How Does Spiral Binding Differ from Wire-O Binding?
Both kinds of mechanical bindings may
look similar at first glance. Each has loops of wire that
hold together the pages of your book. However, if you look
more closely, you will see that with the spiral binding,
a single piece of wire extends in an actual spiral from
the top to the bottom of the book. In contrast, Wire-O binding
is made up of a series of parallel, double-loops attached
to a wire that extends the length of the spine.
A Wire-O-bound book can lay flat on
a table, just like a spiral-bound book. However, due to
the diagonal nature of the spiral, when you lay a spiral-bound
book flat on the table, the facing pages will not align
exactly. In contrast, since the wire loops in a Wire-O-bound
book are parallel to one another, when you lay the book
flat on a table, facing pages will align exactly. This may
be more desirable if you have images in your book that extend
across two pages like a large photo or a map.
What Should You Remember About Coil Bindings?
1. Mechanical binding costs
at least 20 percent more than perfect binding (the
exact amount depending, of course, on printing variables
such as the page count and press run), with Wire-O, plastic-coil,
and spiral binding costing a little more than GBC binding
(also known as plastic-comb binding). The book has to be
trimmed on all four sides prior to binding, and the binding
work itself is labor-intensive, requiring feeding the wire
through all the holes. This usually involves handwork.
2. Both Wire-O and spiral bindings
can be crushed, making it nearly impossible to turn the
pages. However, plastic-coil (a variant of spiral
using plastic wire) is more resilient and therefore minimizes
the chance of crushing the binding (although if it is not
crushed, the wire version actually lasts longer than the
plastic version). Keep in mind, though, that like its metal
counterpart, plastic-coil does not allow facing pages to
3. Wire-O binding can be used
to bind books that are up to 1.125” thick. Plastic-coil
binding can be used for books that are up to 1”
thick. Spiral (wire) binding is appropriate for books up
to 7/8” thick.
4. Thicker books of this nature
need GBC or plastic-comb binding. This method is
appropriate for books up to 1.75” thick. Also requiring
handwork (that is, time consuming and therefore costly work),
this method involves inserting the long, flat plastic tines
of the comb through the holes at the bind-edge of the book.
The large, flat comb is made to curl in on itself into a
cylinder going the length of the book (like a spine), holding
all the pages together and allowing you to fold the book
back around on itself so you only see one page. These books
can also lay flat. Unfortunately, GBC binding is not particularly
durable. With use and over time, the tines of the comb come
unhooked from themselves and release portions of the pages.
On the plus side, GBC comes in a multitude of colors, like
The most important question
is why would anyone specify such time-consuming, fragile,
and unattractive binding methods? Basically, if
you are producing a limited run (under 1,000 copies) of
a manual (for instance) that will need to be opened flat
for photocopying or referring to while you work on a computer
(or if you’re printing a cookbook that must lay flat
on a table while you cook or bake), these are your best
choices. For everything else, choose perfect-binding, the
usual method for paperback book binding that provides you
with a strong, reliable spine. The other option is saddle
stitching, a bindery method that provides no spine and holds
together all the pages with staples at the fold.
What is a Hickey?
It’s not what you thought
in high school. To a printer it means something else.
When dust or a paper particle sticks
to the press sheet and then is covered with the ink film
as the press blanket comes into contact with the paper,
a small white circle is formed on the sheet with a bit of
ink at its center. Basically, the fleck of paper prevents
the ink from reaching the substrate.
If you look at a number of printed
sheets, you will see that the hickey appears and then disappears.
It is the pressman’s job to look for hickeys and get
rid of the dust or paper particles, but hickeys are unavoidable
The one time the hickey is permanent
is when the dust or paper fleck is actually in the printing
plate. If dust lands on the film being used to burn a printing
plate (for printers not yet using “direct to plate”
technology), the dust is actually imaged onto the plate
and therefore shows up on every press sheet. (Ask a printer
to show you a sample so you will be familiar with what dust
and hickeys look like.)
This is why it’s imperative to
check the proof for dust, particularly when you’re
working with a printer who images film and then uses the
film to burn plates.
[Steven Waxman is a printing consultant. He teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.]