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Discordia Totalis

Some might find it old-fashioned, but nothing beats the feeling of reading a paperback on the concrete blocks out in the sea at Scheveningen on a sunny afternoon. Reading from laptop or ereader (or, god forbid, an ipad) just doesn't cut it in those circumstances. But, a lot of interesting reading material is only available electronically. Thus, we started experimenting with bookbinding.

Our first experiment pertained creating a hardcopy a5 paperback of the Discordia Totalis. At 662 pages, not the lightest. The hardest part was printing it as a booklet, but psutils are our friend and after a bit of a kerfuffle with the printer we had a neat stack of a4. Cutting it in half was quickly done with a hand-cutter, even though we could cut at most 20 sheets at a time.

Then we needed a book-binding jig. This was quickly manufactured in our workshop, with a bit of cutting, sawing, boring and screwing. Good tools are golden! Then off to artefact for some sturdy carton to form the book-cover, and a jar of bookbinding glue (PVAc, also known as wood-glue).

The stack of a5 paper was put in the jig (making it apparent that cutting the sheets 20 at a time results in a very irregular stack of paper), with the cover on the bottom. Glue was applied, the cover folded over and then we waited. 24 hours later time had come to unclamp the bookbinding jig, hoping the stack of pages would hold together instead of scatter in the wind.

And they did! One last fold of the cover and cutting it to size, and we had our very first self-made a5 paperback! I immediately took it out to Scheveningen for a test, and it hold out remarkably well.

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Second book clamped down for overnight drying

Some apparent improvements presented themselves though. First of all, with a little bit of extra paper, we can strengthen the back of the book. This technique was applied to the second book, an a4 copy of "Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air". The a4 jig also has an extra guide to keep the pages nicely aligned at the short side as well. At the time of writing this article, the glue on the second book is drying. Using two-component glue would greatly speed up the binding process, although I'm not sure it has the same properties as book-binding glue in sturdiness and flexibility.

Another big improvement will be to have a stack-cutter. This way we can cut the entire book at once, instead of 20 sheets a time. We are currently collecting monetary support from interested members to buy such a beast (second hand). Other plans include printing & binding various creative commons books to add to our library and organising book-sprints, where the end-result is a neatly bound paperback copy of the book we worked on.

For more pictures, consult the BookBindingGallery. More on diy bookbinding can be found on