Q & A: Wavy Page Edges

Tom Tickenoff sent me a question I think quite a few people would be interested in discussing. Here goes:
Q. What is it in the binding process that sometimes causes that pesky wave effect on the outer page edges? It seems to be kind of common even on some upper end bibles. What do you think?

A. The pages are printed on larger sheets and cut to size by a machine that basically operates on the guillotine principle. I’ve seen it done — not on Bibles, but on regular print jobs — and the wave seems to be a result of the stack of pages not being perfectly even in the machine (or the blade not cutting evenly). I don’t know how it’s done on Bibles, but when I observed it at the printer, it was a hand-operated machine, so the results depended on the individual. My first-ever Cambridge, a wide margin bound in Berkshire leather, had quite a wave, while others are perfectly smooth. My guess is that, the smaller the run, the more risk of this kind of imperfection exists. I’ve never seen it, for example, on mass produced Bibles.

Am I right, or have I missed it? Let me know in the comments.

9 Comments on “Q & A: Wavy Page Edges

  1. My understanding is that waviness is likely to increase if the guillotine blade is not perfectly sharp. Pages are held tightly below a heavy bar (that also keeps the operator’s hands out of the machine!), then the blade comes down. A change in temperature or humidity can also contribute to waviness; for example if a stack of pages has been stored somewhere cold, but the cutting room is warmer.

  2. I understand that you are referring to the wave effect one sees when looks at the bible from the side — one is directly looking at the the area that would gilt-edged. Is that right?
    If so, then I am quite sure it is humidity that causes the effect. I’ve seen it happens to books that are unwrapped and over a few days start to become wavy. If you want to see the effect exaggerated, dunk it water and let it dry out. If you do it fast enough, the book will still be usable but the pages will be show a large wave effect. Indeed, it is my understanding that one of the purposes of gilt edging to reduce the susceptibility to humidity-induced wave effects.

  3. I don’t believe the waves I’ve seen would be humidity induced or the result of cutting pages. I just sent back a new Crossway Cordovan Calfskin because of pretty pronounced waves- really almost folds- toward the upper edges. Ironically, the 13 year old Cambridge I just had rebound in goatskin developed the same waves/folds during the process of having the Bible resewn but not during the recovering process. (Sent it back after recovering it to get it resewn.) I had a new NASB Calfskin from Lockman with the same problem. Maybe I’m seeing more fold issues than waves; but I do see quite a few in sewn Bibles.

  4. I just sent back a Cordovan Bible too. The folds were explained as a cutting problem to me.

  5. I have an Allan ESV with this problem, very disappointing. I should have sent it back.
    I asked about it and they said this rippling, I don’t know what it is, is due to cross grain printing.

  6. I have had a similar rippling with an Allan NRSV. And, as Nicholas Gray from Allan explained, this isn’t a defect but the result of the direction of the paper grain.

  7. Disappointingly, my new Allan’s Oxford Brevier Blackface has this rippling effect which makes actually using the Bible and the feel of it in your hands that much less fluid.

  8. I have a Cambridge REB that is wavy. It is funny because it was a replacement for a defective copy that was shipped the first time. The first one was not wavy at all, and the second one is slightly wavy. I’m guessing that in my case it has to do with the binding, but I couldn’t bring myself to return a second bible over a slight waviness to the paper. Before reading this blog I would hardly have thought to notice it even.
    I did compare the bibles before I shipped the first one back however. They were identical except that the one I kept was slightly wavy and the pages don’t turn quite as smoothly. I can also confirm that dropping a book in the bath water while bathing will wrinkle the pages incredibly. Therefore I do not recommend reading one’s Allan bible while soaking in the tub ;)

  9. My new TBS Windsor Calfskin Zip has wavy ripples on the long page edge only. The spine (bound edge) and top and bottom edges are fine. This seems consistent with the explanation above that the page cutter was dull or set incorrectly.
    Granted, mine sat for 2 hours on the porch in 100+ degF heat the day it was delivered but I’d think heat damage wouldn’t affect a single edge only.
    I think other Windsors have the same problem? Even Mark’s review pictures seem to show it.

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