Monday, January 20, 2014

Notebook: DIY Perfect Binding, line numbers and page numbers

Sample pages with floating Table of Contents that also works as a book mark.
Notebooks. I write a lot. Keeps me off the streets, writing is one of the most noble excuses for not doing housework.

I usually write either on the computer or in a standard composition book. What I've found is that blank page composition books are either expensive or unobtainable. When you spend more than $1 for a notebook, you're paying for not having to write on thick annoying blue lines.

I like the grids, college ruled... but if you're like me you've noticed that most notebooks seem to have really fat dark blue lines....
I've also begun numbering the pages, 1-100 from the front, (right side facing pages only); then I flip the notebook over and number them 101-200 on the remaining pages. It's like having two notebooks, with two covers.  Writing will be right side up on the right, and upside down on the left. If I add an additional note on the facing page, it doesn't interfere when I'm  coming back through.
I don't like spiral notebooks. I've got a Moleskin, cost me nearly $20--I'm afraid to use it.

Being a Maker and a problem solver I wondered if 1. I could figure out how to make my own notebooks, 2. Number the pages using software, 3. make my own ideal line spacing.

I'm quite satisfied with my results. A4 (letter sized) paper, so it's standard, perfect binding using heat patch material for clothes and hot glue stick (which is probably the most valuable contribution of this particular project). The line spacing is still up in the air, open to change. Page and line numbering system I made are, I think wicked cool.

I would like to share this, add it to the blog, but it would be a 100 or 200 page PDF. Readers might not like my line spacing, or they might want and 80 (160) page notebook....

Here goes. I created a simple database in FileMaker Pro for the page numbering.
There are 100 records number 1-100--in the upper right corner.
Each record is the size of two pages. At the bottom of the second page is 101-200 in the lower left corner--upside down---so print "Two Sided" makes the first page, #1 on the face and #200 on the back.
Two Fields:
Number, (type 'number'): Auto Enter Serial number
Backside Number (type: 'calculation'):  = 201–Numbers
That's all it takes. Probably can do this in Open Office.

Here's a sample page from a screen capture of the Illustrator file:
Page number is Helvetica Neue Light 18 point,
lines are .5 pt, gray (40% black) .2131" (5.4 mm)  apart
I would prefer a faint blue line, but my cleanest printer is a Brother Black only.
The smaller line is .09 high. I use this to space lines. (A reasonable criticism is that this second line is unnecessary. A regularly rule page should work just as well. And I should work on my penmanship....)
Squint and look at the line numbers. I've numbered every 5th line Optima 8 pt.
Why it's different from the page number....No good reason. They're almost completely invisible unless you're looking for them.
Before I discuss binding, I'll explain my logic. Page numbers. When I used composition books, I used to just number each page, it took a few minutes and invariably I'd skip a page or some distraction would throw off my count.... Not a big deal.
What I then would do is to flip through a full notebook and make a quick Table of Contents. In about 150 pages of writing I'd usually come up with a maximum of 20-30 topics, that I thought I might want to find at a later date.
Giving a topic a notebook name (usually a date), a page number (or range) and line numbers, within 5 line numbers is not a big deal considering I probably have 30 notebooks from the past 8 years.
I find I'll write either on my word processor journal, personal or school (work) or in a hand written notebook. Being able to organize the information and entries, can be useful. (I also see how many times I've spent an hour complaining about minor annoyances like USB cables.... which helps me skip the subject the next time Apple comes out with a new one....).
 I've also made a FileMaker Pro database for my notebooks, it lists a title, again usually the date range, description (blue, red....) and a few key topics.
I'm fiddling around with writing stories, bits and pieces are scattered all over the place. This database keeps characters, events, writing fragments all sorted.

OK: Binding.
I've watched at least two dozen how to make your own notebook YouTube videos and DIY Makers pages. They're all neat, thank you.
There are two basic binding methods I considered, stitching--which is a traditional method, and Perfect Binding, which is really quite simple-you basically clamp all the pages together, roughen the spine edges of the paper with sandpaper and then smear it with glue.
I chose Perfect Binding, because I could simply use the A4 (letter sized) 8.5 x 11" laser printer paper I buy 10 reams at a time from Costco. It's not the best paper for writing on with a fountain pen, but it doesn't yellow, and works good enough. If I stitched then the edges of the pages would be uneven and need trimming--too much work (and paper cuts).
I made a simple clamp with two pieces of 1.5 x 1.5" wood. Hot glue spreads and sticks to the wood, so what I've figured out is to add a slip of paper on each side of the stack of pages. This then becomes part of the finished notebook.
Roughing up the edges is very important. I half made one without this step and it started coming apart. Use very rough sand paper. I've scored it with a utility knife, and even dragged a rasp (about grit 5 if it was sand paper) to roughen up the spine edge of the clamped notebook.
Next I dribble hot glue back and forth across the pages and spread it out a bit with a wide tongue depressor. At this point,  you are done. The pages will hold together quite well.
The next step I usually do is to take a manilla file folder; score and fold it at the size of the notebook. Using a clothes iron, Wool setting, I iron on a layer of Heat-N-Bond. You could skip the Heat-N-Bond. This flattens out the hot glue layer. Heat-N-Bond has a backing sheet that you now peel off.
Take your notebook out of the clamp, trim up the two folded slips that protected the clamp (but leave them). Put the notebook into the manilla file folder, back into the clamp and apply the heated iron to the outside of the folder. This makes an OK, but not great cover.  (My goal is to find a nice leather cover with pockets I can slip the manilla covers into.... )

I've used this for log books that had been kept in 3-ring binders. It makes them more compact and more archival (plastic, and especially vinyl office supplies turn to sticky goo after a few years).
I'll attach some more photos.
e-mail me if you'd like a pdf of my parts. There will be essentially two files, the front and back pages and the page numbers. You might want numbered blank pages, or a different line spacing.

An open question is could these notebooks be used as a Patent Notebook or official Science Notebook? Maybe. I don't think there's any magic to sewn patent notebooks that sell for $25. Anyone with an extra blank notebook, could with some effort, and motivation (a billion dollars?) take apart and modify one of these. A homemade perfect bound notebook like mine, would be very easy to fake, it's already non-standard. Of course forensic science will always know more than the criminally minded. 

Always interested in what you think, your solutions and ideas.
And of course, Moleskin and the other commercial notebook makers--don't hesitate to contact me... I believe these are the notebooks Archimedes and Abraham Lincoln used when they were young men in Paris.... Of course Archie used a grid pattern....

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