Traveler's notebook mods

Traveler's Company Traveler's Notebook modifications

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Ah yes, my Traveler's Company traveler's notebook (TN) that I received as a gift many years ago—still grossly underused since I mainly use A5 size for most things personal. I have a very romantic idea of what these notebooks should look like based on what the internet has fed me: stuffed to the brim, all sorts of collagey inserts, vintage/nostalgia vibe, brass, lots of danglies/customization/charms/etc. Honestly I like all of these things, in concept!

In practice, I am very basic and function is always what wins. Function for me means: not a super fat book, not a carry-all, it's for writing/drawing in the pages, and it has to lay as flat as possible.

I finally bit the bullet and made the little changes to my TN:

  • Put something on the closure string
  • Cut off that bead!!
  • Insert two bookmarks instead of one
  • Move the closure cord to the spine

I wasn't sure if this was all going to work out, but thankfully it did!

Collage of 3 photos of different views of a modified traveler's company notebook cover, showing the front (closure elastic across cover), back, and front (closure elastic undone). The notebook is camel brown coloured leather, with a light brown elastic closure cord. The elastic closure also has a wooden ring hanging from it. A fountain pen with a brown cap and jade coloured body is paired with the notebook.

Pen in photo is a Manaslu from Jeb's Pens with a gold tone jowo B nib! MATCHY!!

My "charm"

My cover is scuffed up not because I carry it around, but rather, because of a short stint with some brass charms/tassels that I had on here, as well as some metal dangles on the bookmark strings. This notebook cover has BARELY been used.

I removed all of the metal charms/dangles NOT because of them scuffing up the cover (I don't care!) but rather, I don't like the sound of metal hitting things (e.g., when I put the notebook down on any hard surface, it would make clacking or jingle noise). While I don't care much about scuffing up the cover, I do care a bit more about metal scraping up against my writing surfaces—it means I'd have to be more careful about where I put the notebook down! Sometimes metal charm/dangles got trapped underneath my notebook and I'd have to pull it out while writing. Long story short, I got rid of everything metal and opted for an old ring made out of bent woods and some mysterious material. It's very lightweight and round, so doesn't make too much noise or scuff other things up. By chance, the colour scheme of the ring matches super well with the camel cover, elastic cord, and the off-white bookmarks I added! MATCHY!

No more bead/clasp

The original TN has a metal crimp/clasp/bead in the top left of the notebook. It holds the elastic knots in place and keeps them out of sight. This means that the notebook doesn't quite lay flat at the top of the spine and there are also metal scrapping possibilities against your writing surface.

I finally cut it off. Cutting it off meant that I didn't have enough elastic to string it the way it was originally, so I strung it a different way (reverse-ish), which still works for my purposes (I don't have a super stuffed notebook system). Instead of tying knots on the inside, I tied the elastics on the top/bottom, facing the outside. The spine still lays pretty flat, so I'm happy!

Photo collage of the front and back of the traveler's notebook cover, with a fountain pen resting next to the cover, on the right. This photo shows how the elastic was knotted on the exterior of the cover.

Two bookmarks

An easy add. I had leftover waxed linen thread from my bookbinding! I tied 2 loose strings together at the top and then threaded it through one of the top elastic loops. It stays in place just fine. The waxed thread gives it some stiffness, so it tends to want to lay straighter against a page, which is what you want a bookmark to do.

Photo close-up of the elastic knot on the exterior side of the traveler's notebook, showing a white linen thread fitted through the knot, which acts as 2 bookmarks

Move closure string to the spine

The original TN has a hole in the backcover for the closure string to be knotted through. This meant that there was a "bump" from the knots that could be felt if I was writing on the right side of the book. DO NOT WANT!

I used an awl and screwdrivers to create a hole into the spine. I covered the original hole on the outside of the cover, with a round washi sticker.

Photo collage of the front and back of the traveler's notebook cover. This photo shows how the backcover's elastic closure was moved to the spine.

I also repurposed an old metal fold-over "crimp" to keep the elastics in place without a knot (to further reduce the bump).

Photo collage of the interior side of the notebook cover. It shows how a metal crimp was used to keep the elastic closure in place without a knot.

What's inside?

I started with a moleskine cahier, cut down to A5 slim size. Quickly realized it made all my FP inks look horrid. OBSERVE:

Photo collage of the moleskine cahier notebook cut down to A5 slim size. One shot shows the exterior of the notebook's cover, decorated with stamps and a drawing of a sad Sally. The other shot shows the interior cream coloured grid paper, with horrible looking fountain pen ink writing.

Offensive! Completely unacceptable!!

So I made my own notebook out 5mm dot grid printed on HP premium 32lb paper. The cover is of course, another HWA cover leftover, further covered by a ginkgo ecoprint collage paper from StudioPetaBooks. Sorry Jake, there's only so much of your face that I want to see. I used leftover waxed linen thread (also from HWA) for 3-hole pamphlet binding. Notebook lays super flat! FP ink looks OK on this paper, though not as nice as FP specialty papers. What pains me the most is that there's significant paper cut-off to get a half-letter-sized notebook to fit the A5 slim size of a TN.

Photo collage of two notebooks resting inside of the traveler's notebook cover. One notebook has a off-white cover because it was DIY-ed in-house, while the notebook with kraft paper is an official insert from Midori. The DIY notebook has dot grid ruling printed on it and scrap paper pasted on the interior cover to obscure old art that was printed there.

I have another insert that's the official #03 blank insert with white Midori MD paper. It's nice stuff...feels kind of rare since Midori MD paper is primarily available in cream colour. This insert doesn't lay as flat, so maybe I'll pull out the staples some day and rebind it (?) or continue to reverse crease the notebook.

I made my own "clear file folder" insert by cutting down an old plastic folder (with pockets) and taping together 2 pockets with washi tape. The rest of the file folder became a shitajiki/writing board.

Photo collage of a plastic folder insert made out of plastic sleeves and washi tape.

Also made a scrappy insert that primarily serves as a pen loop flap-out that also folds flat. Maybe I can merge the clear file folder with this...hmmm!

Photo collage of four images. The first two photos show a Traveler’s notebook with a piece of folded cardboard jutting out and around the front cover, holding 3 platinum preppy fountain pens (like a sheath). A third photo shows the same cardboard sheath, but with a OPUS88 Omar inside of it instead. The final photo shows the insert pulled out, laying on top of the notebook.

What am I using it for?

Now that I'm officially not a bound to digital work calendar, I'm going to try to use the notebook for work-related writing/brainstorming! We'll see how it goes...

After writing this post it became obvious that I'm very particular about my stationery. I'm glad I got to repurpose a bunch of existing items to make these mods to my TN!

Today's music post: Tout Est Bleu by Âme Strong.

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After my previous fail at exposed spine binding a notebook I decided to try again.

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I watched SeaLemon's tutorial on kettlestitch binding more closely this time. I still messed up the tautness of some of the thread/stitches, but it's OK for now. I regretted not waxing my thread because it was knot-central.

The paper was given to me by a friend, salvaged from a mostly unused pack. Since it was for calligraphy I expected it to hold up pretty well to fountain pen, but I found it to feather and bleed a bit. Might not work as well for double-sided work.

Also tore up some old extra risograph comic pages from Martial Spirit and gluestick-ed them onto the extra HWA comic covers for the cover, haha...

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What will this notebook be used for? I have no idea...

Today's music post: BabopbyeYa by Janelle Monáe. The song gives me Bond-esque vibes and showcases her vocal range wonderfully.

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Last updated April 23 2022!

I have a list of Canadian fountain pen + accessory vendors here.

Notebooks, sketchbooks, paper

Use case Brand Size/model Status
2022 planner Midori MD A5 Notebook light 48 pages
Daily journal Laika Línea A5 blank 80 pages
Commonplace book Mystery brand A5 grid ~? pages used
Creative notebook Dimanche Rule Your Time ~152 pages
HWA 4-panel comics Plenty Steps A5 Info & Sketch BOOK ~16/40 pages used
Scrappy watercolour Seawhite ? William Holman Hunt cover, spiral bound ? ~34/50 pages used
Writing letters Life Via Airmail ?/50
Futzing with inks Sakae Technical Paper A4 Tomoe River 52gsm loose leaf white and cream, handbound to A5/A6 booklets ?

So many books waiting for next round use: Life, Life x Kleid, Maruman Mnemosyne, Kyokuto F.O.B., Monokaki, etc.

Past paper:


Other writing/drawing stuff

Brand Model Notes
Deleter Free Pen holder Use it for dip nibs and even some lino carving cutter heads haha
Tachikawa Nikko G For inks that don't go in my fountain pens
Pentel Energel Infree 0.5 Fast drying ink, apparently
Pentel Fude pocket brush pen and Fude brush pen I've had these forever...
Uni Kuru Toga mechanical pencil 0.5mm Sharp point forever!
Pilot Color Eno 0.7mm Exclusively for erasable blue lead...
Stabilo Left Right mechanical pencil 2mm For fattier lead
Prismacolor Travel sharpener Weirdest stubby cigar shape but it works and keeps shavings contained. Inside looks like a magnesium Kum sharpener
Prismacolor Col Erase in various colours (terra cotta, light green, scarlet red, white, non-photo blue) TBH these are only marginally more erasable, so still looking for better ones

I have so much more than this but this is...the top of the pile.


Book and zine-making

Brand Model Notes
Olfa Small stationery cutter Cut all the paper...
Lineco Bone folder Fold and score all the zines/books!
Durodex 200-DX stack cutter Wai did the research on this and recommended!
Max HD-10V 2-way stapler Industrial design genius, SOOO much better than those huge and heavy long-arm staplers (if your zines are small)
Gruschwitz Bookbinding no. 30/3 linen thread I just switched to this from Lineco bookbinding thread (way more affordable)...

Other favourites

Brand Model Notes
Philips Sonicare BreathRx tongue scaper Life changing!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Backnife Ceramic utility knife Super slim, light, and easy to carry for the times where you need to cut something (also Canadian-owned!)
OK-Bon Compression wraps Magical fabric that endlessly self adheres, but is soft. I use a thin wrap to put around a wrist brace splint for wrist stabilization

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.

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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...!