Introduction: VHS Spiral Bound Notebook

I, like many people, have a good number of old VHS tapes laying around. Some of the movies I now have on DVD, others I no longer care to keep and whatever falls between I can digitize should I wish. This makes the collection of VHS tapes about as useful to me as a collection of rocks. So, I took a note from ivylanedesigns on Etsy and decided to make custom, one-of-a-kind, spiral-bound notebooks.

You can get just about anything flat spiral bound at copy stores or you could buy a machine to bind things yourself. But with the low cost of pre made notebooks and a do it yourself attitude I find it appropriate to take a pre-made notebook and replace the cover. This instructable will tell you how to do just that.

My goals for the project were:
  • to make unique spiral bound notebooks,
  • to reuse VHS boxes,
  • and to complete the project with minimal costs.
I used the following tools:
  • Small hole punch (~3.25mm diameter hole.)
  • Knife
  • Pliers (Two pliers may be useful.)
  • Tape
  • Ruler (Optional)
  • Hole punch - $4
  • Spiral bound notebook - 25¢ to $2
  • 15-30 minutes

Step 1: Obtain a Suitable Spiral Bound Notebook

The first step, assuming you have a VHS box to cannibalize, is to obtain a suitable notebook. You will probably not be able to find a spiral bound notebook exactly the right size so you will need to find one that is close and get it cut. Depending on where you get it you can expect to pay as little as a quarter. If you buy from an office supply store you can have them cut it for you. (This is what I did.)

VHS Tapes are 7 3/8 x 4 1/16 inches. So, I got two notebooks that were 7x5 and had them cut down. I had one cut to 4" wide and the other cut to 3 7/8" wide. I preferred the 4" wide notebook.

Step 2: Unbend the Spiral

To prepare the notebook you will first need to take the spiral off of it.  Start by unbending the spiral at both ends. Usually a bit of the spiral will be hooked around itself and you should unbend the hook and then the rest of that part to free the spiral from the notebook.

On one side the wire should be bent so as to form another loop in the spiral. This is the side that will be pulled through the rest of the notebook. The opposite side only has to be unbent enough to allow the spiral to spin a turn or so.

I only used my multi-tool pliers but you may find a second set of pliers useful for this step.

Step 3: Remove the Spiral

Now, with the side that was curved at the top, begin to turn the spiral so as to remove it from the holes at the top. Be patient and make sure not to deform the metal spiral when doing this. Continue to twist the spiral until it comes completely off the notebook.

Step 4: Cut the Box to Size

Now that the notebook is prepared you must make ready the VHS box. I did most of the cutting free hand but if you have a problem with that or want to make it perfectly straight you can use a ruler. Also, a stiff page of the notebook you just took apart would make a good straight edge if you can't find a ruler.

Start by cutting the box apart on the seems. Save the extra parts of the box for later. After you have the font and back of the box apart you will probably need to cut them down to size. I cut them down only across the short length. (To clarify: the cuts made the rectangle shorter.)

To determine what size I should use I placed the old notebook cover on top of the VHS box and cut the box down to approximately that size. Again, you can use a ruler if you like, but make sure to leave the cover slightly larger than the pages so that it overhangs them slightly.

Lastly, line up the front and back and make sure they match. You may have to do additional trimming here.

Step 5: Mark the Holes

Take the old cover or back of the notebook (hereafter "template") and lay it on the box cover or back on the non-printed side. Line up the edges of the template and the box piece so that the hole edges are flush. Tape the two together temporarily if necessary. Now use the pencil to mark all of the holes you will make. Make a mark around the entire circumference of the circle, not just a single dot. When done remove the template.

Note: It is crucial that you do use the original cover as a template as the holes in the notebook are usually not perfectly aligned. Thus, if you measure and place holes your holes might not line up with the holes on the notebook.

After you have done one side of the VHS box you don't have to do the other. Just line up the front and the back of the VHS box and punch them both at once. Make sure to line them up as shown so that you punch the correct edges on the front and the back. Check this alignment twice and then tape those two together temporarily on the three non-hole edges.

Step 6: Punch the Holes

This is probably the most time consuming step. It's pretty simple: just punch holes where you have marked. You can look at the hole punch from the side to make sure it is perfectly lined up. Take your time so that everything lines up and the spiral rethreads easily.

Step 7: Re-spiral the Notebook

Now for reassembly. Start to put the notebook together by aligning the pages and then adding the covers. Line up everything by the holes, not by the edges of the pages. When you are sure it is put together correctly hold it all in one hand and start to thread the spiral through the holes with the other hand. This is a process I dub "re-spiraling." You may need to move the hand that is holding the notebook and the holes may get a little out of alignment. This is not really a problem after four or five holes are re-spiraled as you can easily realign the rest at that point.

Step 8: Re-bend the Spiral

Now just do the opposite of what you did earlier and bend the ends of the spirals to the way they were. Again, two pliers may be useful here.

Step 9: Enjoy

Congratulations, you now have a custom VHS box notebook. Use it for to-do lists, movie notes, or just about anything you would use a regular notebook for. Don't forget that if you fill the notebook with writing and the covers are still in good shape you could always take them off and put them on another notebook. As an easy to make, small, and unique item these notebooks make great gifts.

As for the extra sides of the VHS boxes, they can be used for bookmarks. For durability you can glue the long edges together back to back and add a piece of the old notebook cover to the short edges.

Thanks for reading.

A note on the use of copyrighted content: I have made limited use, in low resolution images, of a copyrighted work in a way that does not detract from the value of the work in question. It is for educational and non-commercial purposes. Given these facts the inclusion of these images falls under fair use.