Introduction: Book Edge-Trimming Press/Comic Press/Flower Press

I recently made a replica of a manual for an arcade video game cabinet - the original was quite worn and badly creased - but the editing and photoshop restoration was the easy part... what I found difficult was binding and trimming the replica manual so that it had a neat edge like any magazine you might buy. This is because, in a center-stapled folio document, pages are folded in the middle and form a V-shape when stacked together. Unless the edges are trimmed, this V-shape would be reflected in the edge of the document and would make it harder to leaf through the pages.

I looked into how this problem was normally solved and discovered about book binding and edging presses. They seemed conceptually simple so I decided to make one. You could do this with regular woodworking tools but since I had a CNC and was learning how to use it, I used it for this project.

(The parts below are the expensive way to make one of these - salvage your own wood, get bolts from the bolt bin of your local hardware store, and use wing-nuts and washers instead of fancy knobs, and could probably make one of these for under $5. However these parts will make it look like a professional finished product!)

It's important that the chopping board you select already has a straight edge. If it is curved you would have to find someone with a table saw or a sander to trim it straight from end to end.


Two chopping boards. Must have a totally flat surface one one side. ($12 ea)

4 Elevator bolts ($12)

4 Knobs ($9.50)

Step 1: Drill Four Holes

Clamp the two cutting boards together, flat face to flat face, so that the edges are flush. Then with a drill that matches the size of your bolts drill through *both* boards simultaneously at the four corners, taking care to leave enough room between them for whatever size of document you are going to be working with. Although this step can be done with a hand drill (which is what I used here), it's hard to get a perfect vertical hole so if you possibly can, use a drill press.

I used elevator bolts for mine, because they have a wide and flat head. This will allow the bottom of your press to lie flush and won't scratch your table the way any bolts with protruding heads might. But there are lots of bolt types available - carriage bolts are also quite suitable - and you can always countersink deeper to keep their heads below the surface. I used the CNC to cut a circular pocket for the elevator bolt head, and a deeper square pocket inside that for the part of the bolt that is square that stops it from rotating when in place. This makes for easier unscrewing of the tightening knobs later.

Step 2: Now Handle the Top Surface

If you used the right size of drill, the bolts should fit the holes in the board quite tightly. This is fine for the lower board, because you're unlikely to want to remove the bolts once in place (in fact if you want you can glue them in place with a small dab of glue under the head) - but not for the upper board because it has to lift up and down to clamp around your book or magazine. So use the next size of drill larger than the one you originally used, and slightly increase the width of all four holes in the upper board. You might also want to countersink a circle of about 0.5mm deep to match the bottom of the knobs, just to make it look nice if the knobs leave a small indentation when screwed down tightly.

Test it now by putting both boards together with the bolts in place, and tighten it down. The knobs should screw down easily and evenly.

Step 3: Press and Trim Your Book

Insert your document, make sure the protruding part of the cover is level with the edge of the chopping board, and clamp down. Use a scalpel or Exacto knife or whatever really sharp blade you have, carefully, to level the edge of the book. You might consider sanding or even using a paper-based cut-off wheel from a Dremel. Once done, unclamp, and your publication should be as easy to leaf through as any professionally printed magazine that had been trimmed in an expensive hydraulic press and guillotine.

Build a Tool Contest

Participated in the
Build a Tool Contest