The Amazing Twist-Locking Cardboard Sketchbook




About: I work in architecture visualization and love art, design, 3D printing, airsoft, and night vision.
I'm an artist. A year ago, the cover of my old sketchbook finally wore off from its ring bindings. I went around with a pitiful rubber band holding everything together for a month. I finally got sick of it and vowed to revive my beloved tome of imagination. One day I was looking through an idea book my art teacher had let me read when I stumbled upon what I was searching for. It was a hand-made book.

"Why don't I just rebind my sketchbook? " I thought. "Okay, I'm going to need to rebind it with something."

I searched for a material for my new book covers. Wood? Metal? Plastic? I couldn't find anything cool like that. But then I saw a box of large sheets of corrugated cardboard from old boxes. I love cardboard. Cut it, bend it, glue it, paint it, it's nothing but corrugated brown goodness. Not only is it a lot of fun to use, it's pretty durable and helps recycle. Armed with a hot glue gun, this was my process that I used to resurrect my sketchbook from the dead.

Step 1: Things You'll Need...

You'll need-

-Sketchbook in need of repair or in need of new style (or both)
-Cardboard sheets
-A single hole punch
-Hot glue gun
-Box cutter or paper guillotine

For a twist-lock latch-

-An old CD spindle
-Dremel cutter or a hacksaw

You might also want a few items for decoration-

-Old circuit components
-Hardware bits
-Metal pieces
-More cardboard (because you can never have too much cardboard)

Step 2: Idea

What were we here for again? Oh yeah! To revive the tome of imagination. The sketchbook. The sanctuary where visual ideas can be recorded and saved from being forgotten. We're here to honor and renovate this place where we communicate through art and cherish our ideas and memories. Our visual diaries. As an artist, it's good to have an idea before you start. Make conceptual sketches of what you're looking for. Do you want a theme, pattern, particular shape, or composition to the book, or are you just trying to restore it? Will you use it often, or will it be on display as a separate piece? Will the sketchbook reflect your creativity in itself or only in its content?

Step 3: Prep Step

Let's get the sketchbook ready to go. Before we can build the book, we need to remove the covers and prepare the binding for the new covers.

Ring Bindings :

A lot of sketchbooks are wire-ring bound. This type of binding is different from a standard spiral-binding as the ring-binding has rings that can be bent to open and release the covers (and pages) without tearing them out. Flip the book on its back. If you look at the binding on the inside of the book on the last page, you can see the gaps in the rings. Spread these away from the holes in the paper to open them. Once opened, the back cover can be removed. Drag the front cover around and it'll come off as well.

Step 4: Make the New Covers

Time to make the covers. Measure the dimensions of your sketchbook. I matched mine to be the same dimensions of the original covers. Cut them from cardboard. If you want, you can make them wider to add a latch around the open end of the book to the back cover.

Step 5: Punch Holes

Using either the bindings or the original cover (if it's still intact), make a mark about a centimeter in from the side of you covers that will be bound. Using a single hole punch, punch out the marks to make holes for the bindings. I made a mark through the holes on the holes on the cover that were still intact.

Step 6: Rebind the New Covers

Time to put the new covers on.

Spread apart the rings and one by one, push them through the holes in the new covers. Once both are on the rings, close the rings back into themselves to close the binding.

Step 7: Building a Spine

I wanted this to look like a book, and not a notebook with some dinky wire binding. Basically what I did was cut a piece of cardboard along the corrugations (so it'll bend) the same length as the bound side of the book covers. After bending it uniformly along the corrugations with a ruler, table edge, or other straight edge, I glued one end into place.

When I glued, I glued my pieces down on their faces first. Once the piece was set into place, I laid a bead of glue around the edge of the piece. Then, with that bead still wet, I pushed the bead with the nozzle of my glue gun. This makes a nice "weld" of glue around your pieces.

I then wrapped spine cover around the binding and glued it into place. If you're not sure how wide a spine cover to make, you can always make it thinner. So it's good to make it wider than you think you'll need it.

Step 8: Adding Inside Pockets

Whenever I'm walking though the halls at school, sometimes my loose work falls out of my sketchbook onto the floor. I wanted those days to be gone. I needed a place to safely store my loose sketches and concepts as well as my digital printouts. My book was pretty tight to close as it already, so I tried to make my pockets as thin as possible. Also, it's important to determine how large of a piece of paper you'll be able to store. You won't want your paper sticking out of the covers of your sketchbook or being crimped and mangled in the inside of the sketchbook, so you'll probably want your paper to be a smaller size than that of the cover.

For my pockets, I just used a rectangle of cardboard and took off the corner. I flattened it with my hand so it wouldn't make my covers as thick. Then I positioned it. I had it offset to the inside of the cover since I was only going to glue the edges down to the cover. The paper fits great!

Step 9: Making a Twist-locking Latch

With the pockets added, my sketchbook was even more difficult to keep closed. So, I made a latch for it. With most latches, they have to somehow latch to the cover. Otherwise, the latch is nothing but a useless strip of cardboard. I considered many different ways couple the latch to the cover. In a previous sketchbook I rebound I used velcro strips, but snaps, zippers, buttons, string, a loop through a hole with a peg, or even nuts and bolts will suffice. Whatever suits your tastes. It also depends on your style you're looking for. For my latch, I wanted a circular rotating locking mechanism. Something that could be rotated and would release the latch. I used an old CD spindle for this.

The whole concept is that a CD spindle locks into place onto its lid by rotating. Why not use that locking mechanism here? All I needed was the flat part of the lid and the loop of plastic with the locking teeth on it.

I used a hacksaw to cut off the ring of plastic with the three teeth on it and I cut a hole in my latch cardboard the same size. The teeth prevent my plastic toothed hoop from pulling out one way. Gluing a cardboard circle to the hoop on the other side sandwiches it into place, but still allows it to rotate freely. I used a hacksaw to take the spindle off of the lid and I hot glued it to the front cover. Now, when the latch is closed, turning the cardboard circle will secure it.

It keeps any person from simply opening it, as it requires careful observation that the center circle is more than meets the eye.

After some light use, I noticed that the edges of my cardboard circle/latch were becoming bent from being gripped to rotate the mechanism. I needed a knob or something.

"Why not use a plastic lid from a jar? Those are meant to be twisted on and off!".

So I went and found a plastic peanut butter jar. I have lots plastic jars lying around, so it was doing me a favor by using up a spare lid. It's perfect to use because of the grooves along the side for increased grip. I didn't want the lid sticking up too far , so instead of cutting the lid shorter, I simply mounted the lid part way through a newly cut hole in the cardboard twist circle. Some hot glue later, and it's a lot easier to twist without wearing the cardboard down. The whole mechanism reminds me of something you'd see in the movie The Mummy or Tomb Raider or something. I always like it when books have a mechanical side to them.

Step 10: Finished

Here's the finished sketchbook. I might add onto it later or paint it, but I do enjoy the warm color of the cardboard for now. From here, it's all decorating and adding details.

This project not only exercises your creative gene, but also breathes new life into your sketchbook. I firmly believe that the sketchbook is the visual diary of the artist. The sketchbook sees any ideas before they're put to the test. It's the first stop for any new concept coming from the visual mind. It can even tell a story. It shows profound creative and cognitive growth. It displays any changes in interests and emotions of the artist.

The sketchbook is an instrument. Like a musician can play something to release his or her emotions, ideas, and views to the world in a musical sense, a sketchbook does this visually.

Finally, a sketchbook can be as sacred as your ideas are to you. If you greatly treasure your visually recorded thoughts, the sketchbook can be changed to reflect this. Adding detail like iron, copper, or brass faux or patina paint finishes, LED's, stained wood or leather, hardware parts, fake plants, etc. is a wonderful way to add artistic value to your sketchbook. It's your sketchbook. Go and sketch your world!

Actually, this sketchbook has an older brother from a year ago. Here's the link to pictures of it-

Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed it!

May 22 UPDATE-

Hello intructiblers! This is just a speedy update-my sketchbook is STILL working properly, opening and closing with the greatest of ease, and is functioning perfectly. I've been carrying my sketchbook to school with me in my backpack and to all of my classes every single day since its completion (or incompletion I should say). I had to re-glue the bottom of one of the inside pockets (too many papers were breaking the glue weld I made), as well as gluing a bit on the outside for cosmetic purposes, repairing a jagged upper paper tear near one of the edges (it's like a cardboard hangnail) which was there from the beginning, and I made a few new sketches. I intend to paint it, however, I intend to use glue to decorate the extremities of the covers and spine, use caulking on the corrugated edges, and paint the whole thing a mixture of weathered bronze and gold soon, however graduation is looming over my head and things are quite busy for right now. I'll get to it this summer without doubt though!

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    100 Discussions


    2 years ago

    I too, am a fan of cardboard. This and your other creations are fantastic! Looking forward to seeing an instructable for the colored pencil carrier and radial marker case.


    3 years ago

    if only the cardboard parts can be replaced by a thin sheet aluminum or plywood the design would be far more durable ...... But still buddy... You did an amazing work


    4 years ago on Introduction

    you need some good painting on it buddy,by the way mind blowing idea.


    5 years ago

    How would you do that with a hardcover sketchbook that's not got the binding and is sewn

    The other book was a similar process with a velcro tab. The disk-shaped marker holder uses cardboard and cardboard tubes (to make the rounded outer edge) to make segments that can rotate around and nest inside eachother. Inside it is a hexagon wheel divided into three diamonds into which the markers insert. The pencil holder is simply a cardboard belt that wraps around a post in the canister. One wheel connects to the post to help wind the belt, and the other end rotates to close the door. I believe I also glued a pencil sharpener in there somewhere too. :)


    5 years ago

    I used this to fix/redesign my sketchbook after the cover ripped off.I covered it with a cool duct tape design and made multiple inside pockets and a pencil holder too.thanks for the inspiration!


    6 years ago

    Wow never thought of that


    6 years ago on Introduction

    The color pencil carrying case and the thingy on the right, how did you make those? will you please put an instructable up for those!


    Reply 7 years ago on Step 5

    Single hole punch. Check your local office supply store. They should have them for a couple of bucks.


    7 years ago on Step 10

    I'd LOVE LOVE LOVE to see an instructable made for both the pencil belt and radial marker container. Like, I'll be bookmarking you on here and checking on you to see if you ever release them.

    Props, this is a great instructable and a great idea.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I LOVE IT!!!!!! Going to make it for my wife. Maybe ill upgrade the cardboard to some particle board after i build the prototype out of the cardboard because i have some leather id like to wrap it in and that gonna be a pain to take apart if it needs repairs. thanks for sharing. Where can i find the instructables for Radial art marker holder & Colored pencil belt cylinder carrier.

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks! Well, the radial art marker holder and pencil belt carrier were not documented when I made them and I haven't had any time to make new ones. I have another interesting locking mechanism that's a little more subtle that I did document, but I still have more work to do on that.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Simply awesome. I've also got a bit of a thing for making stuff out of cardboard, and I must say that I really like your creative ideas, brilliant design and detailed presentation. Love your work.