way, and end up with a nice compact stack of papers that I can carry around and easily sort through. A 100 page paper ends up taking only 25 sheets.

Stapling the spine works best with a long-reach stapler, which I got for myself as a treat.
posted by xueexueg at 9:44 PM on May 25 [1 favorite]

Don't people in offices need to do this all the time? How do they handle it?

A lot of offices were moving away from paper even before the pandemic. I‘ve not been allowed to use paper files for several years now. I only prepare electronic reports that are presented on screens during meetings.

When I was at university there still was a lot of paper and I used folders like these binders and a standard hole punch. Incidentally, the cardboard versions are not dissimilar to what we used as audit files when I first started to work as financial auditor.
posted by koahiatamadl at 7:35 AM on May 27

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