Traveler's notebook inserts and others

Making endless inserts and accessories for my Traveler's Notebook (TN) but not actually taking it outside anywhere.

I'm back again with more Traveler's notebook (TN) mods. Maybe this is what it's like to work on a car in the garage but never drive it.

As seen in a previous post, I had this green painted cardboard thing, but the texture of the dried paint was extremely unpleasant to my hands, so I got rid of it. The 021 Connecting Rubber Bands were a bit bulky in the middle of the notebooks (if carrying 2).

After staring at my many notebook covers, I decided to make one for the TN, to sleeve in 2 TN-sized notebooks on either flap. As always, I'm using left over cardstock originally for HWA covers HAHA. The ginkgo ecoprint papers are from StudioPetaBooks, and washi tape is my very last pieces from a design by Wai. The fit of the DIY paper cover over the regular sized TN notebooks is VERY snug but otherwise this works pretty well.

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I put a little notch in the top/bottom centre of the paper cover for the single built-in elastic band of the TN cover to fit through.

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This design means that I don't have the holder for fountain pens anymore. Something to figure out later...

Fun fact: I wrote draft 1 of 4⭐Town 4⭐Real in two TN sized notebooks! White Midori MD paper is a treat and shows off FP ink shading so well.


On the opposite spectrum of aesthetics, I was also looking for more ways to repurpose my old risograph print. I previously made strange paper weave art with some of it and it now hangs on my wall.

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This time I used them to make 4 notebook covers for 2 paper stocks: Kobeha Graphilo and Cosmo Air Light. I painted over parts with Platinum carbon black ink. Then I used 3-hole pamphlet stitch using leftover threads from HWA book binding. It felt nice to maximize what leftovers I had.

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I also cut a bunch of the risograph into smaller bits to make business cards for the recent TCAF. Also thanks to everyone who got books through TCAF's digital marketplace; we're preparing books now. The last of what we have is up at the webstore (open until August 31, 2022).

I am very behind on my paper tasting posts, but I have done a lot of tasting!

Paper tasting so far:

  • Jan - Feb was NTU Press Bookstore A5 blank notebook
  • Mar-May was Kleid 2mm grid notebook
  • Jun-Aug was Nakabayashi's Logical Air Swing 5mm grid notebook

Sep-Oct was Apica CD11 A5 size with line ruling!

Photo of a notebook with black tape binding and textured mustard yellow cover, with gold foil.

I got one with a mustard yellow textured cover. The binding is thread stitched!

Photo of two papers from two  different notebooks laid side by side to show paper colour. Left is Apica CD11 with ruled whiter paper; right is Midori MD with gridded cream paper.

I think the paper is a bit more opaque and white-toned than Midori MD.

Photo of several fountain pen inks, written on the interior page of Apica CD 11 notebook.

Photo of several fountain pen inks, written on the interior page of Apica CD 11 notebook.

I think most FP inks worked quite well on this. Some of my italics didn't write well unless at a certain angle—maybe the paper has some coating on it. It's one of the more common and affordable japanese FP-friendly notebooks that you can find in North America, I think?

Nov-Dec paper tasting is Logical Prime grid!

Today's music post: Mother Nature (live) by Angelique Kidjo.

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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Done one journal/notebook insert, so time for new paper tasting! Still using the traveller style cover for 2 notebooks: planner and journal.

Thoughts on the system so far

I've been marking down key events on the calendar view. I also track when I publish a post and what media I engaged with too. After the month is over, I write a short reflection on the right hand side. In some ways the calendar view will serve as a table of contents for the journal entries...?

photo of a planner spread, showing the month of february

Good! I like having a dedicated book for the planner part, and another dedicated book for the journal part. I wasn't sure this habit tracker would be relevant but it has at least two benefits:

  • Tracking what I've done, and when, as a method of recall and reminder
  • Great excuse to get inks flowing in my pens

photo of a dot-based habit tracking system. The habits are in the top row, while the days are on the left column

My pen writing rotation is like 2 weeks long now. I can't help but want at least 1 pen per ROYGBIV colour, and then there are the pens that I only use for waterproof occasions (that I don't actually journal with). 2 separate slimmer notebooks/inserts also means that my hand doesn't ever get to the edge of a page/book and I have to do the slightly uncomfortable/brief "hover" (where there is a large "step" between your notebook height and the table/working surface). I thought that I could potentially be annoyed by the elastic system (sometimes it feels looser than it should be) but it's not a deal breaker.

Outgoing journal: NTU Press Bookstore A5 notebook

I filled this one with journal entries for January - February.

photo collage of several journal spreads, written in colourful ink

There are a few problematic inks, but those inks tend to be problematic on various higher quality papers that I have:

  • always Sailor Kobe kounan maroon
  • sometimes Noodler's Eel cactus fruit
  • sometimes FPR royal flush blue

Otherwise I like that the paper absorbs the ink quickly, though at the expense of sheen. I don't care as much about sheen as I do about shading! I'm swapping this insert out for the one below.

Incoming journal: Kleid 2mm grid notes A5, 2mm grid

I thought I'd use something with some ruling this time because of how crooked I wrote in the other one/ These ones use OK Fools paper, which according to the maker...

OK Fools was the first Fool's Cap paper produced in Japan by Ohtori Paper. In Japan, the term "Fools Paper" has long been used to refer to high-end writing paper. British Fool's Cap paper was first imported into Japan in the late 1800s. The popular Japanese version was produced at the Oji Ogura Factory, where the name OK comes from. While the current iteration is being made by Nippon Paper Industries' Yatsushiro Factory, they have kept the OK name for brand recognition.

I have the one with the blue cover. The cover itself also has the 2mm grid pattern printed in light blue ink, and there's some silver stamp foil in the bottom. There's also an informational belly band (is it still a belly band if it runs vertical?) that is removable.

Photo collage of the cover of the Kleid navy blue notebook with 2mm grid pattern printed on top.

  • 32 sheets / 64 pages
  • 2mm graph paper
  • white paper
  • side-sewn bound

The grid pattern itself is very small and I wouldn't say it looks visually obtrusive, but some it does seem to resist water-based fountain pen inks, so if you were writing really small, the grid might break up your writing. I'm personally not sure what I would use a 2mm grid for, that I can't achieve in a bigger grid, but I mainly just write or doodle freeform.

photo collage of the interior paper found in the Kleid notebook

When held up to the light, the paper also has some regular columnar watermark and another emblem (probably some manufacturer logo?) that appears in different spots, depending on where the page was cut.

Photo of the Kleid notebook's 2mm grid and paper, on top of a midori MD notebook 5mm grid cream paper

As anticipated, all the inks did good, aside from the usual suspects (already listed above). I think the shading is fine, but maybe sheen feels less obvious than some other papers I've used.

Photo of pen and ink tests on the final page of the Kleid notebook Annotated photo showing the backside of a page where pen and ink tests were done the final page of the Kleid notebook Photo collage of close-up shots of pen and ink tests Photo of close-ups of pen and ink tests

For an ink that's more expensive, I'm surprised that Sailor Kobe kounan maroon feathers and bleeds through on so many of my higher quality papers (using EF nib). I finally finished my sample and am quite please to be RID OF IT.

Photo of pen and ink tests

I found a new favourite pangram:

Two driven jocks help fax my big quiz.

I like to imagine Jake and Austin trying to use a fax machine on my behalf.

After using the 2mm grid for a bit, I have to say that I'm not a fan, primarily because when I'm writing fast, I can't "track" what line I'm currently on and how much line spacing to use when moving to a new line (line break). The paper is otherwise quite nice!

Today's music post: Unspoken by Moderator.

Planner and paper tasting kick-off for 2021

Midori MD planner and NTU notebook

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I talked about this in passing in my analogue daily journal post, but I added a few more things to round out the system, after using the other journal/planner combo for a few months.

Planner: Midori MD Notebook Light, A5, grid ruling

Midori MD Notebook light (grid) serves as the planner for the year, with monthly view spreads. I've put it inside an Aranzi Aronzo notebook jacket. There's 1 spread for the year, then 13 spreads for each month (Jan-Dec 2021 + Jan 2022). I drew a different little plant icon on the corner of every monthly spread.

Photo collage of 2 notebooks on a grey desk. The left-hand notebook is a Midori MD Light Note book in A5 size with grid ruling. It is slipped into an Aranzi Aronzo notebook jacket that has an integrated zipper pocket. The jacket is light tealed in colour, with dark brown cartoon animals printed on the front. Collage mainly shows the hand-drawn yearly and monthly calendar interiors of the Midori MD notebook, which I'm using as a planner. The right-hand notebook is a brown kraft covered one from NTU.

I added a few pages for projects, media, achievements, and a loose habit tracker.

Photo collage showing the interior spreads of the Midori MD Notebook planner with grid ruling Spreads shown include- projects, media, achievements, and a loose habit tracker.

I'm doing fountain pen "paper tasting" for 2021, meaning I'm going to journal in separate and different lower-page count notebooks, every 2 months or so. The first one to go is...

Journal: NTU Press Bookstore 臺大出版中心校史館書店 notebook, A5, no ruling

The National Taiwanese University Press Bookstore (Pinkoi storefront) has branded stationery, including fountain pens, notebooks, and more. This also includes the Taiwanese-designed Take a Note planner that uses Tomoe River 68gsm paper that I've only seen places like Shigure Inks stock in North America. The planner design won a Good Design award in 2017.

I got some of their basic sewn brown kraft notebooks that were marketed as being suitable for fountain pens.

Photo of 2 brown kraft paper notebooks with NTU (National Taiwan University) branding on the front cover. Covers are plain and minimal, other than the University's name printed in small font on the covers.

Pages are blank/unruled, 米道林(楓林紙) 100gsm paper, 64 pages total. The paper isn't white, more like a cream stock (comparable to the colour of midori MD, perhaps a tad lighter).

Photo collage of fountain pen ink tests on an interior page of the NTU cover. The left-image shows consecutive rows of handwriting, done in different coloured inks. The right-image shows the back-side of the page that was written to, to show that there is minmal ink bleedthrough (only when there was flex nib used, or certain inks used)

Most of my inks did fine on the paper. The ones that feathered and bled were Sailor Kobe Kounan Maroon, Platinum Carbon Black, and J. Herbin Emeraude de Chivor. FPR Royal Flush Blue was also a bit more prone to feathering, but not in a significant way (to me).

Close-up photo of fountain pen ink handwriting, using flex nib/applying pressure on the nib.

Pushing down on the nib with "flex" also caused the ink to selectively feather and bleed through on some other inks.

Close-up photo of fountain pen ink handwriting

Close-up photo of fountain pen ink handwriting

Compared to Midori MD and Tomoe River, shading on this paper feels slightly flatter for some inks. There is practically no pink sheen in FPR Royal Flush Blue here, and Lamy Turmaline shows very minor pink/purple sheen. Overall I find that inks appear brighter/lighter in appearance, much like they would on regular printer paper.

Close-up photo of fountain pen ink handwriting

Overall, I think it's a solid performer! Dry time seems good too, at least good enough that I don't even think about it.

Close-up photo of fountain pen ink handwriting

I bought some cute illustrated and perforated calendar sheets that I can paste into my journal. I might try to experiment with a bit more collage for this journal. Sometimes when the paper is expensive and optimized for FP ink I feel like I have to maximize all surface area for the ink, and not paste anything into it.

Photo collage of a dark brown leather traveler's style notebook in A5 size, which serves to hold the 2 notebooks mentioned in this post, together. The photo also shows a few fountain pens, a roll of dot-washi-tape stickers, and perforated date rectangles.

I also have this daily chinese calendar for FUN. I'm into this aesthetic sometimes; I was close to getting a chinese almanac, Tung Shing/通勝 for the year too. I wouldn't say that I'm particular about fengshui, astrology, or auspicious dates, but I wish I knew how to read the bottom part.

Photo of a traditional looking one-page-a-day chinese calendar, bound at the top with screws.

Today's music post: A compilation of Jane Zhang's (张靓颖) cover/rearrangement performances from the TV show Sound of my Dream (梦想的声音).