The Book Doctor Is In: Rebuilding Broken Books (Part 2)

book doctorRebuilding Broken Books

Two book binding repairs that will make your books stronger than new

Part 2

In Part 1 of this post we covered how to repair a broken hinge. Part 2 continues that discussion with instructions on reattaching a cover that has been completely torn off from the rest of the book.

Reattaching a Cover

When both hinges are broken the cover is not attached to the text block. Using double-stitched binder tape will result in a repair that is much more durable than the original hinges. Double-stitched binder tape is available in 13 sizes to repair books ranging from ¼ inch to 2 ½ inches thick.

This tape has two rows of stitches that form the new hinges in a repaired book so it is important that the distance between the rows of stitches is very close to the thickness of the text block. The specifications for double-stitched binder tape include both the overall width and the distance between the rows of stitches. Use the latter to determine the correct tape to order.

(HINT: In a pinch, if you don’t have the correct sized double-stitched binder tape, you can reattach the cover using 2 pieces of single-stitched binder tape as long as you can overlap them on the spine to avoid creating a weak area in the center of the spine.)

Both double-stitched binder tape and single-stitched binder tape are pre-gummed with a water-soluble adhesive so apply Norbond for a permanent repair.

Here are the steps to reattaching a loose cover:

Step 1

Start as you would when repairing a single broken hinge: Remove excess loose material, re-secure loose end sheets or a loose super, remove the flyleaf if it is attached to the text block and reattach it after the repair is complete.

Step 2

Cut the binder tape to match the length of the text block. Apply Norbond to one entire side of the tape and attach it so that the center section is on the spine of the text block.

Step 3

Attach flaps to the front and back of the text block. Smooth all newly glued areas with a bone folder and set the book aside to dry thoroughly.

Step 4

After the adhesive used in the previous steps has dried, apply more Norbond adhesive to the entire second side of the binder tape.

Step 5

Lay the cover flat on a work surface with the inside facing up. Check that the tops of the cover and the text block match up. Set the spine of the text block into the spine area of the cover and insert a piece of waxed paper on the inside of both covers. Note that no waxed paper is needed in the spine area to protect the tube from being glued closed since there are two layers of binder tape.

Step 6

Individually lift each side of the cover and align its edge along the stitches on the binder tape. Press the newly-attached tabs firmly with a bone folder and close the book. Lay the folder lengthwise along the spine and place rubber bands around the book. Allow it to dry overnight.

After the repair has dried completely remove the rubber bands and carefully open the book, giving it a bit of time to adjust to the repair. If you have followed these instructions carefully, I guarantee your repaired book will be at least as good as it was when it was new.

You now know two of the most important repairs needed to return a badly damaged book to useful status. Pull a couple books out of your discard pile and practice both of these repairs so you’re comfortable with them. You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to bring seemingly useless books back to life!

As always, feel post your comments and questions and I’ll respond. I may use your input in future posts.

Throughout this series, we reference two resources from Demco. The pamphlet Demco Collection Care Guide and the Demco Collection Care DVD are both available to help you through your book repair challenges.


John Ison

John Ison

John Ison retired in 2011 after working with Demco for more than 25 years, most recently as the Director of Library Relations. During that time he conducted over 300 book repair workshops, wrote the Demco Collection Care Guide, and wrote and produced the Demco Collection Care DVD.