Sunday, March 06, 2011

DIY Comic Book Binding with dozymuppet!

I've been enjoying the opportunity this year of handing over AFB to some of our forum members who are doing amazing things, whether it be their own reviews, customs or something else entirely different.

When AFB Forum admin dozymuppet shared his efforts at not only binding his own hardback comic book collections, but also using his considerable skills to design the covers, I knew I wanted to ask him to share it here at the blog. This post will contain many more images than normal, but you'll understand why when you see how amazing the process is!

I think you'll also understand why I've already booked in with dozy to have some of my own comics bound in this fantastic way!

Without further ado, over to dozymuppet!


Welcome to what is essentially a step-by-step do-it-yourself experience for binding a bunch of comics. It will be image-heavy.

It's taken me a long time to get to this point. I've been hoarding Firestorm and JLA issues with the intention of putting together some custom bindings, inspired by the fantastic work I've seen done for others by binderies in the States. After much investigation, it didn't look like I could get good quality binding done in Oz for a price that made it interesting.

This led to me contemplating what was actually involved in a DIY approach. After looking at a bunch of examples and some pretty ordinary instructions, I stumbled across this guy's YouTube channel:

After much study, I was pretty confident I could give it a decent go. I just needed the bits and pieces, and a couple hours spare time to kick things off.

Rather than start with what will be "my precious", i.e. Firestorm, I started with something else that didn't cost me much of an outlay. I know Kirby's Black Panther run has already been collected in trade form, but I liked the idea of having a volume to put next to the Forth World and Demon books from DC. I even threw in the final few non-Kirby issues from that run for good measure.

Here are all the issues, staples removed, and a simple contents page printed:

The "signatures" are sewn, using the first kettle stitch:

In book-talk, a signature is a group of pages that are folded together. Signatures are the parts that together make a book "block". With a comic book, you've got a ready-made signature.

All signatures sewn together:

Here is the block with endpapers "tipped on".

"Tipped on" means only the edge (about 5mm) of the folded endpaper is glued, and then fixed to the title page.

Now, you'll have to pretend the following "yellow" sequence is from this project, as I didn't take the corresponding action shots for the Black panther book. (This is actually the first of a series of annuals I am doing for my boy, of a Swedish book that has been running since 1973, and features a character named after my boy's great grandfather... but that's a story for another day...)

First up, the tools. Top left you can see regular paper, muslin, and headbands.

First glue, getting into all the "shadows". Shortly after doing this, you could round the spine, but that's not the effect I'm after. This was left to dry in the press overnight before the actual "dressing".

Second glue, with headbands on. You can also see a ribbon bookmark, and this is the first time I've put one in.

Muslin on. You can put this on before the headbands, but it just happened in this order today... Don't judge me.

The muslin doesn't need to go the whole length of the spine, as long as the combination of headbands and muslin cover the whole thing.

Everything worked into the glue with a bone folder, and the muslin folded over.

Third glue, getting into all the wholes in the muslin.

First paper layer, worked in with the bone folder.

Second paper layer, just folded back onto itself. The glue-wet paper allows an easy fold back.

Excess paper torn off. Again, the glue-wet paper allows this to be done simply.

And into the $8.52 press! Leave overnight. Book block complete. What you end up with is a sturdy, but flexbile book block. Now for the glory part: Putting the cover on, AKA "casing-in".

Tools and preparation:

You can see the boards top-left, which were measured and cut precisely to be the same width of the block, but with an extra 3mm top and bottom. The cover is printed on one A3 sheet. Unfortunately I don't have easy access to edge-to-edge printing, so I need to keep everything very precise because I don't have a lot of bleed to play with. Which leads me to the next picture, showing the cover ready for gluing.

If you look closely, you'll see guidelines for placing the boards, so I get the spine (in particular) in the right place:

Next, I glue on the calico spine dressing, for additional strength in the folds:

I use a bone folder to get it into the creases. Next I trim the corners, but not right to the edge, as I need to get a nice corner fold:

Here you can see three edges folded over. There's a neat little tip to do this using the base of your thumb, but tricky to catch on a stills camera...

Once this is done, I place the block into the cover (not gluing it in just yet), and fold it over so that it has a shape to dry around. Before putting into my $8.52 home press, I also score the folds around the spine while it is still moist to get that nice effect you're so used to seeing:

After about 20 minutes, I take it all out of the press and make sure it's lined up nicely on the cover:

Then I glue down the spine dressing and tape:

Before gluing up the endpaper:

I close the cover over the glued endpaper, and then repeat on the other side, close the book, then score the folds again:

And into the awesome $8.52 press again:

Wait several hours...


Many thanks to dozy for this amazing insight into his skills and effort! You can comment on this post to enter the March AFB Comment of the Month Contest!

Until next time!


Colin Smith said...

Oh, well done! I feel like applauding.

In fact, I am applauding.

It's always invigorating learning about someone else's craft.


chrismandesign said...

that’s right, good skills n the final product keep safe n protected all ur precious comics for years n years... =)

Rod Keith said...

Fantastic work, DM!

Doug Hazlewood said...

Very cool! I've seen some bound Silver Age Marvels, but it always concerned me that they trimmed off some of the actual pages the way they did it. My friend bought a lot of that guy's hardbound collection.

fishmilkshake said...

I just can't give you enough kudos for this Dozy. Simply fantastic and I'm sure even "The King" would be honored! :)

Eli said...

Wow, thanks guys!

Doug, it seems to be the norm to get the edges trimmed when sending them to a professional bindery. To be honest, if I happened across a decent trimmer at a bargain price, I'd probably grab it, just to tidy up a few of the inconsistencies of the print process. As it is, I don't really have a problem with the "deckled" edge.

Reanaclaire said...

hello, i m very impressed by your blog, hope you can drop me an email, regarding to some paid reviews.


ryanlb said...

Looks fantastic, you did an awesome job.

Highskull´76 said...

Wow. Amazing. Perfect. I´ve got to try this some day. Congratulations.

glyphjockey said...

Wow. Doing it.

glyphjockey said...

What kind of glue?

Eli said...

I just used standard PVA glue, diluted accordingly depending on which part I'm doing, i.e. thicker for the spine, thinner for the casing-in. I do have some bookbinding paste that I mean to try soon for the casing-in.

glyphjockey said...


PaperVine said...

Just wanted to say I came across this post while looking for some mini-album binding ideas and I think you have done an AMAZING job on this project! Have bookmarked it in case I need to refer to it in the future!
Lowri :-)

Eli said...

Thanks Lowri! It's a lot of fun, and I've learnt a few more techniques that I hope to share soon.

Amani-the-Wise said...

What kind of paper did you use for the cover?

Eli said...

From memory, I think it was semi-gloss 120gsm.

Unknown said...

Man. Thanks for this DIY but it missed something, how do you sew the signatures? Thanks again , ill be using this blog to make my own books too

Eli said...

Sage Reynolds clips show how to sew the signatures:

Hope that helps

Unknown said...

Did u laminate the cover?? If so how

Eli said...

Hi Hakeem, No I haven't laminated the cover. I looked into it ages ago, but I couldn't find anything affordable that would have been easy to work with, particularly in the folds. I'm sure there is some way to though!

Kingsley said...

Have you considered acrylic gloss medium? It would basically be a thin flexible layer ofof plast over your cover

Eli said...

I had never heard of acrylic gloss medium before now 😀

I'd definitely be interested in trying it out at some stage. Looks like it has potential.

Jared said...

Heya, would it be possible to bring back the photos? Thanks!!

Eli said...

Hey Jared, thanks for letting me know the photos aren't there anymore. It's going to take me a while to find all the photos again, but this might be incentive for me to start a new book :)

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