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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 11:39 AM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2007
Posts: 4,058
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I posted this in the Love & Romance forum for a few friends, but I thought I'd post one here for everyone else who expressed an interest in this topic.  A buddy had asked me about this because I mentioned simple book repairs elsewhere in this forum; 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 11:45 AM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 3/4/2008 1:28 PM ET
Member Since: 1/8/2007
Posts: 8,139
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Thanks for posting these tips, Kim! I was just looking at a couple of books that could use a little help yesterday. Can't wait to try some of these tips! :)

Date Posted: 3/4/2008 1:36 PM ET
Member Since: 1/23/2006
Posts: 353
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Thanks for posting this labor of love! :-)


Date Posted: 3/4/2008 3:41 PM ET
Member Since: 10/13/2007
Posts: 36,445
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LOL sorry find it funny since this is part of my job. I have to mend books all the time and prefer Brodart products compared to the other vendors.

I would also like to add a tip I have been taught.

When finished with the glueing and you have put the rubber bands on, get a round tube shape (pencil etc) and insert this done either side of the spine(front cover, and back cover) this pushes the pages together more tightly and helps the glue stick in the area you wish it.  Also helps with glueing hard cover books that have the indent.

And for those childerns books that fall apart due to the sewing breaking, you can staple those sections back together and then glue them like the paperbacks.

Still makes them unpostable but still readable.

Its one part of my job that I LOVE, the fact I can save a book from being thrown out is so nice to see.

Date Posted: 3/4/2008 4:15 PM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2007
Posts: 4,058
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Lol, Pam!  That is great.  I'd LOVE to have your job!  And you are so right about the Brodart products - the adhesive especially is truly wonderful stuff.  I know those basic book repair kits aren't something that just anybody & everybody would be interested in buying, but I think they're great.

Date Posted: 3/5/2008 10:13 AM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2007
Posts: 4,058
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Here are some tips on removing musty odors from books that I had found on the internet.  Posted these in the musty book thread and thought I'd add them in here.  Method one with the cat litter & baking soda is the only one I've used and it seems pretty effective.  I deodorize pretty much everything I get from the UBS and thrift stores, just to be safe.  I have sinus allergies, and my sense of smell isn't always what it should be.:P

Get a fairly large Rubbermaid container, a bag of deodorizing cat litter, a box of baking soda, and a skein of yarn or jute twine.  Take the top off, and and pour the cat litter into the bottom & spread it out, then spread the baking soda over that.  Using the yarn or jute twine, wrap it around the container, creating lines across the top of the container.  These should be fairly snug but not too tight.  Open your books, and hang them from the lines, by draping the open middle section of the book across it.  The lines should sag slightly down into the container, but not drag into the cat litter & baking soda.  Once you get all of your books hung on the lines, put the lid back on the container and let it sit for at least a couple of days.  When you take them out, they should be odor free.  The longer you can leave them in there the better.  Several days seems to work best.  You can also use lump charcoal instead of the cat litter & baking soda.  It's available at most grocery & hardware stores - don't use briquets, they're usually chemically treated!  Or you can also use activated charcoal you get from a pet store.  If you have trouble with hanging the books from the yarn or twine, you can put some sort of wire or mesh shelf down in the bottom of the container above whatever odor absorbing material you're using - just find some way to secure it above the deodorizing material in the bottom of the tote.  Then just stack your books on the shelf, close the container and wait at least 2-7 days to take them out.

The general consensus seems to be on a time period of 2-7 days inside the container - regardless of whether charcoal or the baking soda & cat litter is used, but I've seen some people saying they leave them in there up to two weeks.

Last Edited on: 3/5/08 10:16 AM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 3/24/2008 9:35 AM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2007
Posts: 4,058
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Copy/Pasting this in for Ruth - on water/moisture warped books:

Something everyone might find useful - I have recently received 3 books with moisture or water damage, and on a suggestion/comment another member made elsewhere in this forum, I took card stock and cut about 6 pieces just the slightest bit larger than each book's pages, inserted one just inside the front and back covers and equally spaced the remaining 4 throughout the books.  I then wrapped the books each in a sheet of printer paper and put them under book weights (bricks).  The ones I received yesterday, I checked this morning, and the pages are perfectly smooth and flat, and don't feel stiff.  I was really surprised, because while one of the books was more moisture warped than actually wet, the other was pretty damp.  I also did this to a book last week that just had the wavy, moisture warped pages, but wasn't noticably damp, and got the same result.  I don't know that this works 100% of the time, but it has worked for me on the last 3 warped books I received, so it's definitely worth a try before giving up on a book.  I'd have to say that I think doing this as soon as possible after you realize a book is damp or the pages are starting to warp would be best, but that's based more on instinct that actual experience.  I don't know if it would be effective on old warping or not, but I'm going to see if I can find some warped books and experiment with it a little.  It might even be possible to steam them somehow and then press the warping out.

Last Edited on: 3/24/08 9:37 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 3/24/2008 4:02 PM ET
Member Since: 12/9/2007
Posts: 9,601
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Thank you so much, Kim!  So very helpful.


Also thanks to everyone that posted a "fixer".  My goal is not to make an unpostable postable - but to make it readable again.  If nothing else - I can leave it in a public place for someone else.  My personal sort of "Bookcrossing" - except I don't track it. Just a kind of random act of kindness.  (I was never able to send a message in a bottle at the ocean - so this is my substitute.)

Date Posted: 4/3/2008 11:24 PM ET
Member Since: 2/12/2007
Posts: 831
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This works well for almost all paperbacks with partially loose pages, spine starting to cleave, and sometimes even totally loose pages.  If the pages have pulled away and torn the paper of the cover, this method will not help.  This method may occasionally damage the book, but, hey, it was already unpostable, right?

Premise:  the glue used to make the book is hot-melt glue, just like in your glue gun or the stuff used to glue interfacings into your clothes. 

1.  Preheat your household iron to the wool or cotton setting, depending on how patient you are vs. how quick your reflexes are.

2.  Carefully place all loose pages & corners into position and hold them tightly in place.  

3.  Wrap the spine in something to protect the iron, preferably a Teflon sheet or non-stick paper, like the stuff that Wonder-Under comes on.  Plain paper will probably work in a pinch, but you should probably go for the lower temperature in this case.  The book inks will stick to the iron if you don't put something between them.  

4.  Hold the spine of the book firmly against the iron, being careful not to burn your fingers, until the glue starts to ooze out the end of the spine, then pull the book away immediately.  Hold it tightly until the spine has cooled enough to touch comfortably with your bare fingers.

This will have tightened up the spine considerably and reattached any loose corners.  If you had the loose pages exactly back where they belong, they will be reattached too.

Date Posted: 2/8/2009 6:49 PM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2007
Posts: 4,058
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Bumping this for Beth who had posted a question about a torn cover.  In that second link in my first post at the top of the page - that's a link to a book repair pdf manual from Brodart.  Items  #20 & 21 cover torn pages, and you can also use this method for repairing torn covers.  It really works; I've done it successfully many times myself.  The cleaner a tear is - in other words, if there are no missing pieces of the cover image - the less visibile it will be when you're done.  Acid free document glues are always the best ones to use, and don't yellow over time.

Oh - and here's a link to the PDF again: www.ioba.org/StepByStepBookRepair.pdf

Last Edited on: 2/8/09 6:57 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 2/8/2009 7:17 PM ET
Member Since: 1/19/2009
Posts: 154
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Thanks so much Kim!