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Saddle Stitching – Ride the Big Horse!

Saddle stitching is easy!  A commodity!  Saddle stitchers are nothing more than oversized staplers!  Do you believe these statements?  If so, the odds are pretty good that you’re not getting the most out of your stitching efforts. Discover new ways to improve your saddle stitching products, wow your customers and pad your bottom line.

Saddle stitching is simply the art of inserting forms on top of other forms over a saddle and driving stitches through the gathered piece’s backbone.  Companion operations such as inline trimming, drilling, punching, ink jetting, refolding, wafer sealing, shrink wrapping and packaging all increase the value of stitched products.

Many Product Choices
The world of saddle stitching is much broader than simply stitching forms and trimming them to 8½” x 11”.  Product sizes can be smaller than 1”x 1½” or as large as 19”x 22”.  Foldouts, fold-ups, self-mailers, BRCs (business reply cards), BREs (envelopes), die cut forms, tabs, undersized and overhanging forms add pizzazz and real customer value.  Glue opens even more options because it can be applied in trim-off areas allowing stitched products to have gatefolds and multiple foldouts.

Would you like to mix and match many forms?  Or, produce thick books?  Find yourself a shop with twelve-pocket saddle stitchers.  These rare machines offer incredible design flexibility.

Job Planning
When executing projects with unfamiliar layouts, involve your saddle stitching experts early.  Simple changes can make huge differences.  Many times your least expensive printing and pre-press layout will end up costing you more because of downstream bindery inefficiency.

While there are very few saddle stitching absolutes, most stitching machines can run one-up pieces from 5”x 6” to 12”x 17”.  Specialty stitching machines can run products as small as 3”x 3-7/8”, one-up.  Although there are some exceptions, the smallest product that can be stitched two-up and trimmed inline is 3”x 3”.  While still practical, smaller products usually need to be trimmed off-line.  We are asked to do a lot of extremely small saddle stitching where downstream inserting is a major consideration.

Big & Small
When your bound product is huge, there’s no solution like oversized saddle stitching.  Our company frequently stitches large format books complete with beautiful oversized posters.  Although they’re rare, some stitchers can accommodate a 19”x 22” final sized-product.  If you have an oversized stitching resource, selling large format high-end products is practical.  However be sure your bindery resource has wide enough folding capabilities to accommodate the long drop of the oversized product.  (Note: a 39” wide folder is needed to fold an 8- 12- or 16-page signature with a 19” drop.)

For products that are smaller than standard machine minimums, run them multiple up or bind them into larger size booklets.  Either way, offline trimming is necessary to get them to their final size.  Remember that the minimum distance between stitching heads is usually 2-1/8”.  To get closer than this on products with two forms or less, find a saddle stitcher that can do double stroking.  Although production waste may be higher than normal, double stroking allows stitches to be placed 1/8” apart.

Gluing In Trim-Off Areas
Jobs with glue require constant monitoring and frequent sample pulls to ensure accurate glue placement.  If glue spreads too far into a piece, it will not be removed in the final trimming process.  Our company uses ez-release glue nearly all the time in trim out areas because if glue does ooze into the non-trimmed area, the product will still function.  When applying glue in trim-out areas, make sure the trim section of your bindery’s stitcher can accommodate your trim-out margin choice.  Generally speaking, we will glue only one side of a foldout (top or bottom) and although we prefer ½” trim-off margin, 3/8” is acceptable.  Place the large trim-off opposite from the jogging end so the rest of your signatures only need minimal trims.

When planning jobs with bind-ins, check with your bindery for overhang limits.  Although most saddle stitchers’ feeding sections and carrier chains can bind panels as short as 2”, not all can.

Stitching pre-personalized work requires your stitching partner to maintain jobs in sequence.  Maintaining this sequence requires many unusual manufacturing procedural steps.  Since component staging, pocket loading, product packing and quality assurance are all essential in handling pre-personalized material, find a bindery with years of experience doing this type of work.

If your job marks or scuffs during production, usually it’s because the top of one signature rubs against the bottom of another during pocket feeding.  Frequently the culprit signatures are those with heavy dark ink coverage on one outside panel and light coverage on the other.  If you suspect you’re going to have a scuffing problem, prudent planning would indicate varnishing the areas of concern.  Particularly, watch signatures with reflex blue, silver, gold or other metallic ink.  If you’re having a scuffing problem during production, try lighter pocket loads.

Other Technical Tips

The world of saddle stitching is beautiful and varied.  Hop in the saddle, ride the big horse and delight your customers by adding to the value you provide.

Jack Rickard is the President of Rickard Bindery, President of the Printing Industries of Illinois and Indiana and former President of the Binding Industries of America.  Rickard Bindery is a company that specializes in discovering solutions to challenging bindery jobs.  He can be reached at (800) 747-1389.