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Binding Methods

Binding can be very simple and very inexpensive. Or you can go to a bit more effort or expense depending on how you want your books to turn out.
Some claim that it's best to choose a method where you can take pages out and replace them if they become ruined. But it seems that the only way they become ruined is when they are bound loosely (like in a 3-ring binder).
Choosing a more permanent binding will keep your pages from tearing out and you won't have to worry about replacing them. (Unless your kids do horrible things to books, like eat them, dance on them, pour maple syrup in the pages, etc.)

Below I have highlighted the basics of a few methods I have heard of. You can find more details elsewhere online (especially the free RC forums).
Or go to My Binding Page to learn the method I use. I've also posted some pictures of books I made.

    - Cover and Spine Options - Read this first; it applies to many methods.
    - Simplest Method (3-ring Binder)
    - Prong Fastener Method
    - Stapler Method
    - Sewing Method
    - Glue Method
    - Hot Glue Gun Method
    - Report Cover Method
    - Spiral / Coil / Wire / Comb Binding Methods
    - Thermal Binding Method
    - Professional Binding
    - Links to More Methods



COVER AND SPINE OPTIONS - Before you move on to the methods below, here are a couple options that will be mentioned throughout.

Covers - Covers are best printed on cardstock, and can be laminated or not. With some methods it works well to laminate the cover before putting the book together. With others it works better to put it together, spine and all, and then cover with laminating paper or clear contact paper. If you choose not to use any sort of lamination for the cover, you may consider placing clear mailing tape over the 4 corners.
See my Printable Books and Covers page for free covers I made, or click here for some free educational clip art sites, and make your own.

Spines - Duct tape comes in many colors these days (including white to match your cardstock), and it's a fast and easy way to make a spine. Just stick it on, and write the title with permanent marker. (If laminating or covering in contact paper, do so before you put the book together.)
Or you may want to glue on printed cardstock spines. (I do 5 per page.) They won't stick if the cover's already laminated, so use contact paper or laminating paper after the spines are glued on. (I just use a glue stick and it works fine with laminating paper over it.) If you are not planning to laminate at all, use a more durable glue to keep the spine on (Elmer's or Rubber Cement).


The Simplest Method (Binder)
Three-hole punch the paper (or print on pre-punched), and stick it in a 3-ring binder (or half-size 3-ring binder). Some people have one binder per book, and some have one per child. If using the latter method you can keep the books you are not currently using in file folders, and rotate them as needed.

Book Size: Half Size or Full Size
Pros - fast, easy, inexpensive.
Cons - Pages rip out of 3-ring binders and get ratty pretty fast. Also, it's not as easy to hold on to and turn pages while reading (unless you lay the binder on a desk while reading).

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Prong Fastener Method
What are prong fasteners? They work kind of like a big staple, but have 2 pieces. The first piece is sort of a square-ish U-shape, and you place each prong into a punched hole. Then place the second piece (compressor) on the opposite side of the papers (the compressor is a flat bar with a hole at each end, for each of the prongs to go into). Then fold each prong over (toward the center) and there are little metal sliders that hold the prongs down.
How do you use them? Use a two hole punch (or an adjustable 3-hole punch, using only 2 holes), and punch 2 holes for each prong. Number of prongs per book depends on if it's full or half size. If the compressor's at the back of the book it might look nicer when finished. Make a duct tape spine and write title in permanent marker. You can laminate covers before putting together, or cover finished book with laminating paper or clear contact paper.
To buy These are available at office stores. (Sometimes called two-piece fasteners) Available in 1", 2" or 3" capacity, and possibly in different widths.

Book Size: Half Size or Full Size
Pros - Fast, easy, inexpensive, pages stay in well, can hold very large books.
Cons - Maybe not the prettiest method. Probably can't do a printed cardstock spine. Need to leave larger margins when printing, and may not open as far as with other methods.

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Stapler Method
There are heavy duty staplers available that will punch up to 210 sheets (maybe more). They can vary greatly in price (even for the exact same stapler, so shop around). Staple your book and covers. If the staples are too bumpy at the back, tap them flat with a hammer, or squash flat somehow. You can laminate cover before and use duct tape for a spine, and write the title in permanent marker. Or use a cardstock spine and then cover book with laminating paper or clear contact paper.

Book Size: Half Size or Full Size
Pros - Fast, easy. Possibly inexpensive, depending on stapler price.
Cons - May have to do multiple volumes per book, depending on stapler capacity. Need to consider stapler cost. (There seems to be a wide price range, and some aren't very expensive.)

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Sewing Method   (See pictures of a variety of sewn books, with different kinds of covers and spines.)
Visit My Binding Page for directions and details on how I punch, sew and cover my books.

1 - Punch numerous holes with one of the following: moveable 3-hole punch, multiple hole punch, a comb binder (makes narrow, rectangular holes), your husband's drill (makes small holes, but you need to make a jig to hold the pages in place) or take the book to an office store or printing center and punch it there. Some places (like Office Depot) will let you use their equipment to punch for free (like the comb binder punch), or you can pay them a small fee to do it.
2 - Sew your book (sewing on the covers, as well). Some use a stitch similar to a blanket stitch, while some use a running stitch. Dental floss is great for sewing, as it is very strong, yet not bulky (and you can't beat that minty freshness). I think waxed help knots not slip, but people use both kinds.
3 - Put on a spine with one of the following methods. a - Use duct tape for a spine and write the title with permanent marker. In this case you can laminate your covers (if desired) before sewing. b - Print a cardstock spine. You can get about 5 spines to a sheet. I glue them on with glue stick, or you can use something more durable if you are not going to use laminating paper. (Just don't laminate the cover before trying to glue on a spine. It won't work.)
4 - Cover book with laminating paper or clear contact paper. Alternately, you can use regular contact paper (if you can't find clear) and just write the title on the front and spine with permanent marker. In this case you can put contact paper on the cover before sewing and use duct tape, or a strip of contact paper, for a spine. Or just cover the whole thing at once with contact paper.

Book Size: Half Size or Full Size
Pros - Looks and feels like a real book. Pages stay in very well. Can do large size books.
Cons - A bit more work. If you decide to buy a comb binder for your punching method, there is the price to consider.

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Glue Method
Type of glue: The glue you choose needs to be flexible when dry. Some common choices of glue are rubber cement or contact cement. These are both flexible, but have strong fumes. Some people use PVA (plain white glue). It has no fumes, but it may not be flexible enough. There's also a recipe below for homemade glue, without fumes.
Gluing: If using a glue with harmful fumes, be sure you have proper ventilation. (This is very important!) There are a couple of ways to glue the pages. You can glue the edge of either full size or cut half-size sheets. Or, print two pages per side and fold into sub-booklets. Then sew (or staple) down the center of the fold, to hold together. Clamp the pages and apply glue to the folded edges, then glue into a cover (more cover options below). Whichever way you choose, you will need clamps to hold the book tightly, and make sure the spine edge is as even as possible. You'll probably need multiple layers of glue.
Here's an example of how to bind with glue, or read about the hot glue method to learn some techniques that may be useful to you.
Covers: If you print the books half size, you can use legal size (8.5" x 14") cardstock for the covers. This size cardstock will do a book up to 3 inches thick. (A 100 page book is right around 1/4" thick. 3 inches would be around 1,200 pages.) Or you could buy the covers that are meant to be used with the thermal binder (the kind that aren't pre-glued). Or, for either size, you could glue 2 covers (the same size as the pages) along with the other pages, and then add a duct tape or cardstock spine. You can cover finished book with laminating paper or clear contact paper.
Printing Legal Size: I've not tried legal size cardstock before, but I think I'd print it so that the front cover went to the right edge of the paper (so the extra will be cut off of the back cover, not the front). Before printing you can measure the spine width of the book so you know where to print the title on the spine, so it is well-centered.
After printing, fold the cover around the book, creasing the folds well. Make the first fold 5.5" from the right, figure out the spine width and make the second fold, then trim the back cover to match the book - 5.5" from the spine. (Or you can trim after gluing.)

*Alternate glue - Here is a homemade glue recipe without fumes. I don't have any idea how well it works, but it may be worth a try, just to avoid fumes. If anyone's had experience with it, I'd be glad to hear how it holds up. (The glycerine called for in the recipe should be easy to find. I've seen it at Walmart near the Wilton cake decorating items, which are often in the craft section.)

Book Size: Half Size or Full Size
Pros - Quite similar to a paperback from the store.
Cons - Depending on type of glue, you may have stinky and potentially harmful fumes. Can take hours for each coat of glue to dry. Requires much more time and precision. Some people say that the pages sometimes fall out.

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Hot Glue Gun Method
Make sure that the glue you use doesn't become brittle when cool. It needs to be a bit flexible so it doesn't crack when you open the book.
Covers: If you print the books half size, you can use legal size (8.5" x 14") cardstock for the covers. This size will do a book up to 3 inches thick. (A 100 page book is right around 1/4" thick. 3 inches would be around 1,200 pages.) Or you could buy the covers that are meant to be used with the thermal binder (the kind that aren't pre-glued). Or, for either size, you could just glue a regular cardstock cover along with the other pages, and then add a duct tape or cardstock spine. You can cover finished book with laminating paper or clear contact paper. (If using a duct tape spine, laminate cover before gluing.)

The following instructions are mainly for half-size, but can be easily adjusted for full size.
1 - Print your book, and the cover. I've not tried legal cardstock before, but I think I'd print it so the front cover went to the right edge of the paper (so the extra will be cut off of the back cover, not the front). Before printing you can measure the spine width of the book so you know where to print the title on the spine.
2 - After printing, fold the cover (or cardstock spine) around the book, creasing the folds well. Make the cover's first fold 5.5" from the right, figure out the spine width and make the second fold, then trim the back cover to match the book - 5.5" from the spine. (Or you can trim after gluing.) Now that the cover (or spine) is pre-folded, remove it and set it aside.
3 - Tamp the book pages so that the spine edge is very even. Clamp the pages in place. Cover the spine area on the book with hot glue (don't make it overly thick), and let it cool. Be sure to get every page, and go a tiny bit over the edge on the front and back pages (thinly) to be sure it holds well. If you need to, you can use something to rub the glue around a bit before it cools. (An old butter knife or spoon would work well, and you could easily peel off the cooled glue. Maybe keep it in hot water until needed, then dry before using.)
If using a duct tape spine, you can add it now, while hot, or wait until cool. Hot may be preferable, because you could make sure the spine's smooth before it cools. Just don't attempt the next step on duct tape.
4 - After it cools, place pages into the cover. (Or place the pre-folded, cardstock spine over it. You can glue the parts that attach to the front and back either now or later. Using a different glue, of course.) Next, place a piece of scrap paper over the spine, then use your iron to remelt the glue so it adheres to the cover (or spine). This step should also even out the glue if it wasn't smooth in the last step.
Tips - Make sure the pages are in tightly, and right where you want them before and during ironing, as well as while it's cooling. (You may want to do this on a firm surface to help hold the pages in place, or clamp the cover or spine in place before ironing.)
I don't know what temperature to set the iron to. I'm sure it's better to start low and turn it up a bit at a time if you need to. Too high of a temperature will scorch your paper. If you use lo-temp or all-temp glue sticks you should be able to use a lower temperature on your iron. But high-temp glue will stay soft longer, if you find you need more time to apply it and smooth it out.
Here's an example of the hot glue method, which uses duct tape. (You may want to use large binder clips to hold the pages, for a less bulky spine.) And here's another example which uses a stapler, as well as hot glue.

Book Size: Half Size or Full Size
Pros - Quite similar to a paperback from the store. Cheaper than a thermal binding machine and the accompanying materials. Faster than with other kinds of glue (no drying time, and cools quickly). No bad fumes.
Cons - Requires more precision to get edges very even. I don't know how well the pages stay in. Some people who use the thermal binding machines say the pages fall out sometimes. You may get similar results with a glue gun. (Or maybe better, since you can put on more glue if you think you need it, and you can work it down into the pages a bit before it cools.)

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Report Cover Method
Just get report folders (about 39 cents for the cardstock kind, or 79 cents for the plastic ones) and put your 3-hole punched books inside. They hold about 100 pages, so you'll need to break up most books into "volumes". Could always cover with laminating paper or contact paper. Try buying in bulk for better price.

Book Size: Full Size (I don't think these covers are available in 1/2 size, but I may be wrong.)
Pros - Fast, easy, not bulky, fairly inexpensive, pages not as likely to come out as 3-ring binder.
Cons - Can't see title on spine. Numerous volumes per book. Floppy. The covers may not wear well. (I guess you could cover with laminating paper or clear contact paper for better wear. This might also help firm them up so they're not so floppy.)

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Spiral / Coil / Wire / Comb Binding Methods
I've lumped these together because they're fairly similar. These methods aren't so popular, but they're simple and they may suit your needs.
You either buy a machine to do this or you go get it done at an office or printing center. For the spiral binding you would probably want a cover that was plastic or laminated to keep it from tearing off. Some places will let you use their machines and buy the supplies and put them together yourself. It costs less than having them do it for you, if you don't want to buy the equipment.
If using plastic combs, either buy a light color so you can write the titles on, or buy permanent white markers (thankfully there is such a thing). Another option is to use sticker labels, write the name on, and cut skinnier if needed.

Book Size: Half Size or Full Size
Pros - Not too difficult or time consuming. Can do it yourself or have someone else do it.
Cons - If you buy your own machine (any type), you will have to consider the cost of it, and the materials (which may not be too bad). If you have someone else bind it, it will generally cost you a lot more.
Can't write titles on the coil / spiral / wire spines. These type also tear through pages quickly (some are double coils though, and wouldn't be so bad).
Plastic combs don't tear pages easily, but sometimes a few of the tabs may open and slip out of the punched holes, but you can re-insert them if you have your own machine. [Possible solution: Try super glue (or hot glue, maybe) on the top and bottom 1-2 tabs (or all tabs) to keep them from opening up.]

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Thermal Binding Method
Buy a thermal binding machine. Buy thermal binding strips and cardstock for covers, or pre-glued covers. Make sure the spine edge is as even as possible. The machine melts the glue and sticks to the pages. You could cover with laminating paper of clear cardstock when you finish, to make it more sturdy.

Book Size: Half Size
Pros - Very much like a regular paperback from the store.
Cons - Can be expensive for the machine and the special materials you have to buy. Requires more precision to get the edges very even. Some people say the pages fall out sometimes.

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Professional Binding
You can take your books to a printing center and have them bind your book in any number of ways. Probably the nicest would be the "perfect binding" which is essentially like a paperback. Of course, this can be quite expensive.

Book Size: Half Size or Full Size. This depends on the method. Most are available as either, but the perfect binding may only be available as half size.
Pros - Easy and fast for you. Certain methods are fairly sturdy (perfect binding).
Cons - Expensive. It may cost less to buy a brand new book than to have one professionally bound.

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LINKS TO MORE BINDING METHODS

Bind It Fast method. Another sewing method. You can do more holes than they do, if you like.
How to Make a Simple Hardcover Book - This looks a bit involved, but you'd get a beautiful book in the end.

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If I've missed any good binding methods, let me know.


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