Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Not Quite DIY, Semi-Premium, Semi-Custom Notebooks

Notebook cover
You'll have to pardon the cell phone camera wasn't available.

I believe I've previously mentioned my fondness for HP Premium Choice 32 lb. LaserJet paper (ain't that a mouthful?) for fountain pen use. It is lusciously silky smooth, but less slickery than some other nice papers. Inks spread a teensy bit more than they do on Clairefontaine, but I like the way inks look on this paper, and they dry within a reasonable time frame, too.

It's pricey stuff at about $18 a ream. Ouch! But awhile back, Office Depot had a seriously discounted special: eight dollars a ream. I snatched up two reams immediately, to add to the half a ream I still had on hand. That's a lot of paper. I use it mostly for general writing, letters (heavy though it is), and sometimes in my Circa / Staples Arc notebooks...though at this point I've come to use Circa most for temporary work notes, and for that, I prefer to use scrap paper...seems a shame to waste anything nicer. As for journals, I prefer more permanent binding solutions, but I have no bookbinding skills of my own.

So...I took two notebook-sized stacks of the paper (96 sheets each) to a local copy shop and had them coil bound. They aren't fancy, but I'm still quite pleased with the results.

Coil binding detail

From the research I did, the total cost for covers and binding is typically between $3.50 and $6.00 depending on where you go, with office supply stores being predictably more affordable than Kinko's. This makes these notebooks a far cry from 50 cent composition books. However, if I compare the total cost to something like Clairefontaine, they aren't too bad, *and* you get to pick your paper (cream or white or whatever, weight, texture) and your ruling, or lack thereof. This first batch of two notebooks is blank, but I may print lines or dot grids next time around. I've used this site in the past, and find it very useful. My normal handwriting is on the bold side, so I prefer something close to the wide ruling in comp books (slightly smaller is nice, but not much): the ruled versions of most Moleskine clones feel very cramped. Incompetech templates let you choose your exact druthers--very cool.

I've just started using the first journal. There are a few quirks: unlike many fancy hardbound journals, the corners aren't rounded off, and of course it doesn't have the same sleek feel in the hand. But oh, that paper is nice, and I like having letter size pages on which to stretch out.

The label on the front cover is just something I slapped on there primarily to give me a visual clue as to which way is up...the plain black cover didn't give any indication. But you could decorate as you saw fit. ;)

Just another option out there for us lovers of ink and paper things!

Opened notebook


shordzi said...

What I great idea! It had never occurred to me, but this is a great method. I always find the so-called writers notebooks overpriced. I wonder how relatively expensive or cheap they where when Bruce Chatwin was still wandering around the globe.

Anonymous said...

This is a fantastic idea. I've thought about getting a Circa setup to make custom sketch pads. I'm getting pickier about paper and pencils in my old age. This would be a quicker and less expensive method. Time to explore the possibilities.

BTW, you are right about the HP 32 lb. paper. Too light weight for watercolors but fine for pencil, pen and colored pencils. Have to keep an eye out for sales.

Jeff The Bear

Anonymous said...

Forgot to mention: much of this paper, including the HP Laserjet paper, is acid free. A nice feature if you want your writing and drawings to last.

Jeff The Bear

Elizabeth H. said...

Very good point regarding archival quality paper...and one thing that does make me nervous about the cheap comp books, though they're hard to beat for short-term scribbling and drafts. I'll still use them for my fiction and poetry, for sure.

One slight shortcoming to these notebooks: I typically label the spine of my journals with the date range once I finish them, but labeling coil-bound notebooks will be a little more challenging. To ponder, I suppose.

Bill M said...

That's a great idea!

I wonder if a print shop can chop the ream into smaller sheets for pocket notebooks. I know we could at the newspaper.

I never gave a thought to buying good quality paper and making my own notebooks.

Elizabeth H. said...

Bill, they most certainly can cut reams for you! Most of my typecasts are done on paper I had cut in half. As I recall, they charged about $2 a cut. I had them do an entire ream of copy paper that way.

Anonymous said...

One thing you might want to do, is to search your local Craigslist for "binding machine." I managed to find one at the local Salvation Army Thrift Store, and purchased it. This thing allows you to make/bind your own booklets, using either the plastic style binding combs, like the ones here: Some of the other machines allow you to bind using wire binding combs like this: I'm going to try and see about making my own notebooks, both full size (8 1/2" x 11" paper) and smaller pocket sized notebooks.

Elizabeth H. said...

I do have potential access to a comb binding machine at work, and may give that a try one of these times! I do have some concerns about the durability of the comb binding vs. the coil: based on my experience with comb bound music books vs. coil bound, the coil bound lay flat, fold back easily, and take a great deal more abuse than the comb bound. And I'd guess the wire binding you linked to would be somewhere in between?

Anonymous said...

Yes, wire binding is sort of the "in between" of plastic comb bound and coil/spiral bound.

Since all of this is relatively new to me, I've been doing more and more research to see what I can use the machine for. One thing I've found out, which I didn't realize before, is that there are different machines. By different, I mean the number of holes that the machine punches in a sheet of paper. So if you do decide to go and use a machine, make sure all of the materials you have are compatible with it.

I wish I could find a machine (at a reasonable price) that will allow me to make spiral bound notebooks (pocket sized and regular sized), so that I can make my own notebooks using paper that I want, paper that is "fountain pen friendly."

Anonymous said...

Sorry for veering off course with this one, but here goes....I was just skimming through your older blog entries, trying to find the one about erasers, which I found here:

In addition to the eraser shield comment I made back then, I wanted to let you know of something I discovered more recently. While shopping at a local WINCO grocery store, I came up on this product (link to Walmart, not WINCO):

The erasers are cap erasers which slip over the end of most (standard sized) wooden pencils. Since you like that other (block) Pentel eraser (mentioned in your blog post), I thought you might like this as well. I find the erasers on most wooden pencils, as well as, the usual pink cap erasers, to be horrible. This one is different, as it's made of the same material as that block eraser.

One odd thing I've found, is that when I went to search for these cap erasers (a few months ago), the only places I've found them sold at, were Walmart and WINCO. WINCO charged either $1.44 or $1.46 for the pack of 10. I'm not sure what Walmart charges.

Elizabeth H. said...

Thanks, "Anonymous"...I'll check those out next time I'm in the market for some erasers! We have a WinCo in the Olympia area now, and while it's not in my usual path, I go there every now and again to stock up on cheap staples and for the sake of their awesome bulk foods section. Fun place to explore, and they *do* seem to have a slightly different assortment of a lot of things than you ever see elsewhere.

Would love to hear more about your binding experiences, too! One of these days I want to attempt some sort of sewn/stitched binding, too, but being very not-crafty, I need to watch about a zillion more YouTube videos and such before I attempt it.

Vikram said...

Good old Incompetech! I've been recommending that website to my friends since I was in the 6th grade (I'm a sophomore in college now, that's how long they've been around)! Have fun with their custom paper!

Elizabeth H. said...

It's a great resource. Thank you for your comment!