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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6 thoughts on “Tale of a Vandal Notebook User: Flippin’ DIY

  1. Earlier this year, I made a Junior sized Steno notebook by using a Staples Arc large poly notebook. I cut the front and back covers down to size with a pair of scissors. Used a cardboard piece that came in some a Staples Arc refill paper package to make the notebook more “rigid”.

    Nowhere near as nice as your setup, though!


    • Ah, so you used pre-punched cover that you cut down! Smart, as always. How have you affixed the cardboard? Just punched it, and inserted it after the last piece of paper?


      • I just did the latter and the cardboard is holding up. Maybe I should have done something more permanent. So far, so good!


      • That’s a great solution! And when it wears out, you’ll recycle it (’cause I know ya will), and add a new board. That’s what I’m thinkin’ about my own. It’ll wear out eventually, but now I know what can be done to make a new one. Happy, happy, joy, joy!


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