This post is a step by step tutorial for binding hardcover books wherein I’ll take you through the entire process, from start to finish, of transforming your favorite prints into beautiful hardcovers using a Fastback® tape binder, scoring machine, PhotoPress and guillotine cutter. Additionally, we laminated our prints using the Fujipla Al-Meister ALM3222 automatic laminator, ensuring the longevity of our book covers while enhancing the colors of the print. This step is optional but highly recommended to create a book that will stand the test of time.
1. Print your cover sheet
The size of your hardcover book is determined by three factors: 1. the dimensions of the adhesive boards you’re working with, 2. the length of the Fastback® strip used to bind the book block and 3. the size of the sheet you print to wrap around the cover. Given that these boards are manufactured in 9″ x 12″, 12″ x 12″ and 12″ x 18″ sizes and the Super Strips in lengths up to 14″, the limiting factor in producing larger hardcovers will likely depend on the sheet size your laser or inkjet printer will accept.
Printing a 12″ x 18″ cover for our 8.5″ x 11″ book.
Once you’ve decided what size hardcover you want to make, find a sheet size that exceeds the book dimensions by at least 1/4″ (but preferably 1/2″) on either side. In other words, If you want to produce a standard letter-size 8.5″ x 11″ hardcover, print your wraparound cover on a 12″ x 18″ sheet to ensure the hardcover is full-bleed when it’s trimmed down to size. If your printer is unable to print these larger sized sheets, most copy shops and stores with reprographics departments have a printer that will.
2. Laminate your cover for durability
Laminating your cover is an optional but recommended step which provides an extra coat of protection to your hardbound book that will resist scratches, light and moisture damage in years to come. Using the Fujipla ALM3222 automatic laminator, we simply put our stack of covers into the feed tray, pressed the “Start” button and watched as it automatically fed, laminated and trimmed all four sides of our sheets accurately and consistently.
Automatically laminating and trimming our cover with the Fujipla ALM3222.
As far Fujipla Al-Meister lamination quality goes…it’s some of the best in the business, with excellent laminant adhesion that won’t peel or delaminate that’s specifically designed to give magnificent luster to digitally printed images. We laminated our covers with 1.2mil AL38 Double-Sided Gloss but you can use 1mil, 1.2mil, 3mil or 5mil in both single and double sided formats available in both gloss and matte finishes.
And while the Fujipla automatic laminators make this step an especially simple task, with a little more elbow grease you can use virtually any roll or pouch laminating machine that will accept your sheet size.
3. Bind your book block using a Fastback® tape binder
Our pre-assembled book block.
The book block is comprised of the pages of your book sandwiched between two endleaves (the folded sheets that constitute the front and back of the book) and bound with a Fastback® binding strip. If you don’t want to use our white, portrait style 8.5″ x 11″ endleaves available in sets of 25, you have the option of creating or purchasing custom endleaves based on your desired size, color, pattern and material.
Binding our book block with the Fastback® Model 20 and Super Strip.
Once you have the sheets of your hardcover book printed and your endleaves picked out, jog your pages so they’re uniform, insert your book into your Fastback® tape binder, press the “Bind” button and insert your narrow (< 0.5″ book), medium (< 1″ book) or wide strip (< 1.5″ book).
Letting our book set in the cooling rack.
Once the Fastback® has finished its bind cycle, place the bound book block on the cooling rack without opening it up and let it cool until it’s no longer warm to the touch. This will ensure that the glue cures to the pages and provides an incredibly strong bind; we recommend adding an additional 5 seconds to the bind cycle for books with heavier and/or glossy sheets.
4. Score your wraparound cover
These instructions are based on using Powis’ Scoring Machine SM-1. While it’s possible to use any standard scorer to crease your covers using the same basic ideas, we highly recommend Powis’ Scoring Machine SM-1 for its incredibly easy setup, its clean, deep score that won’t crack toner and its transparent die that allows you to see exactly where you’re scoring your sheet.
Setting the width of book block spine on Powis’ Scoring Machine SM-1.
First, grab your book block and loosen the first set screw that adjusts the width of the cross-hairs between Position 1 and Position 2 on the scoring machine. Place the spine of the book block over the cross-hairs and push the metal slider until the orange background of the cross-hairs is exactly the same width as the book block itself. Once this is set to the correct width, tighten the set screw so the cross-hairs stay in place.
Next, take your cover and mark the mid-point of the sheet.
Place the cover under the transparent die so the metal crease bar is directly above the mid-point mark.
Turn the scoring mechanism 90 degrees clockwise to lock the sheet in place.
Loosen the second set-screw to allow the metal slider to freely move along the steel rod until the right edge of your sheet is directly between the cross-hairs of the slider. When the slider is in position, tighten the set screw so it doesn’t shift while you’re scoring the cover. After adjusting the slider into the correct position based on the dimensions of your book there’s no additional setup for the remainder of the job and you can consistently score every cover you have.
Scoring cover in Position 1.
Scoring cover in Position 2.
Now that your settings are dialed in, push the bottom edge of your sheet against the metal rod to ensure a straight score and push the right edge of your sheet flush against Position 1. Torque the scoring mechanism 90 degrees counter-clockwise to score the sheet, slide the right edge into Position 2 and repeat. Next, you want to create a hinge to allow the book to open nicely and to do this, shift your sheet about 0.5″ (roughly the width of the book) to the right of Position 2 and score the cover one final time.
Position 1 score, Position 2 score and Hinge score.
5. Build your book
Pre-assembled custom hardcover.
This is where the magic happens! With your cover scored, your tape-bound book block is ready to be transformed into an elegant hardcover book. Grab two of our pressure sensitive hardcover adhesive boards and remove the non-stick liner from one side of each board to sandwich the book block between them. If you desire a thicker or stiffer hardcover book, simply remove the front and bottom liner of two (or three or four) adhesive boards and press them together for a board that’s twice as thick.
Hardcover Adhesive Board with non-stick liner peeled back.
If you have a PhotoPress, open it up and put the first board flush against the bottom-left corner with the intact liner facing down and the side with the removed liner facing up. Take your book block and center it vertically within the adhesive board, push the book block flush with the board against the left edge of the PhotoPress and press down to activate the adhesive so your book block doesn’t move out of place.
Book block pressed flush with hardcover adhesive board.
Next, take the second board that’s going on top and flip it so the adhesive is facing down toward the endleaf of your book block.
Book block sandwiched between two adhesive boards.
Push the top board into the bottom-left corner to align it with the bottom board and again apply pressure to adhere the board to the book block. Your book block should now be successfully attached to the adhesive boards with the spine edge flush with the edges of the boards. You are now ready to wrap your cover around your book block.
Trimming liner on bottom adhesive board.
Before removing the remaining non-stick liners from the front and back of the book, you want to make sure the hinge of your book doesn’t stick to the adhesive board. With a straight edge and a razor, flip the book so you’re looking at the back cover and make an incision ~0.5″ from the edge of the spine (or whatever the width of your hinge is) down the entire length of the book.
Peeling trimmed liner off bottom of book.
Peel the liner from the adhesive board while keeping the 0.5″ strip intact and flip the book again, removing the front adhesive liner from the book block.
Book block wrapped with scored cover, ready to be pressed.
Now take your scored cover and, using the inside of the PhotoPress as a square, push the book block into the scored region of the cover so that the front cover, spine and back cover of your book is wrapped completely and there are no gaps between the cover and the spine of the book. With the wrapped book resting in the bottom-left corner of the PhotoPress, close the lid and press the “Bind” button.
Binding custom hardcover.
This will initiate the PhotoPress to apply 10,000 pounds of pressure, permanently activating the adhesive in the boards, bonding the cover with the endleaves and creating a beautiful, iron-flat book. The only thing left to do is trim out the three faces of your book for a sleek, modern look.
Bound hardcover prior to three-knife trim.
These adhesive boards can be activated using virtually any pressure-inducing mechanism, including T-Shirt presses, cutter clamps and even the spring tension in the jaws of a Fastback® binding machine. So while the PhotoPress is very easy and intuitive to use and produces spectacular results as far as hardcover and photobook binding, it’s by no means necessary to produce these stunning hardcovers.
6. Trimming and corner rounding
With your freshly minted book in hand, the final step to producing these exquisite hardcovers is a three-knife trim away. If you don’t already own a three-knife trimmer, you can use one of our heavy duty guillotine cutters to efficiently cut one or multiple books at a time.
Spine trimming setup prior to clamping.
Post-clamp spine trimming setup. Note the gap between the clamp and the hardcover itself.
To prevent the spine from being crushed under the clamp pressure, orient the book so the spine is on the right side and the open face is on the left; fold some paper and place it on top of the book close to the spine so the paper absorbs the pressure of the clamp rather than the spine of the book itself. Do this for the top and bottom cuts, where the blade passes through the spine of the book.
Final cut through book’s open face after first and second spine cut.
Finished, fully customized hardcover.
One of the best qualities about these adhesive foam boards is that when they’re cut, they don’t leave a sticky residue around the edges. This means that a book can be cut down from the 9″ x 12″, 12″ x 12″ or 12″ x 18″ into virtually any size, allowing you to bind multiple books at once using larger parent sheets that can be trimmed out after being bound. The ability to cut these hardcovers down to any size without making a mess means it’s also possible to corner round your books with ease, providing a handful of options for custom final touches that are sure to make your hardcover book stand out.
Finished, fully customized hardcover.