Good Wire Work is a Balancing Act

by Gary Markovits, published in Printing News

What is more difficult: putting ink on paper or proper job preparation and communication? For most printers, it's the latter. The same is true for mechanical binderies. Putting binding elements in holes is easy. However, good job planning and communication, which is necessary for smooth production, isn't. Poor front-end work can make you and your customer feel … wired.

Mechanical Binding Choices

A product's intended use is important when selecting the right mechanical binding style. If a book has critical crossovers, such as maps, artwork, or diagrams, choose Wire-O or GBC because these styles open without shifting up or down. If a book is to be held in one hand, such as equipment manuals or some maps, choose a binding which opens 360°. If the books will be exposed to extreme temperatures, don't choose plastic-only bindings. GBC and plastic coil products could lose their shape on car dashboards on very hot summer days. If a book is intended to be sold in retail stores, spine printing might be important.

Product Thickness

Book thickness greatly affects page layout. Thick books require stronger and larger binding elements, which in turn demand larger punched holes. Bigger holes need to be punched deeper into the page and this will affect copy positioning.

For example, Wire-O's two most common pitch sizes are 3:1 (three holes per linear inch) and 2:1. Any book 1/2" thick or less will require 3:1 pitch wire which means copy should be kept 3/8" away from the spine edge to avoid punching into type. Books bulking over 1/2" will use 2:1 pitch wire and since larger holes are needed, add more punching margin by keeping copy 1/2" away from the spine. Punching into type is a common problem, but unnecessarily so.

When confronted with inflexible design situations, ask your bindery if the back gauge on their punching machines can be moved. Sometimes this can buy you up to 1/16" without significantly sacrificing page pull strength.

Job Planning

Plan for success by including your bindery representative early in the job preparation stage. Ask how a job should be laid out for maximum bindery performance. Poor communication can reduce an easily produced automatic job to hand-fed or handwork status.

For example, an oblong 4" x 6" product (bound on the 4" side) should be laid out two-up for automatic punching. If not, your bindery will have to hand-feed lifts into a manual punching machine. What if a similar dimension product is bound on the 6" side? If the stock is thick (12 pt or higher), grain direction becomes very important. In this case, the grain should be long because if it isn't, the book may not automatically punch or collate.

In addition, different machines producing the same job sometimes require different layouts for production efficiency. For example, some binderies may want to fold & cut a job whereas others may prefer to cut & collate the same job. When in doubt, you should not guess because your turnaround time and price is dependent on these types of decisions. Poor communication from the bid stage throughout production can be costly.

More Things to Know:

Good mechanical binding is a balancing act. There is a lot to consider and these suggestions are just a start. Like in so many things, proper planning and communication with your bindery will prevent problems and delight your customer. After all, isn't that what we are really after?

Gary Markovits is President of E & M Bindery, a full service mechanical bindery. He can be reached at (800) 7EM-BIND.

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