Unbinding (optional)


Manuals with binding can be really hard to scan properly, and often have to basically be destroyed to get a flat scan. It’s understandable if you don’t want to do this, however if you’re willing to sacrifice your manual for the greater good of preservation you’ll need to get the pages unbound.

There are various ways to do this such as cutting, or using a heat gun to loosen the adhesive and pull the pages apart. Both are tricky and it’s best to practice on some more common or less valuable manuals/books to get the hang of it as it’s easy to not make a straight cut, or ruin pages by heating them too long with a heat gun. A final option is to contact us in the Discord and mail your manual to someone who has experience unbinding and having them scan it.

Using a heat gun

A heat gun works pretty well in most cases, with some books you can almost snap the binding in half and then heat it up and quickly pull the pages away one by one without much trouble. Others are seriously tightly bound with super strong adhesive and even with heat you’re going to have to be very patient and careful, and the initial pages will probably be the toughest pulling out without damage (see the example below).

It’s very much an experience thing and something you just get a feel for the more you practice. The biggest gotcha with the heat gun is not to go crazy with it! Some have multiple heat settings and the hottest will easily char pages and turn the glue into a soupy mess that gets everywhere and makes it impossible to scan. You’re almost guaranteed to never going to get that glue off without damaging your scans and you could even mess your scanner up trying to.

So be careful with the heat. Again it’s just something you have to learn to judge as every type of binding is different. Basically, while pulling the pages, if you feel tension make sure to stop and heat that area again for a few seconds, then try again and repeat until the page pulls away cleanly.

Stapled pages

Stapled pages are much easier to deal with, but we generally don’t recommend staple pullers as they seem to damage pages when pulling. Using your fingernails (if possible) and carefully pull the staples up to where they’re pointing straight up usually does the trick. A butter knife can also be used to get these started, but you need to be careful not to damage the manual underneath.

Once the staples are poking straight up, pull them out and slightly wiggle the staples as you pull them to make the holes a little bit larger for easier re-insertion later. After scanning you can try to put the staples back in, and it may help to put them back in with the same orientation as you pulled, as they seem to go back into the manual easier that way.

This can be maddening and very tricky on some larger manuals, so just try your best. In the end if its your manual and you don’t care about it having staples or not, you can even just leave them out.

Example of how to unbind a book for scanning

From community member Bigmanjapan

It all depends on how the pages, especially the outer cover, are made. Some outer covers have something like lamination that is applied to them, so heating them up could damage the surface. If you’re unsure, scan the front and the back of the guide before unbinding it. Very recently we unbound two Killer7 PS2 guides, using a simple 1700W hairdryer. Guides like these are made with the multiple 8-pages “notebooks” pressed together. To start, you unbind one side of the outer cover, then you unbind the pages in groups of 8. If you try to pull individual pages one by one, you will most likely rip them off, sometimes ruining the pages in the process. If you are careful enough, you can unbind the book without any damage. When you unbind the 8-pages segments, detach the individual spreads and leave them to cool off. The glue will harden and it will be much easier to clean it off. If you try to clean the glue while it’s still heated, it will simply smudge and leave uncleanable stains.

In the picture below you can see that the first few pages are completely torn off, but the rest were unbound using the 8-pages segments method which left them unharmed.