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Stab, Fan, Cords! Paperbacks: what to do with them.

Stab, Fan, Cords! Paperbacks: what to do with them.
26 September 2011

"A couple of pages have fallen out, it won't take long to fix" I love it when people say that to me when they bring a book for repair. I give a little chuckle; sometimes I even laugh out loud. And then I show them what I need to do to fix"only two pages". More often than not we are talking about paperbacks; sometimes old brittle ones, often new publications.  There are  books with rusting staples. I will need to totally disbind them (ie rip cover off), clean up the spine, resew and then glue the cover back on. This does not take 5 minutes. If you have read "Sewing? where's my thimble?" you might have figured out that a lot of my daily work consists in stab sewing books back together. A good item could take me 20 minutes from go to whoa. However just the disbinding alone can take 20 minutes or more. If it is a particularly thick tome, let's say some conference proceedings, I might need to sew it in 2 or 3 batches; the drilling and sewing could take a half and hour. On a bad day I might sew through my thread a few times.

Measuring thread for a stab sew

Measuring thread for a stab sew

A different  method is to fan glue the pages back together. I would use this process for books that had small margins, or where the pictures go right into the join. After the disbinding process, I clean the spine and use to backing press to fan out the pages and apply glue. I can't believe such a small amount of glue actually works. The trick is getting the text block in square. Do you know how many times I've had to re-position text blocks? sometimes it can take up to 20 minutes. And then I have to make sure that when I take it out of the press (to let it sit under weights), I don't mis-shape it.

Fanning out in the backing press

Fanning out in the backing press

Fan glueing one way; then I'll fan the text out the other way and glue.

Fan glueing one way; then I'll fan the text out the other way and glue.

And last but not least is adding cords. To the backing press I go; here I cut grooves into which I will press and glue in cords.

Straight cords

Straight cords

This particular image was my first ever. I cut the grooves straight. Since then, I have come to realise that if I cut the grooves at an angle that gives even more strength to the cords, and the text block is less likely to come apart. I can't believe this method works; it does, I've seen it, but somehow my brain still doesn't believe it. So for all the "small" jobs that look very similar, there are a number of different ways to fix them.