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Trimming Thick Books on the Saddle Stitcher - a Quick Tip

Posted by Andre Palko on Fri, Jan 25, 2013

Nicked Edge on book spineOne of the drawbacks to trimming thick saddle-stitched books is that it’s nearly impossible to get a perfect trim on all three sides. Usually the head and foot of the spine of the book will tear or nick during the trimming process. There is simply no way to prevent this since the area near the spine has nothing to support it in the trimmer or cutter.

On thin stitched books, if you encounter this problem it will be so imperceptible as to not be an issue. As the book gets thicker however the problem gets worse and customers start to notice.

  • If you are saddle stitching the job on an automatic machine with an inline trimmer, you can minimize the impact by laying out the job so that the nick appears on the back of the book. Of course this probably means changing the lip on your imposition and registering the book to the opposite side.
  • If you are using a guillotine cutter to trim the books, you can do the same by stacking the pile to be cut with the back cover facing down. And you’ll have to experiment to see which blade direction works best—with the blade traveling toward the spine or away from the spine. Smaller lifts might also be helpful.

In both cases you want freshly sharpened knives. Whichever method you’re using, remember the nick will not disappear. We’re just putting it toward the back in the hope that it will be cosmetically less objectionable.

There is however a simple technique you can use for very short runs or for samples on a long run which will eliminate the nicking problem. Open the untrimmed books to the center. Then, one at a time, carefully trim the foot and the head on a guillotine cutter. Close the book for the final face trim. Presto…no more nick!

trim thick books

It’s not a perfect solution but it can salvage a job or soothe an unhappy customer. I've successfully used this technique many times over the years as have others. Of course this is the type of problem that the customer should be made aware of in the planning stages and where necessary, perfect binding should be substituted for saddle stitching.

As always, feel free to share your comments and experiences with this problem below.


Tags: Bindery How-To Tips, saddle stitchers