Repair a Paperback (that is broken into sections) without Removing the old Glue
This lesson will teach you how to take a paperback that has fallen apart and put it back together. Read along and click on any links to get more information. Many of the links are videos. There are 4 main parts.
- Type of Book: Modern Paperback (bound with a modern, petroleum-based glue)
- Issue: The book has fallen apart into sections
- Treatment: Cut into the spine and use cords to help re-connect the sections.
Read through all the steps before beginning a treatment!
Test any treatments in an inconspicuous area first. For instance: Will heat hurt the cover? Test first on the lower corner of the rear of the cover.
PERPETUAL CAVEAT: Never repair rare and/or scarce books. When in doubt only do preservation treatments and consult an accredited professional.
Part ONE: Separate the Cover from the Text-block. We will work on them separately and then put them back together. Use either the book repair knife or a utility knife to cut any paper still holding the cover on. I had some trouble removing one of the pages. It happens.
Part TWO: Repair the Text-block:
- Notice if your book has page numbers so you can keep the pages in order. Write them in pencil lightly as needed. This is only so you don’t get confused and reattach them in the wrong order. Don’t forget to erase them later.
- Line up all the pages in their sections. Unfold and “iron” out any wrinkles. Also you can clean any pages that need it at this time as per the Save Your Books’ Hierarchy Guidelines Lesson in the Book Repair Foundations 101 Course.
- Repair tears near the spine. As you are going along you may notice some page tears that are near the spine edge. These need to be repaired now because doing it after the book is back together will be much more difficult. I recommend using Japanese hinging tissue and paste. Page repair is covered in the Page Repair 101 Course
- Tip loose pages and the sections back together: There are several ways to glue them neatly. One way is to use guard strips of paper and glue both sides (the ones that will be connected) at the same time. Be sure to dispose of the guard paper afterwards so you don’t glue anything to it by accident. If there is tape on the spine edges of the pages you will have trouble sticking them together with glue. Tape removal is covered in the Page Repair 201 Course. It is not always necessary or even a good idea as it can damage original materials.
- Keep the book under pressure as you wait for it to dry.
- Optional: Add hinges to the first and last pages for extra strength of attachment. If you are going to add hinges, do it AFTER the step where you cut the channels into the spine. If you add a hinge to a loose page, set that page aside before doing the channel cutting. You will tip it back on after the cords are in place. Rub with wax paper to keep the inside of the hinge from sticking to itself.
- When it is dry, prop it up in the simple book press and Scrape the Paper remnants off the Spine. Touch up to loose spots with glue. Let it dry again under pressure.
- Cut Notches in the Spine: Position the spine of the book off the edge of a table on top of something that can be cut like cardboard, a cutting mat or a bit of binders board. The number depends on the size of the book: minimum 3 notches while 5 would be very typical. Use a utility knife. For each notch you will cut once straight down, then at an angle from the right then the left so it is notched. The goal is to cut deep enough to expose the paper a bit. Then, when we add the glued twine it has something to grab onto.
- Put the Twine into the Notches: Cut pieces of the twine a bit wider than the book so you can tug them into place in the notches. You may have to remove some of the fibers of the twine so it fits flat into the notches. Glue up the twine and apply to the notches then babysit them a bit as they dry pressing occasionally to make sure they are really snug.
- Iron the Spine: This solidifies it by re-activating the glue. Iron through baking parchment. Watch the heat. Don’t burn your book or make the glue slide off the spine! The Tacking Iron I am using is: The Bienfang Adjustable Tacking Iron. Tacking irons range in price from $20 to over $100. It pays to get a better quality one. I went through two cheap ones before learning my lesson. The cheap ones just stopped working after a relatively short time.
- Trim the Twine: Trim the cords neatly right up to the spine edge. Leaving them to attach to the cover may seem like a good idea for strength but because of their bulk they will only cause problems.
- Hinges: Re-attach first and last pages if you added hinges to them separately. In this case I hinged the first page separately and hinged the last page directly. Rub the new hinge with wax paper so it doesn’t stick to itself. The hinges only need to be attached by about 3/16ths of an inch.
Part THREE: Repair/Strengthen the Cover:
- If your book cover is in pieces or needs other repairs, refer to Book Repair Basics 103 Lesson 4: Repair a Paperback Book Cover.
- Gather the Material you want to use to repair the cover and strengthen the spine. If your new material needs color adjustment this will be done before doing that repair. There is a lesson on coloring repair materials in Basic Book Repair 101. In this case we are just using some of the 30 gsm weight Japanese tissue called Sekishu and not changing the color.
- Remove loose paper or glue/paste them back down.
- Cut the Sekishu to a size so it extends across the spine onto both boards by about 3/16ths of an inch but avoid covering text or illustrations as much as possible. It should extend taller than the cover to be trimmed after it is dry.
- Paste out the strip of Sekishu. You can then lightly add a layer of the PVA for extra flexibility. Use waste sheets so you don’t glue your table. Gently rub through (or with) wax paper. Japanese tissues are vulnerable to tearing while they are wet. Then let it dry completely before trimming the excess Sekishu (head and tail)with scissors.
Part FOUR: Re-case. Reattach the Text-block back into the Cover.
- Use the archival PVA glue to glue out the spine of the text-block and the inner spine area of the cover. Let it dry.
- When it is dry, Iron the Spine to just solidify the attachment. Be careful with plastic covers. Too much heat may melt the plastic. Test first on the lower corner of the rear “board” if you are concerned.
- Attach the Hinges: Paste out the new hinges (with waste paper tucked under them) and attach them to the cover both in the front and the rear. Rub them down through wax paper and then put wax paper under the hinge until dry.
- If the hinges extend onto text be sure to trim them first so they don’t cover up anything important. You can fold it, moisten the fold then tear it which leaves a nice soft edge. Trim any odd bits sticking out after it is dry.
- Optional: Sand sticking out Pages: If any pages were crooked and they are sticking out of the text-block a bit you may choose to sand them so the text-block is neat. This is why you want to line up all the pages neatly to begin with but sometimes it is too much trouble to align them due to tape or glue that may cause damage to the pages to move them.
- Finished Product
TOOLS and MATERIALS
Everything you need can be found in the Basic Book Repair Kit plus some things from the Level One Tools and Materials List.
- Book repair knife (or other knife you can scrape with)
- Utility knife
- Brushes for paste and /or glue
- Simple book press
- Waste/guarding paper
- Damp rag for cleaning fingers
- Iron (or hair dryer)
- Cardboard (or similar) to Cut on.
- Japanese tissue about 30 gsm like Sekishu
- Optional Hinging tissue for page tears
- Archival white glue that is not watered down with anything.
- Archival Paste like Nori
- Wax paper
- Baking parchment paper
- Cotton twine or similar