The music lives on – a stub binding structure

These pages of sheet music are important. They span a lifetime of playing and singing with others. Through the styles, trends and tastes of each era of life. Gathering memories and sampling them with every replay. A jutebox of musical memories. Irreplaceable.

Unfortunately, someone in the past has attempted to bind them together slap-dash style; with wood glue [blink]. 

The glue has oozed down between pages and stuck them together so they can’t be turned or opened properly.  The pages are all slightly different dimensions, so they were ‘trimmed’, but not straight or consistently. Some broken pages which were held together with sticky tape were not repaired before the gluing. Existing tears have become chasms as the overglued gutters pulled against them over time. There are paper losses and delaminations too, just so no-one feels left out :/ It has also not helped that sheet music was often printed cheaply on paper grain running in the wrong direction. 

Frankly, it was a mess. My customer was understandably dismayed. Here’s the list of jobs for this book:

– disbind and mechanical clean 
– slowly and meticulously remove dried wood glue from the spine 
– separation of pages and removal of hard dripped glue 
– repair losses and delaminations 
– repair breaks and tears 
– reguard all folds and reattach pages separated from their pairs 
Breath.  That’s the ‘undoing’ over. 

– order sheets alphabetically, as requested by the customer 
– sew each folio onto the front folds of an ‘accordion’ of archival paper 
– use the backfolds to sew together into a ‘stub-binding’ style 
– more about this later 
– round and back, after some packing out with waste sheets, to keep the book square during the process (the final book is spaced a little, like an album, so that a few wayward sheets not yet found by the customer can be tipped in later without stressing the spine) 
– sewn endbands, for strength 
– this book will be pulled from the shelf countless times in the future. 
– binding in ‘Record Linen’, basalt colour, with cloth hinges. 

The stub binding style is suited brilliantly to this job because it brings the folio folds out from the gutter, so pages turn well and music notes don’t disappear into the gutter when you are trying to play or sing them.  It also leaves the music pages sewn BUT NOT ADHERED, so that cross-grain pages don’t cause trouble. I am very proud to have been trusted with this vault of musical memories.  I know they they will provide many years of joy and reminiscing, bound to be protected.

{addendum, May2017, to answer some nerdy-bookbinder-questions about this structure  } 

If you need to use more the one concertina, how do you join them?
Imagine the concertina backfolds as the backs of sections. They are stitched together like sections normally are, so just lay the new concertina onto the sewn stack and keep sewing. You can have any number of sections to a concertina (I had lots for this one, but 4 or 5 at a time is what I’ve settled on now since this first go at it).
How do you casebind the sewn concertina stack?
Try to remember that once the concertinas backfolds have been sewn together, they resemble a normal textblock back. You can then bind it any way you like. The sewing of true sections onto the front folds simple achieves two outcomes – to push the section gutters out further from the spine (so you can open each section out flat, which was a main aim of the music sheets binding project) and to bind together sections of different heights, weights or grains together (since adhesive never touches the true sections, and you can add extra unattached concertina folds between sections to ‘pack out’ the spine to match the different thicknesses of section and paper)
Does the finished book open freely?
Absolutely, in fact that is one of the main reasons I would choose this structure. You can open sections which have been ‘pushed out’ from the gutter, as described above, but this also enables binding sections which would otherwise have content so close to the gutter margin as to ‘lose’ it in a formal bound structure.
What kind of paper is chosen for the concertina fold?
Choose a thickness which is flexible enough to move well as a fold, thick enough to ‘match’ the section paper (or pack it out with extra unattached folds), and not so thin that the folds are too ‘sharp’ to sew well.  Since this first experiment, I now back my concertina paper first with Japanese repair tissue, to give it strength without thickness.

I hope these extra details will help binders get the most out of this bloody useful structure. I love it 🙂


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