DIY: Binding your printed PDFs

PEACH Starbinder 21 I know that a lot of gamers own PDF versions of roleplaying games, either because their is no printed version, the PDF version was way less expensive or they just didn’t want to wait for the physical book to ship. If you have a laser printer or access to one (and the permission to use it) at work, printing a whole book is usually not a big deal.

But what to do with a stack of paper? The easiest way is probably to put it into a ring binder. But this also has its disadvantages. The main reason is that most binders are pretty bulky and the holes created by the hole puncher are usually not as close to the paper edge as you would like. In the past I usually carried the printed out book to a copy shop and asked them to bind it. In most cases using the plastic comb binding was the way to go. Alas this is quite expensive. The last time I paid 6€ for binding a single book. And that’s too much in my book (no pun intended).

Ok, what to do? After some research I realized that Plastic Comb Binding Machines aren’t that expensive. I got one for about 32€. A set of 25 plastic binding combs sets you back around 4 to 5€. Most binding machines come with a couple of binding combs, transparent plastic cover sheets and cardboard back covers. That’s more than enough material to get you started.

Neat, isn't it? The first step of binding is punching the 21 holes into the paper. You can punch holes into approx. 8-12 sheets at once, so this can take a while. The worst thing you can do at this point is to get sloppy. I wasted a lot of paper because I punched the holes into the wrong side of the sheet or I didn’t align the sheets properly. The more concentrated you work the better the results will be!

The next step is getting the punched sheets onto the plastic binding combs. It took me some time to figure that step out because my machines’ manual was really useless in that regard. But when I finally figured it out, it was easier than I expected it to be. Just make sure the diameter of the binding comb you use is large enough for the book you want to bind. I usually use a transparent plastic cover sheet and a black cardboard back cover sheet when I bind something.

Especially when you print a lot of PDFs (like I do) the machine will pay for itself even after a couple of  bindings. It might be more work than just going to a copy shop, but it’s definitely cheaper in the long run. And you don’t have to leave your home!

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

11 thoughts on “DIY: Binding your printed PDFs”

  1. We have one and you do find all sorts of uses for them – e.g. making notepads out of scrap paper.

    I recommend spending a little extra to get the wire bindings rather than the plastic ones. They are much nicer and more robust.
    .-= Chris Tregenza´s last blog ..D&D 3.5 versus 4e =-.

  2. With the relatively infrequency that I find a PDF worth buying and printing out, I'll take it to the local copy for coil binding. That sort is less bulky than a comb binding and seems to fatigue the paper less, hopefully reducing the odds of torn-out pages.

    Plus, the cover can fold back competely, allowing for one-handed reading!
    .-= Tyler´s last blog ..Who’s Afraid of Ragland Park? =-.

  3. We have a big one at work (I can punch 30 pages at a time) that I use for the pdfs that I end up printing out (note to self: I really can't wait until the Kindle DX is fully functional in its PDF handling. The only difficulty is finding the combs for large page count books: Most of the ones I've found at the office store only do about 100 pages (50 sheets of paper). I have found some much bigger combs but only through an office-supply vendor, not in an actual retail store.
    .-= MJ Harnish´s last blog ..D&D Gamma World RPG – Now there’s an idea I like =-.

  4. So, can one binder machine do different size books, 81/2×11 and digest (assuming you have right comb) or is there one machine per format?

    Metal spiral notebooks gets crushed and bent out of shape. I'm surprised so many people prefer it over plastic.
    .-= Norman Harman´s last blog ..Labyrinth Lord Society =-.

  5. @Norman: The binding machine I have can only do A4 sized books. I am sure there are machines for other formats as well (like US Letter for example).

    And I definitely prefer plastic combs over spiral binding. It's cheaper and they retain their shape. It take quite a lot of abuse to damage the plastic combs.

  6. @Tyson: I have some plastic comb bound books that are several years old (which I didn't bind myself, I just started doing so recently) and there are still no signs of wear. I also found some plastic comb bound manual at my workplace that were probably made in the early 90s and those are still fine, too.

  7. I used to do this all the time, since I had access to binders and industrial hole-punches. But who has the energy for that any more? POD is getting cheaper, and so are Android tablets. Boy, let a guy age a few decades and we turn pretty lazy.

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