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Know When To Fold ‘Em

Which is more difficult: putting ink on paper or proper job preparation and communication?  For most printers, it is the latter.  The same is true for binderies.  Plan for success by coordinating with your bindery early in the job preparation stage.

Communication and Job Planning
Providing marked and sequenced folding samples (1st fold A to A, 2nd fold B to B, etc.), blue-lines, rule-up sheets, and bulking dummies is always worth your time.  When calling binderies for quotes, include product and end-use information.  If your piece is a magazine insert, specify perfect bound or stitched.  If it is a dust cover, provide a book sample so your bindery can make the cover exactly the right size.  If it is a die-cut piece, give a sample or thumbnail so your bindery can advise you on tick mark placement.

Often there are several ways to run a job.  Bindery experts can tell you in advance which jobs can be folded and slit multiple up.

Folding Basics
If you deliver your job with wet ink, the best laid plans will be soaked.  When using notorious reflex blue, or heavy black ink that rests against white paper after folding, apply varnish to avoid smudging and marking.  When metallic ink is used, varnish will reduce scratching.

Know the grain direction.  Folding with the grain reduces cracking and the need for pre-scoring or in-line wet scoring, both of which decrease productivity and increase costs.  If you must fold against the grain, consider a stock with short fibers and “off machine” coating for better moisture control.  Remember, inks tend to be brittle and may crack when bent, exposing paper fibers underneath.

Job planning and layout are very important.  A rule of thumb is to leave 1/8” between copy and intended trim position and another 1/8” for take-off trim.  This allows for natural variation in both printing and binding processes without risking product damage.  Smaller margins are possible, but check first.

For barrel folds (also called over & over or roll folds), the outer two panels should be final finished size; each succeeding interior panel should decrease at least 3/32”; and the last panel should be 1/16” smaller than the preceding one.  Failure to do this leads to bend-overs, bad color breaks, jams, waste, and increased spoilage.  Also allow for washout (creep) when folding right angle pieces or when one sheet of paper is nested in another.  Allow for the thickness of the paper to build up and peek out as washout.  Heavily contrasted colors will make washout appear worse, whereas carefully pre-planned colors can make it barely noticeable.

Generally, the thicker your stock, the more variables you will face.  Pre-score stock 100# text weight or heavier.  Some thicker stocks without critical color breaks can be in-line wet scored or folder scored, but always ask for an opinion before skipping die-cut scoring.  In some cases an in-line (double hit) scoring machine attached to a folder will work nicely.  When folding stock thicker than 10 points, watch for ripple cracking on buckle folders.  A knife folder generally will not ripple crack unless the stock is extremely thick, causing the sheet to fracture as it bends around the rollers.

Paper Issues
Paper irregularities will affect folding.  Variable thickness, frequent waves and ripples, and excessively brittle stock all will decrease bindery performance.  Paper bulk is incredibly variable.  For example, 80# uncoated cover stock can caliper anywhere from 8 to 13 points.  This is significant because 10 point stock usually folds easily while stocks thicker than 12 points require different folding techniques and machines (i.e., plow folder).

If a job has thickness variation, folding will be sloppy.  Be careful of running odd lots.  Changing paper in the middle of a job will affect downstream folding so be sure to mark the change spot and advise your bindery.

Specialty Folds
Don’t give up on jobs with specialty folds.  Many printers have won terrific print jobs simply by knowing where to get specialty folds done.  Consultant Dick Gorelick recently said, “Knowledge used to mean knowing how to do something.  Now it means knowing where to go to do something.”

If a print buyer sends out a quote to his usual printers, and only one knows where to go for bindery work, guess who gets the job?  Iron cross folds, swinger folds, pop-up folds, miniature gatefolds, 18 accordions, gatefold & right angle gatefolds, etc., are all possible and practical.  When you have a few minutes, call your binderies and find out their specialty capabilities so this information will be at your fingertips when you need it.

Miniature Folding
Before producing a miniature folded piece, check down stream production requirements.  Some automatic inserters require that pieces lie flat.  If glue is objectionable, ask your miniature folding company whether your piece will lie flat.  Also carefully discuss your stock selection.  Miniature folders handle less stock variation than regular sized folders.

Map Folding
A common problem in folding maps occurs with very thick maps of 40 panels or more.  If final product bulk is not accounted for when designing the cover and back panel, the piece’s attractiveness may be greatly reduced by improperly aligned color breaks on folds.  Keep in mind that some maps can have a folded thickness of ¼” or more.

More Things To Know

Increase your profits with good folding. There is much to consider and these suggestions are just a start.  As in so many things, proper planning and communication with your bindery will prevent problems and delight your customer. After all, isn’t that what we are really after?

Jack T. Rickard is President of Rickard Circular Folding Co., a full service bindery.  He can be reached at (800) 747-1389.