What is Comb Binding?

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  • Written By: Jennifer M. Cogan
  • Edited By: Lindsay D.
  • Last Modified Date: 10 October 2019
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Bookbinding became a craft nearly 2,000 years ago. Since then, cultures have found ways to perfect this practice and today there are countless ways to accomplish book binding. Over time, books have been bound by hardcover binding, punch binding, thermally activated binding, stitched or sewn binding and even hand binding. Comb binding, a punch-binding method, is a relatively common binding practice currently in use. Other styles of punch binding include wire binding, VeloBind®, spiral or coil binding, GBC Proclick® and ZipBind®. Comb binding allows people to bind documents of varying size together by using a flexible, plastic spine.

To comb bind a document, the pages must first be loaded into a machine that is similar to a three-hole punch, but has several more holes. For manual machines, holes are punched into the document by pulling a lever. Nineteen rectangular holes are punched into documents that are letter size, and 21 holes are punched into documents that are A4 size. Comb binding machines typically have a set number of pages through which they can punch at a time, so pages may have to be done a few at a time rather than feeding the whole document into the machine at once.


After the document has been hole-punched, the user must choose an O-shaped spine. Spines for comb binding come in varying sizes and, because of their flexibility, can be removed after the document is bound to add or subtract material from the document. User guides that come with comb binding machines typically have charts that help people choose spine sizes according to the number of pages in their document. If the user guide can’t be found with the machine, there are several available online, as the sizes are standard.

Once the O-shaped spine is selected, it is placed into teeth within the comb binder and, for manual binders, the user pulls a lever. The teeth separate the flexible spine, pulling the shape from an ‘O’ into an elongated ‘C’. The pre-punched pages are now placed over one end of the ‘C’ and the user pushes the lever back to its original position, closing the spine and comb binding the document together.

If additional material needs to be added to the document at a later time, the book can be placed onto the machine into the teeth and the user can separate the binding, take out the pages and put in new pages once they have been hole-punched.

A relatively inexpensive way to bind material, comb binding machines can be purchased for personal use or for more large-scale ventures through companies.


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