Here's part 2, some details on how I fixed up a beat-up book that was falling apart on me. I talk about the whole history behind this book back in part one. Now, on to the fun.
In My Time of Binding
- 9x12" binder, with no push-down opener tabs on the top and bottom ($4.99)
- Plastic sheet protector ($1.00)
- Binder hole reinforcement stickers, a.k.a. "Doughnuts"
- Velcro strips (adhesive sticker back)
- Adjustable, industrial-sized 3-ring hole puncher (borrowed)
- Individual hole puncher ($1.00)
- 3-ring binder tab separators
With the plastic comb binding breaking off, the first solution that came to mind was to just go find a place who could stick on a new comb. I asked Staples, and they said they didn't do it. Then I went to the same Staples the next day, and they said they DO offer that service. Well, OK, then. But if I just put another cheap plastic comb on it, would I just run into the same problem again later? I asked if they had something else they could do, like a strong metal coil binding. No, they didn't. I could have searched around to see if somebody else would, but then thought of alternate solutions.
The Size Remains the Same
Most of the problems I had in this whole project came down to one simple fact: this book is 9" by 12". We live in a world where almost all office supplies are made for 8.5" by 11".
This led to the following problems, which in turn led to a number of purchases and returns along the way:
- Most binders, even the large capacity ones, are still only tall enough to cover 11" sheets. This means that if you put a I didn't really see the point in fitting stuff into a binder if I had half an inch of pages sticking out from either end.
- Likewise, binders typically have tabs on the top and bottom which you press in order to open the rings, and pull up in order to close the rings. Let's call these "opener tabs" for lack of a better term. When these are closed, they usually stay straight out, parallel with the three rings. This means that even if the front and back covers of the binder were taller, you typically can't fit pages taller than 11" in them anyway, because the top and bottom area are bound by those two tabs.
- Even if I wanted to use the plastic combs again, most of these are made for 8.5x11" pages, which means they wouldn't cover everything. The hole system was notably different too; this book used a difference spacing.
- Most devices for punching 3-ring binder holes into sheets, are made to only work with 8.5x11" paper. They'll have a non-moveable edge that the top or bottom edge of the paper lines up against for easy aligning. Well, that's convenient if you have paper that's 11" tall, but not for paper that's 12" tall. Otherwise, your 3 holes will be vertically off-center.
In the end, I decided that the plan of attack was to find a 3-ring binder that could easily fit these 9x12" pages without anything hanging out over the edges, then get the holes punched in the right place.
I Can't Cover You Baby
I knew that no matter what, I was going to get some kind of covering for the front or back. I didn't care if this was a simple sheet of plastic to put on top of the front cover and on the back of the back cover. I wanted whatever could help protect the book in the long run as I'd be shoving it in and out of my gig case in the future.
Alas, again, the big problem was finding something that would fit all the pages. Not just holding 300-400 pages, but being tall enough to support 12" tall pages, AND not have those annoying tabs on the top or bottom.
I did see a "legal" binder (8.5" x 14"), but that was too tall. Namely, too tall to be able to still fit the thing in my gig bag of a briefcase. I guess lawyers have longer briefcases for this purpose? Hmm.
In the end, the one that worked was also one of the cheapest binders in the store. For $4.99, I bought what the receipt described as a "PC Kraft Binder". It looked very eco-friendly. I would have preferred something more longer-lasting, like plastic. Regardless, it was tall enough to fit 12" pages, AND didn't have those annoying tabs on the top and bottom of the spine.
Hole Lotta Love
I had a cheap 3-ring binder hole puncher at home, but as you can imagine, it was made for 11" tall paper. I knew that trying to use it to line up 12" would just lead to weird changes in hole placement which would lead to different heights of the paper edges in the binder. Also, I wasn't going to do this only 3 sheets at a time for 350+ pages.
I searched the office for a better hole puncher. No such luck. Though weeks later I did see a plastic comb book binder machine in one room; go figure.
I asked the library. The one they handed me was for 8.5x11" sheets. Damn.
I went back to Staples. They had several heavy-duty, customizable 3-hole punchers for sale. Did I really want to spend $40-$80 on a machine I probably wouldn't be using again anytime soon? At first my brain started to rationalize, "Well maybe this would be a good investment, especially if I plan on printing up books of my own at home to sell, like that one book I was working on, and..." No, no, no. Let's stick to the mission.
I went back to Staples' copy and fax center. They had a few of the 8.5x11" hole punchers around, but several of the bigger ones behind the desk with all of their other stock paper and what not. Surely, they wouldn't let me use one of these when they could instead force me to sell one, right? Well, one way to find out. I had already talked to the clerk about binding books, so maybe if I could give the illusion that I was just going to borrow it for something simple, and then later pay for something else, it would all be acceptable. So I asked if I could use the good hole-puncher. She said yes! I figured out the right setting, using a single page from the book as a test page. Then I punched through all 350+ pages, taking stacks at a time as the machine could handle it. Awesome. Done. "Here's your hole puncher back!"
As mentioned at the top of this post, I did end up buying some more items: reinforcement label ("doughnut" stickers), a little individual hole puncher, a plastic cover sheet, and Velcro.
Stairway to Strengthen
From here, I could have just put the hole-punched pages in the binder and be done with it. But given how many pages there were, I knew that over time the front and back covers would still get knocked around, so I did some additional things:
- Use some "doughnut" stickers around the binder holes of some pages. I did this with the first few pages, the last few, and some pages for songs I frequently go to. I didn't want to have to do this with every page, of course. But just the ones that needed the most reinforcement. I also bound one of the test pages I used to get the hole-punching right the first time around, since it had two sets of overlapping holes.
I made a point of getting stickers that were clear, not white. That's because in some cases, the holes were on the edges of some of the sheet music, and using an opaque sticker would block a bit of it. We may be talking only 1/8" of it, but blocking it none the less.
- Bought a $1 plastic report protector on clearance, and cut it up to make two strips: one to go between the front cover of the binder and the front cover of the book, and another one to go between the back cover of the binder and the back cover of the book. Again, I figured this would prevent wear of the book covers in the long run. This was the only thing I used the little hole puncher for.
- Also, while I was at it, I decided to put some black duct tape around the inside of the binder. This wasn't all that indestructable of a binder in the first place, so I figured I'd put tape around where it was likely to get worn in the long run: the place where the cover meets the rings.
"It's been a long time since I Velc and Croed..."
While I was adding the plastic sheets, I had the idea to make these lockable with Velcro. The idea was that these pages of the book would be tightly bound while the book was closed and put away, so no amount of shaking of the bag or tossing the binder around would really jostle the pages around in the binder. You can find strips of Velcro with peel-off sticker backs in stores like WalMart or Home Depot. I like the strips that let you just cut off and use however much you need.
Fool in the Raincoat
Here's one thing I tried, but didn't end up using.
Knowing that the binder was ultimately thick cardboard, I thought I could get something to cover this. I found a rubber textbook cover at Staples. And on clearance! Fits all books 8" and bigger. Well this should work well. Just hook up the corners, and stretch it on. All size fits all, right?
I tried it, and noticed three problems:
- The rubber cover just barely fit. It reached the corners, but certainly didn't cover all the edges.
- The biggest problem is that it was so tight, it would snap the binder covers backwards. I didn't want to have to deal with my book possibly doing a flying belly flop off of my music stand.
- My binder now looked like it was wearing a condom.
Trampled Under Foot
At some point in the process I had the pages in the binder, and was ready to double check that the binder would actually fit into my gig case. And...it didn't. Damn. The binder was actually thicker than it needed to be for the pages. Fortunately, the cardboardy nature of the binder meant that the problem could be solved by making an additional bend on the side, so that the spine was more curved-shaped than rectangular. If you look at the photo, you'll get an idea of what I mean.
I tried putting the binder in a drawer and bending it on the edge of the drawer. I tried a few other things, but it wouldn't bend in the way that I needed to. Finally, I just put it down and carefully stepped on it. That did the trick. Now there wasn't a huge amount of space between the left edge of the pages and the top left edge of the binder. Now it would fit.
As you can see from the photo, this bend was actually done before I added the duct tape, though I now had a another reason to add the tape.
This book has all of the Led Zeppelin songs arranged by album. So the only other thing remaining was putting in some chapter divider tabs, to separate the different albums. I already had some of these tabs which I had bought last year for something else. Time to put them to use.
And that's about it. That's how I took one of my most often used pieces of stuff, and made it into better stuff. And I managed to avoid spending $80 on a hole puncher.