Introduction: The Amazing Twist-Locking Cardboard Sketchbook

Picture of The Amazing Twist-Locking Cardboard Sketchbook
I'm an artist. A year ago, the cover of my old sketchbook finally wore off from its ring bindings. I went around with a pitiful rubber band holding everything together for a month. I finally got sick of it and vowed to revive my beloved tome of imagination. One day I was looking through an idea book my art teacher had let me read when I stumbled upon what I was searching for. It was a hand-made book.

"Why don't I just rebind my sketchbook? " I thought. "Okay, I'm going to need to rebind it with something."

I searched for a material for my new book covers. Wood? Metal? Plastic? I couldn't find anything cool like that. But then I saw a box of large sheets of corrugated cardboard from old boxes. I love cardboard. Cut it, bend it, glue it, paint it, it's nothing but corrugated brown goodness. Not only is it a lot of fun to use, it's pretty durable and helps recycle. Armed with a hot glue gun, this was my process that I used to resurrect my sketchbook from the dead.

Step 1: Things You'll Need...

Picture of Things You'll Need...

You'll need-

-Sketchbook in need of repair or in need of new style (or both)
-Cardboard sheets
-A single hole punch
-Hot glue gun
-Box cutter or paper guillotine

For a twist-lock latch-

-An old CD spindle
-Dremel cutter or a hacksaw

You might also want a few items for decoration-

-Old circuit components
-Hardware bits
-Metal pieces
-More cardboard (because you can never have too much cardboard)

Step 2: Idea

Picture of Idea

What were we here for again? Oh yeah! To revive the tome of imagination. The sketchbook. The sanctuary where visual ideas can be recorded and saved from being forgotten. We're here to honor and renovate this place where we communicate through art and cherish our ideas and memories. Our visual diaries. As an artist, it's good to have an idea before you start. Make conceptual sketches of what you're looking for. Do you want a theme, pattern, particular shape, or composition to the book, or are you just trying to restore it? Will you use it often, or will it be on display as a separate piece? Will the sketchbook reflect your creativity in itself or only in its content?

Step 3: Prep Step

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Let's get the sketchbook ready to go. Before we can build the book, we need to remove the covers and prepare the binding for the new covers.

Ring Bindings :

A lot of sketchbooks are wire-ring bound. This type of binding is different from a standard spiral-binding as the ring-binding has rings that can be bent to open and release the covers (and pages) without tearing them out. Flip the book on its back. If you look at the binding on the inside of the book on the last page, you can see the gaps in the rings. Spread these away from the holes in the paper to open them. Once opened, the back cover can be removed. Drag the front cover around and it'll come off as well.

Step 4: Make the New Covers

Picture of Make the New Covers

Time to make the covers. Measure the dimensions of your sketchbook. I matched mine to be the same dimensions of the original covers. Cut them from cardboard. If you want, you can make them wider to add a latch around the open end of the book to the back cover.

Step 5: Punch Holes

Picture of Punch Holes

Using either the bindings or the original cover (if it's still intact), make a mark about a centimeter in from the side of you covers that will be bound. Using a single hole punch, punch out the marks to make holes for the bindings. I made a mark through the holes on the holes on the cover that were still intact.

Step 6: Rebind the New Covers

Picture of Rebind the New Covers

Time to put the new covers on.

Spread apart the rings and one by one, push them through the holes in the new covers. Once both are on the rings, close the rings back into themselves to close the binding.

Step 7: Building a Spine

Picture of Building a Spine

I wanted this to look like a book, and not a notebook with some dinky wire binding. Basically what I did was cut a piece of cardboard along the corrugations (so it'll bend) the same length as the bound side of the book covers. After bending it uniformly along the corrugations with a ruler, table edge, or other straight edge, I glued one end into place.

When I glued, I glued my pieces down on their faces first. Once the piece was set into place, I laid a bead of glue around the edge of the piece. Then, with that bead still wet, I pushed the bead with the nozzle of my glue gun. This makes a nice "weld" of glue around your pieces.

I then wrapped spine cover around the binding and glued it into place. If you're not sure how wide a spine cover to make, you can always make it thinner. So it's good to make it wider than you think you'll need it.

Step 8: Adding Inside Pockets

Picture of Adding Inside Pockets

Whenever I'm walking though the halls at school, sometimes my loose work falls out of my sketchbook onto the floor. I wanted those days to be gone. I needed a place to safely store my loose sketches and concepts as well as my digital printouts. My book was pretty tight to close as it already, so I tried to make my pockets as thin as possible. Also, it's important to determine how large of a piece of paper you'll be able to store. You won't want your paper sticking out of the covers of your sketchbook or being crimped and mangled in the inside of the sketchbook, so you'll probably want your paper to be a smaller size than that of the cover.

For my pockets, I just used a rectangle of cardboard and took off the corner. I flattened it with my hand so it wouldn't make my covers as thick. Then I positioned it. I had it offset to the inside of the cover since I was only going to glue the edges down to the cover. The paper fits great!

Step 9: Making a Twist-locking Latch

Picture of Making a Twist-locking Latch

With the pockets added, my sketchbook was even more difficult to keep closed. So, I made a latch for it. With most latches, they have to somehow latch to the cover. Otherwise, the latch is nothing but a useless strip of cardboard. I considered many different ways couple the latch to the cover. In a previous sketchbook I rebound I used velcro strips, but snaps, zippers, buttons, string, a loop through a hole with a peg, or even nuts and bolts will suffice. Whatever suits your tastes. It also depends on your style you're looking for. For my latch, I wanted a circular rotating locking mechanism. Something that could be rotated and would release the latch. I used an old CD spindle for this.

The whole concept is that a CD spindle locks into place onto its lid by rotating. Why not use that locking mechanism here? All I needed was the flat part of the lid and the loop of plastic with the locking teeth on it.

I used a hacksaw to cut off the ring of plastic with the three teeth on it and I cut a hole in my latch cardboard the same size. The teeth prevent my plastic toothed hoop from pulling out one way. Gluing a cardboard circle to the hoop on the other side sandwiches it into place, but still allows it to rotate freely. I used a hacksaw to take the spindle off of the lid and I hot glued it to the front cover. Now, when the latch is closed, turning the cardboard circle will secure it.

It keeps any person from simply opening it, as it requires careful observation that the center circle is more than meets the eye.

After some light use, I noticed that the edges of my cardboard circle/latch were becoming bent from being gripped to rotate the mechanism. I needed a knob or something.

"Why not use a plastic lid from a jar? Those are meant to be twisted on and off!".

So I went and found a plastic peanut butter jar. I have lots plastic jars lying around, so it was doing me a favor by using up a spare lid. It's perfect to use because of the grooves along the side for increased grip. I didn't want the lid sticking up too far , so instead of cutting the lid shorter, I simply mounted the lid part way through a newly cut hole in the cardboard twist circle. Some hot glue later, and it's a lot easier to twist without wearing the cardboard down. The whole mechanism reminds me of something you'd see in the movie The Mummy or Tomb Raider or something. I always like it when books have a mechanical side to them.

Step 10: Finished

Picture of Finished

Here's the finished sketchbook. I might add onto it later or paint it, but I do enjoy the warm color of the cardboard for now. From here, it's all decorating and adding details.

This project not only exercises your creative gene, but also breathes new life into your sketchbook. I firmly believe that the sketchbook is the visual diary of the artist. The sketchbook sees any ideas before they're put to the test. It's the first stop for any new concept coming from the visual mind. It can even tell a story. It shows profound creative and cognitive growth. It displays any changes in interests and emotions of the artist.

The sketchbook is an instrument. Like a musician can play something to release his or her emotions, ideas, and views to the world in a musical sense, a sketchbook does this visually.

Finally, a sketchbook can be as sacred as your ideas are to you. If you greatly treasure your visually recorded thoughts, the sketchbook can be changed to reflect this. Adding detail like iron, copper, or brass faux or patina paint finishes, LED's, stained wood or leather, hardware parts, fake plants, etc. is a wonderful way to add artistic value to your sketchbook. It's your sketchbook. Go and sketch your world!

Actually, this sketchbook has an older brother from a year ago. Here's the link to pictures of it-

Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed it!

May 22 UPDATE-

Hello intructiblers! This is just a speedy update-my sketchbook is STILL working properly, opening and closing with the greatest of ease, and is functioning perfectly. I've been carrying my sketchbook to school with me in my backpack and to all of my classes every single day since its completion (or incompletion I should say). I had to re-glue the bottom of one of the inside pockets (too many papers were breaking the glue weld I made), as well as gluing a bit on the outside for cosmetic purposes, repairing a jagged upper paper tear near one of the edges (it's like a cardboard hangnail) which was there from the beginning, and I made a few new sketches. I intend to paint it, however, I intend to use glue to decorate the extremities of the covers and spine, use caulking on the corrugated edges, and paint the whole thing a mixture of weathered bronze and gold soon, however graduation is looming over my head and things are quite busy for right now. I'll get to it this summer without doubt though!


CorreaoFyrestarr (author)2016-09-15

I too, am a fan of cardboard. This and your other creations are fantastic! Looking forward to seeing an instructable for the colored pencil carrier and radial marker case.

darklordD (author)2016-04-04

if only the cardboard parts can be replaced by a thin sheet aluminum or plywood the design would be far more durable ...... But still buddy... You did an amazing work

A-N-A (author)2014-12-05

you need some good painting on it buddy,by the way mind blowing idea.

nmurdoch (author)2014-06-29

How would you do that with a hardcover sketchbook that's not got the binding and is sewn

DropDeadShorty2320 (author)2014-06-02

How did you make the other three?! Must know, pleeeaasse?!

The other book was a similar process with a velcro tab. The disk-shaped marker holder uses cardboard and cardboard tubes (to make the rounded outer edge) to make segments that can rotate around and nest inside eachother. Inside it is a hexagon wheel divided into three diamonds into which the markers insert. The pencil holder is simply a cardboard belt that wraps around a post in the canister. One wheel connects to the post to help wind the belt, and the other end rotates to close the door. I believe I also glued a pencil sharpener in there somewhere too. :)

Thank you!! Now you should make those for me ^_^ and I'll pay you.

Ruby Diamonds (author)2014-04-18

This seems cool

turtlegirl55 (author)2013-08-25

I used this to fix/redesign my sketchbook after the cover ripped off.I covered it with a cool duct tape design and made multiple inside pockets and a pencil holder too.thanks for the inspiration!

HaleChimera (author)2013-05-30

Wow never thought of that

opalz7 (author)2012-12-05

The color pencil carrying case and the thingy on the right, how did you make those? will you please put an instructable up for those!

shepan13 (author)2012-09-09

Thanks for the Instructable. Here is my rendition

pudgytaco (author)2012-07-12

Now how did you hole punch the cardboard cover?

MattGyver92 (author)pudgytaco2012-07-12

Single hole punch. Check your local office supply store. They should have them for a couple of bucks.

pudgytaco (author)MattGyver922012-07-20

Maybe my hole punch was too weak or my cardboard was too thick, i just ended up drilling it.

zv_odd (author)2012-07-15

I say, this is rather clever.

moN1Ker (author)2012-07-03

I'd LOVE LOVE LOVE to see an instructable made for both the pencil belt and radial marker container. Like, I'll be bookmarking you on here and checking on you to see if you ever release them.

Props, this is a great instructable and a great idea.

nteri81 (author)2012-01-20

I LOVE IT!!!!!! Going to make it for my wife. Maybe ill upgrade the cardboard to some particle board after i build the prototype out of the cardboard because i have some leather id like to wrap it in and that gonna be a pain to take apart if it needs repairs. thanks for sharing. Where can i find the instructables for Radial art marker holder & Colored pencil belt cylinder carrier.

MattGyver92 (author)nteri812012-01-23

Thanks! Well, the radial art marker holder and pencil belt carrier were not documented when I made them and I haven't had any time to make new ones. I have another interesting locking mechanism that's a little more subtle that I did document, but I still have more work to do on that.

parrster (author)2011-12-08

Simply awesome. I've also got a bit of a thing for making stuff out of cardboard, and I must say that I really like your creative ideas, brilliant design and detailed presentation. Love your work.

mcneilre (author)2011-12-05

I love this instructable!!! Do u think you could make ables on the pencil holder and marker holder shown in the last picture of step 10?? Thanks a lot!!

curious youth (author)2011-10-22

quite literally exactly what i was looking for.
but do you have any ideas for the same twist latch on a smaller scale?

mdawson2 (author)2011-08-08

Here's my sketchbook. It looks backward but I accidentally took this photo upside down. I covered it in 'Tie-Dye' design ducttape. I hacksawed the top off a plastic jar instead of a spindle.

cookie_chris (author)2011-05-08

hey great instructable i rate it 5/5 but can you make one for those radial marker holder and colored pencil belt carrier. i think i'm gonna make one of these but i don't have a spiral bound sketchbook maybe i can improvise

MattGyver92 (author)cookie_chris2011-05-10

I'd love to make another radial art marker holder and pencil belt cylinder, however I feel that I can come up with a far better design than I already have. It's on my to do list nonetheless. If you're sketchbook is spiral bound, you can just unscrew the binding, add your covers, and then screw the binding back into place.

mdawson2 (author)MattGyver922011-08-04

This works but it took me almost two hours to rewind... whatever.

mdawson2 (author)2011-07-28

This is amazing I made one only I hacksawed the ring off a plastic jar, and I used a spiral bound note pad (which by the way do NOT do it took me about two hours to rewind it with the new covers - but it does work great) Mine is lacking some of the beauty yours has. I was wondering if anyone had any ideas for other really cool latches??? ESPECIALLY eyebot117!?!?!?!

MattGyver92 (author)mdawson22011-08-01

Post a pic and I might be able to give you more ideas, but I'm considering painting mine with a faux metal finish (copper or bronze and gold trim). A painted faux stone finish isn't out of the question either. For a latch, is there a specific shape that you favor? Triangles? Circles? Hexagons? I derived my latch from a book- The book of the Dead (From "The Mummy")-which actually uses a key to turn the latch to open it. It all depends on what you want. I simply wanted something that wouldn't fly open at random. It might be possible to make a combination/cryptex-esque lock on the cover or spine. I eventually intend to make a much more.........elegant book (solar powered LED's included), that uses an actual key for a lock, but until then, I'm just formulating ideas. There are also apertures and irises that you could make on the cover as well for a cool look.

mdawson2 (author)MattGyver922011-08-04

Your work with cardboard is unbelievable.
As for the latches, I was only wondering if you had other ideas. I'm actually think of some. I've made one with a slide mechanism. If you have any ideas like buttons or wierd ways to lock the latches, you have some cool ideas already.

Also I really want to know how to make that marker holder ratio.... I'm not sure what you called it now but I hope you know what I'm talking about.

Your a genius. Thanks for the awesome ideas.

CosmicBrambleclaw (author)2011-05-20

Oh yeah what size pad do you suggest to use for this because my little one is driving me crazy the spine doesnt want to work and with it on I'm not sure I have room for the lock

I wouldn't go so small that you can't use the lock, but really you can only go so small with thick cardboard covers. If the cardboard is too thick for the bindings, I would suggest using cardstock instead, since it's thinner and probably a bit stronger too.

Thats ok I found a big one about the sanme size as yours, but I gotta either buy a spindle or wait for my Mommy (yes I call her that) to use up the cd's in hers

CosmicBrambleclaw (author)2011-05-18

I'd love to see the marker spiral and colored pencil belt if you ever have time to do a instructable for them :D

CosmicBrambleclaw (author)2011-05-18

Aww I love this! So cool ^_^ I always get so irritated that my noebooks and sketchbooks are so drab and monotone, this solves everything! Awesome

TheStott (author)2011-05-17

pretty cool

graphicartvark (author)2011-05-10

I love this project. I didn't have a spiral bound sketchbook s I improvised by using a sketchbook with binding and cut the cover off with an exacto knife.

MattGyver92 (author)2011-05-02

Hey guys, just a quick update here..... I'm contemplating on adding another step or making this the first of a two part series of instructables, but I'm going to be painting and further decorating this sketchbook next week or the week after. Also, I'm happy to report that I'm well underway with my next project, of which I'm hoping you will enjoy almost as much as you did this one. You'll get to see the concept art once it's done-don't want to spoil it!

eamc317 (author)MattGyver922011-05-09

Can't wait!

bubblebut (author)2011-05-05

this is really awesome i can't wait to try it i could not find any cd spindles localy so i used the locking thing on my shampo bottle.

eamc317 (author)bubblebut2011-05-05

Thats a really smart idea! Thanks

ehudwill (author)2011-05-02

This is great. I might just make one.

timothymh (author)2011-04-30

Some of those look insane. O.O
For this one, though, doesn't the left spine get bent tightly when you open the inside front cover? It seems to me this wouldn't be good....

MattGyver92 (author)timothymh2011-05-02

Cardboard is corrugated and is able to flex perpendicularly along the corrugations. It does indeed bend, but only because it can. I made fairly sure that I laid down a good glue weld joint to attach the spine cover to the front and back covers. As far as I know, it's worked great with now issues whatsoever (I carry and use this book every day at school, so it's pretty durable).

Ben Nguyen (author)2011-05-01

It kind of reminds me of the companion cube... only it is a notebook. Perhaps you could style it after such and make it into a "companion notebook"! :D A light inside of the cap would be pretty cool too... For those of you who do not have access to a CD holder, you could instead attempt to use a bottle cap (a large cap, like the ones off of a Powerade bottle). Nice Instructable!

theviewingstation (author)2011-04-29

Thanks for the idea! I couldn't get the "CD" latch to work so I ended up using a rubber band latch.

ninja_maker (author)2011-04-25

Hey, about the belt cylinder, i was wondering if you have to push it back in. Because if you do then attach a mech that will make it come back when it is pulled completely out.

MattGyver92 (author)ninja_maker2011-04-25

Nope! See, there's these two parts on either end of the cylinder. One of them spins and opens/closes the opening for access to the belt, the other winds the belt back up!

ninja_maker (author)2011-04-25

btw this is one of the top instructables ive ever seen

jwoo2023 (author)2011-04-21

Luckily my CD spindle was a twist off one! so i could just twist off the rod! istead of having to cut it!

jwoo2023 (author)jwoo20232011-04-21

also my cd spindle was flat so i could store my cd's in it! as well!

About This Instructable




Bio: I work in architecture visualization and love art, design, 3D printing, airsoft, and night vision.
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