7/30/2017: Notebooks.

So…I like notebooks. I really REALLY like notebooks. The biggest problem I have with them is I have a peculiar tendency to revere them such that I don’t want them to get all spoiled. Doesn’t sound bad? Okay. How about “having more than one topic” counting as “spoiled”?

It’s a problem. It’s one of my most fun problems.

A couple years ago I discovered the Midori Traveler notebooks. Essentially it’s a leather notebook cover with inserts held in with elastics. This way you could fill up a single insert and then just change it out. Also, they hold at least 3 independent inserts.

My prayers were answered!

I’ve had a few of them, a couple brand name ones, a couple custom made ones off Etsy and the like. And I’ve had an itch at the back of my brain about them since about the second week.

The size of the inserts is such that you pretty much have to buy Midori’s. Sure, you can make them and I’ve done that a couple times. I imagine there are people out there who make them and sell them besides Midori. But I can’t just go to the notebook section in Barnes & Noble or Staples and pick up a couple inserts if I’m breaking in to a new project.

Now…when you look at these things they’re really…I mean…they’re just…rectangular pieces of leather with 5 holes in them. There’s not even any SEWING, much less fine leather tool work.

So I thought to myself, I thought… “Self? How hard can that POSSIBLY be?”

The answer is…


Presenting my first four.

The first one I made was the small one, designed to fit 3-5 Field Notes notebooks. It works. The leather’s a little stiff, so I try to carry it around a bit. But I tend not to use it because I’ve turned into one of those fountain pen assholes and the Field Notes paper is FAR too absorbent for any of the pens I use regularly. So it’s just sorta sitting there.

The other three I’m quite pleased with. The left two were cut from the same piece of leather, darkened (and softened) with neatsfoot oil. The upper left one is SO oily that I’ve got to be careful what I leave it on or it’ll just bleed through. You can feel it in your fingertips after you’ve handled it at all. I don’t find that particularly objectionable. But I don’t like having to pay attention to where I put the thing.

Plus those three fit the standard Moleskine 5×8 small notebooks that come in the 3 pack. It’s perfect. I’m positively chuffed with the way they came out. I’ve clearly got to dial in the neatsfoot oiling process a bit. (The top-right one has none. I think I cut that one out of an 8.5×11 piece of leather I got from Hobby Lobby.)

In addition to sizing them generally for the Moleskine notebooks, I added a bit of width to them so they could (conceivably) fit 5 inserted notebooks something close to comfortably.

I’ve got one more pair of these to make before I sit back and decide what I’m going to do with them, and that is large format ones. I’ve got a bunch of desk-sized 8.5″x10.5″ or something Moleskines I want to try this with. If THAT works, then I’ll make myself a pair for home and work, to stay at my desks. I may add a couple features to those, pen holder, different elastic configuration, something. We’ll see.

But I’m surprised how tough it is to cut a straight line in a piece of leather. I really need something better than “hold a long, thick ruler against it and drag a carpet knife down the length a couple times.” If I thought a guillotine paper cutter would work and not just tear the leather I’d do that in a heartbeat. But once you get out past the first few inches where the angle is really tight, it’s just going to tear and drag it all over the place.

Hrmpf. Back to the drawing board I think.