What Is Spiral Bookbinding? Answers Past and Present

Types of Spiral Book Binding:
The types of spiral book binding available to the self publisher are numerous, and consequently these spiral book forms can suit a number of different media. Books are intended to be read, whether they are unpublished manuscripts, business or legal briefs. And like many talents, spiral bookbinding or coil bookbinding can be learned by the avid do-it-yourselfer. If you can imagine the finished product, then you can begin to decide whether to buy a book binding machine to produce a select number of bound books, or whether to simply pay a professional binder to coil or bind material for you. There are any number of considerations to factor in before making a decision, and these considerations will ultimately influence the costs involved.

Plastic Coil Bookbinding:
Plastic Coil Bookbinding is one of many options available for self published material. The coil itself is simply one continuous piece of PVC filament molded into the shape of a coil. The specific size of the coil will be dependent on the specific size of the material to be bound. Regardless of size, plastic coil binding creates documents that lay flat and can open a full 360 degrees. Furthermore these documents can easily be edited or modified simply by removing the plastic coil, adding or deleting pages, and rebinding the document. For any application that needs the look of a professional finish without the permanence of certain other forms of bookbinding, spiral coil book binding or plastic coil book binding provides that happy medium.

Plastic coils for coil bookbinding are typically sold in bulk, and according to pitch in a number of standard or metric sizes, though metric is usually the preferred measurements. The thickness of the document is used to determine the pitch used, and the pitch determines the spacing between the holes. A pitch of 5:1 is used to bind documents or books up to ¾-inch thick, while a pitch of 4:1 can be used to coil bind books up to an inch and an eighth. Coil width is measured by interior diameter (I.D), and can range from 6mm to 30mm. There are professional services that will bind the materials for you, and their services are worthwhile if plastic coil bookbinding will be used in single projects, or is used infrequently. Depending on how often you have documents or pamphlets that need spiral coil binding, it may be more cost effective to buy the equipment once and invest in a plastic boil binding machine.

Plastic Coil Binding Machines:
Plastic Coil Binding Machines are the cost effective approach for the person who needs spiral coil binding either on demand (without the delay of shipping) or in quantity. Once the machine is purchased, the additional costs to consider is the price of the spiral plastic coils, and possibly the price of laminating or plastic covers. One additional expense is the cost of other specially designed hand tools, like crimpers or pliers for cinching down the coil after it’s passed through the spine. Plastic coil binding machines are categorized into light duty, medium duty, and heavy duty office equipment. Naturally prices increase as the amount of automation increases. While generalizations are difficult since every manufacturer provides their own uniquely designed product, some overview is necessary to get an idea of what you might want in a spiral bookbinding machine.

Light Duty Plastic Coil Bookbinding Machines:
Light duty plastic coil bookbinding machines are typically available in the range of $200-$400. These machines provide the least amount of automation and are best for binding thinner pamphlets or documents. They are also a good choice for binding wall calendars. These machines are capable of manually punching anywhere from 10 to 20 sheets of bond paper at a time, in typical lengths of 11 or 14 inch. There are often guides or margin controls, as well as some way to indicate the width of the spiral coil used. These plastic coil bookbinding machines are available with or without electronic coil inserters.

Medium Duty Plastic Coil Binding Machines:
Medium duty plastic coil binding machines are typically available in the range of $400-$1000, making them much more of an investment. These office machines offer a little more of everything. Either more sheets of paper can be punched at once or the machines can accommodate a greater length, in some cases up to 28 inches (14 inches punched twice). While the paper punch is still done manually, a foot pedal is usually including to operate the coil insertion. One additional feature sometimes included is that the punch creates ovals rather than the typical round hole. The extra width of the oval hole can dramatically reduce the amount of time it takes to feed the coil through the spine.

Heavy Duty Spiral Coil Binding Machines:
Heavy duty spiral coil binding machines typically boast a price north of $1000. Because of the degree of specification, the punching machines and coil inserting machines are often sold separately. At the same time, these machines are intended to drive the engines of efficiency. Depending on the skill of the operator, these machines are capable of cranking out over 300 books per hour. That amounts to a plastic coil bound book every 12 seconds. The punches are also electric (typically foot pedal operated) and provide a greater versatility in the number of dies offered. The die selection allows for round or square holes with different diameters. These units are designed for and excel at providing commercial quantities of bound materials.

Many of the heavy duty coil binding units are designed as individual modules to produce a full work station. For instance, the first module would be an electronic punch with versatile dies and its own waste receptacle, as it punches 35 to 50 sheets of bond paper at a time. The second module would be an electric coil inserter, sometimes with its own built-in crimper. The most versatile or powerful machines can run north of $3000 in cost and may also require some training to fully utilize their potential.
Cost of Additional Supplies:

The cost of additional supplies is fairly negligible in comparison to any money spent on the coil binding equipment. The primary reason this is important is to factor in overhead if any of these books or calendars are being sold for retail. Most suppliers offer a healthy selection of colors, lengths, and diameters for plastic coils, dealer discounts for buying in bulk, and general guidelines for assuring that the selected coil will be effective for the thickness of the bound book and is compatible with any bookbinding machines being utilized in production. The price is largely influenced by the size of the coil.  As an example below,

  • 6mm thick plastic coil, 12’’ long, box of 100 = $6.85
  • 6mm thick plastic coil, 36’’ long, box of 100 = $16.50
  • 50mm thick plastic coil, 12’’ long, box of 100 = $90.50

In determining the diameter of the coil, and perhaps the overall overhead, it is recommended to add 1/8’’ to the width of the book to factor in laminated or plastic covers.

Additional Options for Coil or Comb Binding:
Depending on the particular punching or binding machine selected, different binding options might be available. Many models are designed to allow two or three different types of binding. Some other options include plastic comb binding or double-wire binding. Double-wire binding is especially useful in presenting charts or graphs that are split between pages, as the loops keep the pages in perfect alignment. Report binding, document binding, cookbooks, calendars, address books, spreadsheets, and more are just some of the practical applications that can be produced from coil or comb binding office equipment.