Sunday, June 22, 2014

Making Leather Traveler's Notebooks

by Tony Thomas

After my success making a traveler's notebook out of heavy felt, I decided to make a few more out of leather using the popular Ray Blake method.

For the first one, I used some vegetable-tanned tooling leather (highly recommended) from my local Tandy Leather.  The piece was only a bit larger than the 6" x 9" I needed to make the notebook.  It was a fairly thin piece at around 4 oz. (approx 4/64").   I also bought a small punch to create the holes.  After cutting the leather, punching the holes, trimming the corners, threading the elastic cords, and applying a bit of oil, here is what I came up with in about 20 minutes:

After living with the notebook for a week or so, I decided to make a second notebook out of heavier tooling leather I found on eBay (DC Leather).  It was a about 8.5 oz. (almost 9/64").   I also bought some dye (Angelus) for both notebooks to give them a more finished look.  The heavier leather was a bit more challenging to cut and required several passes with my utility knife.  After dyeing both sides, the color was a bit darker than I anticipated (the leather really it soaked it up) but the end product was a lot more attractive and professional looking.

Here are both notebooks after dye, some paste wax and buffing.  The thin one is on the left and the fatter one on the right:

These were extremely easy for me to make and I am not an experienced leather worker.  Unlike the Midori passport size notebook that uses proprietary inserts, I designed these notebooks to accept 3.5" x 5.5" notebooks like the Moleskine Cahier, Clairefontaine, Field Notes and  others.  To save a bit of money, I decided to create my own hand-sewn notebook inserts using card stock and HP 32# laser paper.

If you are handy, you should try making one (or more) of your own!


  1. Well done! I enjoy reading pen and paper hacks! Thank you,
    Check out

  2. These look really good, Tony. I guess I am going to have to give it a try soon, too.

  3. Love these! After using, which leather weight do you prefer?

  4. I love the heavier leather. It feels more substantial!