The hunkeler

Caleigh Minshall

I’ve had a couple of firsts this week. Today was the warmest (29 degrees!) it’s been since I’ve come home from Kingston. We had our 10:00 am break outside by the river instead of in the shop. The shy one of the Inksters’ couple of cats, Lele (or Lili? — I just realized I don’t know how to spell her name), finally decided that I’m safe enough to sit with during lunch. And I didn’t even have to give her any snacks!

Yesterday, I also had my first experiences ‘hunkeling’ and gluing covers to the spines of books. We are just finishing up a reprint (one of many) of one of our most popular young adult books, Abby Malone, by Shelley Peterson (check out Dancer, Peterson’s first book, too). These two books are really popular with horse-loving teens (myself included, eight or nine years ago — hell, who am I kidding, I still love Mousie and Abby).

But let’s back up for a second. I know what you’re thinking: What on earth is ‘hunkeling’? Hunkeling is professional publishing jargon (well, jargon at PQL) for smooshing books. A German man by the name of Hunkel invented a machine, which, after a number of books are inserted properly, will compress the books until the operator releases them (we set a kitchen timer for around six minutes). For Abby, we can hunkel about twelve books at a time. And why do books need to be hunkeled (or smooshed)? When our books’ pages are first sewn together, into what we call ‘signatures’ of sixteen pages each, the book is surprisingly thick — there is space between the pages and between the signatures, and to save space for shipping and to achieve tight, straight spines, we smoosh the books so that they shrink in thickness.

The tight, straight spines are important for the next step I mentioned, which is gluing the covers to the book spines. The front, spine and back cover of a book is all printed on one long sheet of paper, and the part of this sheet that becomes the spine is specifically sized to match the size of the actual book’s spine — but only after the book is hunkeled. Although one person can manage this machine on their own, if they’re good (like Elke), it’s faster if two people do it together, and so after Elke showed me the ropes, we teamed up. Elke made sure that the book’s pages were flat against the platform, then she slid the book across so that the machine would pick it up, run its spine through the hot glue and then fold and stamp the cover and book together. My job? To ensure that each cover was placed properly on the book, and to catch the newly covered book as it is dropped out of the machine.

You can probably tell that my professional jargon ends with hunkeling. Hopefully by the end of the summer I’ll have some more accurate terminology for you.

In the meantime, the Habs are winning, a long weekend is around the corner and tomorrow is looking to be another beautiful day. Until next week,

Caleigh Minshall

P.S. Don’t hesitate to email me if hunkeling, or anything else, is unclear!

About Caleigh

Intern at the Porcupine's Quill.
This entry was posted in Letters from the Porcupette (the Intern's Blog) and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.


The Porcupine's Quill would like to acknowledge the support of the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts for our publishing program. The financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF) is also gratefully acknowledged.