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Author Topic: Home Printing  (Read 14939 times)
MatrixGamer
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« on: April 21, 2005, 01:14:19 PM »

Andrew Morris asked me to write about what I've done to set up a home printing operation. I told him I'd put it on the forum in case anyone else was interested in this.

My father was a painter and etcher so I grew up around art printing. My part time job as a teen was pulling intaglio prints so I'm real comfortable with paper and cardboard. I ran the business after my Dad died so I got a taste of the business side as well. All this made me feel pretty comfortable with the idea of printing at home.

I first considered home printing games back in the 80's using the intaglio techniques I learned from my Dad. I didn't do it but did write an article on wood block printing for the Midwest Wargamer's Association Newsletter.

In the late 80's ealy 90's I published a newsletter using a photo copy machine. I thought to do it with my first laser printer but did not. I only bit the bullet and started doing it at home around 2001.

You already own 1/3rd to 1/2 of the equipement needed.

First you have a computer.
You probably have a scanner.
You may have a lazer printer.
You probably don't have a color lazer printer.

Let's assume you have a document in MS Word that you want to publish. You have gathered up appropriate art work etc. You are ready to lay out a book. Your computer needs one of two programs to do this on: Adobe InDesign or Quark xpress. I use Adobe Pagemaker (which InDesign replaced). It takes a while to learn how to work these program but you can play text, pictures, graphs etc. with them. They automatically correct a lot of type setting problems (which MS Publisher does not - worthless piece of...) Once you have designed your book you could take it to a printer or print it youself.

Books are printed in booklet format. Pagemaker/InDesign automatically paginates the pages correctly. I put 16 pages to a file so my booklets have four pages a sheet - four sheets to a booklet. Print the booklets out on you laser printer and fold them.

You have just "printed" your book. It is the binding that you've not done.

You have many options in binding. A book can be perfect bound (ie hot glued), saddle stiched (ie stapled), sewn by a machine (smyth sewn) or hand sewn.

For the moment lets rule out smyth sewing (You'd need to by a National Sewing Machine from the 1920's, they cost between $1000 and $2000 and weight 800 lbs. They're cool! I've got one.) Instead we will look at glue, stapled or hand sewn books.

Equipment needed for hand sewing:

2 boards the size of the book
2 C Claps (I like the squeeze one's they're faster)
1 Saw (hach saw, coping saw whatever)
1 needle
Linen threat (check "library binding materials" on google)

Place the booklets end up between the boards. Clamp them in. saw acros the spine to make the holes to sew through. Unclamp and sewn. Do a google search for "Coptic sewn" to see how to do it. It takes time but actually produces the best book. If you are selling in volume of hundreds of copies this is a good way to go. Books can lay open flat and pages will not come out.

Equipment to saddle stich:

1 Saddle Stapler (I sprung for an electric one $600 but a manual will be around $100)
Staples
Cloth ribbon

Place three ribbons (for an 8x5 book) over the back of the spine. Staple through them to create a booklet. Repeat this for each booklet. When done you have a book that lay open flat as well. The Germans used this technique in the 1880's. It has a flaw. Staples rust.

Equipment to perfect bind:

1 hot glue gun
hot glue sticks
2 wooden boards and c clamps
folded end papers to place with each book
1 guilotteen paper cutter (the kind that cuts through 500 sheets like butter. I bought mine used on ebay for $400. New they are $800.)

Organized all the booklets of a book together in order. Place them in the paper cutter and cut off the spine. This gives a sruface where all the sheet ends are showing. Place the book between the two boards (with the end papers on the outside) and clamp. Next put the hot glue on the spine and let it dry. This takes very little time. If you have the cover ready it is best to place the book into the cover at this time so it hardens in place. Theoretically this is faster than the other methods. It is if you have the $3500 perfect binder machine - which I don't). These books can not lay open and pages will eventually start coming out. Check out your POD bood and you'll find a lot of perfect binding. Even books place in hard covers are often perfect bound.

In the past games could be saddle Stiched and sell in stores. Now that doesn't fly. Sad really because a magazine style saddle stapled book is infinitely more durable than a perfect bound book.

You now have a book but it's not in a cover. It's time to roll out the color printer.

You have the option of making paperback or hardback books. Hardbacks cost 25-30 cents more in materials.

Equipment needed to make paper backs.

Card Stock that will run through your printer.
1 hot laminator (I bought a 25" school laminator on ebay for $400) (The reason to go with a hot one rather than a cold one is cost. Hot film is MUCH less expensive.)
1 box cutter
1 straight edge to do folding on.
1 iron
1 binding heater (if you try to put the books into the cover after the glue cools.)

Run the covers through the laminator (back to back so the outside gets film leaving the inside paper. Hot glue does not bind well with lamination film. Trim the covers from the lamination. Fold the first fold using the straight edge. Make the second fold after placing the book in the cover. Remember to do this fast - the glue hardens in 30 seconds. Set the book aside to harden more. The book will have to be trimed in the paper cutter to be done. You're probably wondering about the iron. Use it to fix errors in the lamination 0 lamiation film does not like to be folded. Ironing in the creases helps.

Equipment needed for hard back books:

8.5x14 paper
1 hot lamination machine
1 box cutter
2 boards with c clamps (or a book press if you have $400 to spare)
White glue (also called PVA glue)
1 glue spreading tool (card board squares will do)
1 mat cutter (Another $400 or so - I have a frame shop so I already had this)
1 hot glue gun with glue sticks
2 cardstock thick plastic sheets the size of the book

Print the covers onto paper. The colored area needs to be larger than the cover so that it can wrap around the card board inside the cover. Run the covers through the laminator back to back and then trim them out. Glue (with white PVA glue) the card board to the back of each side of the cover sheet. Place this under weight to dry or it will worp like no tomorrow and be worthless. I hot glue a strip of card board in the spine but this is optional. Once it is good and dry I fold over the corners of the cover sheet and hot glue them down. Next I fold and hot glue down the other sides of the cover sheet. The book case is now done. Get you book. It does not matter how the book was bound, it attaches to the case in the same way. Put white PVA glue on the inside of the covers. place the plastic sheet inside the first sheet of either side of the book. Fold the outisde page of the book onto either side of the bookcover. Smooth it down and then close the book and put it under pressure to dry. If it is not under pressure it will worp. Once dry, the book is done.

Books are held into hard back covers by the end papers along. This sounds flemsy but is not. Paper is a remarkable material. You can use regular copy paper 20 pound paper) to make books (it is better than most paper used in regular books). I'm swtiching over to 28 pound paper because it is equivalent to what is used in good books.

The techniques described above will produce a black and white non glossy book. The cover is laminated color. I believe this is store worthy. It will take you time to get used to the materials and to refine your techniques but not too much. If you don't want or need color then it will cost less to get into it.

I estimate that each BW print costs 3 cents and each color print costs 10 cents. You can do the math to come up with your paper and ink requirements. The biggest cost is the ink, followed by labor, followed by paper.

Well that's the short version of it. I did leave out some details to make it easier for the beginner to follow the process but that is essentially it.

If you buy a National sewing machine - they're still cool! - the binding process is just like saddle stiching except that the staples are replaced by threads.

Chris Engle
Hamster Press
4-21-05
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Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games
http://HamsterPress.net
Andrew Morris
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« Reply #1 on: April 21, 2005, 01:40:47 PM »

Thanks for putting this down, Chris.

Quote from: MatrixGamer
1 guilotteen paper cutter (the kind that cuts through 500 sheets like butter. I bought mine used on ebay for $400. New they are $800.)

Oh, damn. I saw one of these monsters for $40 last weekend and didn't get it because I figured I'd never use it. Go figure.
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xenopulse
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Heretic Forgite


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« Reply #2 on: April 21, 2005, 01:41:17 PM »

Wow, very cool. This makes me want to own my own printing studio, and I haven't even produced any books yet! :)

When you say 3 cents per BW print, do you mean per page, i.e., a 100 page BW book costs $3 to produce?
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MatrixGamer
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« Reply #3 on: April 21, 2005, 01:47:23 PM »

Quote from: xenopulse
When you say 3 cents per BW print, do you mean per page, i.e., a 100 page BW book costs $3 to produce?


Each side of paper printed is 3 cents. So if I put out a 96 page book (2 pages per side) so 48 prints - about $1.50 a book.

Chris Engle
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Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games
http://HamsterPress.net
Valamir
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« Reply #4 on: April 21, 2005, 02:35:55 PM »

Cool stuff.


How much time does it take you to do a 100 copies of a 96 page book.

How much time would it take a novice?

How much space do you tie up and for how long when you're in the midst of a big printing program?
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MatrixGamer
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« Reply #5 on: April 21, 2005, 03:21:28 PM »

Last year I did my GenCon printing over around four days using the perfect bound paperback method. I did around 150 books. It all happened in half of my garage (one car bay's worth.) It can be set up in any large bedrrom sized room. The smaller the room the more you have to set up and put away.

How long would it take a new person? Well the first few are the slowest. If you are good with production processes in other areas of your life then if shouldn't take long to pick this up. Don't expect perfection right off the bat, practice, do small print runs and be prepared to toss the stuff you did before (because you will see all the flaws!)

The draw back of garages is the moisture issue. I keep a dehumidifer running all the time in my workshop to keep the air dry.

The best thing about doing printing like this is that I can make changes to my copy at any time. Controlling the means of production is freeing.

Chris Engle
Hamster Press
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Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games
http://HamsterPress.net
Luke
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« Reply #6 on: April 21, 2005, 04:46:27 PM »

HI Chris,

I'm just curious, you also author your own games, right? I love the idea of controlling means of production, but do you think your time might be more valuable than that? To wit: 1000s of print shops can produce your game, but only you can create more material and do promotions as The Guy.

I've wrestled with the same issues myself -- commodification vs craftsmanship -- but in the end I fell in with the Ralph's of the world. I sell ideas, not printed matter. Though I do love printed matter, and dearly wish I had a print shop of my own to fiddle around in!

-L

PS I actually researched book binding techniques while preparing BW for press. I seriously entertained the idea of having the signatures printed, but case binding them all by hand. At this juncture, I can honestly say I am glad I didn't do that. It would have been a mistake.
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Andrew Morris
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« Reply #7 on: April 21, 2005, 05:43:40 PM »

Quote from: abzu
I seriously entertained the idea of having the signatures printed, but case binding them all by hand. At this juncture, I can honestly say I am glad I didn't do that. It would have been a mistake.

Luke, why is that? Simply a matter of volume, or something else?
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MatrixGamer
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« Reply #8 on: April 22, 2005, 05:03:09 AM »

Quote from: abzu
I'm just curious, you also author your own games, right? I love the idea of controlling means of production, but do you think your time might be more valuable than that?



The question I'm hit with is do I have the money? Since the answer is no, my time is my money.

Please keep in mind that I have worked a long time to set up this operation and am always looking for ways to make it go faster. If you do this it needs to not require thought. I try to organize the tasks so a trained monkey could do them (that just about hits my mental level). Too much thinking in production is a bad thing - it means there is a lot of room for error.

Try listening to country music while working - it flattens thought out fast. (Appoligies to country music fans, I couldn't help myself.)

Chris Engle
Hamster Press
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Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games
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MatrixGamer
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« Reply #9 on: April 22, 2005, 06:05:48 AM »

Oh I just remembered - get a printer that has a duplexer (an add on that flips the paper fro two sided printing so you don't have to. This speeds up printing no end.

Chris Engle
Hamster Press
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Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games
http://HamsterPress.net
Thor Olavsrud
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« Reply #10 on: April 22, 2005, 06:26:15 AM »

Quote from: Andrew Morris
Luke, why is that? Simply a matter of volume, or something else?


I don't want to speak for Luke, but I can give you my impression after having helped stamp, number, and place belly bands on about 200 of the preorder sets (fortunately I missed the two days of madness at the fulfillment house in Ohio, where Luke and Dro did the same for the remaining 1300 sets).

It pretty much comes down to the value of time. Individually stamping, numbering, and banding the sets was an enormous amount of work. I can't imagine what it would have been like if we also had to bind the books ourselves -- especially at the quality of the new books.

I think for Luke, that time is better spent designing games, marketing his game, and helping to foster a sense of community among Burning Wheel players by posting to various forums and such.
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MatrixGamer
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« Reply #11 on: April 22, 2005, 06:51:23 AM »

Quote from: Thor Olavsrud
[I don't want to speak for Luke, but I can give you my impression after having helped stamp, number, and place belly bands on about 200 of the preorder sets (fortunately I missed the two days of madness at the fulfillment house in Ohio, where Luke and Dro did the same for the remaining 1300 sets).




Doing 1500 games would be mind numbing. Years ago I folded and stapled a thousand booklets. Ugh!

The thing to keep in mind with this approach to printing is that you don't print in those kinds of numbers. You print as you need to. If you are only selling a hundred books a month. Print a hundred books a month. That way you are in profit from the first book sold and are not tying up your working capital in unsold stock.

The point about game designer time though is important. I've spend years doing writing and prep work before seeking to take Matrix Games to market. I'm operating on the idea to not do anything that I can't sustain. I could have put out a Matrix Game in 1995. I didn't becuase I knew I wasn't ready to write more. (Also I would have had no sales - since everything then was CCGs).

Chris Engle
Hamster Press
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Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games
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jdagna
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« Reply #12 on: April 23, 2005, 12:17:17 AM »

Quote from: MatrixGamer
That way you are in profit from the first book sold and are not tying up your working capital in unsold stock.


The only problem with this statement is that it assumes all of the equipment is free.  By the time someone gets the printers they need (at least $300 just for a good laser with a duplexer) and the cutters, staplers etc (it sounds like about $1000 even by your own estimates), they could have financed the first four or five titles by POD and have 100 copies of each in stock.

Additionally, you have to look at what's really being saved.  For example, my current POD printer charges $.02 per page ($.04 per sheet, basically).  My cost on that is $.005 for the paper and between $.02 and $.40 for the toner (it depends on ink coverage needed - the lower number is average for text, at 5% coverage).  Thus, it might actually cost more to print it myself.  There's some room for savings with the cover, which I'm paying $1.30 for with my current printer, but paper of that quality runs about $.15 a sheet, with the cheapest color laser printers needing about $.25 in toner and then you've got a few cents for the lamination for about $.80 per book.  You list the cost for color copies as being a lot cheaper than this... am I looking at the wrong printers?

So if you have a 100 page book, the best case scenario is a production cost of about $2.60 for a savings of $.70 per book.  If you spent $1000 on equipment, it will pay itself off after 1400 books unless you factor time in as a cost.  You don't mention how long it takes you, but if you valued your time at $10/hr you'd have to make at least 15 books in an hour to break even.  If you made 30 per hour, it would take 2800 books to break even.

This isn't to say that I don't think the idea is cool.  I just think you're painting a picture that's a little too rosy.  The reality is that only a pretty large publisher can make it practical to do all this in-house unless they can find a way to borrow the equipment or otherwise have it "free" as it seems you did with most of it.

Of course, the real advantage I see to doing self-binding goes beyond the cost factor because you can literally do whatever you want, whether that's fold-out pages, color pages, inserts, CDs, etc.  These are often difficult or impossible to get at reasonable prices from printers.
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Justin Dagna
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philreed
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« Reply #13 on: April 23, 2005, 02:36:08 AM »

Thanks for the post! I've always wanted to bind my own hardcovers but haven't been able to justify the expense.
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MatrixGamer
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« Reply #14 on: April 23, 2005, 03:13:38 AM »

When looking at printing always follow the money. If it is cheaper to do it the POD way then go for it. If one has a single product then it makes no sense to set up a print shop. It is a lot of work and it does cost a few thousand dollars.

I contrast this cost with how much it cost me to make that game (Dark Portals) in 1998. For ths cost of a single regular printer print run I could set up my own shop. I personally like the craft side of printing so this was an easy jump for me to make. If your not a craftsman then this probably isn't for you.

As for the costs of toner - I came to my number by keeping track of how many prints I could make per cartridge. Over time I came to the .03 and .10 estimate. I'm not surprized a printer would charge .25 a print - that builds in their profit. As a rule of thumb in merchanting you double the price of something from what you bought it for. They are just padding a little more. .25 sounds like a good price point. I doubt most people see much difference between .20 adn .25. It only becomes important when you multiply it times 1000 units.

In the end the old chestnut "Give a man a fish and he eats today. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for life." applies.

Because of what I'm learning by making the hardbacks it getting me thinking about making a boardgame. The two techniques are very similar. I may need to add in the ability to do silk screen printing but I've done that before so it is not so big a step for me.

Chris Engle
Hamster Press
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Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games
http://HamsterPress.net
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