What Goes Around Comes Around: Pen Friends

Friend @trhall has entered the blogging fray. One might even say, “finally!”

Thomas’s impact on my own fountain pen collection can be seen in these posts:

He’s pushed a little Pilot my way, and I’ve pushed a little urushi his way. That’s what friends do, ay?

If his first post, “Making of the Double Ended Edison Pearl,” is any indication of blog quality, Thomas’s blog will become a go-to place for informative posts about pens. And who knows what else?

I look forward to reading.  He calls it:  Penucopia.com

Screen capture from @trhall blog "Penucopia." Click on image to read his blog.

Screen capture from @trhall blog “Penucopia.” Click on image to read his blog.

Tale of a Vandal Notebook User: #Chronodex Update

watchEven though much of my time is “my own” it’s surprising how elusive it can be. Wanting to see where my time was being siphoned off, I began logging it several months ago.

Logging my time confirmed some things I already knew. Like, I’m the most productive in the morning. Yet, I also discovered an interesting surge of project activity later in the day that I didn’t consciously realize was there. Plus I was surprised to find a project for “down the road” was taking over a lot of my time during a day.

Writers know that sometimes new ideas pop up, and they distract us from the story that needs finishing. New ideas are always bright shiny things. Like pens or ink or balloons, they’re fun to play with.

My thing, though, is to make a note of the new idea, and continue on finishing what’s already been started. Otherwise no story ever sees the words, “The End,” or “End Play,” or “Fade Out.”

Logging my time helped me to send one story to the back burner, and let another take over. It’s rare I do that. In this case, I’m delighted I did. I’m happy with the results, and the decision to track my time.

Chronodex Revisited

Originally, logging my time with Chronodex quickly abandoned Patrick’s design as too “not right for moi.” Instead, I used my own re-design. Once I was comfortable logging time with my own “dial”, it was eventually abandoned, too.

I did it my way...

For a time, I did it my way…

What happened? I returned Patrick Ng’s original Chronodex design. Why? Because I felt I was missing something more… fun.


Apparently I needed a transition to get to the Chronodex!

Bringing the Midori into the Mix

I thought a lot about how Patrick Ng used his Chronodex in his Midori Traveler’s Notebook (referred to herein as “TN”). Patrick’s Chronodex diary pages  require using the TN “sideways.” (From this American perspective anyway.)

The dimensions of the TN are 8.5″ x 5.1″.  With Patrick’s pages, you are using the Chronodex by writing and reading with the longest side turned toward you.

Midori Traveler's Notebook, with Chronodex pages

Midori Traveler’s Notebook, with Chronodex pages (long side view)

Many people have adapted his design into one that works for them. For instance, printing the diary or calendar pages so that the pages sit “portrait” style. Still others (myself included), have adapted the Chronodex to fit into the smaller sized notebooks.

Pocket sized portrait-view Chronodex pages

Pocket sized portrait-view Chronodex pages

Indeed, I thought hard about continuing to use the Chronodex in my Oberon Design pocket notebook.

Yet I also pondered Patrick’s diary design, and thought about the advantages of reading and writing using it. Even though he encourages folks to use the Chronodex in a way that works for each individual, I thought there might be something to be found in using it “his way.” (Or close to it.)

It’s important to think for ourselves, and to find our own way. Yet at the same time it’s important to pay attention to those who’ve already blazed the trail we are trapising along on. A wonderful life paradox.

Two events conspired to shut down my incessant pondering, and move me back to Chronodex. First, Patrick released the July-Dec 2014 Chronodex pages. Second, MyMaido had a huge sale on the Traveler’s Notebooks. (Nearly 35% off and free shipping!)  I bought a brown TN.

Using Patrick’s Chronodex Diary Pages

Patrick’s pages are meant to be printed on A4 paper. Not having any blank A4, I simply used 8.5″ x 11″. On my printer (an HP laser printer), printing the A4 design to American letter-sized paper meant making sure the pages were scaled at 100%. I had to hand feed the pages for printing the calendar back to back. Lastly, the pages were cut down to fit the TN.

Then I simply stapled the Chronodex pages at the center fold, and inserted the Chronodex into the TN.

I made some mistakes in the cutting, but nothing earth shattering. The pages can be cut shorter for a better fit next time. Like in January 2015.

There you have it: picking up Patrick Ng’s design again, I used it in earnest.

The Chronodex was no longer disorienting. I no longer worried about how the time was noted in the design. I simply used it, and made the time slots my own as I filled them in.

What is different between the two radial formats? My more traditional dial seemed flat, not really much different that capturing information in a linear fashion.

The Chronodex is, well, it’s alive. The Chronodex grows arms, legs, and webbed feet.


The pages are far more visually stimulating as they’re filled up. Looking at pages sometimes leads me to think about my projects in different ways. There are patterns, certainly, in how a project takes over any given day. Yet there are also interesting spurts of work on one idea over another that stand out better on the Chronodex. Also, instead of flipping through individual days, I can see a week at a time.

These are not facts that you can apply ad hominum to your own life. These  musings are merely how I experience using the Chronodex.

Using the Midori

The Midori Traveler’s Notebook came with a blank notebook insert. That too, I’m using in “landscape” format. The blank notebook serves as my current gratitude diary.

Sharing the TN: Chronodex and Midori blank notebook

Sharing the TN: Chronodex and Midori blank notebook. My Chronodex pages are a little long, ay?

The Midori TN is far heftier than my little Oberon notebook.

Oberon Pocket Cover next to Midori Traveler's Notebook

Oberon Pocket Cover next to Midori Traveler’s Notebook

Adding to the TN’s heft is the HP #32 paper I used to print out the Chronodex.

For the truly weight obsessed, the Chronodex Jul-Dec 2014 planner printed on HP #32 weighs 94 grams! The blank Midori insert  is only 69 grams. I might print next year’s pages on less weightier paper, yet I do love the feel of the nib against the HP paper, as well as the “pop” of the white pages.

With Chrondex pages, a DIY pocket folder, and the Midori blank notebook my TN weighs 289 grams. My Oberon with three DIY notebooks weighs a mere 157 grams. Empty the Midori TN weighs only 113 grams; the Oberon 78 grams.


The Oberon still gets lots of use. It’s simply not devoted to time anymore. The Oberon is the one that fits in my back pocket. The TN I carry in my laptop or book bag.

If anything, I hope my Chronodex experience serves as a reminder that sometimes we need to look beyond what’s comfortable, outside our own imaginations in order for new inspirations to seep in. When we are too comfortable with how we live with, like, or perceive things, we may miss something useful, something inspiring, or something important.

Yeah, somethin’ like that.


And because Rumi states it so well and with great humor, here’s one of his poems:

   Who makes these changes?
I shoot an arrow right.
It lands left.
I ride after a deer and find myself
chased by a hog.
I plot to get what I want
and end up in prison.
I dig pits to trap others
and fall in.

I should be suspicious
of what I want.

Barks, Coleman; Jalal al-Din Rumi (2010-09-14). The Essential Rumi – reissue: New Expanded Edition (Kindle Locations 2057-2059). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

To download Patrick Ng’s Chronodex here you go. The URL is at bottom of his post.

Going Indie with Notebook Posts

Tale of a Vandal Notebook User: Flippin’ DIY

Coming in mid-story: I made an Arc-style 8 1/2″ x 11″ notepad that flips at the top instead of side to side.

Side view of homemade 8" x 11" Arcpad

Side view of homemade 8 1/2″ x 11″ Arcpad (photo taken prior to sides being sealed up)

That’s not an original idea, of course. Someone once blogged about a Circa/Rollabind DIY steno pad. If you don’t wanna DIY, Staples makes one (in leather) for you.

Many weeks ago, a friend was all excited that Staples brought out the Arc top bound notebook. His only sadness was that it was letter size, not steno size. Apparently Levenger made a steno pad version for their Circa line, but it’s been discontinued.

I couldn’t really share his excitement because, well, I make my own notepads, right?

DIY’ing my own notepads meant giving up the wire. You know, those great top wirebound notepads made by Clairefontaine and Rhodia.

Rhodia No 18 top wirebound notepad / MYU 701

Rhodia No 18 top wirebound notepad / MYU 701

Flipping glued pages over in DIY notepads certainly is a serviceable way of life, but I really missed the flippin’ freedom those wire spirals gave me.

I held out for two years…

Recently my last DIY glued notepad was used up. As a “treat” I bought a couple of Rhodia top wirebound A4 notepads.

The cost differential between my DIY pads and the Rhodia is substantial. On average a sheet of HP Premium Laser #32 letter size paper costs $.03. A sheet of top wirebound Clairefontaine or Rhodia A4 costs about $.13. The wirebound notepads cost around 22% more than the staplebound versions of the same paper.

And so I was haunted… thinking perhaps maybe once or twice a year I could indulge in a top wirebound Rhodia No. 18 notepad.

But why didn’t I leap at the Staples top bound Arc notepad? Perhaps, my allowance was already spent on the Rhodia pads? Because I’d rather have a go at making one.

I’d long resisted making my own Arc top punched notepad because I thought the discs would be too conspicuous, and that the notepad would be bulky in my book bag. Also I needed a stiff backing for such a notepad, and wasn’t sure how to get something suitable punched to take the Arc discs.

The Levenger Circa paper punch (used for my Arc notebook) will only take about six sheets of paper at a time. Nothing thick fits in the punch, even with some good tinkering.

Yet, the splurge on the Rhodia notepads made me realize I needed to try making a flippin’ Arc notepad.

All the follow materials were already in my stash of supplies. The only new expense in the making of the Arc notepad were the top wirebound Rhodia No 18 notepads that inspired me to rethink my consumables yet again.

The Backing

My solution for the backing was to use a stiff cardboard 10″ x 14″ mailing envelope. The envelope was sliced down to 8 1/2″ x 12″. The sides were removed, leaving only one side sealed at the bottom of the envelope. With the envelope “open,” each side that would make up the top of the backing was able to fit into the Circa punch. *whew*

Envelope split open, and put through Levenger Circa punch

Envelope split open, and put through Levenger Circa punch

Inside this cardboard sleeve, a stiff piece of cardboard was inserted. The fit with the discs at the top leaves this sleeve tightly together so that there’s no drifting of the inner cardboard piece. I’ve reinforced the inside of the punched area with packing tape, and secured the sides with double-sided tape. I like the simple utilitarian look of the backing.

Cardboard insert

Cardboard insert in place

All closed up with discs

All closed up with discs

The Paper

The mainstay for paper is HP #32 in a variety: blank, dot grid, 8mm lines, Cornell-style notes. Whatever can be printed!

I soon realized that because my notepad was Arc’d, any paper—even A4 size—could be used. An old side clothbound Clairefontaine notebook in disuse got dismantled to use in my notepad. I threw in some Rhodia graph paper too, because I could, and a few remaining sheets from a Clairefontaine top staplebound notepad. Endless possibilities…

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To punch the paper took a little experimenting. There’s no setting on the Levenger punch for large “top bound” pages. I figured out where I need to place the paper in the punch, and have marked the starting point on the punch.

The Cover

The cover was made from a large 2013 Edward Gorey calendar (a gift from a friend lives on!). I cut the selection to size, and found some non-heat lamination sheets to protect and stiffen the calendar paper. I used a strip of clear shipping tape to reinforce the cover near the top (opposite page from the artwork).

Recycled Calendar Cover

Recycled Calendar Cover

(amazing what's in my office supplies)

(amazing what’s lyin’ around in the home office supply bin!)

The cover’s not quite exact in its dimensions, nor is the lamination seated perfectly. You can’t tell unless you’re using it, and hey, it’s for me!

I love it.

The Results

I feel silly that it took me so long to realize making one of these was a great idea.

This DIY Arc notepad makes for a very pleasing flippable, writing experience for moi. If I wanna, a couple of times a year I can even buy a top staplebound Rhodia No. 18, and transfer the pages.

When the notepad is sitting on my desk, the discs do look bulky to me.  Yet, when the notepad is in use, the discs seem to disappear. So… yeah, can live with this! Plus, it’s got a cool cover.

Initially I was concerned the pages wouldn’t hold well in a top disc-bound format. No need to be concerned, though, as you can see in the Vine at the end of this post.

While pages don’t fall out of the notepad, the outermost punched areas of A4 sized sheets suffer more in the wear and tear department. The A4 sheets (Rhodia and Clairefontaine) are closer to 8 1/4″ wide. The punched areas at each side are more fragile:

too close for comfort (click on photo for closer look)

too close for comfort (click on photo for closer look)

Letter sized 8 1/2″ x 11″ fare far better than the A4 sheets. The A4 wear/tear, though, isn’t enough to make me stop using them in the Arc notepad. YMMV.

Lesson Learned

My biggest mistake was reinforcing the cover, and the backing sleeve after I’d punched the holes. That meant sending each of these items back through the puncher—a risk in hitting the holes in the same place. Next time, these areas should be reinforced before going into the puncher.

I’ve had this notepad only a few weeks. I’m not at all sure how long the cover or the backing will last, especially being toted around town with me in a book or laptop bag. More to be revealed as I write along…

Remember, the sharing of my goofy things is only to show that you too can make goofy things if you so thoughtfully want them. In your own style, of course.

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