I hate bookbinding.
the project in progress
A while ago I recommended to either rd95 or blackbootz that they look into bookbinding. I have no idea why I did it, I mean I’m going to assume I was trying to be genuinely helpful, but the fact that I had completely slipped my mind until - I think it was blackbootz - s/o to me in a later Pubski and was like “Good suggestion ref! Think I’m gonna try it!”
I read the comment and I was like, “Really? Bookbinding?”
And then “You read about bookbinding and you still think it sounds interesting?”
I’m assuming that I saw some traits in ‘bootz that seemed better fitted for an enjoyable experience bookbinding than my own. I fucking hate book binding, so sit down, shut up and listen.
1) Bookbinding Takes A Lot of Fucking Time
Yes, if you want, you can just stack some pages on top of each other, staple them together, glue some fancier paper on cardboard, and then glue/staple that around your pissant little kindergarten arts project. That doesn’t even involve any stitching, though, bruh, so to me it kind of doesn’t even count. If you’re calling it book-binding, I need to see a needle and some thread.
If you really want a good finished product and read around how-to’s for a while, you’ll start to see that the detailed, non-About.com instructions (with professional, definite MFA-student-product shiny results photos) recommend the following:
- Take a shit ton of paper
- Fold them into folios - that is, groupings of pages, like 4 pages in one folio, which you then fold into half
- Stick all your folios under twelve books and six bricks then forget about ‘em for two days
Well, shucks. There’s no instant gratification there. And the “fold/press/stack then leave for two days” step turns out getting repeated between every actual “action” step. And fuckin’ sadly, that shit pays off, yo. Your book will look better because of it.
In other words, bookbinding is full of a ton of “hurry-up-and-wait,” and I hate hurry-up-and-wait. (I’m not even telling you about all the glue-and-then-leave-til-dry that happens.)
2) Bookbinding Tools Are Really Fucking Specific, And Yes, You Need All of Them, and No, You Can’t Make Substitutions
I learned this the hard way when I was binding copies of my poetry collection The Taj Mahal for sale last year (any of you with copies handy, it’d be cool if you wanted to share a pic of the finished product aka binding - I don’t have any finished copies myself. Just tons of unbound ones. (See?)). By “learned this the heard way” I mean the “half a dozen different trips to A. C. Moore” way. You need an awl. You need a cutting board with ridges so that you cut/fold your shit in straight lines and it always measures the same. You need heavy needles and if you’re going to do special bindings (see my finished product below) then yes you need different special heavy needles. You need waxed thread and if you make the mistake of only picking up shiny, awesome, expensive, colored, metallic or metal-wrapped thread to bind your book with, you will find the following:
- most of them will be way too thick to pull through the punched holes in your folios/cover
- most of them will be way too thick to thread your needle with
- the one metallic thread that works will be the kind of bitchy thread that starts unravelling as soon as you cut it, so it’s impossible to re-thread your needle if you need to, and on top of that all of the spin of the thread (what keeps the individual strands together) will start to gather in one spot, probably right where you are trying to sew the book together (believe it or not, this is actually related to its speedy unravelling), and it’ll be at best really bitchy and inconvenient, and definitely fuck up your stitching
- oh, and all of these threads will probably tear fuckin’ holes in the paper you’re using for the book with continued page-turning.
What I’m saying is GET FUCKIN’ WAXED THREAD.
You also want an x-acto blade, lots of glue (something stronger than that Elmer’s shit), cardboard, fabric to cover your covers with (or at least fancy papers), a bone knife which no one ever fucking uses unless they are making books or, idk, if you’re Martha Stewart when your’e folding your own god damn stationery, (oh and get a sturdy one because too much pressure repeatedly exerted on a thin one folding your paper will destroy the tip), and like, whatever else you personally need to make your book look nice. I bought a corner-rounder, for instance.
Have you ever hand-punched the square corners of 80 pages (no more than 2 at a time or you’ll jam the punch) into rounded ones? See Point #1. But it just looked so damn gooooooood. But you can’t skip a single onnneeeee. God damn it.
pink - corner rounder; other items - all various hole-punching methods which were tried and failed
DON’T think you can cheat the punch-and-sew method (aka, the awl method) by buying hole punches (they will invariably punch holes that are grotesquely too big), those fancy paper punches that scrapbookers use which will punch holes in a line for you (wait till I explain why that won’t work in point #3), or any other hole-punching apparatus that you think will speed up the process. 9 times out of 10, maybe out of 9, I assure you - it absolutely won’t.
(And let’s just run through. OK, so what are you going to use your grooved/measured paper-folding board for, besides book-making? Maybe envelopes. That awl? Sure, you’ll reuse it - if you decide you also want to become a cobbler. The waxed thread? Not unless you’re hand-stitching. Those heavy needles will be too thick for any of said hand-stitching, btw. All of these exact tools are essential, and yet you won’t ever use them for anything except book-binding.)
3) Bookbinding Requires Really Stupid Levels of Precision
Like I’m talking, you are going to fold and press 8 folios of 8 pages each and you will need to make sure every single corner lines up exactly when you fold them. You are going to punch 6 holes in each of those 8 folios and you need those 6 holes to line up exactly in every folio or your book will be wonky. And they’ll need to line up with the cover, too.
observe how shitty and misaligned the holes, or observe the gaps between punch-lines (described below)
Remember what I said about hole-punching apparatuses? Right - “just don’t.” The reason for that is because hole-punching apparatuses usually can’t handle more than max 3 pages at a time without getting jammed and failing to do their job. Usually, the ones that feature 3-4 inches’ worth of a dotted punch pattern aren’t actually long for you to finish all the holes one page requires in one go, unless you don’t mind random-ass stops and starts to your pretty hole-punch lines. That means that when you have to take the paper out of the punch and move it down, to punch the lower half of the folio….
grotesquely large hole-punch holes. also, who wants to sit there and punch each sheet by hand? good luck finding a hole punch with a long enough neck so that you don’t have to mush all the pages and get them all fucked while you’re doing so
…You’re going to have to line up the holes that are already punched with the plates in that fancy-little hole punch, which oh by the way you won’t be able to see. If you don’t, you’re going to have an ugly overlap where some holes are different sizes, or even worse, you’ll accidentally punch through the paper in between holes you’ve already punched, leaving you with a useless decorative line in your folio that cannot be sewn through.
random whirligig which seemed like it would do the hole punching trick. it didn’t
Trust me, it seems efficient, but the headache is simply not worth it.
4) Making Paper At Home Is Even More Pointless Than Book-Binding, So No, You’re Never Gonna Bother Making That 100% Handmade Book For Your Mom
Know how you make paper at home?
You shred paper you already have, get it all wet, and then press it out in sheets.
Not only does it take more stupid-specialized tools (sheet racks), but you’re literally taking paper, tearing it apart, wetting it, and sticking it back together so it makes new paper.
Or if you’re me, “the same paper.” You’re making the same damn paper. It is utterly pointless.
If you’re an art student, you’d go buy a bag of wood pulp and do the same thing. You know what wood pulp is?
That’s right. Shredded fucking paper.
(Hey, guys, maybe I finally figured out what I’ll do with all these stupid angsty teenage diaries.)
That’s my experience bookbinding. It takes forever, I really don’t care about the finished product that much, and i generally find the repetitive motions it takes to create a book mindless enough that they are more frustrating than satisfying. In short, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it.
I feel guilty about my hate of book-binding because I feel that, since I love books in every other form, I should love this too. Then my friend said to me yesterday, “You like coffee, right? Have you ever sipped a cup of coffee and decided that you should work on a South American plantation harvesting coffee beans? Or that you should roast them yourself in order to fully enjoy your coffee experience?”
Quid pro quo, my friend. Quid pro quo.
the still-not-even-finished project - actually, glue is still drying
Despite all of this, I suspect I will be making more books, and bitching about them, and maybe hating every minute of it, in the short-term future. I don’t think it’ll be many, necessarily, but now I’ve got all the tools and the paper and everything and it seems like a waste not to.
What I’m telling you, friends, is - fly, you fools, fly! it’s a fuckin’ trap!
coptic binding WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT A LOOSE THREAD FUCK FUCK FUCK MY FUCKING LIFE I HATE GOD DAMN BOOKS
Other suggested tags: #goodlongread, #cautionarytales
Oooh, yeah. Gonna sell this shit on Etsy for like, twenty bucks