Today began like any other day; one where I’m surrounded by things I ought to do on one side, and things I want to do on the other. In the middle of my procrastination (actually I’m still procrastinating by typing this up but I wanted to share and I have most of the review done in my head) I was discussing Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart with Megan, and went to grab my copy. I was all set to happily thumb through the story I love while encouraging her to read it. To my horror, pages fell out of the book.
Okay, so I got my copy in an omnibus edition, so it’s over forty years old, so I only paid a dollar for it at a library book sale. It falling apart in my hands is not acceptable! Thankfully, I know someone who knows about bookbinding.
My Dad worked in a book bindery as a young man.
The first thing he tells me, is that this is a perfect bound book, not a folio binding. The good news for the book, is that we can fix it. Folio bindings are a little more complicated than perfect, they’re stronger and more expensive too.
Before I go any further in my adventure in book repair, let me say that this is an amateur fix on a book with the sole goal being that I can read the tome without it falling to pieces.
All right, onward for the step-by-step how to perform perfect bound spine surgery.
Step 1: Acquire the help of someone who has some experience in bookbinding
This is very important. Without the aid of someone who has some experience in this, you could wind up with a mess. So as tempting as it is, don’t go this one alone. If you don’t know anyone who has experience in bookbinding (and it’s becoming somewhat harder to find those with this skill) click here for some advice. He has a great video series on book binding, and this shows how perfect binding is done. Also, don’t try this with any book you can’t throw away. Remember, I’ve only got $1 invested in my book.
Step 2.: Acquire tools.
It’s important to use the right kind of adhesive with a perfect bound book. It needs to be able to flex and hold at the same time. Most of the book pages are still holding together with the original glue which make the work simpler for us. I also dabble in folio hand book binding and have some adhesive in the basement.
To apply the adhesive, we use a foam brush, the kind that most craft stores sell. I use these for mod pod too, and wait until the craft store puts them on sale for $0.10 each then buy as many as I’m allowed to, usually there’s a 50 brush limit or something like that. A paper cup to put the glue into, a set of adjustable clamps, two pieces of scrap wood, and a vice are also needed to do this.
Step 3: Prep the book
Dad aligns the sections of the book that are still holding to the glue and cloth of the spine, then clamps the loose pieces to the top of the pile. This gives him a block of paper to work with that is stable. It’s important to make certain all the pieces are even, because ones the glue sets its going to stay like this.
The pages here are clamped to the back of book, not to the workbench. It takes several tries to get everything lined up as it should be and careful adjustments are made until he’s satisfied that the pages are right, not necessarily ramrod straight, but aligned. After all, I’m going to be opening this book and closing it quite a bit.
Step 4.) Apply the adhesive
Dad applies the adhesive with the foam brush, carefully coating both the paper edges, and the membrane that has become disconnected from them. Originally, after the paper was treated and glued the cloth was rolled over the naked spine and allowed to dry. We could cut the paper spine away and do the same but then we’d have to re-attach it using the proper tapes and that’s more work that either of us are interested in doing for this book. Carefully, Dad matches up the upper portion of the book with the lower now-glued portion, and I stroke/press the spine through the cover, making several passes to make sure that the cloth and pages have met and any excess glue is squeezed out and wiped away.
Step 5.) Position the book in the vice and allow the glue to dry for 24 hours
The end piece that you see dangling here is not really connected to the pages, it’s a different piece of cloth than what I smooth through the spine. See how our alignment isn’t perfect? And also note the chunks of text that you can clearly see even now that it’s in the vice. It won’t win any book beauty pageants, but then again, that isn’t the goal. The goal is to have a repaired, readable tome. And that, I have. I’ll update this tomorrow with the last picture and the book open to the repaired section so you can see how it turned out. Until then, if you have any questions, post them below and I’ll pester Dad with them. Also, if YOU have any tips for repairing books, post them in the comments below.