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Rebinding Damaged Books
February 1965 Popular Mechanics

May 1968 Popular Mechanics
May 1968 Popular Mechanics - RF Cafe[Table of Contents]

Wax nostalgic over early technology. See articles from Popular Mechanics, published 1902 - 2021. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.

sink-me

Rebinding Damaged Books

By Manly Banister

A homemade book press, a few common tools, and you'll be able to handle anything from a torn hinge to a complete rebinding

Nobody to throw out a good book just because the binding is damaged. Chances are it's one of your favorites, for these always receive the most handling. Often, the damage can be repaired in a couple of minutes with a little glue or paste. Sometimes a complete tearing down and rebinding may be required. But in either case the investment in time and materials is negligible when balanced against the result.

You don't need a lot of expensive equipment to repair books. The most important piece of equipment is a book press, and the easy-to-build unit detailed on the opposite page is quite satisfactory for most jobs. In addition, you'll need scissors; a ruler; a hammer or mallet; a bone "folder" (or make a wooden one by curving the ends of a flat stick and rounding the edges); a sharp knife, and a large needle.

1. With a sharp knife, cut through the hinges on both sides to free the body of the book from covers

2. Clamp book in the backing jaws of the press and scrape off all the paper backing, super and glue

Materials used in repairing books are also inexpensive. In addition to the paper, mesh-cloth "super," cover boards and book cloth, you'll have to buy a spool of #25 linen thread, a cake of beeswax (for waxing the thread), a small can of hide glue and a jar of library paste. All of these may be obtained at a bookbinder's supply house.

One thing to keep in mind when repairing books: Paper, like wood, has a grain running in a given direction, and every piece of paper put into a book must have its grain running vertically, from the head to the tail of the book. Otherwise, it's bound to buckle and cause trouble. One simple way of determining the direction of the grain is to fold a sample sheet and wet the crease. If it dries smooth, the grain runs parallel to the fold. If the crease buckles. you've folded the paper across the grain.

The following steps, numbered to correspond with the illustrations, cover a complete rebinding. This will probably only be necessary if the book is in very bad shape, with the sewing loose and sections coming apart. To repair less severe damage-broken cover boards, torn flyleaves, etc. - simply follow the appropriate steps.

3. Starting with the first section, find the center and cut each stitch. Do the same to all the sections

4. Separate body into sections and flatten the groove in each. Cover with paper to prevent damage

Step 1. Cut the body of the book free of its cover by slashing through the hinges on both sides with a sharp knife. Tear off the flyleaves and throw them away.

Step 2. Clamp the book in the angled backing jaws of the press and dampen the spine. (If old glue is really hardened, spread on a layer of library paste and let it stand a while.) Scrape off the paper backing, the mesh super and the glue, down to the folds of the sections.

Step 3. The body of the book is composed of sections called "signatures" in the trade - a series of sheets folded together, usually forming either 16 or 32 pages. Find the center of the first section, disclosing the sewing thread, and cut each stitch down the gutter. Do the same to the rest of the sections.

5. If outside sheet of section is torn, repair it by pasting a 1/2-in. strip of bond paper over the tear

6. Reassemble body, stacking sections fold to fore edge in alternating groups. Keep in press overnight

Step 4. Carefully separate the sections. Note that each is creased close to the fold. This is the "groove," formed in the backing, and it must be hammered out. Protect the face of the section with a sheet of waste paper and hammer out the groove, one section at a time.

Step 5. In separating sections, it often happens that the outside sheet of a section becomes torn. Before resewing the book, it is necessary to repair these sheets. Cut 1/2-in. strips of 11-lb. bond paper, or similar, as long as the page. Layout the damaged sheet or sheets with the inside of the fold up. After applying paste to the strip, stick it over the torn fold, being careful not to stretch the paste-dampened strip. Then rub it down and put the sheet aside. When all such sheets have been repaired, gather them together with protective sheets of waxed paper between, squeeze for a few minutes in the press, and lay them aside to dry.

9. Sewing thickens the spine, but pounding with a hammer or mallet will embed threads in the folds

10. To attach new endpapers, apply a 1/4.in. strip of paste down the folded edge of outside sections

Step 6. Reassemble the sections and stack them with the fold to the fore edge in alternating groups of two or three. Place a sheet of waxed paper or aluminum foil on each side and run the press wing-nuts down as tight as you can. Let the sections stand under pressure overnight.

Step 7. Take the sections out of the press and assemble them in the proper order. (Take care you don't put a section in upside down!) Clamp them in the backing jaws of the press, leaving about 1/4-in. projecting. Make four or more unequally spaced marks across the back, and saw each mark with a dull saw about 3/32 in. deep (deep enough to cut through the innermost fold of each section). The head and tail sawcuts should be placed 3/4 in. from ends of spine.

Step 8. Sewing by the lockstitch method has the advantage that no special equipment is needed. Lay the first section face down on the edge of the worktable.

7. Use a dull saw to make four unequally spaced cuts about 3/32 in. deep in spine of collected sections

8. Sew sections together using the lockstitch shown above. This is described in detail in the article

Thread the needle with a couple of feet of thread. Pass the needle into the tail saw cut at the head. Draw loops of thread out through the other sawcuts with a crochet hook or poke them out from inside with the eye end of the needle. Lay on the second section, pass needle in through sawcut at head and out through next sawcut down the back. Pass needle upward through the loop protruding from the section below and back into the same sawcut. Draw the loop firm (but not too tight) to form the lockstitch. Finish sewing section one to section two and tie the two threads together at the tail sawcut with a square knot.

Section three and all following are sewed in the same manner, except that there are no loops protruding. Pass the needle behind the stitch in the next lower section, then back into the section, out at the next saw cut, and so on.

At the end of each section, the section is anchored to the one below by means of the "kettle stitch." Pass the needle behind the thread below, then bring it around and up through the loop of thread thus formed and draw it snug. When you come to the end of the thread, tie on another length so that the knot ends up inside a section. When the final section is sewed on, finish off with a couple of kettle stitches down the back and cut off the thread about an inch long. This will be glued down to the spine of the book.

11. After applying flexible glue to spine, tap it into a rounded shape before the adhesive has set

12. With book clamped in angled backing jaws, turn edges of sections outward with glancing blows

Step 9. Sewing leaves the spine thicker than the rest because of the bulk of the thread. "Knock down the swell" with a mallet or hammer, embedding the threads in the folds.

Step 10. New endpapers may be made from regular endpaper stock (obtainable at any bookbinding supply house) or any other strong paper, even Kraft wrapping paper. The fold is made with the grain, and the folded sheet should be exactly the size of the body of the book. Protecting the face of the book with a sheet of paper, apply a 1/4-in. strip of paste down the folded edge. Then lay the endpaper over the body and rub it down. Turn the body over and attach the other endpaper in the same way. Let it dry under a pressure.

13. Once shaping of spine is complete, apply a thin coat of flexible glue and rub it in well with fingers

14. Cloth backing, or "super," should be rubbed down into glue, then covered with a strip of paper

Step 11. Normally, the book won't need trimming. However, if the sections are badly uneven, have a printer trim about an eighth of an inch from all three open edges with a guillotine. Apply a thin coat of flexible glue or Liquid Cloth to the spine. (You can make flexible glue by adding 1 1/2 teaspoonsful of glycerine to an ounce of liquid hide glue.)

Then, before the adhesive is wholly set, tap the spine into a rounded shape with the hammer. Push in the fore edge with your thumb while drawing the top sections toward you with the fingers.

Step 12. To complete the backing, place the body in the angled backing jaws of the press, leaving 3/16 in. of the endpapers exposed on each side. The idea here is to turn over the sections from the middle toward each side, reforming the groove noted before you tore the book down. Draw the hammer toward you with each stroke, making glancing blows that tend to turn the fold-edges of the sections toward you. Work the full length of each side of the book until a smooth, rounded spine is obtained, with edges bent over against the metal jaws of the press.

17. Remove case and turn excess cloth aver edges all around, squeezing out excess glue with the folder

18. Replace body in case and clamp book in grooving jaws of press. Shape corners and let dry overnight

Step 13. Apply a thin coat of flexible glue to the spine of the book and rub it in well with your fingers.

Step 14. Prepare a piece of super (a mesh cloth) or crinoline, obtainable from a dry goods store. (Unbleached muslin can also be used, or canton flannel, stiffened by dipping in a starch solution. Iron the flannel when dry.) The super should be long enough to reach from tail kettle stitches to head kettle stitches and wide enough to overhang the book 1 1/4 in. on each side. Rub the cloth backing down into the glue. Now cut a strip of Kraft paper, or ordinary newspaper, as wide and as long as the book's spine, and glue it over the cloth.

Step 15. To cover the book, you will need bookcloth or Fabrikoid, obtainable from a bookbinder's supply house. (For this you can substitute paper, leatherette, or even automobile upholstering plastic in sheet form. If the upholstering plastic has a cloth backing, remove the cloth.) Do not use ordinary cloth or anything else that will let the glue soak through and spoil the appearance of the book.

15. When bookcloth has been cut, position body and boards on it and glue spine-size paper in place

16. With body in position, glue bookcloth to boards, working out the excess glue by rubbing with folder

You can use the old boards or make new ones from mill board or heavy cardboard. Be sure to cut the boards with grain running from head to tail. Make them the same size as the old boards if the body wasn't trimmed; otherwise, make them as wide as the body and 1/4 in. longer. When 1/8 in. is left at the back edge for the groove, the boards will overhang the fore edge 1/8 in. all around.

Cut the bookcloth to wrap completely around the book, plus 3/4 in. extra at each end and 3/4 in. along each side. Mark a rectangle the exact size that will be covered by the book on the inside face of the cloth, then coat it with thin runny glue. (If the glue is thick, thin it by heating in a pan of water.) Clip off all four corners of the cloth to within 1/8 in. of the corners of the rectangle.

Lay the end board on the glued cloth in exact position, then position the body of the book on the board. Cut a strip of Kraft paper as wide and as long as the book spine and glue it to the bookcloth, as shown in the photo.

19. Trim excess turn-in on boards (not spine) to leave about 3/8 in. around edges. Use a straightedge

20. Glue boardpapers to boards and place completed book in grooving jaws for final 24┬Ěhr. pressing

Step 16. Don't hurry! Glue sets slowly. Check everything for squareness as you go along. Lay on the front board so that it overhangs evenly all around, leaving a 1/8-in. groove between the back edge of the board and the turn-up on the book. Bring the cloth tightly over the back of the book, lay it down on the front board and rub it down with your folder. Use the rounded edge to rub in the groove. Work the folder from back edge toward fore edge and to-ward head and tail to work out any excess glue. (A sheet of waxed paper under the board will prevent glue from running on the edges of the book). Now, turn the book over and rub down the other side.

Step 17. Remove the case (as the cover is called) from the body and lay it board-side up on the table. Turn the cloth over the edge all around and rub down the turn-in, squeezing out all excess glue, which can be wiped up with a damp cloth.

Step 18. Return the body of the book carefully to the case. Place waxed paper or foil between the boardpapers and the boards and wrap another sheet around the book. Insert in the grooving jaws of the press and tighten the wingnuts. Tear the foil away from the back of the book and pick out and shape the corners of the cloth with a pointed folder or stick. Leave the book in the press overnight.

Step 19. Remove the book from the press and separate the case from the body. If the case is stuck along the edges of the back so that the body can't be freed, don't worry about it. The turn-in is trimmed only on the boards. (Don't ever try to trim it across the spine, or you'll cut through the cloth and spoil the case.) Mark the turn-in 3/8 in. wide around the open edges of each board and trim out with a sharp knife and straightedge. Pull out the excess cloth and discard it.

Repairing a Torn Page. Lay a piece of foil or waxed paper under the torn page and top it with a piece of cleansing tissue. Using a toothpick, apply library paste to the edge of the tear only. Bring the torn edges together and rub with the finger. Lay on a piece of cleansing tissue, topped with foil. Close the book and press overnight. Remove foil and tear away cleansing tissues. Clean off adhering paper fibers with an eraser or razor blade.

Step 20. Place newspaper under the boardpaper to protect the book and coat the face of the boardpaper with thin glue. Glue the super tab down to the boardpaper, but keep glue out of the groove.

Close the cover on boardpaper, then open and rub the boardpaper down with your fingers. Withdraw the newspaper, replace it with waxed paper or foil and close the cover, then glue the second boardpaper.

The book is now ready for a final pressing. Be sure to have waxed paper or foil between both boards and the book to prevent moisture from soaking through. Wrap waxed paper around the book and place it in the grooving jaws of press.

The title can be handlettered, typed, or printed if a small handpress is available, on a piece of colored artpaper. Glue the title to the back of the book and leave book in press at least 24 hrs.

Repairing a Torn Hinge. Where one or both boards are pulled away from the body of the book, cut the board free from the body of the book and lay it back. Then glue a strip of super to the spine (with flexible glue) covering its full width, plus about 3/4 in. to form the new hinge. Glue a strip of newspaper backing over the super. Cut a strip of Kraft paper 1 1/4 in. wide and as long as the page. Fold over 1/4 in. along one edge, paste this to the flyleaf and rub it down. When dry, apply paste or hard hide glue to the strip, as shown in the photo, fold the super over it and rub down. Close the board on the book with waxed paper under the Kraft strip and press be-tween the grooving jaws for 24 hrs.

To avoid breaking the back when the rebound book is opened, open it this way: Stand book on spine and let covers fall open. Open the book a few sheets at a time, a few at front, and rub them down in the groove; a few at the end, and rub them down. Continue thus until the middle of the book is reached.

 

 

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