Book Binding Machine, Gathering, Beating & Rolling

This entry is part 5 of 20 in the series The Art of Bookbinding (Joseph W. Zaehnsdorf, 3rd Edt, 1897)

The back may be damped with a sponge lightly charged with water, or perhaps a better method is to place the book or books in a press, screw up tightly, and soak the backs with thin paste, leaving them soaking for an hour or two; they will want repasting two or three times during the period; the whole of the paper, glue, and leather can then be easily scraped away with a blunt knife; a handful of shavings rubbed over the back will make it quite clean, and no difficulty will be met with if the sections are taken apart while damp. He sections must, as pulled, as pulled, be placed evenly one on the other, as the paper at back retains sufficient glue to cause them to stick together if laid across one another. The whole must then be left to dry. When dry the groove should be knocked down on a flat surface and for this the knocking-down iron screwed up in the lying press is perhaps the best thing to use. The groove is the projecting part of the book close to the back, caused by the backing, and is the groove for the back edge of the mill-board to work in by a hinge; this hinge is technically called the “joint.”


There are many folding machines made by various machinists; the working of them, however, is in nearly all cases identical. The machine is generally fed by a girl, who places the sheet, to points, the arm lifting up at given periods to allow placing the sheet. Another arm carrying a lon

g thin blade descends, taking the sheet through a slot in the table, where it is passed between rollers; another set of rollers at right angles creases it again. The rollers are arranged for two, three, or more creasing or folds. The sheets are delivered at the side into a box, from which they are taken from time to time. The cut is one of Martini’s and is probably the most advanced.


A gathering machine has been patented which is of a simple but ingenious contrivance for the quick gathering of sheets. The usual way to gatherer, is by laying piles of sheets upon a long table, and for the gatherer to take from each pile a sheet in succession. By the new method a round table is made to revolve by machinery, and upon it are placed the piles of sheets. As the table revolves the gatherer takes from each pi

le as it passes him. It will at once be seen that not only is space saved, but that a number of gatherers may be placed at the table; and that there is no possibility of the gatherers shirking their work, as the machine is made to register the revolutions. By comparing the number of sheets with the revolutions of the table, the amount of work done can be checked.



The object of beating or rolling s to make the book as solid as possible. For beating, a stone or iron slab, used as a bed, and a heavy hammer, are necessary. The stone or iron must be perfectly smooth, and should be bedded with great solidity. I have in use an iron bed about two feet square, fitted into a strongly-made box, filled with sand, with a wooden cover to the iron when not in use. The hammer should be somewhat bell shaped, and weigh about en pounds, with a short handle, made to fit the hand. The face of the hammer and stone (it is called a beating-stone whether it be stone or iron), must be kept perfectly clean, and it is advisable always to have a piece of paper at the top and bottom of the sections when beating, or the repeated concussion will glaze them. The book should be divided into lots or sections of about half and inch thick, which will be about fifteen to twenty sheets, according to the thickness of paper. A section is now to be held on the stone between the fingers and thumb of the left hand; then the hammer, grasped firmly in the right hand, is raised, and brought down with rather more than its own weight on the sheets, which must be continually moved round, turned over and changed about, in order th

I do no profess a preference to beating over rolling because I have placed it first. The rolling machine is one of the greatest improvements in the trade, but all books should not be rolled, and a bookbinder, I mean a practical bookbinder, not one who has been nearly the whole of his life-time upon a cutting machine, or at a blocking press, and who calls himself one,

but a competent bookbinder, should know how and when to use the beating hammer and when the rolling they may be equally beaten all over. By passing the section between the finger and thumb, it can be felt at once, if it has been beaten properly and evenly. Great care must be taken that in each blow of the hammer it shall have the face fairly on the body of the section, for if the hammer is so used that the greatest portion of weight should fall outside the edge of the sheets the concussion will break away the paper as if cut with a knife. It is perhaps better for a beginner to practice on some waste paper before attempting to beat a book; and he should always rest when the wrist becomes tired. Hen each section has been beaten, supposing a book has been divided into four sections, the whole four should be beaten again, but together.


There are some books, old ones for instances, that should on no account be rolled. The clumsy presses used in printing at an early date gave such an amount of pressure on the type that the paper round their margins has sometimes two or three times the thickness of the printed portions. At the present time each sheet after having been printed is pressed, and thus the leaf is made flat or nearly so, and for such work the rolling machine is certainly better than the hammer.

To roll a book, it is divided into sections as in beating, only not so many sheets are taken – from six upwards, according to the quality of the work to be executed. The sheets are then placed between tins, and the whole passed between the rollers, which are regulated by a screw, according to the thickness of sections and power required. The workman, technically called “Roller,” has to be very careful in passing his books through, that his hand be not drawn in as well, for accidents have from time to time occurred through the inattention of the Roller

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