Choosing a binding method

Comb Binding

Comb binding is a great way to bind reports, handbooks, telephone directories, and pretty much everything else. Comb-bound books lay flat when opened, but they can’t fold back on themselves, especially with thicker books, because the comb binding gets in the way. Comb binding is one of the most economical binding methods―comb binding machines can be purchased for a huge range of prices that fit almost every budget, and the plastic comb bindings are inexpensive to purchase, making long-term operating costs quite low. Plastic combs can come in a huge variety of colors. Comb binding can accommodate documents from 1/4” thick (about 20 pages) to 2” thick (about 450 pages). Comb binding isn’t particularly known for its durability, so you’ll want to consider how your documents will be used before deciding whether or not comb binding is the right choice for your project. If your documents will be sitting on a bookshelf, you might consider screen printing a title on the plastic comb―this is a great feature that plastic comb binding can accommodate! Most plastic comb bindings are sized for 8.5 by 11 page sizes, so anything other than that has to be cut down to size. Comb binding is great for documents that may need adding to later on, as the plastic combs can be opened and new pages can easily be added.


In summary: Plastic comb binding is inexpensive and can accommodate a large array of document sizes, but won’t stand up to rough use. The bindings are not permanent, so pages can be added and removed as needed.

Coil Binding

Coil binding (or spiral binding as it’s commonly called) is a very popular binding method, especially for things like calendars, cookbooks, and reports. One of the biggest benefits of coil-bound books is that they can be fully opened so that the cover is folded back on itself. Coil binding is also slightly more durable than comb binding, since the spine can’t be opened and closed once it’s been threaded through the punched holes. Coils are flexible and come in a variety of colors―at the end of the binding process, the coils are crimped with a special tool, so size customization isn’t really an issue. Coil binding is more or less permanent―if you need to add pages to your document, you will have to cut and remove the coil binding, add the necessary pages, and bind with a new coil. Operating costs, as well as start up costs, are higher than those of comb binding, but it’s still a fairly economical binding method. Coil bindings can accommodate documents from about 1/8” thick (about 30 sheets) to about 1-9/16” thick (about 400 sheets). Coil bindings tend to be less durable with thicker documents. The learning curve with coil binding can be slightly longer than with comb binding, since it requires several different tools to complete.


In summary: Plastic coil binding is relatively inexpensive, flexible, durable, and can accommodate a reasonable range of document sizes. It’s a fairly permanent binding method, and allows books to be opened fully.

Wire Binding

Wire binding is another popular binding method for a variety of different types of documents. Many people think that wire binding looks more professional than coil or comb binding, which is definitely an important factor to consider when choosing a binding method. The trade off for that professional look, however, is that wire binding is one of the more expensive binding methods. Another trade off with wire binding is that, unlike comb binding, there’s nowhere on the spine to print a book title. However, this can be remedied by casing the wire-bound document in a cover. Wire binding can accommodate documents from 1/8” thick (about 20 pages) to 7/8” thick (about 200 pages), depending on the type of wire binding being used. Wire binding is more or less permanent; once your document is bound, it’s pretty much unchangeable. Wire binding is much more durable than comb binding, and moderately more durable than coil binding (the coil spine can break, and the crimped end can damage the pages of your document sometimes).


In summary: Wire binding is professional looking and durable, but it costs more than both comb and coil binding methods. Wire binding is flexible, allows documents to be fully opened on themselves, accommodates a fairly wide range of book thicknesses, and is fully permanent.

Thermal Binding

Thermal binding isn’t as durable as some of the other methods available, as the glue can degrade over time, and the pages can sometimes dislodge. However, the highly professional appearance and fully customizable cover options make this a good choice for a variety of different book types, such as portfolios, yearbooks, reports, family photo books, etc. Thermal binding can be moderately expensive, especially when you add in the cost of printing customized covers, or if you’re planning to bind with a hard cover. However, just because there’s additional cost, doesn’t mean the expense isn’t worth it. Thermal binding is a bit faster than the other binding methods, since it’s basically a one-step process, rather than a multi-step process. Thermal binding machines can bind a variety of book thicknesses depending on which machine you’re using, so that’s something to carefully consider when choosing a machine. If you’re using hard covers with your thermal-bound document, you’ll need to purchase a separate crimper, which will add to the expense.


In summary: Thermal binding is beautiful, professional-looking, and fully customizable. It’s quick, but a bit more expensive than some of the other binding methods, and not quite as durable.