When making a softcover with your Fastback® Model 15xs or Model 20, you’d typically bind your book with a PS or LF strip like any standard tape bound document and, removing either the side (LF) or spine (PS) liners on the strip, adhere the book block to the cover. Thus, rather than the pages of the book block adhering directly to the cover like a standard paperback book, they are bound together by a tape binding strip and the strip itself adheres to the cover. This method is great for smaller quantities of perfectbound documents, but with our new process of perfect binding with the Model 20, you can bind true perfectbound documents faster and cheaper than ever before.
In this post, I’ll provide a step by step tutorial on how to bind beautiful paperback books that can be trimmed to virtually any length up to 11″ using the Fastback® Model 20, TA binding strips, the Powis Scoring Machine SM-1 and a guillotine cutter.
1. Print paperback cover sheet
The first step in creating your completely customized, full bleed paperback book with a wraparound cover is printing our the cover sheet. Most laser and inkjet printers don’t provide full-bleed coverage so to achieve the full-bleed look on these printers that leave a margin, print your cover on an oversized sheet that can be trimmed later on. For example, to make a standard 8.5″ x 11″ book you’d want to print your cover on a 12″ x 18″ or 11.5″ x 17.5″ sheet.
2. Laminate your printed cover
We strongly recommend laminating or UV coating your covers, not only to protect your paperback book against future damage caused from handling, light or moisture, but to prevent any discoloration due to heat transferred during the Fastback® Model 20’s bind cycle. If you don’t have a means to laminate or UV Coat your prints, it’s important that your covers are printed using fade-resistant ink-jet or offset printing rather than toner from laser printers, which will likely discolor from direct contact with the Model 20’s heater.
Fujipla ALM3222 automatically feeding, laminating and trimming our covers.
We typically produce sample softcover books for our customers in batches of 50, so when it comes laminating our covers, it’s important that each sheet is trimmed to the exact same size. This guarantees that our score positions are identical so we don’t waste time setting up the scoring machine more than once and is one of the primary reasons why we love the ease and simplicity of the Fujipla ALM3222 automatic laminator–we simply print our sheets out, program the appropriate margin dimensions to be trimmed and press the “Start” button. Every sheet is automatically fed, securely bonded with Fujipla’s specially designed ALM lamination that has spectacular adhesion designed to never peel or delaminate while providing a brilliant luster to our cover’s colors and, best of all, each cover is precisely trimmed to the exact dimensions we desire without any guesswork.
3. Bind your book blocks with the Fastback® 20
Powis Parker’s Temperature Activated (TA) binding strips have been around for some time, providing the option for padded notebooks with removable sheets, but with the new TA Cover binding cycle on the Fastback® Model 20 the TA Strip has been re-purposed and given the ability to bind multiple paperback book blocks at the same time.
With standard tape binding strips (e.g. Super Strips), there is a 1:1 ratio between binding strips used and documents produced; if you want a narrow book, you use a narrow strip and if you want a wide book, you use a wide strip…until now. By separating your book blocks with heat resistant polyester sheets, you can stack your binder with up to 1.5″ worth of books and bind all of them with one wide TA strip. In other words, if you have a stack of 0.2″ document you want to transform into perfectbound books, you’d be able to bind up to seven book blocks per bind cycle! This is what makes the TA Strip a game-changer as far as paperback binding goes, transforming the Fastback® Model 20 from a short-run perfect binding machine to a mid-volume perfect binder.
Book blocks separated by clear polyester sheets.
To bind multiple book blocks at the same time using the TA strip, grab a few clear polyester covers and place one sheet between each book block as well as in front of the very top sheet and behind the very back sheet. For example, if you were binding seven 0.2″ documents you’d use eight clear polyester sheets as dividers.
Jogged book blocks sitting in Fastback® Model 20.
Once your dividers are in place, jog your document very well so every page is square and rests flat against the binder’s platen. Then, place the book in the Fastback® Model 20, insert a wide TA strip and press the “Bind” button. The Model 20 will automatically detect the strip type and adjust its bind cycle for TA Binding.
Binding seven 0.2″ book blocks with one wide TA Strip.
Model 20 adjusting bind cycle temperature.
Binding book blocks after temperature adjustment.
When the book is bound, place it directly in the cooling rack until the spine is no longer warm to the touch; while you’re waiting for your book blocks to cool, you can begin stacking, jogging and binding additional book blocks depending on how many softcover books you intend to produce.
Seven book blocks combined into one, cooling in the rack.
4. Separate your book blocks
Materials to make custom paperback books.
After your book blocks are bound and have cured in the cooling rack for a few minutes, it’s time to separate them from the clear polyester divider sheets to begin the scoring process. We strongly recommend using a padding knife with a rounded edge when separating your books to prevent cutting into the sheets of your book.
Begin by peeling off the non-stick liner attached to the TA Strip to reveal a horizontal patch of unmelted glue across the full width of your book’s spine. This glue will eventually be re-melted in the TA Cover cycle, binding your book block to your softcover, but because it hasn’t fully melted it’s very easy to separate the clear polyester sheets from the books.
Removing the top sheet of clear polyester.
Take your padding knife and, holding it as steady and level as possible, run it between the top sheet of clear polyester and the first page of your book and repeat the process with each preceding sheet of polyester.
Separating the first book block from the second.
With a little practice, the knife should glide through the padding glue like butter and your book blocks should be separated and ready to be inserted into their scored softcover shells in no time.
Book blocks fully separated with clear polyester sheets on top.
5. Score your wraparound covers
Like our instructions for binding custom hardcover books, these instructions are based on using Powis’ Scoring Machine SM-1 to score your softcover sheets. While it’s possible to use any standard scorer to crease your covers using the same basic ideas, we prefer Powis’ Scoring Machine because of its easy setup, its clean, deep scores that won’t crack toner and its transparent die that allows you to see exactly where your sheet is being scored.
First, loosen the first set screw on your Scoring Machine SM-1 to adjust the width of the cross-hairs between Position 1 and Position 2. Take one of your freshly separated individual book blocks and position the spine of the book over the cross-hairs, pushing the metal slider until the orange background is flush with the spine and the same width as the book block itself. Tighten the set screw so the guide doesn’t move. The two cover scores you’ll be making will now be exactly the same width as the spine of your book.
Having set the spine width, place your cover under the scoring die, square it against the horizontal metal rod and identify where you’d like the first score to occur by placing it directly under the metal crease bar.
Loosen the second set screw, shift the slider so Position 1 is flush with the right edge of your cover and tighten the second set screw. The scoring machine is now dialed in to score every cover cleanly and consistently and should require no additional setup.
Normally you would score your cover with the graphics facing up but to create a really tight bind with this TA Cover binding method, we’re actually going to flip the sheet over (while maintaining all of our settings) and score our covers upside down.
This reverses the direction of the extruding paper caused by the score, allowing the spine of the book to fit flush within the cover while preventing the formation of unsightly gaps between the pages and the cover during the final bind cycle.
Scoring upside-down cover in Position 1.
With your sheet flipped over and the right edge pressed against Position 1, torque the scoring mechanism 90 degrees counter-clockwise for the first score.
Scoring upside-down cover in Position 2.
Shift your cover to Position 2, being careful to keep the cover square against the lower metal rod, and score the cover a second time. Repeat this process on the remainder of your printed covers for beautiful scores with consistent results.
Score lines matching the width of the spine of our book blocks.
6. Insert book blocks into scored covers
Covers folded along score lines.
Before placing the book block into your scored cover, it’s a good idea to manually fold each sheet along both scores with the cover facing out to provide a nice, flat cove for the spine of your book to rest.
Book blocks inserted into folded covers, pushed flush to the right.
Once you’ve folded the scores of your sheet to make a nice U-shaped cover, insert the book block and push it square against the spine while aligning it to either uttermost top or bottom edge of your folded sheet. This will ensure each book block is consistently positioned within its cover, making it much easier to three-knife trim identical paperback books.
Insert as many book blocks into covers as will fit within the 1.5″ binding gap of the Model 20 and, double-checking that each cover is flush with the book block, insert your stack of books into the binder.
7. Transform your book blocks into paperbacks
The rubber meets the road in this next step, taking your scored covers and individual book blocks and joining them together to make custom, professional looking softcover books. Before sending your documents through the TA Cover cycle, you want to check your TA Cover settings on your Fastback® Model 20 and, once your settings are confirmed, initiate the TA Cover cycle.
Main menu with TA Settings icon selected.
Your books should be sitting in the jaws of the binder but, having not yet pressed the “Bind” button, the carriage should be in the open position. To check the TA Cover settings, press the directional pad near the LCD screen to access the menu and scroll to the icon that reads “TA Cover Setting.” Press the green “Bind” button to choose your selection and check that your settings are as follows:
1. Bind Temperatures is set to “Medium” (select “High” for thicker,
less conductive covers and “Low” for thin or delicate covers)
2. Premelt cycle is “On” (to melt the glue on the book block left by the TA strips)
3. Cover seal cycle is “Off” (there’s no glue to seal the covers to)
4. Spine time is +4 seconds (variable depending on book thickness)
5. Cover time is +0 seconds (again, there’s no cover glue to melt so this cycle is unnecessary)
Once you’ve confirmed these settings on your Model 20, press the small yellow button to go back to the main menu screen, scroll to the “TA Cover” icon and press the green “Bind” button to initiate TA Cover cycle mode. The Model 20 will automatically adjust its temperature to accommodate TA binding strips.
When your machine has come to temperature, make sure your books are jogged, flush to the right and square with the platen the book spines are resting on. To prevent any unattractive gaps between your scored sheet and book block, it’s important that your book is nestled tight within the confines of your cover.
After pressing “Bind,” the Model 20 initiates the Pre-Melt cycle.
After pre-melt completes, firmly tap the books down and press “Bind” once more to complete TA Cover cycle.
After performing this quick check, press the “Bind” button and the Fastback® will start the TA Cover pre-melt cycle, which warms the glue up enough to permanently adhere the book’s pages to the cover. When the pre-melt cycle finishes after a few seconds, the Model 20 will instruct you to tap the pages of your book down to ensure maximum adhesion between the glue and the sheets. Once you’ve given your pages a few solid taps, press the “Bind” button once more and the Model 20 will finish binding your new softcover books.
Letting our untrimmed book blocks cool.
Upon completion, take your softcovers out of the binder and inspect the spines for any discoloration before proceeding to bind more books. If you do notice slight discoloration, you can either change the TA Cover settings to a low temperature bind or adjust the additional spine time setting from +4 seconds to +0 seconds. Each cover is going to be different so it may take some trial and error before the settings are tuned perfectly.
After running all of your book blocks through the TA Cover cycle, the final step in producing these gorgeous custom paperbacks is a three knife trim to provide crisp, clean edges and to eliminate any extra margin that doesn’t contribute to the full-bleed look.
8. Trim your paperback books
If you don’t have access to a three-knife trimmer, our heavy duty guillotine cutters will efficiently trim multiple books in one pass. To maximize efficiency and accuracy, stack multiple books in the cutter at once and make the same initial cut for all books before transitioning to the second cut. When all books have received the initial trim, adjust the cutter for the second trim and repeat this process until all three sides are trimmed out. This helps prevent any discrepancies in your book sizes.
Trimming five books at once with folded sheets at top to protect spine.
Folded sheets creating gap between cutter clamp and book spines.
To prevent the spines from being crushed under the pressure of the clamp, orient the books so the spines are on the right side and the open faces are on the left; fold some paper and place it on the top 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 both cuts where the blade passes through the spine of the book.
First cut: trimming the bottom edges.
Second cut: trimming the top edges.
Making our final cut on the open face of the books.
One great quality about these perfect bound books is that once they’re bound, they can be cut down to virtually any size. So in addition to being able to bind multiple book blocks at once, if you were producing smaller books you could actually bind two full books for every book block. In other words, if you wanted to produce 5″ x 8″ paperback books that were 0.2″ thick, not only would you be able to bind seven book blocks at once but, once the book blocks were secured to their custom covers, you could cut them in half for a total of 14 books produced with only one wide TA strip, making this an incredibly cost-effective means of binding high quality softcover books.