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Perfect binding is a popular binding method frequently used for paperback/softcover books, magazines, and catalogs. Perfect bound books use melted EVA glue to bind the book guts with the covers.
This article is about the book printing & binding process, and the kinds of applications perfect bound books are most typically used for.
Equipment needed for perfect binding
When a printing company prepares to perfect bind a book, they need the following equipment:
The printing for perfect binding is pretty straightforward—you need a set of guts (the interior sheets), as well as covers that have a spine designed for it. Note: perfect bound books require spines to be designed; other popular binding techniques like saddle-stitching, spiral binding, and wire-o binding do not require a spines to be designed and printed.
Step 1: Crease the hinges of the cover
Before binding the books, the covers need to have their hinges prepared for folding. If the perfect bound book covers are not prepared, the covers will be crack-prone and will not bend in a consistent manner. This process creates the hinges on the front and back covers of the book.
The difference between creasing and scoring covers is that creasing is done by knocking an indentation into the cardstock covers with a wedge. Scored covers, on the other hand, use a process that is a bit like a pizza slicer—a rotating disk is used to indent the sheet of paper.
Step 2: Perfect bind the covers and guts of the book
Then there is the bind: the perfect binding process uses a perfect binding machine to bind the covers to the book. The machine itself first grinds down the binding edge of the book to help the glue get a better grip on the books. Then, it applies the glue onto the leaves (i.e. unbound sheets of paper) of the guts. And lastly, the perfect binding machine applies the cover onto the guts, and clamps down for a brief moment.
Step 3: The 3-knife Trim
The last part of the process is known as the 3-knife trim. Up until now, the guts and the covers have been done on larger sheets of paper. Perfect binding is done on larger sheets of paper and then trimmed down so that the final cuts make the books crisply clean on all the edges—no unevenness and no excess glue.
This process is called a 3-knife trim because there are 3 cuts to be made: the top cut, the bottom cut, and the face cut. The face cut cuts off the side that is opposite of the binding edge. Basically, the printing company cuts all 3 sides other than the binding edge.
Perfect binding tip: Shrink-wrap your books before shipping
Shrink-wrapping your perfect bound book before shipping protects the covers from getting damaged and scratched. Keeping the booking in small shrink-wrapped packages keeps the books from moving around during the shipping process.
This is usually not a problem when ordering and picking up perfect bound books from a local printing company. However, as more printing shifts to online printing, binding, and shipping, this has become an issue.