Print finishers/machine bookbinders turn printed materials into finished articles such as books, booklets, catalogues or cartons. They use machines which cut and trim paper to the correct size, fold sheets into sections, glue, stick or staple sections together, and bind books. Most of these machines work automatically and can be set up to run for long periods of time.
Print finishers set up the machinery, feed it with paper, watch for breakdowns or misfeeds, and take away and stack the finished products.
They may work on one type of machine, but are more likely to work on a range of different machines, and also carry out routine maintenance.
Craft/hand bookbinders bind by hand small numbers of books such as family histories or books for libraries and museums. They use specialist hand tools to make bindings for books and to sew pages, then add decoration such as gold lettering and edging, or marbled end papers.
Some binders restore and repair antique books, cleaning discoloured pages or using fine quality leathers and papers to match those originally used.
The working week is usually 37.5 hours, with some companies operating a shift system. Overtime may be available at busy times, requiring evening or weekend work. Self-employed binders set their own hours according to their work-load.
Print finishers/machine bookbinders work in a factory or workshop. Some machines are noisy and require the use of ear protectors.
Craft bookbinders may also work in a factory or workshop, or often in a library or museum. If self-employed they usually work from home, but may need to travel to meet customers.
To be a print finisher or machine bookbinder you should:
The greatest concentration of companies is in London and the South East, and around Bristol and Leeds. Around 20,000 people work as finishers or bookbinders.
Work is available for companies which specialise in finishing and binding, in the finishing department of a printing firm, or in the print unit of a large organisation such as a local council, university or college.
A few big companies employ more than 500 people but most local firms employ fewer than 25. The franchised chains of “quickprinters” found on most high streets offer a wide range of printing services and employ staff for print finishing work.
A skilled print finisher or bookbinder can be promoted to supervisor in their department, or they may move to the finishing department of a bigger company or to a specialist print finishing company. Some opt for a different type of job within the company such as printing or sales.
There may be opportunities to work overseas within large companies.
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