Introduction: Make Your Own Sketch Journal With Holders

When I go out to field sketch, I want my watercolor paper, pencils and ink pens, eraser, and leads all in a pack... but I also like to travel light: grab and go.  So, I came up with this little doo-hicky that is a watercolor paper sketchbook that holds all the sketch pens and pencils on the cover with a journal style closing strap.  I can easily throw it in the backpack, the jacket pocket, or the bicycle basket without worry.  You only need a notebook with heavy card stock covers, sewer's elastic, brass paper fasteners, and perhaps some super glue and duct tape.  Now... on with the show.

Step 1: Gathering the Goods

First, purchase a sketch book with the paper weight of your choice.  I have chosen 200#rough watercolor paper since I pencil and ink with plans to later watercolor wash for color.  Then lay out the tools you wish to affix to the notebook.  I have chosen three UNI-liners (can't risk my Copic Liners to the outdoors!) a .5mm mechanical pencil and a 2.0mm mechanical pencil with a box of leads (the 0.5mm pencil has its own lead holder where as the 2.0mm pencil holds only one internally), and a paper covered long white eraser. 

Step 2: Measure Twice...

Lay the tools out on the book cover as they "might" finally affix to the book.  Measure things twice and cut once!  I am going for a three strap method... I have made books with two straps but find that if they hold normal pencils, the shorter the pencil gets the less likely they are to be held well.  Though I am making this one for ink and mechanical pencils... I want it to be able to hold real pencils should I so choose, hence... going for the maximum "holdage" (is that a word?).

Step 3: Luke... It Is Your... DENSITY

Luke... I mean LOOK at how much you want to hold on the cover AND how much MAY be held there.  Use the actual tools for your determination... measure twice... and then mark for cutting.  The destiny... I mean the DENSITY of the holdage is limited to the width of the tools AND the width of the fasteners we will use later.  I have chosen a hole separation of 5/8th of an inch.

Step 4: Holy Elastic Garters, Batman!

I have drilled holes on the marks with a drill bit that is JUST the same width as the brass paper fasteners we will use to hold down the elastic straps.  The elastic ribbon was purchased in a 2 meter roll for about 25 cents at the local Five and Dime store. There are thinner and thicker kinds, but the key is making sure you get good fastening with the brass fasteners... so I find a 1.4 inch ribbon works great.

Step 5: The Mouse Runs Into the Hole...

Cut the end of the ribbon at a tapper to allow easy threading through the hole that is not as wide as the ribbon itself.  Draw it through the end hole (either end is fine) about a half inch.

Step 6: Push, Pull, Spread, Release!

Now, using Number 8 brass paper fasteners that we all used in kindergarten to make pinwheels (what? you didn't?) we are going to secure the end down.  Press the fastener through the hole, spread the legs out while pulling tightly to bring a good friction hold to the elastic ribbon. 

Step 7: Crawl, Little Inchworm...

Using the pen or pencil as a guide, loop the elastic up, take another fastener and thread the ribbon between the legs, pull the legs back together and thread it through the hole in the book, spread the legs out on the other side of the cover, pulling to bring the fastener head tight against the cover, holding the ribbon's loop in place.  Repeat until you reach the last hole.

Step 8: Finish That Puppy Up!

On the last hole of the line... thread the whole ribbon through the hole similarly to the first one. Secure your brass fastener and then, just for fun and the chance of fumes, hit the back side of the fasteners and ribbons with a few drops of my favorite aroma-therapy; Super Glue! (No kids, really... that WAS a joke... no, DO hit it with super glue, but it is NOT for sniffing)

Step 9: Oh... YAWN... the Boredom...

Apply as needed... if persists, consult a doctor.

Step 10: Strap It In!

We can make a journal style closure with the same methods as the cover's holders.  Measure uniform holes on the back cover... remember... you don't want your closure strap to run over your pencils on the front! So, measure twice.  Insert the ribbon ends as you did for the holders.  Allow for a snug fit around the book, but not a TIGHT fit.  It is surprising how little tension you need to keep the book closed.  Too tight an you may damage some pages or paintings!  Hit the ends with supper glue as before.

Step 11: Caution, the Edges of This Metal Sign Are Sharp!

Frankly, you could end the project here... but I am not Frank and I don't like loose ends... or sharp ends... or custard.  Remember, in all of life's troubles... DUCT TAPE IS YOUR FRIEND!  Using eyeball engineering, I have covered the back side of the covers with duct tape to protect the brass fasteners' legs, to protect the paper, and to just make it look all shiny!  You could consider gluing felt to the inside... or another sheet of card stock.  This step also secures the fasteners that you do not glue down.

Step 12: Ready for Trial Runs

Now the pens and pencils and baby zebras have been strapped down and the book is ready to grab and run out the door as opportunity presents.  With this particular design, I can change tools as needed.  Notice the shorter lead holder is held by two of the three in its row.  If I had gone with the two strap design of my earlier attempts, it would be held with only one strap.  This project is adaptable to your needs.  Jus take the ideas and modify them to the tools you want to carry.  Even a small pencil sharpener can be held in place, a compass, a wet bar... the cover's the limit!