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Thursday, 16 September 2010


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I've used the knife/straightedge trick a lot and it works great. Just keep your fingers behind the knife, and PAY ATTENTION!!!! Or you'll get some blood on your prints and take a month to grow back your fingertip, like I did.

First, congratulations on your Minneapolis show! If it's filled with work such as your recent print offer you'll bowl 'em over. Seeing so much fine dye transfer printing in one place (such as our recent William Eggleston show) is like eating real ice cream; it overloads the senses...in a good way.

Thanks very much for this little essay on making "chapbooks". I'm very tempted to give it a go this winter. It's a nice alternative to conventional book production!

I wondered if you were going to have a wonderful magic solution to trimming those edges. Oh well.

I'm not used to stapling before folding. And in fact the saddle-staplers I'm used to are different from the one you picture, and seem to expect you to fold first.

(Dean does have a print-shop size guillotine paper cutter, not the swing-arm type but a real one. I'm not sure how narrow a strip it can trim. I don't think the clamp has to be on the off-cut, though.)

Thanks Ctein. That is so cool.
I've got some pictures from a Tigers baseball
game to send to my sister and was researching
different methods of binding them and never
thought of this. Duh, I'm so stupid. Why
didn't I think of this.
Reminds me of the following from Wikipedia.

Girolamo Benzoni. In his book History of the New World, published in 1565,[2] he wrote:

Columbus was dining with many Spanish nobles when one of them said: 'Sir Christopher, even if your lordship had not discovered the Indies, there would have been, here in Spain which is a country abundant with great men knowledgeable in cosmography and literature, one who would have started a similar adventure with the same result.' Columbus did not respond to these words but asked for a whole egg to be brought to him. He placed it on the table and said: 'My lords, I will lay a wager with any of you that you are unable to make this egg stand on its end like I will do without any kind of help or aid.' They all tried without success and when the egg returned to Columbus, he tapped it gently on the table breaking it slightly and, with this, the egg stood on its end. All those present were confounded and understood what he meant: that once the feat has been done, anyone knows how to do it.

I've found that metal rulers tend to transfer errant fingerprints, dust, ink, etc onto the paper beneath as well as cause scuffing, so would recommend using a scrap piece of photo paper as a liner beneath the ruler. Also, be sure to start with a NEW blade.

Hi Ctein,

Trimming off bits of pages? I have used one of those French matte cutters, they come with a bevel edge cutter and a normal ninety degree cutter, it slides along in a recess of its own straight edge/ruler, called a Maped. Probably teaching granny to suck eggs here, apologies if I am. Also making a nice clean fold? Try a pizza cutter to score down your centre line first. Best wishes with your expo, a bit too far for me I'm afraid, pity.
Kerry Glasier

Trim the innermost 2 pages (easier, may work with your fancy machine) before binding and call it good enough?

I really hope people make these and have fun, but do yourselves a favor and calculate accurate out of pocket costs before you start. Last I checked, ink wasn't free :)

David, we used to call this saddle stitching when I worked 'in the print' for the local council. If I remember correctly the sheets were trimmed top and bottom first, then folded, then collated, then stitched.

We used printer's paper size SRA2, (450 X 640mm) which could be trimmed down and divided after printing to A2, A3, A4 etc. The last operation was for me to trim the edge. Most jobs ended up as A5 or A4 booklets telling you how wonderful the council was.

With a recently changed and freshly sharpened blade in the hydraulic guillotine I could cut about 2mm from a ream of SRA2 or do the same for just one sheet. The clamp wasn't on the offcut.

There were safety circuits so I wasn't worried while cutting paper, but changing the heavy 48" blade was a scary thing.

I've been making small inkjet printed books too, Ctein, and I'd like to make three suggestions for adding a classy extra touch. 1) Sew the pages totether instead of stapling them. The library has tons of books on bookbinding that show how to make a simple saddle stitch. Once you've done one, you'll see how fast-n-easy it is to do. A little white linen thread in the middle of the book looks so much nicer than a staple. 2) I glue a narrow strip of coloured paper down the outside edge of the book (covers about 1/2" of the front and back), covering the stitches and giving the book an elegant "bound" appearance. 3) I take my books (I only make a few at a time) to my local print shop, and they trim a couple of millimeters off the outside edge for me for a few bucks. A heavy duty professional machine does this easily.

And you're right - as gifts for friends, these are really appreciated (well, that's what they say anyway). I've also left them as gifts to gallery directors I'm courting. They are much more likely to be kept than a brochure or CD.

Dear folks,

First, as I hope is obvious, I know almost nothing about bookbinding. So I appreciate all the practical and constructive, and most definitely educational, comments made by the folks here who have some experience in that endeavor. And to the rest of you readers, if anything they say contradicts anything I say... believe them, not me.

In that vein, it seems most definitely clear that the typical guillotine cutter doesn't need a lot of paper overhang. I know that the cutter that my professional bookbinder (the one who assembles my hand-printed monographs) uses isn't happy with fraction of an inch overhangs, and I assumed that was common to all guillotine cutters. Clearly I am wrong (DDB, I did get ahold of Dean and he confirmed that). So, possibly throwing good money after bad, I just bought a guillotine cutter on eBay for $100 including shipping, which is a very nice price. The same seller has another one up for auction starting today:


This is clearly a lightweight unit, as these things go, and it will not be suitable for trimming books larger than letter-size nor, I suspect, very thick books, but those limitations don't conflict with my needs. I will report back if it turns out not to work for my purposes.

I can testify that the alternative binding methods, in particular the drill-and-tie method John suggests produces an excellent and very strong binding. It's also very useful when binding single sheets instead of folded signature. It is what my bookbinder uses on my monographs, and there are two pictures on my webpage (http://ctein.com/monographs.htm that gives some idea of what such a binding looks like. Sewn signatures also work very well.

All of this depends on how elaborate one wants to get. For folks who want to learn introductory bookbinding, many adult extension programs, local community colleges and arts centers offer one term courses. I've not taken them, but I know friends who have, and it really doesn't take any longer than that to learn the basics.

But, bookbinding is rather like darkroom printing. Learning the basics doesn't take long at all, and making small books/prints is not a major undertaking. The larger you go the more difficult it gets, and if you're interested in becoming an expert, high-quality bookbinder/printer, it will take you years to get that good. That's why I decided to have a professional bind my monographs instead of learning how to do it myself, even though 75% of the cost of those monographs to me is what I'm paying the binder. He has spent decades learning his skill, and I really don't have the time in my life to take up an entire new craft.

~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

This is a fabulous idea. I have for a while been trying to think of a practical way to deliver a set or folio of pictures with a theme. A book is too much but a single mounted print is not right either. I knew I want to show a beautiful series of images, and I wanted the media/object to feel precious too. This chapbook idea is a perfect way to present the material.

I have gone a slightly different route for my intended audience. I am doing the same sort of format but because cost is not a driver I am spending more money on materials and making more effort on things like the binding and covers (more bookish, but small, say 24 single sided pages feels about the right thickness with 188gsm Hahnemuhle photo rag and material covered card covers). I wanted the content to be a quality where if the owner wished to they could cut each page out and frame them.

I have had a surprise though. I am prepared to make the book, I have all the materials and can get a result that is good enough for my satisfaction (ability to take photos, binding practice, layout, style or “look” and to my eye prints that are suitable quality etc). I started to select images and suddenly realised I have no ability to tell a story. Oops. Anyway so that’s the next skill I need to develop, I wont worry too much for the first couple of attempts while developing the process. I guess I will have some photos that are loosely related for now but being able to have a story, I think, is very important. If for example the mini project is my hometown's older architecture, then just a collection of pictures of buildings feels like a weak theme to me, there needs to be a correlation or thread between them, something specific (perhaps visually, or maybe the story).

It’s so much fun learning these things, thanks for the inspiration. Tests are finished so I think I am ready to go so will have my first finished product in about 2 weeks (theme = my daughter since the family will love it regardless of my skill levels)


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