Comb binders are plastic spines that turn stacks of photocopies into lay-flat books. They’re more flexible than using a 3-hole punch and brass fasteners, but they cost a bit more… but not much more. Here’s how to bind on the cheap.
The first thing to do is look on Ebay and at office auctions to find a machine. As organizations go paperless, or generally use less printing, the machines become redundant, and may be sold.
Also, print shops still use these, but they’re in competition with print-on-demand services that create books that resemble trade paperbacks.
The main brand is GBC. They are now part of Swingline.
The expensive model at the top is probably similar the one you have seen in the print shop at your school, if you’re under 60 years old. The current model is electric. The old model had a crank on the right for punching holes.
The old models start with “C” and the main ones are the GBC C150 and GBC C250. Yup: under $200, and sometimes under $100.
The electric model, new, is over $3,000. If you have a working right arm, and need a workout, the manual one is a much better deal.
There are other brands out there, like Fellowes, Ibico, and generic. They are all a bit cheaper, but you’ll notice increasing amounts of plastic on the newer models.
The “Cadillac” make is GBC.
Ibico and Fellows also look good, and much cheaper… but I just see more plastic on there.
So, you can really get cheap, to something like $30 or less, delivered. It’s pretty amazing.
Machine capacity is defined by the number of pages they can punch at once, and the number of pages they can bind. If you have 100 pages, and the machine punches 25 pages, you need to divide your document into 25 page stacks, and punch four stacks.
The C150 punches up to 25 pages, and binds up to 500 pages.
The smaller C75 punches up to 10 pages, and binds up to 150 pages.
The machines advertise themselves as “21 hole”. All the machines are, or should be, 21 holes, with a 12″ tall page capacity.
The machines can be adjusted to punch 19 holes on a regular 11″ page.
Most of the combs are 19 holes.
You need to pick a spine size that matches the number of pages you want to bind. You can use the Swingline site to determine that, and then construct a search like: “combbind 5/8“.
That brings up CombBind compatible spines that are 5/8” or 125 or 130 sheet capacity.
Prices vary, but they can be pretty cheap in quantity. If you need just a few, you can buy small quantities from sellers who service the DIY crafter market.
I have the following for sale, sold as pairs for .99 a pair (50 cents each). Buy multiples to save on shipping:
Note that the capacity is for 20 pound bond paper, aka, laser printer/copier paper. If you are using 80 pound cover stock, you need to multiple the number of sheets by 3. The thick cover stock is around 3 times as thick as regular bond paper. So, if you have 10 sheets of cover stock, you need a 30 page capacity spine.
If you’re scrapbooking or making an album, you need to account for the additional thicknesses of paper, and possibly glue and fabrics. So multiple by 3 again. 10 sheets = 10 x 3 x 3 = 90 pages.
It really adds up, fast.