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Binding techniques

This entry is part 2 of 10 in the series Design Techniques & Terminology

In the second of our technical/terminology articles we touch on binding techniques. There are many techniques to bind paper together in pamphlet/brochure/book form. Below are some of the common terms for these various methods; there isn’t a standardised title for each of them – printers do refer to them by different names – but here are the terms we use:

Saddle stitched
Here the loose sheets of printed pages are draped together over a saddle-like holder and a wire is fed into position, cut to a short length, bent into shape, and then the legs of the staple are driven through the pages. Finally, the legs are bent into the final staple shape.
Perfect/PUR
Here the loose sheets are gathered in much smaller groups — such as 16–page groups, known as signatures — then multiple signatures are stacked together, trimmed, and glued at the spine. Finally, a cover is added to enclose the pages, which are held in place by glue along the spine. PUR is similar to Perfect but it uses a far more flexible glue – this makes the technique far more useful when binding books that need to be left open, such as text books or reference books.
Case
Case binding is the common type of binding for hardcover books. It involves wrapping a turned edge hard cover around either sewn, adhesive bound or mechanically bound gathered signatures. Signatures are bound together with binder’s string and attached with strong glue to a rigid board cover. Additionally, end covers are also glued to the inside front and back covers; these are then affixed to the hard cover.
ota Ota
OTA offers an elegant binding solution with numerous advantages over conventional soft cover binding. Mimicking the construction of a case bound book and benefitting from real strength advantages as well as excellent lay-flat and no spine degradation. Due to its enhanced durability and strentgh, OTA binding is commonly used on text books, training manuals, software guides, recipe books and other reference books.
Thread/sewing through the fold
Similar to Perfect binding, but more durable, as a thread is also used to sew the signatures together. In Perfect binding the glue hardens by alternating cold and hot weather and becomes brittle.
Oversewing
This is where the signatures of the book start off as loose pages which are then clamped together. Small vertical holes are punched through the far left-hand edge of each signature, and then the signatures are sewn together with lock-stitches to form the text block. Oversewing is a very strong method of binding and can be used on books up to five inches thick. However, the margins of oversewn books are reduced and the pages will not lie flat when opened.
Spiral/coil
In spiral binding, a spiral of wire or plastic is threaded through round holes punched in the job; this allows a piece to lie flat when open. However, there’s no way to imprint a spine, and you must create a wide inner margin as you design the piece so that the printed area of the page will clear the punch holes.
Ring
Here you would use hinged rings to hold the sheets together through drilled holes. Usually you would have one placed in the top left corner or two placed along the spine.
Screws
You would use metal or plastic screws to hold the document together; two of these would be placed through drilled holes.
Wire-o/comb
Rectangular holes are punched in the pages, then the teeth of the plastic/metal comb are pushed through the holes. Because the combs are coil-like and curly, the teeth curve back under a spine-like collar that forms a solid spine for the bound book. Comb binding has one disadvantage – it’s a challenge to put a title or other copy on the spine. If you need a spine, you turn to a Canadian bind…
Half Canadian
Half Canadian binding has the wire partially concealed behind a square spine. The cover is normally a 4pp cover, with the spine printed on – which mimics perfect binding, but has the advantage of the book being able to be opened completely flat without damaging the spine. The wire is exposed through the rear cover only, leaving the front cover clear to display the printed image.
Full Canadian
Full Canadian binding has the wire fully concealed by using a 6pp or 8pp cover. The cover leaf is folded back on itself to be bound into the wire, resulting in a book with a square spine and uninterrupted covers.
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