But, I didn't really want to buy a notebook to use for this. Moleskines and field notes notebooks are both rather expensive. Plus, if I made the notebook, I could customize certain aspects of it to my liking.
This project was based on a project by Bob from the YouTube channel I Like To Make Stuff. If you like DIY channels, I suggest you check his channel out. He specifically shows his process to make pocket notebooks in this video, which will be similar to this.
However, unlike that video, my notebook will have a few extra features. These include an internal pocket made of cardstock and an elastic closure that wraps around the edge of the notebook to hold it shut, not unlike one on a moleskine notebook.
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Step 1: Tools and Materials
So, we're going to need a few common tools for this project:
- Stapler (preferably one with a pivotable base; this will help us staple the notebook together without a lot of fuss)
- Ruler and Pencil
- Paper cutter or some way of cutting sheets of paper to size (i used a rotary cutter and a straight edge)
- Glue, lots of glue
- Lighter (for melting the ends of the elastic to prevent fraying)
- Scissors and/or an Xacto knife, for general trimming of the material
- A small binder clip will also be useful for keeping the whole set of papers together as you are working with them
You'll also need these materials:
- Cardstock (for the inner pocket)
- Bristol Board for the cover (I will explain later how I managed to get a smaller amount for cheaper)
- Paper of your choice (I decided to use graph paper in mine, but you could use lined or copy paper)
- Braided elastic, if you want to add an elastic closure (Mine is about 3/8" in width)
Step 2: Bristol Board for Cheap
So, Bob used Bristol Board in his video, but a pack at my local craft store had 25 9"x12" sheets and cost around $10, which is probably more bristol board than I will ever use in my lifetime. So, I set out for a cheaper alternative.
I found this art board online and knew that it was the solution I was looking for. $3.50 compared to $10 sounds like a much better plan!
However, when I went out to the store, they actually had a variety of art boards like this in several different weights of paper. I chose a 100lb weight for mine, because the much more expensive pack of bristol board not too far away was rated at a 96lb weight. I suggest you head to your local craft store and see what they have.
My cover was made approximately 5 inches tall and 7 inches wide, and this size will be shared by the sheets of paper and the inner pocket. For a notebook of that size, this large sheet that I have will make approximately 9 covers (approximately 0.40 cents per cover, if you do the math).
Step 3: Cover Material
So, for a while, I was looking for some sort of cover material for this notebook. In the before mentioned video, Bob uses pages from an old radio manual. However, as much as I love electronic diagrams, I didn't have one lying around.
This is when I found an old version of Shonen Jump on my bookshelf. For those of you not in the know, Shonen Jump is basically an American magazine that features several Japanese comic series, also known as Manga. These include Naruto, One Piece, Shaman King, etc...
Anyway, I found an absolutely awesome two page spread on an old version of Naruto. So, I used an off-brand Xacto knife to neatly cut them out of the magazine so I could use them as the cover material. I thought about just using the top of the page, allowing me to get two covers out of each page, but I found that the part in the middle of the page was much nicer looking. For this notebook i used the page on the right.
I turned the page over and glued the piece of bristol board I had cut out earlier to the cover. Don't go overboard with the glue here. You just need a nice thin layer. If you use too much glue, you will get a lot of wrinkles and bubbles when you attach this to your cover material, and the final product won't look nearly as nice. Spread it out all over with a brush or just with your fingers. I didn't get many pictures of applying the glue, because I was trying to get the board onto the cover material before the glue dried.
Now, use some sort of implement to smooth the bristol board out on the paper. Smooth it out completely, getting rid of all the bubbles and wrinkles and bumps. I used a bone folder for this step, but you could use anything for this process (I think Bob uses a plastic putty knife in his video). Then, just put your paper under something fairly heavy so that it will dry flat (I use a few of my college textbooks)
Step 4: Cut Away Your New Cover
After the glue has dried significantly (i would suggest leaving it for at least 24 hours), you can use an xacto knife or scissors to cut the extra parts of the cover material away from the cover.
If you would like an elastic band closure, use your xacto knife to cut two slits in what you want to be the back of the cover. Make these slits a little shorter than the width of your band and very thin. You don't want to have the band slipping around too much.
I cut these slits about 0.5" away from the side of the cover and about 0.75" away from the top of the cover. However, I found that half an inch away from the edge was a bit much, so you might want to play around with the measurements. 0.25" might work better for you.
However, we are not going to thread the elastic band through until later, when we have the whole notebook together, so we can gauge exactly how much elastic we need to make a tight closure.
Okay, the cover is finished! Now we move on to the other two pieces of the notebook.
Step 5: Inner Pocket
One idea that I had was an inner pocket within the notebook that could be used to store business cards and other small items.
I made mine out of some cream colored cardstock I had lying around. Use the cover as a template and mark out the height and width of the cardstock piece. However, don't cut it out quite yet. Make another mark 2" below the long side of the cover and cut along that line. This will give us extra space to fold the pocket we need.
Cut out the shape from the cardstock and fold it along the line we marked but did not cut out. Now you have the basic shape, but we need to use something to keep the sides of the pocket closed. Cut out some strips of cardstock about the height of your new pocket and spread some glue onto them. Then, simply glue one on each side of the pocket.
Wipe away any excess glue with your fingers or a paper towel and set the pocket under some weight to dry.
Step 6: The Paper Itself
To make the paper sheets, I used an old pad of graph paper I had lying around and took out about 15-20 pages. Because of the size of my notebook, I can actually get 2 full pieces out of one piece of graph paper. This will translate into 4 pages per one sheet once we staple it all together.
To cut this up, I simply put the bristol board cover on a pad of graph paper and used it as a template to mark the edges where i needed to cut. Then i used a rotary cutter and some scissors to cut out the paper sheets to my desired size (again, 5" by 7"). This step can be rather time-consuming.
Step 7: Put It All Together
Alright, so now we have the cover, the inner pocket, and the pages for the notebook, so lets start putting it all together.
So first, get all of your components and get them lined up, top bottom and left and right. I used a small binder clip to keep all of them together once I got them aligned. Now, use a pencil to make a slight mark at the very center of your cover. I would suggest doing this next stapling part over some scrap cardboard to protect your tabletop. I used the back of an old notebook.
This is where the stapler with the pivotable base will come in handy, as we can align it wherever we need it to be. Now, align the ruler to be straight along that halfway mark and butt the stapler head up against it. Hold the ruler there and simply move the stapler down the edge of the ruler, stapling as you go. I put 3 staples in, but you could also do 2 if you so desired.
Depending on the strength of your stapler, you may need to pull your new notebook off of your scrap cardboard. Mine actually went through the back of the notebook and several of the pages! However, this will come out pretty easily with some gentle pulling.
Finish up by bending over the staples so that they are smooth against the inside of the notebook and use a straight edge to fold the notebook over in the middle. After the next step, you might want to put the notebook under a heavy weight to flatten it around the middle
Step 8: Elastic Band
So, finally, we need to add the elastic band to the notebook. If you don't want an elastic band on your notebook, skip this step and proceed directly to the conclusion.
Thread the end of your braided elastic through the slits we made in the back of the notebook like shown. Bring the two ends of the elastic to the cover so that they intersect. Make sure there is enough tension in the elastic band to keep your notebook closed, plus a bit of extra length for the knot we are going to tie in it.
Anyway, on the end of the elastic still attached to the roll, cut it off and tie a simple knot to attach the two ends of the elastic together. Don't worry if your band isn't quite tight enough for your liking; you can shorten it as you go to get the perfect amount of tension. Once you are happy with the tension on the elastic closure, trim the excess off the ends, and you are done.
I suggest briefly passing a lighter over the ends of the cut elastic to seal the ends up and prevent fraying.
Step 9: Conclusion
Well, there is your finished notebook. I really enjoyed making this notebook and think it turned out rather well. This notebook was also pretty cheap to make. The only real thing I needed to buy was the art board for the cover, which only cost $3-$4. All of the other materials were ones I already had on hand.
Thanks for reading, and happy making!