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%, using duplex mode, and selecting “short binding” for perfect output of the pages. 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.

[Note 2015 Jan: Perhaps because I’m in quiet wintery mode (AKA paying attention), it was simple to print the Jan-Jun 2015 pages; no hand feeding required unless you don’t happen to have a duplex printer. I cut the 8 1/2″ x 11″ pages better this year to fit the Midori TN. I, uh, even rounded the corner edges! I did decide to use Staples sugar cane copy paper this time. It’s much thinner than the HP #32 paper, and it’s fountain pen ink friendly. Inks of choice for my 2015 Chronodex are Sailor Sei-Boku, and Platinum Preppy highlighters in green, orange, and pink whatever inks are in my Sailor Brush highlighting pens.]

Chronodex 2015 pages, printed on Staples 20# sugar cane copy paper, cut properly to fit the Midori
Chronodex 2015 pages, printed on Staples 20# sugar cane copy paper, cut properly to fit the Midori. Underneath the Chronodex pages is a Midori blank notebook.

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.

[Note 2015 Jan: I did decide to use Staples sugar cane copy paper for 2015. The weight of my Jan-Jun 2015 Chronodex is only 58 grams. The entire weight of my TN is now 256 grams; not the 289 grams mentioned in the next paragraph. 2015 has same configuration as below only with the Chronodex  printed on lighter sugar cane paper.]

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

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.

Related Posts

Tale of a Vandal Notebook User: Oberon Design Pocket Moleskine Cover

When I decided to track how my time was spent, a notebook seemed necessary. What was needed: a pocket style notebook cover that could be endlessly refilled with 3.5″ x 5.5″ size pages of my choosing. Easy enough, right?

There’s a dizzying number of notebook covers to be found online. It’s too bad we can’t walk into a store, and touch them all in order to make an informed decision about which one to buy.  C’est la vie.

new use jde

I tried one cover, in the style of the great Midori Traveler’s Notebook. Having seen the Midori notebook up close, it is a handsome, well-designed leather notebook cover and system. My “in the style of” notebook cover was severely lacking in craftmanship—so much so that I didn’t even showcase the cover in an earlier post about my time tracking experiment. 

Time  is a writer’s sacred commodity. So I believe. Why was I using such an unpleasing cover to keep track of something so valuable?

On one hand, tools of the craft are just that. Tools. My own (pen, paper, laptop, etc) are intended to be serviceable, and  occupy enough space in my life so as to not be out of proportion to their purpose. Tools are a means, not an end.

On the other hand, “serviceable” does not have to mean without spirit. Tools don’t have to be uncomfortable, ugly or unpleasant to use.  Thus, the regretful cover was retired for one more pleasing to hold, carry, open, and scribble inside of.

Decisions, Decisions

In the end, I choose to go with an Oberon Design Pocket Moleskine Cover. How could I resist a small company from my home state of California? 

I chose a green Pocket Cover with a dragonfly motif. I like having symbols around me, particularly nature symbols. Dragonflies, a frog, lily pads, cattails, a heron, water… it’s like swimming in my own quiet place. I was a little worried the green cover would be too bright, but in person the green is a lovely subdued, dark color.

Front view closed cover
Front view closed cover
Closed back cover
Closed back cover
Empty, open cover
Empty, open cover. Note the black piece of elastic on the right. You can use the elastic to keep the cover closed.
Canvas of the cover
Canvas of the cover
Using the Cover with DIY Notebooks

While the cover is designed to hold a 3″ x 5″ sized notebook ala the Moleskine, I wanted to fill the cover with two to three DIY notebooks using my own paper.  At minimum, one notebook for time tracking, and the other for random thoughts and notes. Hmmmm… Oberon with Moleskine inside

Oberon with Moleskine inside
Oberon with Moleskine inside
Oberon with Moleskine inside

At first I thought maybe to punch a couple of holes into the spine, and run a piece of elastic through the holes. As in a Midori style notebook the elastic would hold the notebooks in place. As it turns out, no punching holes into the Oberon Design cover has been necessary.

The hack I put together was very simple. I cut a piece of stiff, thick felt down to the size of a Moleskine pocket notebook. The felt served the same function as a Moleskine notebook’s cover. The felt was inserted into the Oberon’s side flaps where the Moleskine’s bound cover would normally go.

To hold a notebook in place would be a single rubber band wrapped around the center of the felt. I cut two small incisions, top and bottom, at the center point of the felt to prevent bowing of the felt by the rubber band.

Stiff felt with notches cut
Stiff felt with notches cut

This initial stiff blue felt hack worked well. For long term, though, I want to use black felt instead of blue. The black felt I’ve got needs stiffening; it’s still far too cold here to soak the felt in glue, and expect it to dry.

I tried using some black foam instead of black felt. The black foam looked nice yet was far more fragile than the felt, and began to rip.

Rip in foam caused by pressure from rubber band
Rip in foam caused by pressure from rubber band

Then I decided to recycle an old Moleskine pocket notebook. Just remove insides, and instant backing available for the Oberon!

Moleskine cover devoid of insides
Moleskine cover devoid of rambling out-of-date notes on the inside
Moleskine painted black kinda sorta
Moleskine painted black kinda sorta

The recycled Moleskine notebook cover worked quite well holding everything together. There was a downside in that the leather cover became (d’oh) quite stiff using the recycled Moleskine. Nothing wrong with stiff, but I liked that the leather cover was more flexible with the felt backing.

Cover is a bit flexible with felt backing
Cover is a bit flexible with felt backing

And so back to the stiff blue felt for now!

It’s Called a Rubber Band

To hold the notebooks in place, initially I used big o-ring style bands. These worked fine but were thick and kinda ugly.

Stiff felt cut to size of pocket Moleskine
Felt with o-ring style rubber band

The big o-ring bands were replaced with thin, more elegant Midori “connecting” rubber bands in the Passport size. The Midori connecting bands came in a pack of four rubber bands: two black and two brown. The thinner Midori bands worked perfectly, and eliminated the bulk of the o-ring bands. I could have used thin elastic or other rubber bands, too, but the Midori bands were a no brainer.

The center rubber band holds one notebook. Multiple notebooks are attached with other rubber bands, notebook to notebook. The bands make it easy to remove or add more notebooks. Brian Goulet, of course, made a great tutorial about using the rubber bands. He shows more than one way to band notebooks together, using a Midori Traveler’s Notebook.

Getting two packs of Midori bands allowed all my of rubber bands to be matching black.

Package of Midori bands
Package of Midori bands
Stiff felt with Midori rubber band
Stiff felt with Midori rubber band
Midori bands
Midori bands
Figuring Out the Insides

The DIY notebooks for the Oberon cover have gone through a lot of trial and error, trying to decide what works best. “Best” for, you know, moi.

Originally I was using Staples sugar cane paper. The 20# Staples copy paper was a tad too thin for some of my super fine fountain pen nibs. A hole or three was accidentally poked into the sugar cane pages.

For sturdier paper I changed to HP 32# premium laser printer paper, my standard notepad paper. I’ve been using the HP paper in my ARC notebook for well over a year.

An 8.5″ x 11″ sheet of paper is cut into two 3.5″ x 5.5″ sheets. Those smaller sheets form the notebooks.

At first I used unsewn/unbound paper inserts because I liked the idea of being able to remove pages, scan them, and then recycle the paper. The Staples ARC has spoiled me with its ability to let me easily remove or move pages in the notebook at will.

Ultimately, sewn signatures were neater, and allowed the Oberon cover to hold more paper. While the individual pages aren’t removable, the notebooks are small enough that they are replaced easily, once or twice a month.

My basic notebook signature contains two 2 sheets of 3″ x 5″ paper for a total of 8 pages in one signature. I use two to four of those signatures for a notebook.

For the time tracking notebook, I use a single signature made from four sheets of 3″ x 5″ paper, for a total of 16 pages.

Signatures ready to go
Signatures at the ready

The signatures are sewn with a simple 3-hole pamphlet stitch. I sew more signatures than I need so that there is an “inventory” of notebooks at the ready.

The time tracking notebook with 16 pages provides half a month’s worth of time tracking pages at a time. I like that.

Currently I’m also using  a lined notebook made from two 2-page signatures (16 pages total).  I was going to sew some blanks together.  Instead, an unused Field Notes blank memo book appeared amongst the mess on my desk.

The Field Notes has 48 pages, so my average notebook carry at this writing is 80 pages total. The cover can comfortably hold far more. The most I’ve carried is 120 pages. I like notebooks with fewer pages than the Field Notes because of my propensity to scan my notes. Even filed with 120 pages, the cover could clearly hold more pages. After all, a Moleskine pocket notebook contains 192 pages all by itself.

Field notes in addition to DIY notebooks
Field Notes in addition to DIY notebooks
80 pages (felt backing)
3 notebooks – felt backing holding 80 pages (can hold far more)
3 notebooks
3 notebooks – old foam backing holding 120 pages
Happiness Results…

The Oberon Pocket Cover feels great to the touch, and it’s small enough to fit in a jeans back-pocket. The felt backing allows the cover to stay closed without the strap. The cover makes me smile each time I reach for it. The smile rating is the best for the tools at my disposal, bringing the notebook cover in line with the pens in the hoard. The Oberon cover feels worthy of tracking something I value so highly: how time’s spent.

Oberon cover 3 notebooks inside
Oberon cover 3 notebooks inside (felt backing)

The strap, of course, is nice to use when you’ve got the notebook in a pocket of some kind. Most of the time I use a DIY blotter with an elastic strap.

Using built-in black elastic strap
Using built-in black elastic strap (foam backing with 120 pages)
DIY strap around notebook.
DIY strap around notebook

The side flaps of the Oberon cover can even be used to slip in pieces of paper, index cards and such.

index cards under the flap
Index cards under the flap (foam backing in place)
Cover easily stays closed with felt backing
Cover easily stays open with felt backing
DIY notebook in place
DIY notebook in place

Ordering direct from Oberon, they included a tiny “thank you” charm. I received a dragonfly charm to go with my dragonfly cover.

Pewter dragonfly charm
Pewter dragonfly charm

The Dragonfly Pocket Cover was a great purchase for my purposes. In addition to purchasing the Oberon cover, I also bought the Midori rubber bands. Everything else for the Oberon cover came from what I already had on hand.

I’m very pleased with how the cover from Oberon Designs has worked out. Now I’ve two standard notebooks with DIY pages:  The junior Staples Arc for project stuff, and the Oberon Design for time tracking, and random notes.

Junior Arc and Oberon pocket cover - got a green thing goin', ay?
Junior Arc and Oberon Pocket Cover – got a green thing goin’, ay?
Some Reading
For Those Who Need Live Action

For Those Who Prefer a Picture Book

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Tale of a Vandal Notebook User: Going Indie, Part 3 #Chronodex

There’s an update to this post here:  Tale of a Vandal Notebook User: #Chronodex Update

As someone who’s worked for herself for nearly two decades now, I’m disciplined and focused. Yet I’ve been feeling in a bit of a rut. Rather than decorate said rut, I want to break through to something new. I want to identify when and where my productivity is at its best. I think I know the answer… yet also know I’ve been on autopilot lately. It’s time to shatter the “OK plateau” once again.

I’ve been experimenting with different ways to track how I spend my time. Tracking is not the same as planning time. Tracking is the “this is what really happened with time” details.

There’s been much pondering over various digital and paper planners and trackers, trying to decide the best way to capture my time spent. Then, in early November, this photo came across my twitter feed via  @the_archer (thank you very much, Clem!):

What? A non-linear way to track one’s time? On paper? Of course! How wonderful!

Using a clock-like method, Patrick Ng designed his Chronodex system.  Generously he provides free downloads of a yearly planner for those using a Midori Traveler’s notebook. The cost has been a prayer for his parents. Patrick’s current prayer request is for his wife who’s undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

Inspired folks have created downloads for all kinds of other notebook sizes. Check out Patrick’s site as a starting point to see what’s available.

Patrick Ng's Chronodex core
Patrick Ng’s Chronodex core. Beautiful, isn’t it?

Essentially Chronodex is at once a day’s calendar, time planner, and recorder of your thoughts/notes. You make notations and highlight time periods on the circular image. You can highlight with colors, or any method you like.  The design is meant for those who wish to work outside a traditional time planner format.

On Patrick’s blog you’ll see a lot of very colorful, artistic examples of how people use his system. About his design Patrick wrote,

Each page is like a branch [of a tree], each opened page is a week, each day is like a beautiful flower grew from that page, consist of petals of your day’s time slices.—Patrick Ng, 2011 November 20

Alongside those petals, many thoughts, ideas and records may generate as you use Chronodex. For myself in practice, the Chronodex feels like a seed in that grows as I, uh, feed it during the day. Patrick refers to his “clock” as the Chronodex core. That makes much sense to me, as it reminds me of the seed or core of a piece of fruit.

As mentioned earlier, I’m not looking for a planner. I’ve got a good (yes) digital system that works. In fact I “live” by it.

There’s a place in my life for both writing on my laptop, and for my hand-written drafts. Each tool—computer and pen—toggles different parts of my creative subconscious, bringing forth different types of ideas. Having a handwritten time tracking system I suspect will uncover different information than what’s already being captured in my digital planner.

My experiment with Chronodex is to use it to record my day, almost like a diary of sorts. I’m looking for patterns time spent to see where there’s stagnation, and where there’s some surprises. Last December committing myself to using Chronodex for the month, my experiment began.

For now I can really only report my blips, false starts, and reboots using Chronodex. I haven’t been using it very long at all, and can’t yet provide a good assessment of it. An assessment of my use, that is. Here at the end of December there remains a feeling within me there is something more in Chronodex to learn from. My experiment will continue through the end of February so that new learnings have a chance to identify themselves.

Because my time record is not meant to be a planner, I’m not using Patrick’s planner template; only his Chronodex core image. Using a core without a pre-printed date allows me to hand write the day’s date in the center circle.

Early on, I got confused a lot by how the early morning hours were laid out on the core, and kept filling my morning hours into what were meant to be evening hours. My day starts early, and the morning is my busiest part of my work day. Or so I believe.

A very slight adjustment was helpful: I moved my evening hours into where Patrick had placed the very early morning hours. Sometimes it’s the little things that keep you going.

My slight modification of Patrick Ng's Chronodex. This worked better for me-strange-self.
My slight modification of Patrick Ng’s Chronodex. This worked better for me-strange-self.

As I reflected on my use of the Chronodex core, I felt wasn’t “getting” the full benefit of Patrick’s design. And so I transformed the core into something that felt more comfortable and more like a 24-hour clock. Then I abandoned that modification, and went back to Patrick’s original Chronodex core because it looks so elegant and freeing. Yet, I ended up abandoning it once again. Perhaps I can’t work outside the box? *sigh*

Here’s my current transformation of Chronodex with humble apologies to Patrick and his elegant work:

The core as I'm using it as of this post.
The core as I’m using it as of this post. Need to do a better job next time at measuring the time marks, ay? Not perfect, but it’s working. You are free to use it. (No! Why would you?) If I fix it, I’ll update the above graphic. Why don’t you use Patrick’s instead? Whatever you do, please send out your prayers as Patrick has requested.
Time Tracking Notebook

My time tracking notebook involves an inexpensive, refillable notebook cover. (Frankly I can’t recommend it, as the cover felt made without a lot of care.) My, uh, starving artist’s notebook uses large rubber bands to hold a 3 x 5 notebook inside the cover.

For paper, wanting something thinner than my normal HP 32# paper, I decided to use 20# Staples sugarcane copy paper. The paper is 95% sugarcane bagasse. The paper is fountain pen friendly, inexpensive, and doesn’t contain much tree paper. To the touch, the paper feels very much like ordinary copy paper made from trees. The paper is white. Not bright white. More gray “bleh” white.  I’ve had no ink bleeding through to the back of the paper using even a broad Japanese nib or with wet, fine European nibs. YMMV, of course. (I thank members at FPGeeks for talking up the Staples copy paper. That thread lead me to it.) 

My cost was $20 complete for the notebook (one-time cost), and less than $.08 for a month’s worth of printed pages. Pretty happy with that consumable cost!

My notebook is small enough that I can carry it in my back jeans pocket. It’s always with me. That’s essential.

For the pages: Four images are printed per 8.5″ x 11″ page, on both sides of the paper. One 8.5″ x 11″ page provides 8 days worth of pages.  The copy paper is  cut down to 7″ x 11″, and then once more to 3.5″ x 5.5″.

The paper is folded using a bone folder, and slipped into the notebook cover. Originally I was going to stitch the month’s pages together. The bands used with the cover hold the paper quite tightly in place. Stitching pages to keep them together was unnecessary.

Fresh notebook pages
Fresh notebook pages. As you can see, only the image is printed. No extraneous “to-do” or whatnot items here! The day’s date is hand written in the center circle.

Stitching the pages may be a good idea if these pages are kept as any kind of archive. I’m undecided. I’m not as invested in paper keeping as a lot of my friends are, tending to scan papers into Evernote for permanent record-keeping. More to be revealed as I write along and experiment, ay?

I don’t use pre-printed dates in order to give myself permission to not record anything on any given day.  Mostly I’m tracking planned writing days. Remember, this is an experiment, not a journal or absolute record of my life. No doubt about it: the tracking process will evolve as I play with it.

What I like about Chronodex: the visual check on how my time was spent. As I move between tasks, projects, appointments, and, uh, nothing-ness, I scribble a little something on the core or elsewhere on the page. I record the day’s word count, and any notes I was moved to make. I also use a personal emoticon reflecting the day’s overall feeling. The page can be scribbled over in my usual free-form mess, and I don’t feel hemmed in by a lot of pre-printed stuff never used.

The Chronodex has given me a reason to use some radically different colors beyond my daily blue. Who knew? Story writing time might be captured using Sailor Sei-Boku or Ultra Marine, and non-writing time might be either Sailor Apricot, Epinard or Pilot Blue. Well… I’ve not been consistent yet.

Different colors, obviously, can be visual cues of the day’s outcome. I’m still figuring out how color will work best for me. Some folks color code their time. Some folks are monochrome about their entries. Not sure yet what will work best for moi.

Some early pages... finding my way.
Some early pages… finding my way.
Left: an early tracking page.  Right: current style tracking page. Still figuring out how I want to use color to emphasize various times during the day.
Left: an early tracking page. Right: current style tracking page. Still figuring out how I want to use color to emphasize various times during the day.

And what about fountain pens? The pen usually clipped to my notebook is a Platinum Kanazawa-Haku inked with Sailor Sei-Boku.

Platinum Kanazawa-Haku Rabbit/Moon 18K nib
Platinum Kanazawa-Haku Rabbit/Moon 18K nib

The pen’s thin enough to keep the notebook pocket friendly. My Pilot MYU701, always inked with Pilot Blue, is also a constant at the ready. The Levenger True Writer has also been enlisted. It’s inked with Sailor Yellow-Orange ink.

Levenger True Writer helps the cause
Levenger True Writer helps the cause. You can see I’m still working out how I want to capture time segments. The lined dark lines represent writing or editing time. The yellow/orange color personal and family time.

As my experiment ambles along towards the end of February, we’ll see if the core gets tweaked again or even abandoned. Perhaps I’ll even return to Patrick’s original design. Patrick has blogged that he will give Chronodex tips during 2014. I  look forward to them.

Please visit Patrick Ng’s Scription blog. You’ll find 2014 Chronodex planner pages waiting for you there:

2014 Chronodex Planner by Patrick Ng

You’ll also find other folks contributions and download links via Patrick’s Facebook Chronodex page (please reserve your anti-Facebook rants for elsewhere, ay?) Patrick announced his determination to release a Chronodex stamp in 2014, and you will find updates about that project on the Facebook page.

Thank you, Patrick! While I’m late to discover your work, I’m very inspired by it in my small way.

It is cruel to waste someone’s time, and in that vein I’m grateful to those of you who read my lengthy posts. I hope you find them worthy of your time.

Wishing everyone adventurous times in the days ahead—plot them well!

Note: There are 8 exclamation points in this post. I meant every one of ’em.

Related Indie Notebook Posts


Tale of a Vandal Notebook User: Going Indie, Part 2

Going Indie, Part 1 was oh so long ago, wasn’t it? A year ago, in fact.

For many years, the 3-ring binder has been one of my favorite organizing systems. Even my every day laser printer paper comes 3-hole punched. Binders hold current drafts of writing projects, and are great for archiving finished or shelved projects. I don’t print out every draft. That would be wasteful, ay? Yet there are times it’s simply easier to read from and edit a printed copy. Plus sometimes you have to have that tactile flipping through paper experience. At least I do.

Staples Arc / Levenger Circa Notebooks

Over the years, I’ve been confused by the seemingly cultish talk of the latest Levenger Circa discs, papers and planners. When I finally figured out that Circa was a customizable notebook system, I thought it was “more stuff,” and not my cup of tea.

Timing, of course, is everything. Enter @trhall again with an overwhelming generous gift he sent me in February 2012: a bounty of Staples Arc and Levenger Circa supplies—paper, covers, dividers, punches, everything needed to make an informed decision about these products. And me at the time, of course, exploring making my own notebooks. Oh dear. More stuff?

If you’re confused like I was, you’re asking, “What’s the big deal? How do these crazy things work?” It’s all about flexibility of paper, size of papers, and these little discs. You can buy a variety pre-printed, pre-punched Levenger Circa or Staples Arc papers. There are plastic covers, leather covers, and leather-like covers. And discs: Staples Arc discs are available (as of this blog post, anyway) in 1″ and 1 1/2″  sizes. Levenger offers more choice with Circa sizes 1/4″ up to 3″ discs available. Together, these items create binders of various sizes. Make sense?

The size of the discs dictate how many sheets of paper can be in your binder. Levenger specifies the number of sheets per disc as follows:

  • 1/4″ holds up to 50 sheets
  • 1/2″ up to 80 sheets
  • 3/4″ up to 120 sheets
  • 1″ up to 150 sheets
  • 2″ up to 350 sheets
  • 2 1/2″ up to 400 sheets
  • 3″ up to 450 sheets

The difference between the two systems may come down to aesthetics. Levenger has more options in types of discs and pre-punched paper than Staples does. Levenger offers Circa pages by Rhodia, which for some fountain pen aficionados hands down is the end all be all of paper. I concur it’s great stuff! (Even if I don’t use it.)

The power, however, of either of these systems is in the ability to use our own paper templates, and punch our own paper. For those of us so inclined, ay?

That power and flexibility requires you obtain one of the punches by the company of your choice. Yeah, it really doesn’t matter, IMHO, which you choose.  The systems are so similar, I’m using Circa discs with Arc covers. Yes, the papers, covers, discs, pieces and parts are pretty much interchangeable between brands!

The Punch

The Staples Arc punch creates a slightly smaller punch in the paper than the Levenger punch.  I really liked the ergonomic handle of the Arc punch for punching paper. It’s very easy to use. (As you age, you consider these things, ay?)

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Even so, I choose the Levenger Circa punch. The reason? The Arc punch had only two paper settings:  regular letter size and Arc junior size.

The Levenger punch has five paper punching settings:  letter, junior, compact, 3 x 5, and micro PDA sizes. The punch sizes I use the most? Junior, compact, and 3 x 5 for index cards.

There is more than one style of Levenger punch. There is a portable punch designed for you to carry with you, and a very large punch with a top handle similar to the Arc punch. The one I have is an in-between size, and is named the Circa Desk Punch.

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Notebook Sizes—Goldilocks’s “Just Right” Theory

As indicated by the various punch sizes, letter through micro pda, the Circa and Arc systems do not limit you to one size of notebook. For instance, my three-ring binder letter size paper pretty much limits me to a standard size binder of varying widths. (My favorite width for a three-ring binder is 1/2″ although I use 1″, 2″ and 3″ binders too.)

I have one letter size Arc binder. Frankly, this is not my favorite size at all, and I’m unlikely to invest in another one. The three-ring binder still rules for my letter size paper purposes. It’s just simpler and sturdier. ‘Suppose I could make a stiff cover…yet I remain unmotivated.

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I’ve tried using the micro pda size, but find it cumbersome with even the smallest disc. For “pocket” notebooks… well, I confess my favorite methodology is to shove an index card into my back jeans pocket. (BTW: Exacompta index cards hold up quite well in the back pocket!)

Circa Micro PDA
Circa Micro PDA

I’m currently experimenting with a compact index card notebook—I took compact Arc covers, and punched my index cards for it. I’m not sure this will become a permanent usage style for moi. I love using index cards yet am not so keen on keeping them as an archive of notes. Although, I greatly admire this 30-year plus archive of Joan River’s jokes:

Alas, my card catalog is digital: any card with notes worth keeping get scanned, and then filed in an Evernote notebook. (OMG, you haven’t heard of Evernote? Check it out here.) Any index card that needs to be kept in analog form, can easily be punched, and inserted into my Junior Arc notebook. These are reasons why we experiment, right? To find out what works for our individual idiosyncrasies!

Regarding the photo below, the Arc compact notebook does not come with index cards. I swapped out squarish paper for my cards.

Staples Compact covers housing some index cards.
Staples compact covers housing some index cards.

While I don’t use it very much, I do keep one Circa style compact notebook. It fits easily into a jacket pocket. The Circa compact is rectangle shaped, not square shaped like the Arc compact.

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The notebook I use every day? The junior size! It’s “just right” for moi. The junior Circa/Arc size notebook has totally changed my notebook life. Much like a three-ring binder, I can carry multiple projects in one notebook. I can remove pages I no longer need, recycle them, file them, or (more likely than not) scan them into Evernote. New pages can be easily inserted into the notebook when needed.

I keep two Junior size notebooks. The one I carry around is divided into sections by tabs, each section representing a story in-progress, and lists of things to be done in Life and around the house. When I travel, I add a travel tab, and house various papers needed while traveling. I keep both handwritten and printed notes in the notebook. I use this Junior notebook everyday.

The second Junior notebook contains writing samples in various inks by various fountain pens (mine and those that come to visit from friends). I like this type of “ink journal” much better than a standard bound journal because I can take any scrap of paper, punch it, and insert said scrap into the notebook.

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Arc and Circa Papers

In my opinion, the power of the Arc and Circa notebooks is in the ability to use your own paper. Sometime ago, I switched from a Staples #28 Laser Printer paper to the HP 32# Premium Laser Printer paper. The latter paper is just that more superior to the #28 paper.[Both of these papers have the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) logo.] Often I can buy the HP paper on sale, and the paper has not failed to be fountain pen and ink friendly in my hands. I cut 8.5″ x 11″ paper in half to 5.5″ x 8.5″ for the Junior notebooks.  For the compact Circa notebook, the paper is cut to 3.75″ x 5.5″ 3.5″ x 6.5″.

Thanks to @trhall I’ve had the opportunity to try a lot of the different papers available for the Arc and Circa systems. The papers held up decently to my fountain pens, and inks. How these papers work for you will depend a lot the ink you use, and how bold or fine the nib of your pen. I’ve included samples of both sides of the papers so that you can see which papers have show through, or bleed through of ink from the other side of the page. The scanner emphasizes the show through of ink. In reality, the show through is not so great! Expect at least a wee bit of bleed-through of the ink to the backside of any of these papers if you use wetter, bolder nibs than I happen to use.

First up—Staples Arc Paper (Junior Size):

Standard Staples Arc paper
Standard Staples Arc paper
Standard Staples Arc paper shows some writing from the other side. But, hey, it's pretty good!
Standard Staples Arc paper shows some writing from the other side. But, hey, there’s no bleed-through using a sampling of Japanese Fine nibs. Even the wet Nakaya medium nib holds up well. The paper’s pretty good with these particular nibs!

Staples Arc Junior Paper with more ink colors:

Western style fine nibs
Western style fine nibs, and 2 Japanese: a Sailor F and a Platinum Music nib.
Oh dear, lots of bleed through!
Some bleed through with the wet (western) Danitrio EF, and a wee bit with the (Japanese) Platinum #3776 Music nibs.

Levenger Circa Junior Paper:

Levenger Circa "regular" or standard paper.
Levenger Circa “regular” or standard paper.
Backside of the regular Levenger paper.
Backside of the regular Levenger paper. The scanner emphasizes the show through which in reality is not very significant.

Levenger Rhodia Junior Paper:

Levenger Circa Paper made by Rhodia
Levenger Circa Paper made by Rhodia
Backside Circa Rhodia Paper
Backside Circa Rhodia Paper – there is show through but in fairness the scanner emphasizes that. The show through is not so in your face when using the paper in the notebook. No bleed through.

HP 32# Cut to Junior Size:

HP 32# Premium Laser Printer (uncoated) paper, cut to Junior Size. Punched with Levenger punch.
HP 32# Premium Laser Printer (uncoated) paper, cut to Junior Size. Punched with Levenger punch.
Backside of HP 32# paper.
Backside of HP 32# paper. A wee bit of show through. No bleed through with fine and medium nibs. I’ve seen bleed through with very wet, bold nibs on this paper. The lines from my aging laser printer are not as sharp/crisp as the Rhodia paper’s lines.

Close-up of Arc and Circa Punch Holes:

Punch holes compared: Arc on left, Circa on right. Note the Circa is a bit bigger/rounder than the Arc  punch.
Punch holes compared: Arc on left, Circa on right. Note the Circa punched hole is a bit bigger/rounder than the Arc punched hole. I like the larger punched hole as it provides an easy turning of the page.


There seems to be an endless supply of accessories you can use with the Arc or Circa systems: rulers, annotation tabs, page finders, la-la-la-la-la! The only ones I use: the tab dividers, a pocket divider for each notebook, and a zippered pouch.

Essential accessories: pocket divider, tab dividers, and a zippered pouch. All of these happen to be made by Staples Arc.
Essential accessories: pocket divider, tab dividers, and a zippered pouch. All of these happen to be made by Staples Arc.

I also made a DIY thingie to keep a packed notebook closed tightly. The thingie also serves as an ink blotter when necessary. I glued two pieces of thick blotter paper (bought from Pendemonium) together. A piece of elastic ribbon was glued in between the papers. The result works great:

blotter blotter2

Flexibility Rules!

It is difficult to know, if I hadn’t been given these notebooks to try, if I would have made my way to try them. I didn’t know I needed them until I tried them… A mentor of mine used to opine:  We are often limited by our own thinking and imaginations.

For me “going indie” with paper means not being locked into a given notebook brand. Having the punch is essential to using my own blank pages, and printing my own notebook paper. The cost to me is far less than buying the pre-printed Arc or Circa papers. My own needs are simple. I know people like these systems for a variety of reasons, and there are all kinds of pre-printed papers from both Levenger and Staples for those who prefer that route.

If you are prone to such behavior, you may argue that the punch, discs and covers lock me into a brand, or in this case two brands since I am combining Levenger punch, and the Staples cover and discs into one notebook. Well, none of those reusable items are decomposing any time soon! Even if Staples were to discontinue the system tomorrow, I’ve already got my own paper punch, plenty of discs and dividers, and the confidence that I could make a new cover if needed. All set to continue on alone, ay? I believe the Arc and Circa systems fit my indie paper/notebook lifestyle like a glove.

I’ve been using these notebooks over a year and don’t intend to stop. Thank you, Thomas!

Bits of Reading Pleasure

Updates to this Post

And a Bit of Marketing Trivia

The Staples Arc system official name:  M by Staples™ Arc System. Staples’s M line is the company’s designer line. The “M” refers to a Staples slogan, My Style, My Way. 

BTW: Neither @trhall nor I receive any compensation from Staples or Levenger. We’re just fountain pen dweebs friends.

Tale of a Vandal Notebook User: Going Indie, Part 1

Letting Go of a Favorite White-Paper Notebook

Quo Vadis Habanas

As many know, once upon a time in the U.S., the Quo Vadis Habana had white paper. In an effort to unify the global product, the white paper was replaced by ivory paper. Ivory is used in the Habana all around the world.

Ivory is a perfectly respectable color for a paper, and the Quo Vadis Habana is a perfectly respectable (okay, wonderful aka Amazing) notebook with its ivory-ness. Many people are passionate about ivory paper. However, I’m not one of those ivory enthusiasts.

I gave up white paper years ago because of the environmentally toxic methods used to bleach paper-pulp white. Those methods have changed substantially, and I’ve returned to white paper consumption. Main reason? It’s easier for me to read my scrawl on white paper. I have demands, though. At minimum, the paper needs to have some kind of sustainable forestry certification. In the U.S., paper from sustainable forests often have FSC-certification.

Quo Vadis, Clairefontaine, Rhodia make the paper decision pretty easy for those of us concerned about how paper is made. The trees used to make those papers come from a very strong sustainable forestry initiative. Additionally, the companies work to minimize the environmental impact of the manufacturing process. If you’re going to buy notepads and notebooks, these are the “best of breed.” Many of their papers, notepads, notebooks are white. The Rhodia Webbie and the Quo Vadis Habana use ivory paper, and these notebooks are not inexpensive—the 5.5″ x 8.5″ Webbie costs around $24, and the 6.25″ x 9.25″ Habana costs around $23. The 8.25″ x 11.75″ white top-bound notepads run anywhere from $7-$12, depending on retailer and brand (Clairefontaine or Rhodia).

For me, being a conscious consumer is a way of life. That is, being aware of what I buy, where it comes from, why I’m buying, and always asking, “Should I buy X, Y or Z? Do I really need any of them?” In my ideal world, all my consumable goods would be made locally, and available at places within walking or biking distances. Well… I do the best I can in that arena, eh? Ideals are what we strive for. Day by day, my goal is to consume “greener” and to consume thoughtfully.

Re-Thinking Notepads and Notebooks

My first reaction to the Habana change was to buy up as much of the white Habanas as I could find. Clearly Habana hoarding was an emotional reaction, and an impractical economic decision. It only postponed the inevitable: one day there would be no more. Having been seduced by the Habana’s silky fountain-pen-friendly-whiteness, I confess a little humiliation to be found at the mercy of product change.

After some introspection about my desire for white paper, I decided to do something I hadn’t done in more than 20 years: make my own notebooks and notepads. For me, this was a better and more cost effective decision than chasing down commercial products.

It is far less expensive to make notepads than to buy them pre-made. Staples Bagasse notepads cost me about $.02 a page. Rhodia #18 about $.11 a page bought locally.

At full retail, a ream of HP 32# Premium Choice Laser Printer paper costs $.03 a page. However, deals are always to be had at the big box office supply store. A recent sale brought that paper cost down to $.02 a page. Using some additional coupons in my last purchase of two reams, no money even exchanged hands. Taking into account the glue, any printer ink/toner, and the paper, my notepads cost me well under $0.40 a pad. Labor costs? What’s that? Once you get the hang of ’em, it only takes a few minutes to make a decent notepad.

Very simply a notepad requires a stack of paper, a backing for the paper, some padding compound, a brush to apply it, and a way to clamp the backing and paper together while the compound glue dries. When my household crew decided to make notepads, all our materials were sourced locally, either through re-use of items on hand, or at a local art store.

For generic notepads—the ones used for grocery lists, and various household notes—we’ve re-used paper from projects and events. Any paper with a blank side is eligible. The paper is not always fountain pen friendly, but only half of our household uses a fountain pen. The other still uses (ack!) rollerballs and pencils.

For notepads requiring more thoughtful paper, I’m using either Staples 28# or HP 32# laser printer paper. Both are FSC papers. (The Staples is also Rainforest Alliance certified.) These homemade notepads have replaced my use of Staples Bagasse notepads and Rhodia #18 notepads.

The HP 32# paper is very, very good. While fountain pen friendly, the paper is not the same as, nor would I say it is better than, Clairefontaine or Rhodia papers. The latter papers are made to be used with fountain pens (although not exclusively). The HP paper is meant for laser printers not fountain pens. An experienced paper geek will notice the subtle difference. I think that the Rhodia and Clairefontaine papers allow for a sharper looking writing line, but not enough for me to abandon my DIY notepads. Judge for yourself in the scans of paper samples, or in your own tests. When using printer paper, it’s important to select an acid free, uncoated paper.

For the backing of notepads, we save chip board of various kinds. We experimented with a few kinds before deciding that soda pop cartons, cereal, and popcorn boxes make ideal backs for notepads. For something without a logo, there’s also the chip board that arrives with the stamps purchased online from the USPS. In this household there hasn’t yet been a need buy chipboard.

Some people modify standard white glue to create a notepad adhesive.  I bought a bottle of Padding Compound which is still over half full, many notepads later. Padding compound is an adhesive made to bind notepads and the like.

We’ve gotten quite adept at making small 4 x 4 notepads, and give them as gifts to those we know will use them. We keep them simple and fun. Any exploration of Etsy will show you how simple or complex a notepad can be designed. Your imagination is your friend, eh?

Time and desire are essential elements for easy-to-make top-flip notepads. The hardest part is stacking the pages so that the sides are even. We’ve not reached perfection in that arena, yet feel we’re charmed by them just the same. I use a paper cutter when I need to slice up pages. For a more consistent or personal-labor-free cut, some people buy a ream of paper and have their stationer do the cutting.

The 8.5″ x 11″ notepads I use for day to day writing are blank and contain 100 sheets. When lines are needed, I have a Cornell template I’ve adapted. Pages are printed to the laser, and then bound afterwards.

The backing to my personal writing notepads needs to be firm. No floppy notepads! Yet, I don’t need a permanent backing. To create a kind of portable writing desk, I’ve recycled a container for a screen protector (two pieces of cardboard with an thin opening). Inside the container, I slip a hard piece of cardboard for a very firm, portable writing desk.  I write on one side until I reach the 100th page. Then flip the pad over and write on the backside for the next 100 pages. I re-use the little portable writing backing for subsequent pads.

There are numerous internet tutorials on how to make a notepad. Check ’em out if you’re taking the plunge. Here’s a good start:

Notebooks require more planning, as well as more time. I make far fewer of these because they’re not needed in large quantities. I’ve only made two so far. There is an art to making notebooks. I don’t posses that art. Maybe in a few years.

I’ve used a simple yet elegant bookbinding technique—coptic stitch, creating signatures sewn together—to make notebooks which lie flat.  I acquired an awl, a bone folder, some thread, and bookbinding needles at a local art store. For the covers, I recycled stiff cardboard, and covered them in cotton cloth that was on hand. The aforementioned 32# or 28# laser paper remain the papers used.

My first notebook was a 7-year diary to record important events or daily highlights. Not the best idea to start with such a thick, 1.15″ book! There are 25 signatures. Each signature contains 4 sheets of paper. The notebook contains 400 pages. Many mistakes were made. The signatures could be bound tighter. The cover is short on one side. Some of dates are wrong in the print template I made. Still, it’s usable, it’s for moi, and I’m happy with it! “I made this.” The next 7-year diary will be better, eh?

Here are some links to get you started making your own notebooks:

Moving On
There have been many times in my life when making my own X, Y or Z was inconvenient, too time-consuming, and otherwise not a workable solution. It feels good to be able to embrace a few simple DIY projects for however long it makes sense to do so. DIY will not appeal to some people—be it for time or aesthetic reasons. Making my own notepads and notebooks has been a great choice for our household—all sparked by the change of the Quo Vadis Habana from white to ivory.

Yet the tale of going indie does not end here. Thus, there is a “Part 2″ to come in the weeks or months ahead. Over the last year, my paper life has changed in even more beneficial ways.

August Carnival of Pen, Pencil and Paper is here!

My favorite posts came from both familiar and new faces—at least to the Carnival scene!

The Carnival continues to be a great way to meet new bloggers and read about different tools people are using. A Penchant for Paper will be the September Carnival host. You can check out more about the Carnival here… maybe even drop Nifty (the founder of this Carnival) a note if you want to host! Continue to submit to any upcoming Carnival by filling out the form.

Thank you to Nifty at Notebook Stories for bringing us the Carnival and to all the wonderful bloggers who participated in the August Carnival!