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Bookbinders make a book from flat sheets or folded sections of paper. They bind the book together and make various types of covers to hold the book block.

A well-equipped bookbinding shop contains a variety of specialized machines for cutting, folding, gathering, stitching, gluing, forming, case-making, etc. Printed sheets are generally folded into sections of 16 or 32 pages and arranged into order. Plates are inserted at the assigned places. Next, the book is sewn together and/or the spine glued.

Colouring or gilding may be applied to page edges. The cover is prepared and the cover and book are then put together. Hand binderies specialize in special bindings, original bindings and the restoration of rare and valuable books.

Bookbinders may specialize on the type of machine they operate such as gathering or sewing, or they may do hand binding. Bookbinders make use of specialized machines, such as folding, cutting, stitching, punching, indexing, assembling and binding machines. They usually work in a well-lit and ventilated shop with noisy machines.

Satisfying Aspects
- the satisfaction one derives from seeing one's finished product
- working with one's hands

Demanding aspects
- the noise from the machines
- the physical demands (standing, bending, etc)
- having to work accurately under time pressure
- the routine nature of the work

A bookbinder should:
- be neat and accurate;
- be alert, patient and careful;
- show a sense of responsibility;
- have certain amount of mechanical insight;
- be physically fit and must possess stamina
- have mechanical and finger skill;
- be able to operate machines and other mechanical tasks efficiently.

School Subjects
Grade 10 Certificate for a learnership at a company.
National Senior Certificate for full-time training at the South African Printing College.


Prospective bookbinders can qualify in two different ways:

- By serving a learnership at a company where they receive practical in-service training (Competency-Based Modular Method) under the supervision of skilled tradesmen, while theoretical classes are conducted through the Distance Learning Department of the Southern African Printing College.
- By attending the 6 months full-time course at the Southern African Printing College where both practical and theoretical teaching / training is done (Competency-Based Modular Method). After the successful half year at the College the students have to be enrolled as learners for a minimum of 66 weeks before being allowed to do the Final Competence Test.

- Bookbinding shops
- Publishing firms
- Commercial printers
- Government Printing Works
- Large libraries

SA Printing and Allied Industries Federation         (PIFSA)
P O Box 1396
Gallo Manor, 2052
The Braids
113 - 115 Bowling Avenue
Gallo Manor, 2191
Tel: (011) 287-1160 Fax: (011) 287-1178