Improved binding for chunky zines

I try to mix up the AAFH covers every once in a while c:

Interest in AAFH has picked up lately, AND I’m tabling at an event later this month, so it’s time for another print run! I got to do the 1st printing of AAFH with access to a hot-melt glue binding machine and I’ve been chasing that high ever since. Binding machines like that are relatively rare in my circles though, and at 16 sheets (64 pages) the compact typesetting is small enough to work as a stapled booklet–barely. This setup is not idea though. Even though its short by book standards, AAFH is a pretty hefty zine, and just folding the paper feels relatively flimsy. I do have access to a spiral binding machine, but 1) it would mean paying 25cents more per copy, which adds up since these are free and the project survives on donations and 2) I mail these in cheap half-size manila envelopes and I’m worried spiral binding would either get crushed or pierce the envelope, and padded mailers are a lot pricier.

HOWEVER, using a diluted glue to attach a strip of scrap fabric to the spine makes a big difference, both reinforcing the binding and temporary softening the paper, allowing it to be pressed completely flat. Add that to a cardstock cover, and you have what is basically just a nice binding. Next I’ll have to track down a guillotine slicer so the pages are easier to turn…

I got this idea from a zine about risograph printing I came across a while ago–and since that’s the only zine I’ve ever seen that used this technique, I thought I would share my process.

Materials:

  • Printed zines (obviously)
  • Woven scrap fabric
  • White glue (im using washable glow in the dark glitter glue, but same difference)
  • Sponge applicator
  • Plastic wrap
  • Something heavy with a flat bottom

This seems to work best with zines that were stapled, but NOT folded yet. I diluted the glue with water about 1:1; it behaves more like a liquid but is still be thick and sticky like a thin syrup. The width of the fabric strips doesn’t functionally matter in my opinion, but I wouldn’t go much thinner than the approx. 1.5″-2″ I have here. They should be slightly longer than 8.5″; somewhere around 8.75″. I’m not worried about super consistent production quality, so I made mine by ripping long, ~2″ wide strips from my fabric, using the edge of a sheet of paper to eyeball cutting them up into slightly-longer-than-8.5″, and then trimming the frayed edges off. This was pretty efficient.

Next I placed the glue-soaked fabric onto an unfolded zine, making sure to line it up with the bottom edge so I only had to trim the top. I put a piece of plastic wrap over the glued strip, which is hard to see in the photo but i promise is there. I folded the zine as best I could with my hands, pressing it down with my palms, and stacked them facing alternating directions.

I did these in a batch of 10 and a batch of 16, weighing down each batch in two stacks with a flat-bottomed wooden crate that has some gallon jars of tonics in it. They’re not significantly different from folded-only zines while they’re still wet, but after a few minutes the difference is notable. Since it’s diluted white glue, these dry to the touch extremely quickly, but I left them overnight because they still seemed a little soft and not totally flat. I was able to peel the plastic wrap off the first batch of dried zines and save it in a stack to reuse for the second batch, and I have it saved with my craft supplies to use in the future since I hate throwing out plastic.

Over all, this process took somewhere around two and a half hours of active work for 36 copies, split over two days because I’ve been lazy lately. That’s about half as long as the 40-copy perfect bound run I mentioned earlier took, which isn’t bad at all–In my opinion, which is slanted by being shit-poor and enjoying papercrafts enough to spend hours on them for fun, this is totally viable for publishing projects with runs measuring in the dozens or low hundreds, especially if you can get a couple friends to help. I have a lot of practice doing things like this so YMMV if you’ve never DIY’d a print run, but it’s definitely possible to pick up the skills and do it efficiently.

And yes, the spines on these do glow in the dark.

(AAFH is available for download as a PDF and EPUB, and I distro copies for free by mail–just send me an email at mildewamyx(at)protonmail(dot)com with your mailing address.)

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