Fall Apart Park – my artisanal/hand-crafted novel – is officially finished. Four years in the making, Maina and I spent the winter producing 82 copies at home, with an inkjet printer and our bare hands.
I would like to take the opportunity (again – because I actually just wrote this post, but it was lost to some fritz in the net, grrrrr….) to explain how I made these books. The process was incredibly fascinating, and highly satisfying (and worth the trouble to tell twice). In the end, I am able to say that: yes, crafting your very own book is not all that difficult. In fact, once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty easy. I’ll tell you what’s what.
But first, I want to mention that:
* signed and numbered copies of Fall Apart Park are now available, for anywhere between 15-50 bucks each (you choose the price)
* the digital edition is free, and can be downloaded
* the audio edition is being recorded and will be available for download soon
As with ‘everything’, there’s a wealth of information available on the net. The trick is knowing the terminology. Get that, and the rest simply falls right into the screen. I found a lot of useful information; but none greater than Hamish MacDonald’s DIY-Book podcast and blog. Excellent; just excellent. Thanks again Hamish! (FYI: Hamish and I recently rapped about Fall Apart Park – its conception, spirit, and production. It was great fun! The interview can be found here.)
Here’s the scoop:
I used a standard inkjet printer. The only important ability of which is the ability to duplex – that is, automatic double-side printing. You can, of course, hand-feed the individual pages back into the machine every time. But you don’t really want to do that, and, anyway, printers generally have a hard time re-digesting pre-printed pages; they get all crinkled and cooked. Not to say that all inkjet printers duplex very well; make sure both sides of the paper produce mirror images of each other. Just choose a text block that fills the page, hold to light, and squint (I read somewhere that squinting is bad for the eyes… true?). And, I made sure to buy a printer whose price includes the ink cartridge; they can be as expensive as the printer itself.
I used A4-sized paper. I chose this size for a few reasons: I find the proportions of this sizing more appealing than US Letter-size, I was able to generate less waste, and I was able to print 4-up on each page-side. Before I explain what 4-up means, you should know that A4 paper is generally unavailable in the US. Just as imperial/metric, we in the states use a different measurement system for paper. What I had to do was buy my paper in huge sheets called parent-sheets. I then had to trim these down to A4-size, making little notebooks with the paper cuttings.
So 4-up. 4-up means that 4 of the book pages, will be printed on one side of the printer-paper. This happens on the front, and the back. So on one sheet of A4-paper, will appear 8 book-pages. How do you get 8 book-pages to display on one piece of paper? And how in the world do you order them… because the pages will not necessarily remain in the same order they were on the screen…
By using imposition software. There are quite a few programs out there, and many atorrented. I used PDFClerk; and it was a breeze. The other things the imposition software considers are your book’s signatures. Signatures are literal nested-pages that are folded into each other. The number of pages that each signatures has, will depend on its length, and style of bind, as well as personal preference. I think I read somewhere that you don’t really want any more than 5-pages per signatures, because you get this thing called creep; that’s when the pages stick out a bit, because they are not flush on the spine. Fall Apart Park’s signatures, however, are made of single sheets. That way, every piece of paper in the books is in direct contact with the spine, and therefore in direct contact with the glue. Once I printed the pages 4-up, I had to cut them in half. I did this job in bulk, twice. Once using the grand and gorgeous machine at The Sherwood Press; and once using the table-top, long-arm guillotine that my father let me borrow (thanks pops!).
Once cut, the pages are next folded. Folding, folding, folding, folding takes the most time… Luckily Maina loves me (and book making!).
Folding pages by yourself is alright, kind of. Like a lot of monotonous tasks, it can be pretty therapeutic (especially if you listen to The Game of Thrones on audiobook). But with 2, it’s a blast. Folding-parties are the best.
Once the folding is done (which, it does, eventually get), the pages are ready to be glued and transformed into the book-block!
This part is really exciting, because the papers now resemble a book for the very first time. And, also, they are about to be bound! There are a million ways to bind books – from complex hand-made contraptions, to smart and simple devices, to rubber bands and rulers, or even duct tape (of course) – and I decided on something in between. First, I just used some heavy filing cabinet as a weight when I bound my dummy copy. It sorta worked. After that, I decided I would use a couple c-clamps and some wood (thanks again pods!). Snap. It’s just two pieces of wood screwed-together to make a 90 degree angle, another piece to sit on the opposite side of the book, and the clamps. Just make sure that the books stands taller than the wood, so that the glue doesn’t glue the book to the wood! One thing I did before binding, was rough up the spine a bit with a serrated knife. This generates a bit more surface-area, as well as some paper-dust which ends up acting like a binder for the glue. And, the glue: I used a PVA glue that I found at the local art supply store. The glue contained less ‘crap’ and appeared to be less ‘toxic’ to my life. In the end, it worked great. It didn’t even smell bad.
As we were folding and binding, my cover-design was being letterpressed at The Sherwood Press, just down the street. By the time we were finished, the covers were ready to do their covering! Beautiful, beautiful covers… letterpress is really something gorgeous. I trimmed every cover to fit every book. Then I signed and numbered the copies, and they were done. Just like that. (P.S. Now I am trying to sell them 😉 ). And then there were 82 copies of Fall Apart Park occupying our teeny-teeny house. (If you saw our house, you know how small it is – if you didn’t… imagine that!)