3. Collating and Folding the Sections

Part of the Bookbinding Tutorial
by Douglas W. Jones
THE UNIVERSITY OF IOWA Department of Computer Science

When you get your copies back from the photocopy shop, you'll have a box of paper, and you want to have a box of books. The steps you need to go through before binding the books are collating the pages of each section, folding the sections, and collating the sections.

Collating the pages of a section is easiest if you pay the photocopying shop to do it for you, since they have collating photocopying machines. Lacking this, lay out the 8 piles of paper representing the 8 sheets that make up the first section of your book and pick the top page off each pile to make one section.

Stack the pages so that the top page in the stack has consecutive page numbers on its left and right side (yes, there's only one side of one page in each section that has this property), and make sure that if you read up through the pages on the left side of the pile, you get consecutive page numbers. This should guarantee that you also get consecutive page numbers when you read down through the pages on the right other side of the pile. The first few times you do this, you may have to shuffle things a bit before you get it right, but once you get it right, you can fly, making up sections about as quickly as you can gather pages off of the piles.

Once you finish collating the first section of each copy you've had made of your book, set it aside and collate the second section of each copy. Keep the collated sections for each copy together, stacked in order, so that you will end up with each book in a separate pile.

If you don't want a hardback book, stop here! Cut each section in half where you would otherwise fold it, then either punch the holes needed to hang the page in a downsized 3 ring binder or have it punched and spiral bound. A sewn binding is more durable, but it involves more work.

The final step prior to binding each copy of the book is to fold the sections that will make up each book. I do this freehand, rolling the 8-page bunch that makes up one section until the edges are even, then holding the edges together with one hand while I crease it with the other.

Rose MacDonald, a long-time bookbinder, has suggested using a folding board as an alternative to freehand folding. Folding boards are boards about 2 feet (60 cm) square with 3 or 4 headless nails in a straight row down the left side of the board, 4 to 5 inches (10 to 12 cm) apart, with an additional single nail at the top, about 3 inches (7 cm) in from the left side. The nails should stand about 1/2 inch (1 cm) above the face of the board. To use this, with the board on a work table, place the unfolded section of the book up against the nails and roll the right side over to the nails, making sure all pages touch the top nail; then use your left hand to clamp the pages firmly in place and set the crease with your right hand. For left-handed use, make the board left-handed by putting the row of nails on the right side of the board and fold each section to the right, clamping with your right hand while setting the crease with your left hand.

When you get all the sections of one copy of the book folded, they won't stack very well because the creases aren't properly set. To set the creases, force the books into a neat stack and clamp them that way overnight. Lacking a bookpress, stack an unabridged dictionary or a few volumes of the encyclopedea on top of the pile of folded sections.

The truth is, you'll want a clamp later when you trim the edge of your book (see section 7) so you might as well make it now. Two planks about 4 inches wide, four threaded rods about a foot long, eight washers and eight wingnuts will suffice to make a clamp that can be used to set the creases in the spine and hold the book while trimming later on.