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Versatile Saddle Stitching Takes on Projects Large and Small
By: Greg Ortmann, President, Feiereisen, Inc.

Are you in the market to produce brochures, booklets or calendars? How about direct mail pieces, newsletters or magazines? Looking for an economical binding option that can generate these products for various run lengths? If so, consider saddle stitching as your preferred binding solution.  

From a technical standpoint, saddle stitching is not a very complicated binding option. Regarded as one of the simplest methods for binding books, saddle stitching is the process of placing collated materials over a “saddle” and driving stitches through the backbone of the piece. Saddle stitching delivers a classic look for a host of products ranging from annual reports to catalogs to manuals and more.

As the preferred choice for thinner books where speed and economy are the deciding factors, saddle stitching is better suited for binding small to medium size books rather than thick, small-format books that have a tendency to spring open.

Saddle stitching is also popular for multi-faceted projects that require foldouts, pockets, mixed stocks and short sheets. This binding style can increase the value of stitched pieces when performed in conjunction with complementary post press functions such as in-line trimming, drilling, punching, refolding and packaging. Look for a post press provider that offers these additional operations all under one roof to get the best value possible for your project.

Improved Technology
Strides continue to be made in saddle stitching technology with new stitching machines offering higher levels of automation, flexibility and productivity. Saddle stitched items can also be turned into unique pieces using colored stitches, child-proof stitches, loop stitches, multi-up, special foldouts and in-line glued sheets.

Binderies investing in automated saddle stitchers with servo motor technology are reaping the benefits of increased production speeds, shorter run lengths, and makeready time savings. Saddle stitchers equipped with this sophisticated technology are able to markedly improve efficiency because operators don’t have to manually perform certain steps.

For example, in the past on a six-pocket machine with a cover feeder, the operator had to move the head and foot and face knife and infeed guides in the trimmer into position as well as the compensating stacker in the delivery. Now with the touch of one button, the operator can accept the job and the stepping motors automatically adjust the side guides and back stops in the pockets and cover feeder.

Economical Option
Known for its reliability and cost-effectiveness, saddle stitching provides some distinct advantages over other binding methods. If you’re searching for a way to have your book lay flatter than a perfect-bound book, then saddle stitching is the answer.

Saddle stitching generally affords quicker turnaround times than alternative binding options. And since there’s more available capacity for saddle stitching in most geographic markets, saddle stitching is usually available at a lower relative cost.

There are certain requirements that must be met for saddle-stitched items. For example, the number of pages that saddle stitching can accommodate depends upon the weight of the paper. Some heavy-duty equipment can stitch books as thick as 1/2” but a good rule of thumb is to keep books thinner than 1/4”.

Product sizes can be smaller than 1”x1/2” or as large as 19”x22” which adds real customer value for such applications as business-reply cards (BRCs), diecut forms, foldouts, and overhanging forms. Most stitching machines can run one-up from 5”x6” to 12”x17”. Specialty stitchers can run products as small as 3”x3-7/8”.

Planning Tips
While well-planned saddle-stitched projects flow smoothly, there are ways for problems to develop. Here are a few key tips to keep in mind to avoid any delays for your saddle stitching projects:

  • Include at least a 1/4" lip on the high folio side of the sheet, as signatures will be jogged to the head on the stitching equipment. A low-folio lip will require jogging signatures to the foot, which may reduce registration accuracy and binding efficiency.
  • If your project includes intricate images such as maps and graphs, you may want to avoid having them cross over the spine. If intricate images must be designed as crossovers, place them either at the center spread or close to it.
  • Curling is the enemy of efficient saddle stitching production. Signatures should be stacked as flat as possible to minimize curling during shipment.
  • Stitching equipment can be sensitive and certain jobs may require wider trim margins than others. To avoid complications, discuss layouts beforehand and allow your finisher to fold and trim your signatures for saddle stitching work.

Whether you’re building a booklet, contemplating a calendar or designing a directory, count on saddle stitching as the binding solution that consistently delivers an attractive product with fast turnarounds in a cost-efficient manner. What more could you ask for?


Greg Ortmann is president of Feiereisen, Inc., a leading provider of post press and finishing services including die cutting, scoring and perforation, book binding and restoration, folding, gluing, board and litho mounting, film lamination and UV coating, foil stamping, embossing, saddle stitching  and more. Founded in 1933, Feiereisen has locations in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Des Moines, Iowa and Kansas City, Kansas.