Trimming a Book With a Router

Since I’ve started adding woodworking power tools to my bookbinding workshop, I wanted to try one thing. Okay, there were many things that became possible since that moment, but that one was special.

What instruments do you use to trim your books? Initially I have used just a simple utility knife. Or a bookbinding knife. It is even easier to use because it is sharpened on one side only. Then I’ve sharpened a chisel to make a sort of a shapeshift bookbinding plough with one of the presses I already had. A bit later I’ve built a simple traditional plough.

But trimming a book with a router? That’s something different!

I couldn’t just take a book and trim it with a router — that would’t result in a straight line. I had to build some sort of a guide and use a router bit with a bearing to follow that guide. For that reason, I’ve made something very similar to bookbinding presses I sell at my Etsy store. It had to have a thinner side, because the only straight router bit with a bearing I had was a pretty short one.

The tool I use in this video was made specially for the experiment from some scrap plywood, so don’t mind that it is not as straight as it should be.

Then I had to accurately tighten the book in the press. It should be set precisely to result in the same width of the book block on the top and the bottom after trimming. One of the sides of the press serves as a guide for the bearing.

The trimming process itself took almost no time. I was thinking about the experiment for many months. I’ve been to my workshop several times to prepare all the things: cut the plywood, put the nuts inside, glue the boards together, etc. As you can see in this video, it took only several seconds to trim the book.

I was pretty surprised by the result! Considering all the things: that the press wasn’t ideal and that the router bit was not in the best shape, book edge turned to be almost perfect!

I should have added some scrap cardboard on both sides of the book, to minimize the tearing of the endleaves. That’s the thing I often forget to do. Both when making books and woodworking.

However, that’s nothing that couldn’t be fixed with a piece of sandpaper.

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