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Topic: Some book repair tips for your unpostables

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Subject: Some book repair tips for your unpostables
Date Posted: 3/4/2008 11:27 AM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2007
Posts: 4,058
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I'm going to put this in the Questions for PBS forum too, but I thought I'd post one here for my buddies too..:P  Mary had asked me about this because I mentioned it elsewhere; there are some things that make a book technically unpostable here, that really aren't too difficult to be repaired.  I started looking into this stuff a while back, partly because I go to library sales & thrift stores to find used books, and I wanted to find info on how to repair minor damage to books and clean them without damaging them.

First of all, for basic cleaning - I always use Goo Gone.  Here's a link with the different types you can buy at most grocery or drug stores: http://www.magicamerican.com/products_gg.aspx

I like the spray gel myself.  It's easier to just spray it onto a cleaning cloth, if I don't want to put it directly onto a book's surface, and it also comes in larger sized bottles, which are more practical & economical.  It removes stickers and most sticky substances (including food) from book covers - either dust jacket covers on hardbacks, or the shiny covers of paperback books.  Just don't spray it onto any unlaminated paper surface - it WILL stain anything porous enough for it to absorb into.  Likewise if your covers are excessively cracked or worn, so that you can see the paper under the shiny cover, you're going to get absorption - and thus stains - and discoloration anywhere that the product makes good contact with paper or thin cardboard surfaces.  Anywhere you have paper exposure under the laminate surface, but still want to use this to clean the surface, always put a small amount of it onto a cleaning cloth and not directly onto the surface of the book itself.  From there, gentle rubbing of the sticky goo should do the trick.  In the case of stickers, try to work it under the sticker using a small plastic scraper, your fingertips, and a dry, soft cloth.  If the stickers are paper, you can put a few drops directly on them and let it absorb into them first for easier removal - just use your finger or a cotton swab to rub it in a little and let it sit for about 30 mins.  Goo Gone is also very effective for general cleaning of book covers.  Again, use a dry, soft cloth, and spray or drop the product onto that, rather than directly onto the book, if you're in doubt.

On basic (& some advanced) book repairs & protection, here's a link to a pdf manual from Brodart (they make book repair products): http://www.ioba.org/StepByStepBookRepair.pdf

They cover a lot of topics, including how to laminate books - which is a good option for preserving older paperbacks.  From my personal experience, you can use just about any commercially available roll book/document laminate product for this, but the satin finish or non-shiny ones work best.  The shinier the product is, usually the further it is toward acidic on the ph scale, which can cause discoloration on any paper surfaces the adhesive side of it comes into prolonged contact with.  The non-shiny laminates (and this includes clear contact paper) are softer and more flexible, and do not tend to cause any discoloration to paper over time.  The only negative aspect to that is that they tend to not be as strongly adhesive, so you should have a small rubber tile roller (I got one at the hardware store), to roll across the surface of the laminate, and get rid of any air pockets between it and the book surface.

On spine cleaving - this is more difficult and doesn't always work perfectly, and you need some specific items to do it.  I'll have to transcribe this, because there's not much of anything to pull and paste online.  For tools & supplies, you'll need:

#1 A book weight.  This is usually a brick or something of comparable size & weight.  You want to wrap it in heavy paper, flannel, or felt - something absorbent, that will protect your book surface from scratching.

#2 Some good, flexible, all purpose glue.  Brodart Bind Art Adhesive is really the best stuff going for book repairs.  I bought mine from ebay, but there are other sources online, and you can also try art or hobby supply stores.  If you can't get that, use Elmer's.  Brodart is the best though, as it remains even more flexible than Elmer's after drying, and it's ph balanced to bond best with all types of paper without separating or causing discoloration - it dries clear.

#3 A flat artist's brush.

#4 Wax paper

#5 Rubber bands - the wide flat ones.  Preferably ones that will stretch to go around a book lengthwise pretty easily.  Brodart also has what they call "H bands" - which are great, but if you don't want to buy that book repair kit, you can use flat rubber bands.

#6 Dry, soft cleaning cloths.  Dish towels or cloths, a cloth diaper, shop towels, or bar towels are all acceptable.

#7 Tweezers - optional

Getting started:

Cut your wax paper into straight-edged sheets that are slightly larger than your book. 

Open the book to the cleaved pages, and taking your glue, run a small bead directly into the cleaving.  Get it down in there as deeply as possible, and try not to get any of it on the pages.  Take your paintbrush, and hold it so that the longer flat edge is parallel to the long side of your book, and spread the glue in a downward, sweeping motion, pushing it down as deeply into the binding as you can get it.  Work with small amounts, and while you want to bond the very edge of the page into the crevice, try not to spread it out onto the page.  If you get it out onto the page, take a dry, soft cloth and wipe off the excess glue.  The object here is to bind the edge of the page to the book's binding, but when it dries, you want the book to open as it normally would when it's new or in good condition.  In other words, I can't post a picture or diagram, so use common sense and don't glue your pages shut..:P

Insert the sheets of wax paper in between the pages where your cleavings are.  Slide it in as closely as you can get it to the spine, but don't press it deeply into the glue; even wax paper will adhere to the glue, if you press too tightly and too deeply into it.  You can also cut your wax paper sheets twice the width you need and fold them, and put the folded edge directly against the spine edge of the book.  Just make sure your folds are crisp and straight.  This makes it a little less prone to tearing upon removal if it adheres to the glue.

Close the book when the wax paper is in place, and then check to see that it's sitting close enough to the spine.  You can wiggle it in a little deeper if you want it closer.  Once you have all of the cleaved areas glued and the wax paper in place, double wrap the entire book in a sheet of wax paper, or use a single sheet, with a sheet of heavy paper over that.  This is to protect the edges of your book from damage from the rubber bands.  Take the rubber bands, and place at least two length-wise, and about three width-wise - all evenly spaced - around your wrapped book.  Brodart's H bands are already made to place equal pressure around the outside surface of the book, and hold it in place without damaging it, so if you have those, use them instead.  Otherwise, it's important to make sure the book is wrapped and the bands aren't too small or too tight.  You want steady, even pressure on the book while the glue dries, but you don't want to warp the book or damage the edges, so make sure the book is square within the bands and not bowing.

Place your book on a hard, flat surface, and place your book weight flat on top of it.  Allow to the glue to set for at least 4-6 hours before you remove the weight and the bands.  Go to each repaired area, and gently slide the wax paper out.  It may stick in places - just be careful and gently peel it loose.  If you end up with little scraps of wax paper stuck to the repaired areas, you can use tweezers to remove them.

Notes:  Keep in mind that this process is really only recommended for books in relatively good condition aside from a few isolated places where the spine is cleaving.  If your book has a very soft or "mushy" spine, and is cleaving throughout the entire book, your chances of repairing that successfully aren't very good.  If it's cleaving throughout the book, but in sections, you may also want to work with isolated sections one at a time, and repair the book over a day or two.  Just don't get in a rush, and if you're unsure, work with books that you're already going to have to discard if you can't repair them until you get a little more confident with what you're doing.

Refer back to the pdf manual I posted the link to for instructions (and pictures!) on making other repairs, like reinforcing bindings, replacing loose covers, and repairing torn pages.  There are also some instructions on removing writing and stamps, and I have some further tips from my own personal experiences that I can add, if everyone responds well to what I've put in here so far & finds it useful.

ETA: On sticker removal - if you have stickers on the actual pages of your book, this is where you may want to try the hot iron method - NOT on the covers!  Practically all paperback covers have a thin laminate coating, and a hot iron will melt it and permanently damage the cover.  You can put a thin towel under the page you're working on, and hold the tip of a hot iron over it for about 30 seconds, and those will usually peel off.  Just use the tip, and don't hold it on there too long (or set yout iron above a cotton setting), or you can leave scorch marks on the page.

Best of luck & happy reading!




Last Edited on: 3/4/08 11:46 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 3/4/2008 11:40 AM ET
Member Since: 10/24/2007
Posts: 1,313
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Good tips Kim - thanks!  Here's another one.  I had a book with a stain along the outside edge of the pages.  My husband held the book tightly closed and took a sharp razor blade, gently scraping the area (essentially shaving the page edges) and it was gone.  You can't tell the difference!

Date Posted: 3/4/2008 11:49 AM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2007
Posts: 4,058
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Steel erasers, and believe it or not sandpaper or those little sanding blocks, are also great for removing writing or stains that aren't set in too deeply from pages or outer edges.  I bought those little nose & mouth filter masks for when I'm doing a lot of sanding though.  It makes a lot of airborne dust, and I think the last thing you want to be inhaling is some of the crud that gets onto the pages of used books.:P

Date Posted: 3/4/2008 12:13 PM ET
Member Since: 1/11/2007
Posts: 1,646
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thanks for the tips.  It's amazing how many poor condition books I get from PBS; it's almost become the norm and when I complain people usually claim that there was nothing wrong with them!


In truth, I think most are just well-loved rather than abused, but good info nonetheless. 

Date Posted: 3/4/2008 1:45 PM ET
Member Since: 8/23/2007
Posts: 26,510
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Thanks Kim. I have some books that look fantastic except for the glue coming undone. I haven't read everything you put yet though. It would be nice to fix them and post them.  When closed they look brand new, never read.  But then you open them and they're coming apart. 

Date Posted: 3/4/2008 2:13 PM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2007
Posts: 4,058
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I've seen those too, Mary, and it kills your soul not to be able to pass them on.  The offer is always open to any of you ladies who use this forum regularly to send them to me if you don't think you can do this stuff.  I won't give anyone 100% guarantees that I can repair a book, but I'll do my best.  I don't have any specialized training in this - I've just been into doing arts & crafts for years, and so work like this is pretty self-explanatory to me in a lot of ways, and I've done a lot of reading on it and have a good bit of practical experience with it.  My best suggestion is to start with books you're thinking of discarding anyway, just until you get a little practice with what you're doing.  That way if you slop glue all over it or it falls apart in your hands, you really aren't out anything.  I'll add more stuff to this too, this much just wore me out and I can't think this hard twice in one day.:P

Last Edited on: 3/4/08 2:16 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 3/4/2008 2:17 PM ET
Member Since: 1/11/2007
Posts: 1,646
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Sure wish they'd use better glue on those spines!

Date Posted: 3/4/2008 6:04 PM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
Posts: 2,851
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I clean laminated jackets and laminated paperback covers with rubbing alcohol. Very cheap and does the job. It even removes a lot of sticky substances. It's safer than Goo Gone because it doesn't have an oil base that can stain the book - not that too many PBSers will care. :)

I also have a dry cleaning pad, which you can buy very cheaply through any library supply company. I use it to clean hardcovers. You just rub it vigorously over the cover and wipe away the residue. It can't harm the book and it cleans most dirt and grime.

Finally, just a plain paper eraser will remove pencil and dirt marks from the inside pages.

Date Posted: 3/6/2008 4:06 PM ET
Member Since: 4/11/2006
Posts: 1,032
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I also use rubbing alcohol and it has been very effective in removing sticker residual and just plain old cleaning.  Sometimes I use those disaposable alcohol pads that I get from the office supply cabinet, but it is essentially the same thing as a bottle of rubbing alcohol.