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A Web Press is Not Always Perfecting

A Quick Tips reader in Belgium recently brought to my attention an interesting bit of information on perfecting presses. I stated in a previous article that all web presses were perfecting. My reader pointed out that there were exceptions to the rule, which included such form-presses as the Didde, Drent, Muller Martini, and others. If a pressman were to print both sides of the web roll using these presses, he would use “turnbars” to turn the ribbon of paper over so the opposite side could be printed. This seems to be an amazing feat when you consider that the paper runs through the press at between 300 feet/minute and 3,000 feet/minute. So even though the ribbon of paper only goes through the press once, unlike some presses that print both sides of a roll of paper as it travels in a flat path through the press, these presses print both sides of the paper at once by actually turning the paper over during the printing process.

Saddle-Stitch vs. Perfect Binding

When do you decide to perfect bind a book rather than saddle-stitch it? At what page count should you switch?

I was told recently that the rule of thumb is 96 pages plus cover. Like most rules, this one has many exceptions. Why? Because there are several variables in any printed piece. A 120-page magazine printed on a heatset web, for instance, on 45# text stock might be just fine. The same book printed sheetfed on 60# white offset would be bulky and not lie flat when closed or open. Worse yet, the stitches might not hold, and the pages in the center could fall out.

In making this decision, consider the weight of the paper and its surface texture (a 60# gloss sheet would be thinner than a 60# uncoated offset sheet, so more pages would comprise the same thickness, caliper, or bulk).

Other mitigating factors include time. Higher page counts will slow the stitching equipment down and or may require multiple passes on the stitcher. For example, if your publication is 96 pages plus cover plus a cover wrap (six 16-page signatures, a cover, and a cover wrap), you will have just enough elements for a seven-pocket stitcher with an extra cover pocket. Add an 8-page signature, and you will need a double-pass on the stitcher (there are only seven stations on the stitcher so you will need to pre-collate some signatures). Does your publication schedule have time for this, or will it cause your job to miss the delivery or mail deadline?

Higher page counts may also put a nick in the top and bottom of the pages at the bind edge, and the pages in the center of the book might not be adequately held in by the staples. Pages could fall out when your reader least expects it.

Ask an expert. Your printer can suggest the proper point at which to shift from saddle-stitching to perfect binding, based on your paper stock, and he can even provide a paper dummy of both options. This way you can see what the final product will look like before you commit to saddle-stitching or perfect binding.

Lay-Flat Laminate

A few years ago I wrote a Quick Tips article that included a description of various coating options, such as varnish and lamination. I even mentioned lay-flat lamination. But I think this bears repeating and describing in more detail.

Lamination can be a liquid that dries to a tough gloss or dull surface, or it can be a film. Both adhere to the cover of a book, for instance, to protect it and give a sheen or a muted effect (gloss or dull, or even satin, an “in-between” look).

But over time moisture in the air will seep into the paper fibers on the inside front and inside back covers of this book, causing the paper to expand. The laminated side, unfortunately, is not porous and will not absorb the water and air, so the uncoated side will bow outward, and the coated side will not, making the paper cover curl. This is unsightly.

How can you avoid this? You can use lay-flat laminate. Lay-flat laminate either has grooves that allow the coating to expand and contract to prevent curling, or it is made of a porous material such as nylon, which is permeable by water and air. Such a porous coating allows the outside covers and inside covers to maintain an equilibrium. This avoids curling.

A Fine Point of Style

What is the difference between the words “register” and “registration”? When you say two (or four or however many) colors are “in register” on a press sheet, you mean that they are properly aligned relative to one another. When the color is “out of register,” the images and type look blurry. When the colors are “in register,” the images and type look crisp and in focus.

“Registration,” on the other hand, refers to signing up for something, like a university class. It is a fine point of wording, but as with any language, when you speak with a printer and use his language correctly, it will make communication easier. So instead of referring to “good registration,” say, “The colors are in register.”


[Steven Waxman is a printing consultant. He teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.]

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