Tuesday, 8 May 2012

RPG Book Binding For Fun and No Profit Whatsoever

I love games. All of them. I like computer games, board games and pen and paper role playing games. I love reading. I love reading on electronic devices, especially ones with e-ink screens, like my ageing prs 505.

What I do not like doing is reading heavily formatted books, like RPG rulebooks, on a computer screen. Even with the best hyperlinks and formatting I think some things are better read on paper. I did have a few problems though.

  1. PDFs are generally a lot cheaper. Though sometimes not much, here I glance in the direction of Mongoose publishing.

  2. I had the PDF of ACKS for under a tenner.

  3. I really wanted the hardback book but it cost a lot and I could not find a supplier in the UK.

  4. A friendly and cheap print on demand service was not being offered.

What to do I thought, what would Mr Maker do? He would make his own!

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="72" caption="My first attempt in progress."][/caption]

Do It Yourself Book Binding

I have been thinking about doing this off and on for months now.

Searching the Internet found me many useful looking sites and videos. Here let me help with that.

DIY Book Binding

I looked at many pictures of book presses, book binding jigs, frames and other exciting looking things. All of which looked complex, expensive and too awkward for me to build. All the sites did imply that it could be done with some double sided sticky tape and good intentions, but I knew better I would need something fancy and expensive.

Eventually I cracked though. I went to a stationary shop and got some stuff, PVA glue, some plastic rulers, a lot of bulldog clips (sold out of butterly clips) and some card. A hardware shop got me some stronger Gorilla Glue and duct tape.

If I was going to do this I was going to do it badly. With regards to the Gorilla Glue I vaguely remembered it being mentioned on a book binding site but could not remember which one or in what context.

Also plain PVA glue was mentioned a lot so I thought I would try that. In the end I decided to try three variations.

  1. The Adventurer Conqueror King System, 135 double sided pages, with Gorilla Glue Alone.

  2. Labyrinth Lord System, 65 odd double sided pages, with cheap PVA glue alone.

  3. Labyrinth Lord AEC, 75 odd double sided pages, with a mix of Gorilla Glue and PVA.

What follows is a pictorial tale of some disaster and some moderate success.

ACKS, Gorilla Glue

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Gorilla Glue"]
Gorilla Glue[/caption]

ACKS - Clamped 
ACKS - Clamped

I spent quite a lot of time trying to get all the pages to line up nice and even evenly so I could get the spine as straight as possible. In the end I did about 20 pages at a time then piled them together and clamped a lot when things looked good.

With hindsight I could have done a much better job with a sturdy box with right angles, as long as it was bigger than the document. Also my plan to use the plastic rulers to even out the pressure along the edge failed as the clips could hardly fit over the paper anyway.

My plan was to use a lot of clips and move one, glue spine, replace clip, move onto next and then repeat.

After roughing the edges of the paper with a file and dampening it ever so slightly I put my plan into action.

This led to this initially.

[caption id="attachment_998" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="ACKS - Gorilla Glue - Initial Glueing"]ACKS - Gorilla Glue - Initial Glueing[/caption]

Which on the whole did not look too bad I thought. After waiting a while and working on the PVA test I thought to myself that more glue would be better. At this point I discovered I had glued the clips to the paper and it required some effort to detach everything.

After this I get up a document protector, basically an A4'ish sheet of plastic, and set it up as a kinf of front and back cover so the clips would stick to that instead.

My mistake was to slap the Gorilla glue on with a paint brush which led to this disaster.

[caption id="attachment_999" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="ACKS - Gorilla Glue - Aaaargh! Bumps"]ACKS - Gorilla Glue - Aaaargh! Bumps[/caption]

That was not good. Not good at all. At this point I was using a gigantic pile of books as a book press and hoping very much that I had not just succeeded in sticking everything together.

Labyrinth Lord, Cheap PVA

For this book I managed to fit the rulers on either side which made lifea little easier.

[caption id="attachment_1000" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Labyrinth Lord - PVA Glue - Title"]Labyrinth Lord - PVA Glue - Title[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1001" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Labyrinth Lord - PVA Glue"]Labyrinth Lord - PVA Glue[/caption]

I slapped the glue on with gay abandon and by the time I was finished nothing looked much different.

[caption id="attachment_1002" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Labyrinth Lord - PVA Glue - Pressing Matters"]Labyrinth Lord - PVA Glue - Pressing Matters[/caption]

To my eye it looked barely glued at all.

Labyrinth Lord AEC, Cheap PVA and Gorilla Glue

I thought for the sake of science and stuff I would try a mix of Gorilla glue and PVA glue. I used a 1/3 Gorilla glue to 2/3 PVA mix and applied everything with a sponge or a cloth to try and avoid any bubbling as seen above.

[caption id="attachment_1003" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Labyrinth Lord AEC - Mixed Glue - Spine"]Labyrinth Lord AEC - Mixed Glue - Spine[/caption]

Looked pretty good. Clamped and pressed with the above books.

After an hour or so I did it all again leading to the Gorilla disaster above where the spine bubbled horribly.

The next morning I picked up each book block and dangled it just to see if anything would fall apart straight away.

The Danglies

[caption id="attachment_1006" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Mixed Glue Dangle Test (tougher than PVA)"]Mixed Glue Dangle Test[/caption]

The mixed glue felt not too bad. Possibly an extra layer, or more time ensuring an even spread on the spine, would have made it even better.

[caption id="attachment_1005" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Labyrinth Lord Dangle test PVA (felt weak)"]Labyrinth Lord Dangle test PVA[/caption]

The PVA alone held  but I was not terribly confident it would stand up to much.

[caption id="attachment_1004" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Gorilla Glue Dangle Test (tough, no flex)"]Gorilla Glue Dangle Test[/caption]

The Gorilla glue was very tough but not flexible. Getting the book far enough open to read comfortably was tricky but not impossible. This was probably not helped by printing text designed for letter sized paper at full size on slightly smaller A4 paper.

[caption id="attachment_1008" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Open Pages Test - Gorilla Glue"]Open Pages Test - Gorilla Glue[/caption]


For finishing off the books I just used duct tape and a couple of sheets of cardboard for covers putting a little glue again on the spine of all the books. This is messy (the Gorilla glue excreted a huge lump of glue from the top of the spine) and not very pleasant but has left me with books I can put in a bag and carry about with me to read at my leisure.

All books have passed the dangle test from their front covers but I really do not want to put it to the test too much.

My favourite glue so far is either the mixed glue or the PVA alone. I would presume with better quality PVA the bond would be stronger and with a bit more time and effort I could get a better spread on the paper. Rubbing the glue up and down across the spine seemed to help get good coverage of the paper edges.

The Gorilla glue dries very quickly. The cheap PVA took a lot longer to dry properly.

Next step imprving my perfect binding techniques and working out how to make my own covers, both soft and hard back.


1 comment:

  1. Great minds think alike! I've been considering doing something like this for my WFRP game, for a sort of campaign "journal".