Ch. 14 – The first day of volume production


The primary requirement for making a large number of books, aside from the necessary hardware and materials, is ample space. In particular, you need a table large enough to collate quantities of signatures – in my case ten books at a time, each of nine signatures apiece. You also need space to stack printed-off signatures prior to collation, and collated books afterwards, and space to fold book-lots of signatures then stack the resultant piles of folded books.

Fortunately, in the third week of August I was able to decamp bag and baggage to my sister’s house in Linlithgow, where my daughter was catsitting while writing up her PhD, the mistress and master of the house being away on holiday.

It is a pleasing fact that you can load a home print workshop (including printer and computer) into the back of a VW Passat estate car.20170823_151156#1

My intention was to begin (and perhaps complete?) serious volume production at my sister’s. I had already begun printing at home with five proof copies, each consisting of 11 six sheet/24 page signatures. This gave valuable insights into the printing process and help me establish a number of useful principles. I kept careful notes of all my printing in a little book, primarily to keep an eye on how many sheets I was getting from a cartridge of toner, although they also served as a useful record of how my practice developed. A typical note from 18 August reads

‘18.07 commenced printing whole book’ – this evidently meant inputting the print instructions, since the next note says – ‘18.12 printing commenced’ (it takes a while for the laser to digest a full set of instructions, though it’s quick once it gets going) the note concludes, ‘took about 20′ but unfortunately printed it as one big booklet despite commas and ranges in the instruction. Bah.’

There then follow a number of ‘experiments’ which appear to have been of limited success, but out of them emerged the key principle that it would be more efficient to print ten copies of a signature at a time. I must also have decided at this point to move to printing fewer signatures but with more pages in each, so that a book would now consist of 9 eight sheet/32 page signatures. One further decision I made was that the production unit, as far as sewing went, would be five books at a time, since that struck me as comfortably within the capacity of the sewing frame, and at one-twentieth of total production at a time, a useful index of how much time it was likely to take.

I moved my operation to Linlithgow on 22 August and having set up, commenced printing on the 23rd at 8.57, noting that the printing of 10 x pp1-32 ‘began within a minute – uncollated, however’ and finished at 9.09 ‘so 12′ for 10’. Having remembered to collate subsequent signatures, I found the total time went up slightly to about 14 or 15 minutes  per set of 10. At 10.50 the printer signalled ‘prepare new cartridge’ (at 1534 A4 sheets) and the subsequent note shows that I managed a further 8 signatures of the next batch before the ink gave out, indicating that a cartridge was good for 1662 A4 sheets, which translated into 3324 A5 pages,  which approximated well to their advertised 3k capacity.

Having installed a fresh cartridge, I resumed printing and by 12.23 I had completed the final set of ten signatures. I now had the printed material for ten books, one tenth of my projected total.

I must have spent the afternoon in collating and folding them, since the next printing operation did not start till 17.02. This cartridge did not last so well and only gave 2906 A5 pages, so that I finished the first day one set of signatures short of having printed 20 books, which seemed reasonable rate of progress.

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