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Don’t Get Your Binding in a Bunch

If you’re needing to bind even a fair amount of projects regularly, you’ll want to purchase your own binding machine to reduce costs. If it’s still early in the game and you’re scratching your head about what type of machine you need, you’ll want to head on over to our handy guide Choosing a Binding Method to help you out with that decision. If, however, you’ve already gotten your binding machine and you’re just needing some tips for getting started, then keep reading.

We’ve divided the information by binding type, so feel free to skip to the Comb Binding, Coil Binding, or Double Loop Wire Binding sections for specific info. But first, here are some general tips that are relevant to all binding methods:

  1. All comb, coil, and double loop wire binding machines have a built-in hole punch designed to correctly align the holes along the margin of your project with the binding materials that machine is designed for. When you’re punching your pages, it’s really important to make sure they’re correctly seated in the punch—pages should be set all the way into the punch as far as they’ll go, and you’ll want to do a visual check to make sure they’re straight so you don’t end up with holes going slantwise and off the page.

  2. While we’re on the subject of punching, keep in mind that each machine has a maximum number of pages it can punch at one time. This information can be found in your user manual and is different to each machine. The maximum punch capacity is based on 20lb uncoated bond, so if you’re punching heavier paper or acetate covers or anything else, you’ll need to adjust how many pages you punch at a time. Also, we strongly advise that you don’t regularly punch the maximum capacity of your machine as this can wear out the die faster, reducing the life of your binding machine.

  3. If you have ever wondered where the cut-outs (they’re called “chips,” by the way) go after you’ve punched your pages, check the “chip” tray—typically, it’s located directly under the paper punch (again, consult your user manual for exactly where this is located on your machine and how to access it). You’ll want to regularly empty this tray or else the chips can get jammed up between the die and cause them not to descend properly.

Comb Binding

Comb binding is the easiest and most economical binding method, using plastic combs with curved teeth that slip through the punched holes on the edge of your document and tuck under the spine to hold the pages securely. Comb binding is great for documents as thin as ¼” through 2″ thick. The spines are perfect for personalizing with a screen printed book title! If you’ve got a comb binding machine, here are some ways to get great results every time:

  1. If your machine has a margin adjuster, you can use it to help center your punches along the margin so you don’t have holes punching off the edges. Your machine may also have disengageable die which allows you to “turn off” some of the die so you can get your holes aligned correctly. If you need to, you can punch on scrap paper until you get things just right.

  2. Along with an adjustable margin setter, your comb binding machine may also have an adjustable depth setting, which allows you to punch holes further away from or closer to the edge of your document. If you’re binding a thicker project, you’ll want to set your depth a little further from the margin of your page to give your document more durability. If you’re binding a thinner project, you’ll want to set your depth a bit closer to the edge of your margin to help your pages turn more smoothly.

  3. If you have trouble knowing what size combs to use for your project, check your binding machine for a sizing tool—many have them. Your user guide will give your information on exactly how to use the tool, but it’ll help you tailor your comb size to your document. Often the comb packaging will also have indications on how much paper that comb size can accommodate, so if your comb binding machine doesn’t have a sizing tool, check your comb packaging. And remember to move to the next size up if your project is nearing the maximum number of pages for the previous comb size.

  4. When you open your comb to slide your pages onto it, take care to open it just wide enough to accommodate your pages. Opening it too widely will give you less “tooth” space to fit your project onto, which will cost you time as you fiddle with things.

  5. Pages go onto both combs and double loop wire face down. You want to make sure you’re only inserting a few pages at a time; trying to slide too many on your comb will cause endless frustration as the teeth curl up between the stack of pages instead of slipping through the holes like they’re supposed to do.

  6. Larger combs often have divots on the two outermost teeth. These are designed to slide into a corresponding slot on the spine that help keep the combs closed even when loaded with pages.

Coil Binding

Coil binding is beautiful, versatile, and durable. Coils come in a rainbow of colors for personalized pizazz. One of the biggest advantages of coil is that coil-bound documents can be opened a full 360º, making it perfect for catalogs, calendars, and textbooks. Coil binding machines come in both electric and manual models, and depending on the model, you may have to purchase the coil inserter separately. If you’re just getting started with your coil binder, here are our best tips:

  1. As with comb binding, if your coil binding machine allows you to adjust the punch depth, then use this feature to give your project optimal durability. Remember to punch further from the paper edge for thicker documents and closer to the paper edge for thinner documents. Also check for a adjustable margin settings so that your holes are centered along the project’s edge. If you aren’t sure about the correct settings, punch a few test sheets until you get it right.

  2. Pitch” refers to how many holes your machine punches per inch. Most machines only come in one pitch, with 4:1 pitch being the most common, followed by 5:1 pitch. While pitch is something that you would’ve considered when first purchasing your coil binding machine, keep in mind the restraints of your machine, remember to punch within your machine’s pitch capabilities. Machines with a 5:1 pitch can handle projects up to 1″ thick, and machines with 4:1 pitch can handle documents up to 2″ thick.

  3. Don’t scrimp on equipment. We know this may sound silly, but there are so many tools out there that can make coil binding faster and easier for you. While a lot of these tools aren’t really optional (like wire crimpers), some of them are. Don’t be afraid to make your job easier with things like an electric inserter or a slantis sleeve

  4. Speaking the slantis sleeve—if you’re binding large documents even semi-regularly, consider purchasing one. The slantis sleeve essentially curves your stack of paper so that your curved coils can be more easily inserted into the holes along the margin (otherwise, you’re inserting curved coils into a straight stack of paper, which is just as difficult as it sounds!).

Double Loop Wire Binding

Double Loop Wire binding is one of the most professional-looking method that’s used most often for reports, booklets, calendars (check out our DIY Project: How to Make a Calendar), catalogs, and promotional materials. If you own a double loop wire binding machine, here are a couple tips to help you get the best results always:

  1. Once again, adjust your margin and depth settings as needed to give your project the best finish. Punch further from the page margin for thicker documents as this adds durability and closer to the margin for thinner documents so your pages turn smoothly. Adjust your side margins or disengage appropriate die to keep your punches centered on the page. And, as we said previously, if you need to test your settings, don’t be afraid to practice on some scrap pages.

  2. Pitch comes into play again with double loop wire binding—you can choose 3:1 pitch or 2:1 pitch (again, remember that pitch refers to how many holes per inch). As with coil binding, your machine will most likely only punch one pitch, so be aware of your double loop wire binding machine’s capabilities before you undertake your project.
  3. If your machine has disengageable die, they’ll come in handy with double loop wire. One of the beautiful things about double loop wire is its versatility. For instance, if you’re pairing a wire calendar hanger with double loop wire, you’ll need to disengage the middle two die as you won’t be using them. Use that feature. As often as necessary.

  4. When you’re inserting your pages onto the wire, flip the back cover over the front cover. After you’ve closed your wire, you can return the back cover to its correct position and your seam will be neatly hidden inside your document.

  5. Keep your wire snips handy. This can be used for shortening your wire if it’s too long, or snipping off sections of wire that are unused (again, remember that wire calendar hanger? You’ll need them for that!).

We hope these tips will get you great results on each of your projects and, in the process, make your binding experience a little faster and a little easier. As always, for best results, remember to consult your individual machine’s user manual for features, settings, maintenance, and guidelines specific to it.

Happy binding!

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