Preparing Signatures: A Few Tips

Stack of 300 Signatures

I recently had an order for 50, preprinted books. The first time I cased in a book with printed matter, I cased it in upside down. Live and learn, right? Now I don’t case in anything without first checking the orientation of the textblock. I also have a couple tricks for preparing the signatures to make it easy and keep everything straight. The first tip I actually got from Sarah Nicholls at the Center for Book Arts.  We had a lot of  folding (like 2,000 invites) to do for the benefit last year, and she rigged up a folding jig.  Since I had 300 signatures to fold for this job, I rigged up something similar.

Folding Jig

Basically, it’s just a straight piece of bookboard glued on top of another.  It makes folding very easy.  One thing I had to consider with these signatures is that since they’re printed with the images extending all the way into the gutter, I couldn’t crease them with a bone folder without risking scraping some of the image away, so I used a brayer.

Creasing with a brayer

The other thing I had to be sure about was keeping the signatures in order and oriented the right way.  To do this while I punched, I had the stack of signatures on the left of my punch cradle with the spines pointed in.

Signatures on the left

As I punched signatures I placed them on the right side of the cradle.

It was like turning the pages of a book backwards.  Then for sewing, I placed the signatures in front of me with the foredges pointed towards me.  As I sewed, I flipped the signatures one at a time, bringing the spine side to the edge of my work table.  This kept everything in order and oriented correctly.

Stack of punched and collated signatures.


About sappling

When God created the world, he did it in six days and rested on the seventh. I always wished there was just one more day in the week, an eighth day just for me to pursue the thoughts in my head and translate them to the physical world. There are only seven days, however, so I steal my creative moments in between being a mom and my work binding books and making boxes for clients all over New York City. I love working with my hands, learning new things, and I'm here to share those lessons with you. There are only seven days in a week. Why not eight? Guess I'll ask when I get there.
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2 Responses to Preparing Signatures: A Few Tips

  1. Hollis says:

    Excellent post. Found you through Pinterest and have same love of books. Always admire the jig process, but didn’t quite get this one about the folds. are you lining the entire signature up with the edge of the jig and then brayering ‘against the edge of the raised board? Does that provide enough of a mark for folding? Thought maybe I was missing something and yes, I’ve done things upside down too!!! (grin). Thanks for your blog!

    • sappling says:

      You jog the foredge against the board so it holds the edges even while you crease. It just makes folding faster since you don’t have to line the edges up by sight.

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