Introduction: Composition Book/Journal

This is a pretty easy notebook that’s bound a lot like a composition book, but it substitutes duct tape and staples for the composition book’s cloth and thread binding. You don’t need any glue or to wait for anything to dry, so your notebook will be ready as soon as you finish it. (Although leaving it overnight under something heavy will help flatten it.)

Not only is this notebook easy to make, but it’s durable, too - it will work really nicely as a field science notebook or a nature journal that you can throw in your backpack.

Step 1: Gather Your Materials.

  • Tools
    • Stapler (I used an Arrow T-50 stapler)
    • Utility knife
    • Hammer
    • Scissors
    • Needle-nose pliers
    • T-square (or other square)
    • Ruler
    • Scrap cardboard for a work surface
  • Materials
    • Chipboard or binder’s board (I used Blick 14-ply chipboard:
    • Duct tape
    • Paper (I used 8.5” x 14” because found a lot of extra of this size)
    • Staples (I recommend T50 staples that are ⅜” minimum)
  • Put your scrap cardboard flat on your workspace to work on top of.

Step 2: Measure and Cut Your Coverboard.

  • You can skip to step #3 if you are lucky enough to have pre-cut covers.
  • Leave 1” for the spine total, or in other words, ½” for the spine on each cover. The height of the cover should be exactly the same as the height of the notebook. Therefore, since my 8.5” x 14” paper is folded in half, I have a front and a back cover each measuring 8.5” x 6.5”.
  • Cut the coverboard to the sizes you measured. Chipboard is pretty thick and may require several passes with a utility knife. Cut carefully to maintain straight, precise edges.

Step 3: Count and Fold Your Paper.

  • For a 100-page notebook, you’ll need 25 sheets. Why? Each sheet is folded in half and has a front and back.
  • Fold the paper sheets in half. You may need to fold 2-4 sheets at a time to get a nice crease. For my book, I fold them to create an 8.5” x 7” folded sheet.
  • Put all of your folded sheets together into one large folio, then unfold it into one neat, flat stack with a crease running up and down the centerline. (In the picture, I taped my paper down. You don't have to do that.)

Step 4: Prepare Your Binding.

  • Cut a piece of duct tape slightly longer than your notebook’s height. Since my notebook is 8.5” high, my piece of tape is about 9” long.
  • Carefully lay your piece of tape straight up and down the centerline of your neat stack of paper.
  • Place your two covers carefully on the left and right sides of the paper stack. They should be stuck to the duct tape along their edges in the middle and precisely aligned to the edges of your paper stack.
  • Measure the exact midpoint of the duct tape at the top and bottom.
  • Draw a straight centerline along the duct tape using the midpoints you marked. This can be tricky since your ruler will get stuck to the duct tape and might move it, so be careful your notebook doesn’t shift around.

Step 5: Bind Your Notebook.

  • Staple carefully along the centerline on the duct tape. I like to start at the top, the staple the bottom, then the middle, and finish with two more staples for a total of five evenly-space staples.
  • Your staples may not go in flush with the duct tape, so gently hammer the staples flat.
  • You may wish to add a piece of paper, construction paper, or cardstock to stiffen your binding slightly. Only use one sheet of material and don’t make it much wider than the duct tape binding.
  • Place another piece of duct tape over your binding facing down, so that the staples and any additional binding material is covered. Be sure this piece sticks to both covers!

Step 6: Finish the Binding.

  • Use a utility knife to trim the duct tape in line with the covers.
  • Carefully pull your notebook off your work surface, being certain that your paper is coming up with the covers and binding. Flip it over so it’s open to the very middle, where you’ll see your staples poking through.
  • Get the staples to lay flat in the middle. First, bend them down with your needle-nose pliers. Then, hammer them flat.

Step 7: Finish Your Notebook.

  • You probably want to trim the pages to be even with the covers. A utility knife works, but you get a bajillion little paper ribbons as waste.
  • Your book may spring open a bit. Clamping your book or placing something heavy on it overnight will fix this.
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