Commonplace book + DIY cover

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

Cover Image

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...

Cover Image

Last updated October 28 2020!

Notebooks, sketchbooks, paper

Use case Brand Size/model Status
Long term planner and journal Midori MD A5 Notebook diary (2020) ~104/113 lined pages used
Short term planner and desk calendar Midori A5 Flat Diary (2020) ~28/36 pages used
Commonplace book Midori MD A5 notebook gridded ~35/176 pages used
Creative notebook Wai Au ? Shiba Inu cover, cross grid ? ~61/168 pages used
HWA 4-panel comics Plenty Steps A5 Info & Sketch BOOK ~13/40 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: Rhodia, Clairefontaine, Life, Life x Kleid, Maruman Mnemosyne, Delfonics Rollbahn, Laika Línea, Kyokuto F.O.B., Logical Prime, more Midori MDs, etc.


Fountain pens and inks

Brand Model Nib Ink
Lamy Safari (yellow) F Sailor Kobe #21 Taisanji Yellow
Pilot Metropolitan (lizard, bronze) M Waterman Absolute Brown
TWSBI Eco (clear) 1.1mm stub J. Herbin Diabolo Menthe
Platinum Carbon Desk Pen (black, manually cut down) EF Platinum Carbon Black
Opus 88 Omar (yellow) M Lamy Turmaline
Ranga Regular Sugarcane (olive ebonite, matte, eyedropper) Kanwrite flex Diamine Meadow
Pilot Kakuno (green/gray) M Pilot black cartridge
Sailor HighAce Neo Calligraphy 2.0mm Sailor black cartridge
FPR Himalaya v2 GT (Saffron Orange) Ultraflex FPR Royal Flush Blue
FPR Himalaya v2 (Taj Mahal White) 1.0mm stub Not working
Pelikan 400 NN (green striped), vintage/used (1950-1960s) M, 14k gold Diamine Wagner
Pilot Elite 95s (burgundy, Japanese market version) EF, 14k gold Sailor Kobe #27 Kounan Maroon

I also have some other sample tubes that I'll eventually get through. Noodler's eel cactus fruit will eventually be loaded into Pilot Elite 95s,


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 genious, 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!!!!!!!!!!!!!

DIY A6 tomoe river notebook

DIY notebook made with TR paper and leftover cover stock.

Cover Image

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!

Analogue daily journal

Journaling system for anyone looking for inspiration.

Cover Image

I returned to keeping an analogue daily journal in June 2020 (not too long ago) after a few years of break from doing "one line a day" in a 5-year journal. More and more I found myself not remembering what I did even a few hours ago. So my current journal stint is more about capturing mundane happenings.

There are a lot of other journal styles, rationales, etc., but I'm sharing mine below in case anyone else finds it helpful to start their own. I think there are a lot of pros: practice handwriting, deliberate self-reflection/introspection, in-the-moment writing for fleeting thoughts, capturing memories to read back on, getting away from screens and social media, use nice stationery like fountain pens and notebooks, etc.

I have a decent memory when it comes to business/work-related things. Maybe it's because I use all my brain power on those aspects that the more "mundane" day-to-day personal stuff falls through the cracks. When I say "personal" stuff I really mean the smaller stuff that doesn't drive towards a big project (I've improved on my own planning rigour for bigger personal projects, like HWA, HWAnimation, everything Love Love Hill, etc.). Breaking down big projects down into smaller bite-sized chunks is a skill that I've developed in my work-life that I now apply to my personal projects. With that said, my journal is probably 90% "super freeform" and 10% "planner".

One of the key successes to my ability to write everyday is that there is NO FILTER, NO ORGANIZATION! Random fleeting thought? Could be written down. Stupid idea? Can also be written down. Cute packaging you want to keep? Paste it in. I keep the journal OPEN on my desk, ready for writing at any time. Next to the open journal are my fountain pens. Because this is a "do whatever, freetalk" type of journal, I needed a notebook that had a LITTLE bit of structure (some calendars) but otherwise no templates. I didn't know this when I started but the community calls this "stream of consciousness" journaling. There's no longer narrative or theme that is predetermined. I suppose this shouldn't be that surprising given that I redirect a lot of what I'd normally put in a toot and put it in the journal instead.

I find that I'm way more likely to browse through my journal than browse through my digital calendar/notes apps.

This system works quite well right now because I'm primarily homebound because of COVID-19.

The notebook: Midori MD Notebook Diary 2020 (A5)

As previously mentioned, I got this beautiful diary on deep discount because half of 2020 was already over. I'm using A5 size with the cordoba paper cover. You can see how the notebook and paper cover are made. Since the book is mainly sitting on my desktop right now, the paper cover is a nice and subtle/light-weight way to protect the journal itself from food splashes (or whatever else is on my table) and keep a few stickers around.

I kept the covers blank for now, but as usual, the inside cover pages have a bunch of mementos pasted in them. Currently I have washi tape, postal stamp booklet/sheet leftovers, and a cut-out from an Aranzi Aronzo amabie/covid-19 envelope stuck in.

The system: barely any...

Yearly-view: I circle important dates (mainly birthdays)

Monthly-view: I write down birthdays, events, milestones, and/or appointments. The wonderful asymmetrical white space around the calendar gives me freedom to write other random stuff. I'm trying out putting a monthly "to-do" on the left margin, which are things that I should probably get down within a month, but aren't mapped to specific dates/deadlines (other than the end of the month). I keep a magnetic bookmark on the current month. I recently added my OC's birthdays in there too because I forgot they existed (is this a huge nerd move?). Every morning I start by looking at the monthly calendar spread.

This notebook only has the yearly and monthly spreads, and the majority of the rest of the pages are lined (subdivided into 8-sections) and a handful of blank ones at the very end of the book.

On the lined pages immediately following the calendar pages, I have what I would describe as on-going reference that is updated and added to on the fly. I chose categories that I felt I needed extra "write it down to remember" help on, but I imagine that this part is very different for every person's unique needs. Mine includes:

Achievements: things that I've done in my personal life that are worthwhile celebrating. E.g., finishing HWA book 1! Like many creatives, I am hard on myself and tend to think everything I make is garbage. Gotta remember to be objective and relative to my own circumstances.

Staying connected: people I should make an active effort to stay in touch with (this list is incomplete and there are overlapping initials, so I have to revamp this). This list helps me email/snailmail people. Especially important because I don't have birdsite to maintain informal connections.

Projects: making stuff! Some of these are actively incorporated into my "monthly to-do" but some aren't. I treat this as a big idea pool to draw from if I want a change of pace. E.g., HWA comic, HWAnimation, etc.

Reading/watching/listening: I'm notoriously terrible at consuming media, so I've come up with 4-ish themes to learn more about, such as AOAR, healthcare, design/creativity, comics/zines/etc. When people recommend things to me, I write them here.

Posts: sometimes I write things in my journal that could be expanded into bigger freetalk posts to share with others, e.g., this post about journaling!

Fun facts: these are mostly animal-facts from my research clickholes, but to call them "fun" is a misnomer. Some of the current facts that are here are actually quite morbid, e.g., the marsupial mouse male usually dies of exhaustion from mating.

Fountain pen ink and tests: whenever I get a new fountain pen or ink, I write a few test lines in here. This is representative of my current line-up (and hopefully it doesn't grow beyond this).

After those general pages, I have the freeform daily journal parts. The lined pages are subdivided into 8 sections because one other way to use to use those pages is to use each section for a day of the week. I just use an entire page (or two) for a day. My freetalk can't be contained!!!!!!!

I added page numbers to ONLY the daily pages for now. I also try to alternate between ink colours for writing. The notebook's existing ribbon bookmark is used for the current date's "entry".

These entries in the photo above aren't particularly private (I'm writing about my fountain pen/ink). At the beginning I tried to keep it neat but the thing with my handwriting (and writing throughout the day in spurts, rather than in one-sitting) is that my handwriting completely changes. TBH my handwriting even changes in one-sitting writing sessions too. Anyway, the main point is that I moved from writing ON the line to IN BETWEEN the lines and I feel like I like that better.

I'm also trying to loosen my grip and that inherently makes my writing looser and more abstract. I suppose that's fine since nobody should reallllyyyy be able to read my garbage anyway!

I've already found it helpful to flip back and browse what I've written; I'm enjoying my time with this!

This journal is also paired with my creative journal for everything comic/HWA related. This shiba notebook has Wai's art on the cover. It isn't fountain pen friendly so I use the thinnest nib and lightest ink that I have and it is ok :). Maybe I'll write about that journal in a different post.

Looking ahead to 2021

For 2021 I was going to get the MD Notebook diary thin (A5, grid), but since I was already booking dates into 2021 and didn't want to wait...I took a MD Notebook light (A5, grid) and manually drew in the calendars. The layout is heavily inspired by the MD notebooks so I take no credit. I messed up a bunch of the grids, but oh well! I do find that the grey lines in the 2020 non-thin MD notebook diary screams "ONLY WRITE" when I hope to do a mix of everything later on. The light blue grid feels less writey-write-only so far. I slipped it into an Aranzi Aronzo smart jacket that I love. The original notebook that came with the jacket wasn't fountain pen friendly, so now I get the best of both worlds!

My thought was that I actually want to have the calendar around all the time, but I don't need a year's worth of journal entries around with me all the time? I'm considering a 3-thinner-notebook system (in a traveller style cover). 1 notebook is the calendar, 1 notebook is a subset of journal entries, and 1 notebook is all the creative/comic stuff. It might be too much segregation, which is 100% not how I did things last year, but we'll see. SO MANY POSSIBILITIES to explore different systems, which I think is pretty fun! When we're allowed to go outside again (in a more carefree way) I 100% know that I will not want to carry TWO thick books with me!

Today's music rec: Mad Woman by Estyr, a Toronto musician recommended to me by Bea!

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...!

Stationery haul: Midori MD, Platinum carbon black desk pen, J. Herbin Diabolo Menthe, Diamine Meadow

Also a list of Canadian fountain pen-friendly stores at the end.

Cover Image

I get really into product research, especially before a purchase. It doesn't even have to be a significant $ purchase...but I'll still spend 10-40h+++++ looking around, making sure I know ALL the options, am supporting the BEST shop, and am investing in the BEST thing. Oftentimes I don't find exactly what I want and I default to the easiest option instead...

This time, the topic of my research fervor were fountain pens (FP) and fountain pen-friendly paper/journals (to a lesser degree, inks). The reason for this is because I made a decision to get back into journaling. At work I've nearly moved to full digital to save on paper and print outs. In my personal life I'm a mix of both. For a few years I maintained a 5-year journal but I travelled a lot and carrying this giant thing around was unideal for a minimalist packer. I abandoned it 3.5 years in because it became incomprehensible. Also the paper was not FP friendly. What I did like about it was that it had limited space for every day so it was a very easy task to write a sentence or two.

I actually don't remember when I got my first fountain pen; it quite a few years ago. It's a Safari Lamy (fine) in yellow. After that I got a Pilot Metropolitan (medium) and V-pen. These are all what the "community" would describe as "beginner pens" but I'm honestly quite satisfied with them! Don't have to be too precious. I love the feedback that fountain pen nib gives you on paper, as well as the idea of not chucking disposable plastic pen bodies into the waste, because you can refill fountain pens (I use converters/piston/syringe). After all those I also got some Platinum Preppys and a TSWBI Eco clear (stub). Many people who get one fountain pen end up with many more because it opens up a whole new world of drawing/writing in whatever colour you want.

Although I was enjoying my fountain pens, the Moleskine I was using at the time was really bad for it. After I moved on to Leuchtturm1917 it got a little better, but still significant bleed through with the wet inks I had (I have an entry about my Leuchtturm). Then I got a blank Traveler's Notebook insert, which has Midori MD paper. WOW!!! GAMEEEEEEEEEE CHANGER!!!!!!!!!! My beef with the Traveler's Notebook (TN) was that its regular sized TN system is slim A5, and I prefer full A5. So the hunt continues.

Luckily Midori uses their Midori MD paper in A5 size (and others) to make notebooks beyond the Traveler's Notebook brand. I hope you all take some time to browse Midori MD's website because it's Japanese minimalism at its finest. Their craft page in particular gives you a behind the scene look at how they make their products, which really appeals to my love for artisanal products.

The other product that came up on my radar was Tomoe River paper, which is known to be in Hobonichi Techo (daily/weekly planners). All reviews mentioned that while it is VERY nice to write on, it was very see-through (though they have both 52gsm and 68gsm weights now), the ink takes longer to dry, and it's harder to find/more expensive. It's known to be the best paper to show off fountain pen inks with sheen in them!

For now I decided to get Midori MD Notebook Diary (A5) because they actually had suppliers readily in Canada with stock. What attracted me to Midori MD books was how clean it was, lay-flat, amazing white space around the calendar, and FP-friendliness. It also has covers and notebooks in sizes that are cross compatible with other brands. Since it's halfway through 2020 I got a DEEP DISCOUNT on this 2020 planner ;)

I also got a Platinum carbon black desk pen [EF]. I wanted this for waterproof ink and assume that the fountain pen feed is optimized to take pigmented ink. I thought it was going to be REALLY EF but I've used 0.05 pigment liners before so this didn't feel that extra fine to me. I feel reassured that a steel nib is more reliable than the pigment liners tips though! The EF nib definitely has more feedback, so I'll have to get used to it. Now I can really phase out my fineliners and write on envelopes!

Also got 2 new inks to round out my warmer ink collection (not shown: Noodler's cactus red). This includes J. Herbin Diabolo Menthe and Diamine Meadow. I don't have any consistent brands!

Shortly after I took a cutter to the pen and cut it down to length. Now the cap posts properly. Maybe it's slightly too short now??? Good thing I have small hands, haha.

During my research I uncovered several new online Canadian stationery stores that I didn't know about. I always try to avoid evilRiver website. The list is below!

Canadian online stores for fountain pen, ink, and/or paper

Please note that I don't have personal experience with all of these shops (^ means I have). A bunch of them were brick and mortar only, but were forced to go online with COVID-19. Please support local if you can!

BC

Alberta

Saskatchewan

Manitoba

Ontario

Quebec

The Maritimes

Pen shows

Today's music post: Bloodywood - Machi Bhasad (Expect a Riot). Bloodywood is a metal band from New Delhi, India. I enjoy the cultural mix of sounds/instruments and visuals! Their new and original releases are quite wholesome with regards to their messaging, and they've paired philanthropy with the releases as well. You can support their Patreon!