Know when to fold ‘em

Which is more difficult: putting ink on paper, or proper job preparation and communication? For most printers, it is the latter. The same is true for binderies. Printers (and their customers) can plan for success by coordinating with their bindery early in the job-preparation stage.

when when to fold em binderyCommunication Job Planning

Providing marked and sequenced folding samples (first fold A-to-A, second fold B-to-B, etc.), blue-lines, rule-up sheets and bulking dummies is always worth your time. When calling us for quotes, include product and end use information. If a particular job is a magazine insert, specify perfect bound or stitched. If it is a dust cover, provide a book sample so we can make the cover exactly the right size. If it is a die-cut piece, give a sample or thumbnail, so we can advise on tick mark placement. Often, there are several ways to run a job. We can tell you in advance which job can be folded and slit multiple-up.

Folding Basics

If you deliver a bindery job to us with wet ink, the best-laid plans will be soaked. When using the notorious Reflex Blue or heavy, black ink that rests against white paper after folding, apply varnish to avoid smudging and marking. When metallic ink is used, varnish will reduce scratching. Know the grain direction. Folding with the grain reduces cracking and the need for scoring or inline wet scoring, both of which decrease productivity and increase costs.

If you must fold against the grain, consider a stock with short fibres and “off-machine” coating for better moisture control. Remember that inks tend to be brittle and may crack when bent, exposing paper fibres underneath.

Job planning and layout are very important. One rule of thumb is to leave 1/8” between copy and intended trim position and another 1/8” for take-off trim. This allows for natural variation in both printing and binding processes without risking product damage. Smaller margins are possible, but check first with the estimator. For barrel folds (also called over-and-over or roll folds), the outer two panels should be final-finished size; each succeeding interior panel should decrease at least 3/32”; and the last panel should be 1/16” smaller than the preceding one. Failure to do this leads to bend overs, bad colour breaks, jams, waste and increased spoilage. Also, allow for washout (creep) when folding right-angle pieces or when one sheet of paper is nestled in another. Allow for the thickness of the paper to build up and peek out as washout. Heavily contrasted colours will make washout appear worse, whereas carefully preplanned colours can make it barely noticeable.

Generally, the thicker your stock, the more variables you will face. Prescore stock that is 100 lb. text weight or heavier. Some thicker stocks without critical colour breaks can be inline wet-scored or folder-scored, but always ask us for an opinion before skipping die-cut scoring. In some cases, an inline (double-hit) scoring machine attached to a folder will work nicely. When folding stock thicker than 10 point, watch for ripple cracking on buckle folders. A knife folder generally will not ripple crack unless the stock is extremely thick, causing the sheet to fracture as it bends around the rollers.

Paper Issues

Paper irregularities will affect folding. Variable thickness, frequent waves and ripples, and excessively brittle stock will all decrease bindery performance. Paper bulk is incredibly variable. For example, 80 lbs., uncoated cover stock can caliper anywhere from 8-13 pts. This is significant, because 10 pt. stock usually folds easily, while stocks thicker than 12 pt. require different folding techniques and machines (i.e., plow folder). If a job has thickness variation, folding will be sloppy. Be careful of running odd lots. Changing paper in the middle of a job will affect downstream folding, so be sure to mark the change spot and advise your bindery.

Specialty Folds

Don’t give up on jobs with specialty folds. Many printers have won terrific print jobs simply by knowing where to get specialty folds done. Consultant Dick Gorelick recently said, “Knowledge used to mean knowing how to do something. Now, it means knowing where to go to do something.”

If a print buyer sends out a quote to his or her usual printers, and only one knows where to go for bindery work, guess who gets the job? Iron crossfolds, swinger folds, pop-up folds, miniature gatefolds, 18 accordions, gatefolds and right-angle gatefolds, etc., are all possible and practical. When you have a few minutes, call us and find out our special capabilities, so this information will be at your fingertips when you need it.

Miniature Folding

Before producing a miniature folded piece, check downstream production requirements. Some automatic inserters require that pieces lie flat. If glue is objectionable, ask your miniature folding company whether your piece will lie flat. Also, carefully discuss your stock selection. Miniature folders handles less stock variation than regular-size folders.

Map Folding

A common problem in folding maps occurs with very thick maps of 40 panels or more. If final product’s bulk is not accounted for when the cover and back panel are designed, the piece’s attractiveness may be greatly reduced by improperly aligned colour breaks on folds. Keep in mind that some maps can have a folded thickness of ¼” or more. Printers can increase their profits with good folding, but there is much to consider.

More Things You Should Know

When planning gatefolds, ask your bindery what the gap will be between gates. Don’t accept a gap greater than 1/4 inch. On many jobs a 1/8-inch gap or less is possible.

“Green” projects can cause production problems. Soy ink tends to scuff more than regular, petroleum based ink. Recycled paper has a tendency to have less strength than preconsumer paper because of shorter paper fibres, which will affect bindery performance. Recycled paper tends to be less pliable and is subject to more jams, increased tearing, poorer-quality folds and more wrinkles.

Every job has some transit spoilage. By allowing your bindery to cut your job as well, you will substantially decrease transit problems and increase your yield.

Properly band your skids to avoid shipping problems. If the stretch wrap is too tight, product corners can be damaged.

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