This is somewhat off-topic, but since most of you don't get my regular newsletter...
I'll be having a major show of dye transfer prints in Minneapolis, Minnesota, from October 8th through the 30th. The show emphasizes my Hawaii work.
I'd love to have you come to the opening on Friday, Oct 8 if you live in the Greater Twin Cities area (which extends from Winnipeg to Chicago). This is the first major public show of my dye transfer work in 25 years. Might not be another one until 2035. We now resume our regularly scheduled programming.
Last week I planned out a chapbook. I chose the format, medium, topic and photographs. Once I had work prints of those photos it was time to address some layout matters. The Epson printer driver is most uncooperative about centering printing on a sheet and printing with less than a half-inch margin. It kept begrudging me a few silly millimeters of image at the trailing edge. Finally, I simply told the printer it was printing on legal size paper. Of course, I ignored the nonexistent three inches of length, but it faked out the driver so that I wasn't butting up against its permitted print margins.
When you center-staple and fold the chapbook, the inside sheets are wound tighter than the outside ones. Going from the innermost sheet to the outermost sheets, the fold eats up about half a millimeter more paper on each successive page. Adjust the position of the photographs on the pages so that the pairs on the inside sheets are slightly closer together than those on the outer sheets. That compensates for the fold so that the assembled book has centered photos on every page and improves the look of the book.
Don't try to hurry the printing. Printing on the second side of a sheet before the first side has dried is asking for paper feed trouble, due to the sheets being floppier and more wrinkled. Print a batch of sheets for side one of sheet one, spread them out on a table to dry, and go on to print side one of sheet two. By the time you've printed all the side ones, the first sheets will be dry. Even so, you may need to hand-feed them through the printer to avoid them sticking to each other. Definitely don't load more than a few sheets at a time. Even so, about one in three times my printer whined that it couldn't successfully feed a sheet and I had to go aid it.
Consequently, printing is not a "set it and forget it" affair. It's best done as a background task when you have other computer work to do. I always have some—editing photographs, answering e-mail, writing these columns. Printing pages for chapbooks does not consume a lot of my time, as long as I'm not just babysitting the printer.
Once all the pages are printed and dried, collate and center-staple them (above). Fold the books along the staple line and burnish down the edge of the fold to tighten it. A horn or bone folder is ideal. (If some of the terms and tools in this article are unfamiliar to you, Google remains your friend.) I can't seem to find mine, so I've been using the rounded end of a Sharpie marker (below). It seems to serve.
At this point, you should have a nice-looking little booklet, but the edges opposite the fold will not be neatly aligned like the top and bottom ones (assuming you were careful collating your pages when you stapled them, which of course you were). That's partly because it's hard to precisely fold a book by hand, but mainly it's because the inner pages stick out more than the outer ones due to the fold (below). It's only a few millimeters, but to me it looks sloppy , though some artists like to have all three of the unbound edges ragged, to enhance the hand-made look.
Trimming the edge is tricky. A proper guillotine cutter is expensive and won't work well unless there is enough paper outside the cut line to clamp. I'm trimming only a few millimeters. I could print on oversized paper but that would substantially increase the cost of each book, not counting the cost of the guillotine cutter.
I tried conventional paper cutters. In fact I just spent over $100 on a heavy-duty rotary blade model that's designed for precise work. It didn't, well, um, cut it. Wasted money. I couldn't manage a straight and precise enough cut on 8 thick pages. (Anyone wanna buy a Swingline 9615A cutter?) After expending much time, thought, effort, and money, I returned to the traditional tried and true method. A solid metal straight edge and a box cutter or similarly sturdy and sharp hobby knife.
Lay your chapbook down on appropriate cutting surface. Place the steel rule on it a millimeter or so in from the edge of the cover page. Put your weight on the steel rule so that nothing will shift. Use that nice, fresh knife blade to trim off the pages flush with the rule. It's easier than it sounds. Don't try to cut all eight pages at once, you'll get worse results. Just make repeated passes along the edge of the rule, cutting off two or three sheets with each pass. Don't force it. Voilà, you have a finished chapbook with neatly trimmed edges.
Sign and number them and start sending them out. Wasn't that fun? Well, I think it's fun. I love making books. I can't wait to get started on my next one.
Ctein's regular weekly column appears on TOP every Thursday morning, for some value of "morning."
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Original contents copyright 2010 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by John: "I make poetry chapbooks and hand sew the binding. Pretty simple and much nicer than staples.
"Once a book is folded, punch three tiny holds in the fold, thread them, and tie off the thread inside at the center hole. Pretty easy once you figure out the threading sequence. Dick Blick sells the right thread and needles.
"For trimming the right-side excess, Kinkos (now Fedex Office) does that very cheaply and accurately. I like my cover to overhang the pages a bit, so I add that after the trim. Just finish all the inside pages, fold them into completed books sans covers, and stack them. Kinkos will slice the whole stack in one cut on their high-end cutter."
Featured Comment by Terry Crooker: "Some tips for you. I am not a professional photographer, but I am a professional printer and now you are talking my business.
"First fold each sheet separately, then collate them. You will get tighter folds. Second take these to a small print shop and have them saddle stitch the books (if staples are OK with you) and face trim the books for you. Face trim is what trimming the push-out is called. The important part is to be sure you keep photos and text well inside the outside margins on the center sheets so nothing get trimmed off. Note: a real saddle stitcher doesn’t use staples but a continuous wire that it forms a staple from. These 'staples' tend to be neater and much tighter."