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Folding, stitching & gluing impossible jobs

Feb 1, 2005 12:00 AM

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From big to small, Rickard Bindery does it all.

For 105 years, Rickard Bindery has specialized in jobs best described as almost impossible. "We enable our customers to sell the oddball-goofy-crazy things," says president Jack Rickard. "These are jobs that they can’t—or shouldn’t—be doing internally."

"Oddball-crazy-goofy" covers everything from tiny, folded pharmaceutical inserts to oversized, stitched books crammed with complicated lineups and crossovers. "We do combinations of fold-outs and tabs, cross folds, folding in from the corners, a lot of attaching and gluing, all the unusual things," says Rickard.

Equipment at the 80,000 sq.-ft., three-shift operation includes 80 folding machines of all makes, sizes and varieties (23 of which are dedicated to small-format projects such as pharmaceutical inserts), 22 gluing machines, five saddlestitchers (up to 12 pockets) and two pocket folder/gluers.

"The market is really the master of what equipment you’re going to buy," Rickard notes. "We’re prepared to go in a different direction if something is indicated. Right now we’ve got it pretty well covered."

Rickard describes the bindery’s clients as either manufacturing printers—companies such as RR Donnelley, Quad/Graphics and Quebecor that churn out millions of publications—or job-shop printers of all sizes, which do a little bit of everything. Of the bindery’s estimated 750 active accounts, most are job-shop printers. It’s a nationwide client base, with 60 percent of business coming from outside the metropolitan Chicago area.

Versatility, versatility, versatility
Speedy and automated equipment is great for a postpress operation that deals with standard jobs, but when you face as many paper and design constraints as Rickard does, versatility is more important.

"We have so many different things that we put through the same pieces of equipment," explains Rickard. "We have to be able to do a bunch of different things."

Inline refolding, inline sealing, gluing flaps and accordion-folding pull-outs are all in day’s work.

Dummies play a key role in the job planning process. "In our end of the work, you have to make samples," Rickard continues. They say the devil is in the details and it really is so. Just one little point [sticking up], and the whole job won’t fly."

But Rickard says he enjoys the challenge of determining the best way to run a job: "I’m one of the few people in the world who gets paid for cutting out paper dolls."

‘We fold maps by the millions’
Occupying almost 40,000 sq. ft., the bindery’s folding area features equipment from MBO, Stahl, Vijuk, H+H and others for oversized, miniature, map, gate, pharmaceutical, specialty and standard folding.

"We fold maps by the millions," declares a Rickard brochure. So it’s no surprise that Rickard has 10 primary oversized/map folding machines and some of the largest folders in the country—the largest accommodates sheets up to 44 x 80 inches. Typical oversized folding applications include posters, store displays (signage ranging from 40 to 80 inches in length and six or eight inches in height) and maps.

Miniature stitching and more
Although it’s probably best known for its folding expertise, the company is no slouch when it comes to stitching, either.

"Folding does support the stitching department, but it could run by itself," says Rickard. "Often we’ll get a specialty job with three or four forms that were folded on a web press and then we’ll fold a couple forms and stitch them."

Rickard Bindery operates four Müller Martini saddlestichers—the first was installed in the mid-eighties, the last in 2002.

Many of the bindery's projects include miniature work. It’s no problem to produce stitched books one-up at a minimum size of 3 x 37⁄8 inches. Two-up layouts can produce books as small as 21⁄2 x 31⁄2 inches. With special handling and miniature stitching heads, Rickard Bindery can produce books as small as 1 x 11⁄2 inches. On the other extreme, oversized books can be as large as 19 x 22 inches.

With up to 12 pockets, Rickard’s saddlestitchers can handle mixed and matched stocks, different sized forms, fold-outs, business reply cards, tabs, bind-ins, envelopes, and personalized forms.

A stitch in time
Rickard Bindery can do difficult jobs immediately, but the impossible ones might require a little more time. "Some jobs take more effort and skill and more time is required," says Rickard. "We’re good, but we can’t compress time."

Rickard’s rules of saddlestitching
Jack Rickard offers these saddlestitching tips:

  • Ensure that all signatures have the same trims and that all the binding laps are on the same side and of uniform size. Usually, high folio binding laps jog to the head and low folio laps to the foot.
  • Allow for shingling on thick books.
  • Determine over/under requirements during the quoting process. If a printer’s customer specifies "no unders," given normal spoilage allowances, the printer runs a significant risk of being short and having to go back on press. Printers are forced to plan for the worst-case scenario for themselves and every downstream operation.
  • When "no overs" are specified, print sales reps might have to adjust their prices to compensate for the likelihood of having non-billable product upon job completion. In both cases, printers and binders need to educate their customers.
  • When stitching accordion-folded, gate-folded, six-page foldout or unbalanced signatures, glue must be used to keep forms from unraveling or falling off the saddle chain. Therefore, layouts should include a minimum of 3⁄8 inch (ideally, 1⁄2 inch) retrim area so the glue can be completely removed during trimming.
  • Listen to your trade binder’s suggestions. Good advice can you save you money.

For more helpful hints, see

From Fay to Les to Jack to Kevin …
Jack Rickard is a third-generation binder. His grandfather, Fay, founded the company in 1900 as Rickard Circular Folding and is credited with creating in 1920 what was reportedly the first mechanical gatefold attachment.

As a young man, Jack Rickard considered becoming a naval architect, but his father, Les, convinced him to become a binder rather than a boat builder. Today, Rickard works alongside his son Kevin, vice president of operations.

Ask the expert In addition to contributing chapters on stitching and gluing to "Binding, Finishing and Mailing: The Final Word," (see, Rickard worked with AMERICAN PRINTER contributor Trish Witkowski for two years on "FOLD: The Professional’s Guide to Folding" (see www.fold When asked for his professional opinion on the best way to refold a road map, Rickard doesn’t hesitate: "Throw it out and buy new one!"

Carrie Cleaveland is the assistant editor of AMERICAN PRINTER. Contact her at