Notebook Design: Version 1

I finished my first round of notebooks, and I've got to say that I'm impressed. It turned out better than I had hoped. I tend to be pessimistic about the future, so when the it actually becomes current, I'm consistently find myself pleasantly surprised. I should note that Version 1 will look different from subsequent versions because this first attempt was meant as more of a trial run rather than a sellable commodity.

In specific, the production of the Version 1 notebooks was meant to:

  • Get rid of scrap paper.
  • Trial run new equipment.
  • Test run the production of a notebook.

I feel fairly confident in most of the equipment other than the printer, and I know for sure that I need to upgrade my corner puncher and buy a paper folder.

Design and Discussion

Without further ado, here is a small sample of my Version 1 notebooks.

Pretty, right?

I used leftover pastel colored card stock from a previous project. There are four different colors: red, gray, green, and yellow. If I decide to use this color scheme in the future, I will probably sell them in a pack with one of each.

Dotted Paper

For this first project, I decided to make only dotted notebooks because they are my favorite. However, when I make Version 2, I'll make lined, blank, and dotted notebooks. I don't plan on making grid notebooks because I think that the dotted notebooks are just as good and much more versatile for making tables and charts. I also intend to make isodot and hex dot notebooks as well (for all you organic chemists and DnD players out there.)

dotted notebook
Look at all the blue dots!

The grid spacing of the dotted paper was made with the default 5mm spacing. However, I decided to use light blue dots instead of black because I find the color unobstrusive and visually pleasing. In addition, these dots can be filtered out of a scanned paper (considering you don't use blue ink.)

Rounded Corners

rounded corners
Decent but could be better.

When cutting the corners, I had to be a little attentive especially when using a cheaper paper corner cutter. However, when looking at the corners up close, they seem to line up fairly consistently. Personally, I would not mind selling this specific notebook just the way it is. My biggest gripe—and its a huge one—is how long it takes to punch out the corners. With the current corner punch, I can only punch 5 pages at a time. It's time consuming, and slows my notebook making process almost to a grinding halt. I intend to upgrade my system soon.

Staddle Stapled

notebook layed out flat
All that margin space is useful for notetaking.

I like how the notebook can be layed out flat, and there is clearly enough space to write in the inner margins. You can't do that with perfect bound notebooks.

consistent staples
The more consistent, the easier it is to coptic bind.

Just like the paper corner cutter, I have to be careful when using the booklet stapler. However, once you get the hang of it, the results are very consistent as seen above.

Further Thoughts and Reflections

Overall, I am very impressed with the final products of these notebooks. I was expecting it to look less professional, but it looks... actually sellable!

Efficiency and Paper Waste

One thing that I've noticed about making these notebooks is how much paper waste there is. Using this method, I would waste at minimum 1/10 of all the paper I use.

\[ \eta_{b}=100-\frac{A_{u}-A_{c}}{A_{u}}*100\]

\[ \eta_{b}=100-\frac{46.75\,in^{2}-(41.25\,in^{2}-0.017in^{2})}{46.75\,in^{2}}*100\]

\[ \eta_{b} \approx 88.2\%\]

Where \(\eta_{b}\) is notebook efficiency, \(A_{u}\) is the page area of an uncut notebook using US letter paper folded in half (8.50in X 5.50in), and \(A_{c}\) is the page area of a popular cut A5 notebook (5.00in X 8.25in). The equation above includes the 2 rounded corners from the top and bottom of the page which would decrease the total area of the cut notebook (\(A_{c}\)) by \(0.017\,in^{2}\).

Note: This calculation does not include creep factor because the value would change depending on number of pages and page thickness. However, it's value is not negligable in calculating \(\eta_{b}\) and would further reduce the efficiency from 0.5% to all the way up to 2%.

Losing more than 10% of my material everytime I make a notebook is something I cannot ignore. It's a waste of resources which is bad economically and ecologically. Yet, I'm not sure if this problem can be fixed because I need to trim the top edge, bottom edge, and fore edge in order to make them flush. I've thought about making custom sizes, but I want the notebook to be compatible with existing notebook accessories out there.


In terms of equipment, I've had some minor problems getting consistent cuts.

Paper Guillotine

I've only had the paper guillotine for several weeks and was expecting to tune and calibrate the cutting machine, but it seems to cut tried and true straight out of the box. However, the markings on the platform are not precise, so I have to premeasure the cut line from now on. I'm not complaining. It does cut paper very well, and considering the price, I never expected this cutting edge technology to be... well... cutting edge technology. (My apologies for the corny joke.)

For my booklet stapler, anything over 20 pieces of paper would be too much—even 20 is pushing it. It's not like the stapler can't punch through more sheets, but rather, there is not enough bite for the inner papers to stay inside the booklet after normal use and abuse throughout it's lifetime. If I continue to use this stapler, I will need to reduce amount of paper to maybe 15 or so. I want pages of the notebook to be a nice rounded number, so I'm limited to how many pages are used.

Problems with Corner Punch

I got the corner punch on sale at a craft store when I went to buy twist locks an old leather briefcase I am restoring. The punch is mediocre at best. There is too much margin for error, so I have to be very very attentive to make sure that it cuts correctly.


I'm still trying to understand Tuvak, my Epson ET-2750 printer. I love the tank system that many Epson printers use (which saves on ink), but Epson printers (especially newer Epson printers) are still is not completely compatible with Linux systems. During this first major printing job, I encountered some technical software problems. Also, the dotted paper does not always line up correctly when folding.

Paper Quality

Of course, the quality of the paper was pretty bad especially with juicier pens like fountain pens and rollerball pens. When using these types of pens, the paper feathers and ghosts very badly.

notebook feathering
I used a Pilot Precise V5 to make this flowchart.

On the plus side, I don't use fountain pens or rollerball pens very often. I'm more of a gel pen, mechanical pencil, or ball point pen type of person. However, if I do plan to sell notebooks online in the nearby future, I need to try to find some type of paper that is somewhat fountain pen friendly.

Last Thoughts

Now I have around 50 notebooks to fill up. I would say it will take around 8 months to finish. After I finish three notebooks, I will go onto the next stage of archiving them (by scanning) and begin to coptic bind them in preperation for Phase 2.

(By the way, I am thinking about possibly getting a Bookbinders Certificate License. I'll let you know if I actually follow through with it.)

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