What Makes a Good Comb Binding Machine?
Customers ask me all the time, “What features do I need in a comb binding machine?” It’s a good question and I would like to point out some “must-have” features and some “optional” features. While most comb binding machines share a lot in common, some have some very cool and unique tools you may want to consider for your business.
So what is comb binding? Comb binding is a method used to organize and bind multiple sheets of paper into booklet format. These machines punch a total of 19 holes along the 11” side of a sheet of paper. Once the holes are punched, a plastic 19-ring comb spine is inserted through the holes and closed shut. This plastic spine is what holds the paper together. These style of binding has been around for literally decades and is one of the most affordable ways to bind a book, presentation or report.
Advantages of Comb – Comb binding is affordable, plain and simply. The machines don’t run too much money and a box of 100 combs can usually be purchased for under $10 (often much less). Comb binding allows the spines to be re-opened to remove or add additional pages. The combs themselves are very resilient and are available in a variety of different colors.
Disadvantages of Comb – Comb binding elements can wear out over time and with excessive use, causing the spine to open a little resulting in pages falling out. While this is rare, it can happen. Comb binding also doesn’t allow pages to be wrapped around 360 degrees like coil binding does.
I would now like to cover common and not-so-common features you can find in a comb-binding machine.
Side Margin Control – This is the guide that allows you to adjust the positioning the paper left and right. Almost all comb binders have this feature.
Margin Depth Control – This is a feature that allows you to set how far into the paper the holes are punched. This is nice if you are binding a variety of book thicknesses. You may want to punch further into the paper when binding thicker books to prevent pages from tearing out. Only about have of the machines out there offer this feature.
Manual / Electric Punch – Comb binding machines are available with manual or electric punches, not both. You’ll have to choose. Most people go with manual punches unless they are binding a lot of books per day. I generally recommend electric for people who are binding dozens or more books per day. Electric really does cut down on fatigue.
Vertical / Horizontal Punch – Most comb binding machines have a vertical punch, where you lay the paper flat on the surface while punching the paper. Some manufacturers have designed machines with a vertical punch, where the paper stands on its end while being punched. The vertical punch can be nice because it keeps the edges of the paper lined up during the entire process using gravity.
Singe / Double Handle – Some comb binding machines use dual handles for punching and binding, where others use a single handle. Single-handle machines punch paper when the handle is pulled and open plastic combs (using the metal comb fingers) when the handle is pushed back. Dual handle units have one hand that punches and another that opens the combs.
Disengageable Dies – Have you ever punched paper only to end up with a half-punched hole on the edge? It can ruin the entire book. While side-to-side margin adjustments can fix some of this, it isn’t going to fix everything…especially when binding odd sizes of paper. Machines with desengageable dies allow you to disable specific punching dies. If you have a half-punched hole, simply disengage that die. You could, although I don’t know why you would want to, punch every other hole using a machine equipped with fully disengageable dies.
Plastic / Metal Build – Machines vary in build quality. While they all use metal punching pins, the gears, handle and body of the machine can vary in build quality. As you might imagine, lesser expensive machines typically utilize more plastic in the design where higher-end machines use more metal. Some manufactures, like Akiles, use a lot of metal in their machines.
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