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!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

A $3 Homemade Traveler's Notebook

by Tony Thomas

I was a bit bored today so I decided to try and put together an inexpensive traveler's notebook similar to the familiar Midori.  A "Po-Dori", you could call it.

So, I headed off to the local craft store to see what materials I could find.  I discovered a 9" x 12" piece of stiff felt for a buck and 3 yards of green bungee cord for about $1.60.  The materials used are far from optimal but they are cheap and durable.

Total cost: less than $3 with tax.  Plus, I have enough materials left over to make a smaller one if I so desire.

I used Ray Blake's video on You Tube to provide the instruction needed to make it.  You can watch that video here.  Total construction time: about 15-20 minutes.

In any case, it turned out OK and it works!

I also made a short video on the way it turned out here.

My "Po-Dori" with Clairefontaine 9 x 14 cm and Rhodia 7.5 x 12 cm notebooks installed.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Jinhao 599 Fountain Pen

by Tony Thomas

I saw the new Jinhao 599 on eBay several weeks ago for less than $4.00 (!) and decided to pick one up.  It certainly looks like an "homage" to a popular German pen whose name begins with an "L".

It is surprisingly well built and features a really smooth medium Jinhao nib.  The clip is firm yet springy and it is well-balanced with the familiar triangular grip section popularized by "you know who".

The pen is so nice that it makes you drop your jaw drop as what kind of quality can be achieved at such a low price.  It makes me wonder why the "real thing" sells for almost 10X the price!

Check on my brief YouTube video on the 599 here.