Embossing a Moleskin With Gears




About: My name is Randy and I am a Community Manager in these here parts. In a previous life I had founded and run the Instructables Design Studio (RIP) @ Autodesk's Pier 9 Technology Center. I'm also the author ...

As we all know, there are more than 62 Projects to Make with a Dead Computer . The possibilities are infinite. Yet, let's be frank for a moment, not all of these infinite things are going to be good. That is why I made a couple dozen extra projects while writing the book. Most of them were failures which will never see the light of day, but a few stood out as worthwhile projects.

One such project is embossing a notebook with gears. The execution of the project was not the greatest and I was never really happy with the fact that you never really technically ended up with anything new made out of old computers. Nonetheless, it did make into the book as a footnote to project 4, as something you can do with all of those extra gears.

Anyhow, here are some full instructions for embossing a notebook using gears, when starting with a dead optical disc drive.

You will need:

1) A broken CD or DVD drive
2) A moleskin notebook
3) A table vise
4) A C-Clamp (or two)
5) Two wooden boards slightly bigger than your notebook
6) A Phillips screwdriver
7) A computer tower or chair

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Step 1: Open

Disassemble your CD drive until you have located the laser diode mechanism. Remove the ribbon cable connected to the laser’s circuit board to use later as a bookmark.

Step 2: Remove Gears

Remove the gears from the laser diode assembly.

Step 3: Trim Gears

Trim the hubs off the gears so that they are completely flat.

Step 4: Arrange

Arrange the gears on your moleskin notebook as you wish for them to appear. Make sure that the trimmed side is facing up. The clean side of the gears should be flush against the surface of the notebook.

Step 5: Sandwich

Sandwich your notebook and gears between two pieces of wood. When you do this, be careful as to not move the gears.

Step 6: Clamp

Clamp your sandwiched notebook using your table vise. Also attach a C-clamp or two to such that they provide uniform pressure over the surface of the wood.

Step 7: Wait

Wait 30 minutes to an hour.

Step 8: Admire

Remove the clamps from your notebook. Insert the ribbon cable bookmark and admire your creation.

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    13 Discussions


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I think if you get the surface a bit damp first, by wiping it with a damp sponge, it would last longer. At least it does with leather, but I actually have no clue what the material moleskin uses for their covers, so maybe it would work maybe not. Leaving it in the vice longer will definitely make it last longer. I love the Idea and would do it myself, I just don't have any gears on hand or a broken drive to tear apart for some.

    3 replies

    Not anymore. Moleskine TM brand notebooks are made with PVC plastic imprinted to leather-like. Old fashioned "original" moleskine notebooks were covered with oilcloth.


    6 years ago on Step 8

    Wow. The pics tell almost everything. Great visual documentation!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Awesome! Do you think this would work with an extremely small Moleskin?


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    'Permanent' for a few months... I think if I left it for longer I would have perhaps gotten better results.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Gentle application of heat will set your embossing. Not so much as to burn or blister but enough to soften the cover. You could use a heat gun or possibly a hair drier on high heat, might be safer for the book.

    Commercial embossing machines use heat on both leather and "plastics" for everything from wallets to journals and luggage. Foil stamping gets pretty hot but I'm not sure how hot, enough to burn skin for sure but its the dies that get hot rather than the material. No reason you couldn't reverse it.

    Be careful though, too much pressure with the heat and you'l tear through the cover material to the card stock core.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    You may want to be careful about heating moleskine covers. Make sure not to burn them! The covers have PVC in them (Polyvinyl Chloride, aka vinyl) which gives off chlorine gas when burned. When that gas mixes with hydrogen in the air, it forms vaporized Hydrochloric Acid. Bad stuff. That's why you shouldn't laser etch them either!

    Just a thought!

    Info gathered here:


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Heat! That's one of those 'why didn't I think of that' ideas. I support that idea!