Introduction: How to Recycle Office Paper Into Blank Books

Picture of How to Recycle Office Paper Into Blank Books

Here I will give a simple bookbinding tutorial using a Japanese stab-binding technique for making blank books from paper that is printed on one side. These books are useful for all kinds of notes, and tell an interesting story about the place they came from. I work in the computer lab at my school, where a lot of printer paper is wasted. I go through the recycle bin to find my papers.

This is a great little book for phone numbers and other random notes. You can make it any size you like, and the paper never had to go to the processing plant! Using a string binding instead of glue is easier on the environment, too. Some of the books I've made are for sale at my Etsy shop.


Recycled paper (blank on one side)
Thicker recycled material (postcards, envelopes, cardboard, etc.) for covers
Twine, yarn, or other string

Awl, drill, or drill press
Large sewing needle or bookbinding needle
Paper cutter, scissors, or utility knife
Cutting mat

Step 1: Cut and Fold Your Paper

Picture of Cut and Fold Your Paper

Using a paper cutter, scissors, or a utility knife, cut your paper down to twice the desired size. Fold each sheet in half, and cut your cover material (one for front, one for back) down to the size of a folded sheet.

Step 2: Line Up, Clip, and Make Holes

Picture of Line Up, Clip, and Make Holes

Stack your cover material and pages together and line up all edges. Clip with the large binder clip to secure.

Mark 3/8" from both to-be-bound corners (the folded side of the sheets). Divide the space along the binding between these marks into thirds, and mark those locations. These are where we make the holes for the twine binding.

Make holes all the way through the book with an awl, drill, or drill press. If using a drill or drill press, make sure to clamp your papers tightly down to avoid any paper ruffling. Placing a piece of wood under the book helps make a clean cut in the back.

Step 3: Bind the Book

Picture of Bind the Book

I used this tutorial this tutorial to learn to bind books this way. It's very thorough, so I won't repeat it's instructions, but basically you sew the binding in a particular way with the twine and needle. Make sure it's very tight and secure. That's it!


ThaoN8 (author)2015-12-07

cant use the bind tutorial as the link doesnt work anymore....

emily.solorzano.33 (author)2014-08-06

while I'm binding mine a different way I just have to say I love that I'm not the only person who does this! I no longer buy paper for school but use all the recycling paper from my work!

puddnheadwilson (author)2014-03-11

I like the Japanese style. I have a bunch of out-of-date law reference books (too dated to donate - I checked) that I want to turn into codices. ( The paper is thin (like what is sometimes called 'Bible paper') but is covered with printed text. Maybe I will use them for scrapbooks or use thick markers to write in them - regular pen or pencil is not legible over the printed text.

Thanks for the well photographed instructable!

nimcap (author)2011-10-08

It looks so simple and effective. I can't wait to try it out. Thank you :)

ChargerIIC (author)2010-07-14

The binder clips are a great idea for holding the paper together. I can't believe I never thought of that!

guerd87 (author)2010-05-23

Just made 3 of these books tonight as I was cleaning out the office/workshop of old plans, notes, 1 sided prints etc. Now I have a new place to take down notes and put ideas down quickly!

3366carlos (author)2009-09-27

excellent idea. But why cut the size? as might as well use the 8.5X11 size.

bad ass pope (author)3366carlos2010-03-08

And what if you wanted a smaller book?

You wouldn't. They're illegal anyway

Optimizer (author)2010-04-12

 This is by far the simplest and the best recycled paper notebook I've made. I already made 3 of these. Leftover corrugated cardboard for the covers makes for a decently hard surface.

msbarrk1 (author)2010-03-07

In my 1st and 2nd grade class, I keep all of the leftovers that are 1 sided for scrap paper for the kids already. This is a great idea that we could do as a math and science project combined. Woohoo! In the five minutes I spent perusing this instructable I have a plan! Each group will be required to make different size measurements and cuts. We'll take a mini field-trip around school and collect the used paper as part of our natural resource unit. Oooh, we could even make enough to sell as fund raisers for our mini Relay for Life that's in May. I love instructables! Thanks a bunch!

beehard44 (author)msbarrk12010-03-10

Yep. good idea teaching kids on saving the environment...

razany (author)2007-05-28

Tried it! Its great!
I used a fishing line instead of thread
and made the wholes using a whole punch (but the wholes ended up to big for the starting knot so i had to put like a peice of plastic to hold the knot in place which messed up the whole thing =P)

Sylkhr (author)razany2009-05-05

It's now "whole" it's hole, you use whole for like "the whole thing".

no, if it has a hole now it's not whole

haha this "whole" discussion has become quite confusing

jotism (author)Lucas02142010-03-08

Why is it, whenever anyone is criticizing someones spelling, they spell a word incorrectly? Obviously, it is sometimes done to prove a point, but when it isn't deliberately done, there is usually a mistake in anyway.

I like Ubuntu/LM, it checks my spelling, 'cause I am too lazy too myself :P.

No. It's a "hole punch". The holes were too big.

Tirann (author)Sylkhr2009-12-02

 It's not "now" it's "not" haha.

This is a good to know instructable, this can be very useful for projects in school.  Thanks for sharing the technique.

jamowa (author)2010-03-08

This is the best explanation for stab binding I've seen. Great pix, too!

Question for Hansy......what's the purpose of laying a bead of Tacky glue along the spine? Seems like it would be sticky/tacky when the book is being used.  Thanks.

BTW - for some colorful pages and/or binding see Canon site for Chiyogami paper you can print. Some very nice patterns!

ren230 (author)2010-03-07

If you plan to drill holes in the paper, clamp the paper tightly between two pieces of scrap wood.  This lets you drill cleanly and is an easy way to keep the paper aligned.

blueisforcoolkids (author)2009-11-22

I made a book, and it works very well. To make the hole, i just hammered in a nail, because my parents were asleep. (drills are loud). The design was great: i have never been able to bind a book. Well, thanks for the instructable!

jcoffland (author)2009-07-15

Might try drilling the holes. Could probably do thicker stacks that way. Nice project.

Preblopa (author)2009-05-18

Great instructable! My very first project - I used Dali prints from a scheduler I have for the covers, and embroidery thread for the binding. There should be a collection of Asian book binding techniques; I would try them all out.

Hannah15Marie (author)2008-04-28

This is so cool! I made one using my old math worksheets. My teacher hasn't figured out how to double side paper, and she refuses to let anyone show her how. So we have tons of one sided paper. I also have some old coloring books so I tore out some pages and put that in. My book is nice and colorful thanks to multicolored pages and coloring books. Great Instructable!

ishopbinding (author)2008-03-14

This is neat. Here's another simple idea for creating notebooks out of old copy paper.

Check it out.

smokehill (author)2008-03-03

There are a lot of good uses for scrap paper, or wasted Xerox sheets. I just rough-cut a lot of them with scissors into various sizes for scratch pads. I keep them in those little spring binder clips, and when it gets to be thick enough I paint some contact cement or rubber cement onto one edge and hold it with a couple of binder clips until it dries. They're not sticky-back like Post-its, but Scotch tape is cheap. I've seen notebooks made, with various kinds of binding, using the back sides of scrap paper. The left side has miscellaneous stuff on it, but you can take a lot of notes on just the right side, which is the easiest to write on anyway unless you're left-handed.

bluenebe (author)2007-12-24

This is a great idea, I've never had the idea that a book caould be made from other than blank paper! It looks really good.

nikkishell (author)2007-07-15

This is fabulous! I'm going to try it out. Thanks.

NevadaGuy (author)2007-06-07

Now I know what I can do with all that "wasted" paper! I made half dozen or so and gave them to some folk at the office... They think they are great and use them for all sorts of notes, lists, and maybe a little doodling.

motormouth (author)2007-06-04

We made these. The kids take them to church to draw on to keep from figeting. They also copy bible verses on them. We used about 10 pages and sewed them on the sewing machine.Sometimes we use a cloth cover.

bekathwia (author)motormouth2007-06-04

Cool! I hadn't thought about using the sewing machine!

camscam (author)2007-05-09

If some one used this techneque and also reused product packaging like cerial boxes for the cover that would be even MORE recycled!

razany (author)camscam2007-05-28

yeah.. i used the covers of old notebooks

bekathwia (author)camscam2007-05-09

Yes! I actually use event postcards I find around, which are nice because they often have finished edges and two nice surfaces.

chuckr44 (author)2007-05-25

I've been doing something similar with old paper since 1975 (in those days we used old dittos). I just cut 8.5x11 paper in quarters, and put one staple in the corner to make a scratch pad.

jae2lio2t (author)2007-05-22

I was about to put up the same instructable. Glad others are already doing this --- reduce reuse and recycle, yo... nice work.

claymax (author)2007-05-20

hey this is awesome! ive been doing similar things for sketchbooks glad to see someone has the intelligence to share it with everyone else (not I)

Rayna (author)2007-05-16

This is fabulous. I have been wanting to use all my one-sided paper for just this, without knowing how. I am at uni so I amass a lot of it. I thought of creating such a book to use as a lecture pad. Also, some of my paper is quite interesting, as it has pictures and random cool images and drawings, because my boyfriend is a designer. I've always thought that not only would it be practical and eco-friendly, but all the incidental images and texts could actually be quite inspiring. Whether I use it as a scrapbook or if the lecture gets boring, I can read old psychology articles or colour in stuff, draw or let my mind wander to all the 'found' things in my book. Anyway, thought I'd mention it, as it gives some ideas of how the recycled paper notebooks could be interesting.

werkstueck (author)2007-05-16

Another quick and easy method for small books is on my flickr:
(it's only in german - but i think the pictures are meaningful)

crahul (author)2007-05-14

hi, good job to save the environment and money. carry on the good work. cheers. rc

Cheeseduck (author)2007-05-13

I've been using binders with clear plastic sheet protectors to hold all my class-notes, and it's a pain! Binders never stack well, the rings always break or bend, and the plastic protectors are expensive. This is exactly the solution I've been needing, thank you!

WesDoesStuff (author)2007-05-08

what would be interesting is a tutorial for a ebook > real book conversion

oh. great instructable btw

bekathwia (author)WesDoesStuff2007-05-12


RichD (author)2007-05-11

I meant to convert an e-book into a paperback. I often do this with online video game guides then I have the book with me when I play.

randofo (author)2007-05-11

I don't get it. Where's the electronics?

RichD (author)2007-05-10

Hi guys. I am a book binding nut. I love making those stab binding books, but sometimes for speed sake I do use the HC stapler. But as for an e-book conversion, I find that if you make your Word processing page oriented landscape and make two collums you can fold the page and get a "front and back" of a page, then you stab bind them on the "open" ends of the paper rather than the folded ends. Thats how I do an ebook. Its takend from a chinese woodblock print binding technique.

SMRUDOLPH (author)2007-05-10

So cool! I love this! I keep a bin in my office exactly for paper that's blank on one side. I used to take it to my son's elementary school for the kids to draw and write on. Now that he's in middle school, my supply of one-sided paper is growing at a fast clip, and I have been wanting to make books from it, but my mind got stuck on how to work around the printed side. I was thinking that a blank book had to be completely blank. But of course it doesn't! THANKS, you freed me up. I've been saving food cartons, too, and they'll make fabulous covers. I knew I'd find something good to do with them. Great instructable. I'm going over to Etsy now and see what you've got there!

wiloland (author)2007-05-10

Nice "How to" very well done. Juste a line to say you can do some nice binding with recycle stuff. I've made some with wood crates like here:

About This Instructable




Bio: Becky Stern is a content creator at Instructables. She has authored hundreds of tutorials about everything from wearable electronics to knitting. Before joining Instructables, Becky ... More »
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