Commonplace book + DIY cover

Midori MD A5 grid commonplace book and DIY cardstock notebook cover for the notebook.

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I mentioned previously that I have way too much cardstock leftover from some printer shenanigans from HWA. I started another Midori MD Notebook to make a commonplace book to write down knowledge that I would want to refer back to in the future, e.g., notes from books, courses, articles, etc. Kind of like a school notebook but broader. Since this book mainly sits on my desk, I wondered if it was possible to make a book cover for the notebook out of the cardstock. Luckily letter-sized paper is slightly taller than A5, so the overhang made it possible!

Here is the book cover, made out of 2 pieces of cardstock. The white cardstock was a regular letter-sized one, cut in half, and then glued + folded around the length of the A5 notebook. Also scored down the middle of the brown cardstock piece. I wasn't confident I could glue such a narrow sliver of cardstock for the sleeve/pocket (where you slip in the notebook covers), so I put in some small stitches instead.

Fits!!

After that I felt like it was looking plain for a commonplace book, so I took some leftover Daler-Rowney FW acrylic ink (green) and painted it on in a weird mottled-like texture (dabbing with the brush, but not smoothing it out)

The string tension tore through the now wet paper, so I yanked them out and had to glue the pockets down later on. That actually resulted in a more snug-fit and less "wiggle room" of covers sliding up/down, which was not a bad thing!

Not long after, it still felt plain, so I took a leftover gold STA metallic pen and free-handed the cover.

It was a mindless, 'go with the flow', relaxing art thing to do! Some of the lighting in the photos make it look more teal, while in real life it's more green in the sunlight. Make this book feel fancier than it really is!

Also made an A6-sized one (left) to use up the green paint. On that one I used copper acrylic paint streaks, and also rubbed on candle wax + melted it to the cover for stability/some water resistance (IDK if it'll work, but it was fun to do).

With regards to the notebook itself, it's a Midori MD Notebook A5 with grid ruling. I hand numbered all the pages, and then made an index at the beginning (page 3) + left a few more pages after blank, to allow for the indexlist to increase as I filled the book. I officially started jotting down contents on page 7!

Today's music post: Open My Heart by Jay Diggs. I am a total glutton for this retro-style of music cheese. Is 90s considered retro now? AHHHHHHHHHHHH...

Fortune linocut

DIY linocut print of 福, printed in red ink.

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If you ordered a print copy of Here We Are 1, you may have had the experience of a piece of white paper (with red print) tumbling out of the back of your book.

The character itself is 福, which sounds like Fu in Mandarin or Fook in Cantonese. In essence it means something like good fortune or good luck. More history on the character can be found here.

An upside-down 福 is pasted on Jake's front door (it's barely seen in chapter 7). The upside-down version represents good fortune/luck arrives, which is like a blessing upon a place/space when it's pasted up. It's fairly common to see in Chinese spaces, especially during lunar new year. It doesn't really match Jake's home aesthetic, but I imagine it was something his mom gave to him when he moved out, and thus, he obliged.

The print itself was hand carved out of linoleum.

Then printed on layout bond with red block printing ink. I hadn't used my ink in a few years so the paint was separating, thus leading to a few failures. I had to re-mix the paint!

I like the imperfect/faded/aged look of some of the prints, so a wide variety were included in orders.

The reason for its inclusion in the HWA book package is 2-fold:

  1. 2020 is a rough year for many of us and I wanted to wish readers the best. If you have one, you can paste it upside down in your own dwellings!
  2. As I thought about where HWA book 1 ended, I wanted to leave it off with some good vibes for J+A as their lives continue beyond the book.

Thanks to everyone who ordered a copy of the book. Although the process for making all this stuff is labourious, I'm happy to spend the effort to make the reading experience special for the handful of you who are engaged and who value the DIY-ness of it all! The book is made to order (limited to 50 copies) if you don't have your own.

Wishing you all 福 x infinity!

Today's music post: HK 80s disco hit from superstar Roman Tam 羅文's Lasers 激光中. The video is really fabulous in that 80s disco way. I enjoyed reading this article about him. I feel like he is HK's equivalent of David Bowie in terms of influence and versatility (not that Roman or David are really comparable people; this is simply a point of reference for western readers).

DIY A6 tomoe river notebook

DIY notebook made with TR paper and leftover cover stock.

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Back in February, I did a lot of file prep to have HWA printed at a local printer. After a lot of back and forth and inexplicable failures (on their part, not mine), I ended up only asking them to print the covers and NOT the interiors. It was pretty annoying for me, but it is what it is. That's why I ended up using my home laser printer for all the interiors (not an economical choice).

The printer also printed way too many covers for me (also inexplicable on their part), so I have a lot of extra HWA comic covers. Rather than throwing them into recycle, I thought about ways to repurpose them: DIY notebook covers!

I recently converted to using A5 size. The covers themselves are US letter size, which when folded in half, is too narrow and too tall to be true A5 size. I decided to try standard A6 size, which is 105 × 148 mm or 4.1 × 5.8". Lots of math and additional measurement to wrangle with.

First thing I did was roll on some copper acrylic ink onto the covers. Weird special effects. Then I measured the length of A5 and scored/folded it, to have the cover fold back on itself (and thus obscuring the actual cover image for HWA in a "pocket".

Then I measure/scored/folded it one more time to become A6 size (ish).

I thought about thread binding but just went for saddlestitch for simplicity. The interior paper is A4 Tomoe River 52gsm, cut to A5 size, and then folded in half to A6 size.

The design resulted in a top pocket where you could potentially clip your pen to, or put some flat stuff. Whatever you want, but it's just glued down, so not the strongest pocket for heavy or thick stuff.

I ended up trimming it down by another few mm on the top/right edges. Here are the A6ish notebooks next to my DIY A5ish notebook.

I think this configuration allowed for there to be minimal paper waste/cut off when I had US letter covers and A4 paper (different standard sizes). Interesting experiment!

Today's music post: Fear the Wolf - Get Down. Fear the Wolves is a band based in BC. My friend stars in this video!

Tomoe River and Opus 88 Omar

I failed at bookbinding this stack of Tomoe River sheets.

Cover Image

I mentioned Tomoe River paper in my previous stationery post. Notebooks with Tomoe River paper are known to be on the pricier side, so when I found some A4 sheets for a reasonable price, I decided that I'd make my own A5 notebooks with less page count.

On the far right, there's the chonker Opus 88 Omar in yellow. I had Opus 88 eyedropper pens on my wishlist for a while now, because I was always sad to not be able to bring a fountain pen on planes without worrying about their ink exploding. It's still possible for this pen to explode ink, but it has a feature to shut off the ink from going into the feed (I think it's called japanese-style eyedropper), which is very appealing! I was gunning for the clear demonstrator (it wasn't on sale haha) but I am now kind of enamoured by how Omar in yellow looks like the fat baby of my TWSBI Eco clear x Lamy Safari yellow. It's a really fat pen...I read reviews about how it can cause hand fatigue, especially for small hands. I am also a small handed person but I suppose I'm generally not writing for hours straight.

The barrel of yellow Omar is semi translucent with a yellow/green tinge, but you can see the ink levels and ink colour within. Right now I have Lamy turmaline inside. I chose a M nib because you gotta use up the ink!!! It writes very smoothly. It does take more turns to unscrew the cap, so it's not a quick reactive pen...

The Tomoe River paper I chose is 52gsm (100 sheets, 200 pages), it's significantly thinner than my Midori MD notebook diary (175 pages). Practically half the width?

I took 30 A4 sheets and made 3 signatures with 10 A4 sheets each. I also folded some cardstock I had for the covers. Purist bookbinders will scoff at how I'm likely folding against the paper grain (I always do, TBH, ziney DIY forever!). I didn't want to deal with spine width, so it's just exposed.

I was over-confident about my signature sewing abilities...after making many HWA books I thought I was a-okay, but I forgot that I didn't have arms/bands to attach the signatures to, so my book block was super loose and I had to hack it together with knots. It's riddled with rookie mistakes that could've been avoided if I just used my brain to think instead of relying on my previous auto-pilot program. Thus, the block is not as tight/compact/neat/aligned as I would want. It's kind of embarrassing, but nobody will really see it anyway.

To cover my shame I used some washi tape on the spine and on the covers. It's B-side label washi tape that I think someone gifted to me long ago. Maybe due to age, but I find that the glue on this tape transferred to the tape underneath (on the roll) so overall it's not sticky in the right way?

At the end of the day, what mattered to me was having something lightweight and that laid flat. When folded to A5, this means this notebook has about 120 pages to write on (front/back).

Pens do write smoothly on this paper. As expected, there are longer drying times and susceptibility to smudging. Although the paper is thin, I don't personally mind the show through.

I still have 70 A4 sheets left, which translates to 560 A5 pages to write on in the future.

Mostly by accident, I found out that Borden and Riley's #37 Boris Marker layout paper is also a potential choice for fountain pens users. These are not particularly great photos for colour accuracy, but I don't see any bleed through at all.

Makes sense since it was made for markers! It has more tooth if people like feedback. I had a bunch from my traditional inking/drawing days. I still have so many pads of paris bleedproof paper...

Price wise you do get more bang for your buck with Tomoe River than artist supplies...ahhhh

Today's music post: Evig Pint by Kaizers Orchestra. My friend Mike introduced this band to me a long time ago. I'm actually listening to their music for the first time with new earphones and it feels like a whole new experience...!

Cross structure binding "linked"

Photo walkthrough of how I used CSB "linked" to bind my comic.

Cover Image

When prototyping HWA comic printed copy I did a bunch of research on non-adhesive book binding. I happened upon Carmencho Arregui's cross structure binding (CSB) information page and wanted to try it out. I ended up going with CSB "linked".

There were more end-photos online than WIP-photos, so I've documented WIP below in case anyone wants to try it out for their own DIY zine/book/project some day! The flexibility and customization of this book binding approach is super cool!

Printing and folding each signature

I load the paper and print it off of my Brother HL-22700DW b/w laser printer. This part is pretty time consuming because of the waiting and paper stock swapping. I also shake the toner when it starts getting patchy (IDK if this helps or makes it worse) and reset my printer toner sensor a bunch because the printer lies to you about toner levels!

Poking sewing holes into each signature

I lay the signature open and overlay a hole "template" (a regular piece of paper with measured hole spacing) to punch through. I've used my carpet or a thick sweater underneath to do the stabbing.

Scoring and cutting slits into the front cover

I designed my CSB to have 9 slots for the arms to pass through. I don't think there's a set rule for how many to have, though I assume that more "cross linking" you have, the more stability/structure you'll have.

Score where the spine will bend

Scoring and cutting arms on the back cover

For the backcover I score it first where the bend points will be.

After a lot of trial and error, I learned to put 1 more score in the arm part to relieve bending stress later on. Though this has its pros/cons.

The back cover has the "arms" that will link into the front cover. I have 3 arms, which correspond to the "slots" in the front cover.

Linking the front and back cover together

Slot the back cover into the first column of slots (the bottom edge of the book spine)

This is what the cover ends up looking like when flat. CSB is a no-glue bind but I ended up applying glue to the left-side where the back/front cover overlap (for extra stability)

This is what it looks on the inside.

I bend/pull the arms up because I have to sew the signatures to it.

I followed sewing 4 instructions from Carmencho's website. I used lineco's linen book binding thread since I had a bunch from a previous project. I've also used floss before as well (but did manage to tear up some thinner signatures when I used floss).

Lots of kettle stitch videos online for folks to follow. IMO the hardest thing about the sewing is to keeping my thread taunt without the thread tearing the signatures. This became easier with more practice.

After sewing the signatures to the arms, I tuck the arms into the next closest column of slots in the front cover's spine. This is where the arms tend to bend/crack, or slots tend to tear. My rec is to go slow and ease and pull gently.

The arms poke out at the top edge of the spine. Keep gently adjusting and pulling to get the closest/flushest fit between the cover/signatures. I found it easiest to do this with the cover flat on the table, signature perpendicular "in the air."

Finally I pass the arms through the final column of slots on the front cover.

The arms now end on the inside of the cover. I taped these down with washi tape, but you could leave them as.

Now we have a bound book (that still needs to be trimmed)!

Trim the book

I invested in a Durodex 200DX based on Wai's recommendation/research. The cutter also leaves some indents from compression, so stack some extra paper above/below to decrease the indents. My book barely fits in the cutter, so it was hard to see where the laser cutter-line was hitting the book for accurate measuring.

Here's the final bunch! Wabisabi DIY scraggle!!!! It probably takes me ~2h to make each one.

You can get a made-to-order copy at Love Love Hill, read most of it online for free, or get the digital copy.

Reflection

  • The coverstock I chose was extremely unforgiving! If I had the time I would have done more prototyping/testing with different paper stocks.
  • When linking the arms into the slots there was a lot of unintended creasing, tearing, etc. to contend with. Adding an extra score in the arm was a good hack, but sometimes that extra score line would get "caught" in the slots when I was trying to thread it through.
  • This method would be really nice to put a "softcover" wrap on any signature to make it look a bit fancier and more protected. If not for my need to have different coloured signatures, I'd condense signatures together so that there's less sewing to do.
  • Since there is no glue on the spine (it's like... a floating spine?), I found that my spine would get crushed in trimming. C'est la vie!