Updates MWF

Bolted Down Handle of Paper Guillotine

"I've owned and used my HFS 12"" Heavy Duty Paper Guillotine for a little over a month now, and I have to say that I'm impressed. I was a little worried from the bad reviews—oil stains, slanted cuts, dull blades... but so far, I haven't had any problems.

It's all about tolerances. Whenever you get a piece of machinery, don't push it to its limits. If it can cut up to 400 pages, don't try to cut the 400 sheets of paper on it every day. It will eventually buckle and fail. Personally, I only use it to cut 150 pages at a time, max.

I love the paper cutter. It has a small toolbox where you store all your screw drivers and extra bolts, a smooth and even cutting action, and a solid, heavy frame with rubber feet. In short, it's awesome.

However, there has been one thing that fustrates me, and it fustrates a lot of reviewers too. Inside the vice handle, there is a small piece of plastic that holds the rubber grip in place, similar to a two-piece shaft collar. Sometimes, when I am too enthusiastic in unclamping my booklets, the rubber grip comes loose, and the two pieces of plastic fly everywhere.

Well, I finally lost one—Yes, bummer—but it was inevitable. I don't know why they designed the paper guillotine that way, but it seems like a temporary fix instead of a permanent solution.

Here is one of the two pieces. I lost the other one.

As a result, I finally jumped the gun and bolted the handle down using a screw. I used the smallest drill bit I could find and drilled a hole in the metal bar, slowly increasing the drill bit until the hole was the right diameter. Even then, the metal bar was too tough for the screw's teeth to bite onto. But that's not something that a quick blow of a hammer can't fix.

Anyways, here is the final result:

The wide inside diameter makes the washer droop, but the screw is dead center.

It's not perfect—far from it—but the rubber grip rotates even more freely and is attached rock solid. If I were to do this gain, I would spend the time to tap-and-die the hole so the screw would fit like butter. I would have also put some silicon lube prior to reattaching the rubber handle.

Now, the paper guillotine works perfectly. Awesome.

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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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Three Types of Stapled Notebooks

I've been thinking about what sized of stapled notebooks I should make, and after further thought, I've decided to focus on three main sizes.

  1. A5 style notebooks (5"[127mm] by 8.25"[210mm]).
  2. Narrow Notebooks (4.33″[110 mm] x 8.25″[210 mm]).
  3. Pocket Notebooks (3.5"[89mm] x 5.5"[140mm]).

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Coffee Shop Critique List - Pt.1

an overview

I started working on my coffee shop criteria list, and like usual, I underestimated how much work goes into this simple project. Therefore, I've decided to upload my work in small chunks rather than showing a finished version at once

I searched online for what is a good coffee shop, and after discussing it with my brother MJ, a coffee shop visiting addict, I think I've covered the broad strokes of a good coffee shop. Here is a step-by-step flowchart of this project from beginning to the end (or at least till Version 1).

graph TD subgraph Development Stage A[Basic Criteria List] --> B[Detailed Descriptions] B --> C[Scaled Rubric] C --> D[Non-Formatted Sheet] end subgraph Testing Phase D --> F[Test Run 1] F -->|Add Missing Criteria|G[Test Run 2] G -->|Balance Criteria and Rubric Values|H[Test Run 2] H -->|User Feedback|I[Test Run 3] end subgraph Version 1 I -->|Last Minute Adjustments and Aesthetic Changes| J[Version 1 Completed] J --> K[Official Dynamic Sheet] J --> X[Official Formatted Sheet] K --> Z[Begin Judging Coffee Shops] X --> Z end

Upcoming Posts

As the project continues along, I will post periodic updates. Note that this is the developement phase so some of the values and wordings will change as the project continues.

  • Basic Critique List of Coffee Shop
  • Detailed Description
    • Atmosphere
    • Coffee Quality
    • Convenience
    • Personal
    • Bonuses & Docks
  • Rubrics
  • Unformatted Rubric Sheet
  • Formatted Rubric Sheet
  • Dynamic Rubric Sheet

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project cooking

Intro to Cooking

a haphazard attempt to make food

On my commute back from church, I visited an estate sale in San Bruno. The house was in an upper-middle class neighborhood. Shelves were packed with odd knick knacks including two black and white TVs, several iron-on Boy Scout Patches, and a wide array of cooking ware. In the downstairs garage, all of the hand tools and power tools were put up for sale.

One side of the kitchen wall was completely covered with shelves and shelves of cookbooks. There were hundreds of cookbooks ranging all the way back to the 40s. While perusing the cookbooks, a nice older lady in her 60s asked me if I was looking for anything in particular. I told her that I gave always wanted to improve my cooking skills and was looking for beginner books. She enthusiastically showed me some of her favorite cookbooks.

"Everytime I travel, I buy a cookbook as a souvenir. See this book?" It was a Greek cookbook. "I purchased this when I visited Thessaloniki!"

I felt a little guilty buying books that she spent years, decades, collecting.

I picked up one of the books that stood out from the rest. It was tattered. A navy-blue hardcover book with pages were falling off. It was obvious that the book was worn from constant use. The front cover as spattered with oil, the front cover was holding on by a thread, and the once embossed golden lettering were now illegible. Opening it, I saw handwritten newspaper clippings and notes. The lady looked surprised when I took it out of the bookshelf. "Oh, I'm sorry. That cookbook is not for sale. That was the cookbook my mother used when she got married."

In the end, I bought some of the newer looking cookbooks. Ones with pictures and simple recipes. I paid the person attending the cash box, her son.

I left with three cookbooks and a pair of vintage headphones.

I never met her husband. Often Zhan - Journal Date 4/22/18

I've never been good at cooking. It just feels weird. I've met so many people who tell me, "Food tastes so much better when you cook it yourself." And yet, I've felt the exact opposite. The food just tastes... weird. I have seven reasons why:

  1. I suck at cooking.
  2. I nibble on all the ingredients as I cook the food so by the time I'm done cooking, I'm already full.
  3. I think too much about how to improve the recipe, dish, and cooking technique.
  4. I'm overwhelmed by the smell, flavor, and taste of the food while cooking that it loses it's impact when eating.
  5. My cooking sucks.
  6. I usually cook using leftover ingredients which may impact the overall flavor.
  7. My culinary skills are so absent to what is expected of a young male adult in his late 20s that it has created an vacuum in space left by its lack of existence.
  8. I find Gogurt™ to be an essential ingredient in all cooking, no matter the dish. NO MATTER THE DISH!

My relatives have tried to teach me, but only as an afterthought. They would say, "Ten, come over here and watch me cook." Their directions were never consistent: They never used a cookbook; They never followed a recipe; They never use the same ingredients for the SAME DISH... (I talk more about this particular fustration in my About Me page.)

It was not until later on in life that I began to appreciate the importance of cooking. Not just financial and practical reasons, either. Food is at the center of my Filipino heritage. The dining room table was always in the same room as the kitchen, and every major family event—every important conversation—I've ever had was in the kitchen. Without a doubt, the kitchen was the central hub of the house. Apart from my bedroom, I've probably spent more time in the kitchen than in any other room in my house, and I don't even cook.

A couple of years past, I wrote in my journal that I wanted to learn how to cook someday, but I've decided to not push this future goal to the side and tackle the issue now. Here are several reasons why:

  • I have more free time.
  • I want to have more control over what ingredients are in my food.
  • It's economically cheaper to cook my own food.
  • I want to get into food photography.

However, I've found that learning how to cook is an uphill battle. There are so many types of cultural foods, techniques, cooking styles, and recipes. Where do I start?

Setting My Boundaries

Since I am starting off from basically scratch, I began by limiting to specific requirements:

  • Straightforward, simple, and fast cooking.
  • Essential Dishes (Dishes I would cook often and eat everyday.)
  • Healthy Yet Flavorful
  • Cheap

As my limiting requirements began to increase, my strategy began to emerge naturally on its own. After much deliberation, I've finally developed a rough strategy on how to become a better cook.

Often's Plan to Be the Iron Home Chef:

I will take notes before, during, and after cooking. Before cooking, I will have a detailed description of my procedure and ingredients. While cooking, I will write anecdotal notes, musings, areas of improvement, and areas of future study. Afterwards, I will reflect on the overall final product. I will also take pictures throughout the entire process.

Step 1: Soups

Not stews, but rather soups with uniform texture- purees, salsa, and dipping sauces. My reason is rather simple: There are so many factors that can go into a good meal. Aesthetics, flavor, texture, heat source, ingredients... Therefore, I've decided to view cooking as an experiment with control, dependent, and independent variables. Beginning my journey with uniform-textured soups helps by making texture, techniques, and cooking styles the control variable.

Step 2: Salad

This helps bring fiber into my daily eating. I am sad to say that I do not eat much green on a consistent basis. No wonder, I am fat.

Also, I don't judge a good meal until after it passes through my system. A good meal is not just about good flavor. How do I feel an hour after? How was my pooping experience?

And to be honest, the best pooping experiences I've had were from salad-centric days.

Step 3: Chicken Marinade and Rubs

Chicken is cheap and versatile. You can easily find it fresh or frozen. Also, I can kill two birds with one stone if I learn how to marinate while thawing.

Step 4: Grilled Steak

There's not much prep time and seems very easy and quick. The essential ingredients are always salt, pepper, and oil/butter. Once I master the cooking technique, I can begin to implement different types of herbs and spices.

Step 5: Baking (cookies, pastries, and cakes)

I don't want to be single forever.

Agenda and Future Posts

Of course, I am still nowhere close to executing my plan. I still have to generate a list of recipes, develop my Gantt Chart, and create a notebook to write my cooking notes. Luckily, I have those three cookbooks I got from the estate sale to help generate some recipes.

  • Seriously Simple: Easy Recipes for Creative Cooks by Diane Rossen Worthington
  • Everyday Epicurean: Simple, Stylish Recipes for the Home Chef by Catherine Bell
  • Sunset's Easy Basics for Good Cooking by the editors of Sunset Books and Sunset Magazine

If you have any advice on how I can become a better cook, let me know.

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