The Best of Bindery

Part 1 – Types of Binding

This article begins a 10-part series by Norm Beange, owner of Toronto-based Specialties Graphic Finishers, who brings 40 years of experience and expertise as a leader in binding and finishing technology. He can be reached at

I’ve always believed that the dozens of binding techniques out there are much more than just a way to put a publication’s cover and inside pages together. And yes, binding decisions are usually based on such mundane issues as page count, weight and thickness of paper used, desired print quality, longevity, budget constraints and so on. That being said, today’s highly creative binding options can make a book look so much more attractive, while also reflecting and even showcasing its contents. Today’s binding methods can make any publication much more alluring, both visually and tangibly. Even lower-cost methods can add a touch of sophistication that makes them truly “unique”. I’ll explore these and other nuances of binding in this series. There are not enough pages in this publication to cover all of them. So for now, let’s take a look at some of the most common types of binding.

Case Binding. For the most part (not all) this involves the sewing of printed signatures together with thread, then encasing the signatures between cloth-covered, chipboard or lithowrap covers. Case Binding is commonly used for hardcover, high-end books such as coffee-table books, bibles and catalogues, and is ideal for items that must withstand the test of time.

Saddle Stitching. Two or three stiches hold pages together at their centre, and the finished book lies relatively flat when a page is opened. However, as more pages are added, this can affect the outside edges of the page, which will gradually become uneven. So, generally speaking, the maximum page count will be limited based on a book’s overall performance and appearance as pages are turned.

Perfect Binding. Here, all pages are glued together along the side (commonly using PUR glue) along with a cover to create a solid, durable spine. More pages can be accommodated compared to Saddle Stitching and an extremely professional look can be achieved. However, books don’t lie flat when a page is opened.

Plastic Coil Binding. Here, a series of holes is punched through the spine of collated sheets and a plastic coil is threaded through them to create a book or booklet. Coils can be many colours, many pages can be accommodated, and the book lies perfectly flat when pages are opened. Maximum size is 3 inches.

Double Loop Wire Binding. Also called Wire-O Binding, this is also a technique where holes are punched into the side of collated pages. The difference here is that a metal double-loop wire is inserted and then pressure-closed (i.e. squeezed). This method can also accommodate a lot of pages, and the book also lies completely flat when pages are opened. You’ve likely seen these types of bindings on instruction manuals or reports. Some printers believe that double-loop wire binding creates a more professional look. Maximum size is 1-¼ inches.

Plastic Comb Binding. Also called Cerlox Binding (or Comb Binding in U.S.), this option involves hole-punching one side of collated sheets, then inserting a plastic spine with individual circular loops to hold them together. One drawback is that extremes of cold can crack the plastic.

In future columns I’ll explore popular products, special applications, the value/profit proposition, binding as a design element, common bindery mistakes, popular binding materials, and much more.