How to make a book (#2 of 3)

This is the second of a three-part series on how to make a book.

The first posting described and illustrated how to use a thermo-binding machine to make a book. This posting describes and illustrates how to “weave” a book together — folding and cutting (or tearing). The process requires no tools. No glue. No sewing. Just paper. Ingenious. The third posting will be about traditional bookmaking.


Like so many things in my life, I learned how to do this by reading a… book, but alas, I have misplaced this particular book and I am unable to provide you with a title/citation. (Pretty bad for a librarian!) In any event, the author of the book explained her love of bookmaking. She described her husband as an engineer who thought all of the traditional cutting, gluing, and sewing were unnecessary. She challenged him to create something better. The result was the technique described below. While what he created was not necessarily “better”, it surely showed ingenuity.

The process

Here is process outlined, but you can also see how it is done on YouTube:

  1. Begin with 12 pieces of paper – I use normal printer paper, but the larger 11.5 x 14 inch pieces of paper make for very nicely sized books.
  2. Fold pairs of paper length-wise – In the end, you will have 6 pairs of paper half as big as the originals.
  3. Draw a line down the center of 3 pairs – Demarcate where you will create “slots” for your book by drawing a line half the size of of the inner crease of 3 pairs of paper.
  4. Draw a line along the outside of 3 pairs – Demarcate where you will create “tabs” for your books by drawing two lines from one quarter along the crease towards the outside of the 3 pairs of paper.
  5. Cut along the lines – Actually create the slots and tabs of your books by cutting along the lines drawn in Steps #3 and #Instead of using scissors, you can tear along the creases. (No tools!)
  6. Create mini-books – Take one pair of paper cut as a tab and insert the tab into the slot of another pair. Do this for all of 3 of the slot-tab pairs. The result will be 3 mini-books simply “woven” together.
  7. Weave together the mini-books – Finally, find the slot of one of your mini-books and insert a tab from another mini-book. Do the same with the remaining mini-book.

The result of your labors should be a fully-functional book complete with 48 pages. I use them for temporary projects — notebooks. Yeah, the cover is not very strong. During the use of your book, put the whole thing in a manila or leather folder. Lastly, I know the process is difficult to understand without pictures. Watch the video.

How to make a book (#1 of 3)

This is a series of posts where I will describe and illustrate how to make books. In this first post I will show you how to make a book with a thermo-binding machine. In the second post I will demonstrate how to make a book by simply tearing and folding paper. In the third installment, I will make a traditional book with a traditional cover and binding. The book — or more formally, the codex — is a pretty useful format for containing information.

Fellowes TB 250 thermo-binding machine

The number of full text books found on the Web is increasing at a dramatic pace. A very large number of these books are in the public domain and freely available for downloading. While computers make it easy to pick through smaller parts of books, it is diffcult to read and understand them without printing. Once they are printed you are then empowered to write in the margins, annotate them as you see fit, and share them with your friends. On the other hand, reams of unbound paper is difficult to handle. What to do?

Enter a binding machine, specifically a thermo-binding machine like the Fellowes TB 250. This handy-dandy gizmo allows you to print bunches o’ stuff, encase it in inexpensive covers, and bind it into books. Below is an outline of the binding process and a video demonstration is also available online:

  1. Buy the hardware – The machine costs less than $100 and available from any number of places on the Web. Be sure to purchase covers in a variety of sizes.
  2. Print and gather your papers – Be sure to “jog” your paper nice and neatly.
  3. Turn the machine on – This makes the heating element hot.
  4. Place the paper into the cover – The inside of each cover’s spine is a ribbon of glue. Make sure the paper is touching the glue.
  5. Place the book into the binder – This melts the glue.
  6. Remove the book, and press the glue – The larger the book the more important it is to push the adhesive into the pages.
  7. Go to Step #5, at least once – This makes the pages more secure in the cover.
  8. Remove, and let cool – The glue is hot. Let it set.
  9. Enjoy your book – This is the fun part. Read and scribble in your book to your heart’s content.

Binding and the Alex Catalogue

The Alex Catalogue of Electronic Texts is a collection of fulltext books brought together for the purposes of furthering a person’s liberal arts eduction. While it supports tools for finding, analyzing, and comparing texts, the items are intended to be read in book form as well. Consider printing and binding the PDF or fully transcribed versions of the texts. Your learning will be much more thorough, and you will be able to do more “active” reading.

Binding and libraries

Binding machines are cheap, and they facilitate a person’s learning by enabling users to organize their content. Maybe providing a binding service for library patrons is apropos? Make it easy for people to print things they find in a library. Make it easy for them to use some sort of binding machine. Enable them to take more control over the stuff of their learning, teaching, and research. It certainly sounds like good idea to me. After all, in this day and age, libraries aren’t so much about providing access to information as they are about making information more useful. Binding — books on demand — is just one example.