Ch.8: Costing a book – necessary hardware

Samsung Xpress Laser Printer

compact desktop printer amid the creative chaos – the end of the sewing-frame can be seen on the right

A printer we have already discussed: clearly it is the heart of the business as far as producing the book itself is concerned. My choice (after some research) was a Samsung Xpress M2885FW, a monochrome laser which did duplex (i.e. double-sided) printing. Laser is more economical than inkjet and gives better quality print. Monochrome is cheaper to run as you only require one toner cartridge as opposed to the four that a colour printer requires. An additional cost with this model is the imaging unit, which requires renewal every 10,000 pages. A factor which influenced my choice was that ‘compatible’ toner cartridges were available at less than a third of the cost of Samsung originals from the excellent Stinky Ink . These (which proved entirely satisfactory) come with a timely warning not to update your printer’s software, since it will almost certainly start blocking non-original cartridges. I will deal with detailed costs for printing in due course, but if you are printing 100 books at 288 pages each, then saving on ink is  a major factor.

A key piece of hardware is a sewing frame. Specialist bookbinding equipment comes into that category of things on which you can spend as much as you wish – much of it  is seductively attractive, but very costly. I am grateful to Jim Poelstra for his excellent website, Affordable Binding Equipment, which persuaded me that making such equipment was well within the range of the enthusiastic amateur. After some further searching I found this straightforward design on the Eden Workshops website, which I gratefully acknowledge.

My own sewing frame was assembled from scrap MDF & wood and some threaded rod, nuts and washers bought from Wickes for under a tenner. It is no thing of beauty but it functions perfectly well.


The other necessity is some form of press, not for printing, but to compress the book at various stages: first, to flatten down the unbound signatures, and also to clamp them for sawing – which is the easiest way to prepare the holes for sewing; next, to compress the book once the signatures have been bound together; and, finally, when it has been cased. Again, there is no shortage of such presses – most specialised to a particular function – to be had, at a cost; very pretty some of them are, too; but in the end I made do with a machine vice and some boards, a few loose weights, and numerous volumes of the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

I should also mention Glaister’s Encyclopaedia of the Book, a volume I bought some years ago, which proved a handy resource for acquiring some understanding of the terms and processes employed in bookmaking, as well as being of great interest in itself. You can doubtless find much of the information online if you search, but here it is all gathered together in attractive format, ready to hand. There is much to be said for books.

In the next chapter, we will turn to the question of estimating quantities.

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