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Sunday, 25 October 2020

My First Notebook



Not the first notebook I ever had, that is a long forgotten memory. I can hazard a guess it was probably a Silvine brand notebook with lined pages and a stitched spine.

This first notebook is my first attempt at scratch building a Midori style traveller's notebook.

I've touched on this in an earlier post, so I'll try not to digress too much.

Having entered the world of the Traveller's Notebook, I'm struck by the ethos of flexibility it generates amongst user and aficionados. I have become a fan, and will spend time tinkering with the mechanics of compiling, assembling, binding and trimming the components of the refills. Right down to securing the signature spines with a pamphlet stitch. 

A reasonable achievement for me, my track record with a needle and thread lies with lashing things together, rather than sewing.

The relatively simple matter of lining up the holes for the stitching and the spine of the outer cover caused a bit of headscratching. A basic card template helped. Unfolding the papers and laying them flat after the initial fold usually meant one or more holes were misaligned. 

I needed a cradle. A simple V shape to drop the pages and the template in together with as little distortion or displacement as possible.

The inspiration lay with Wallace and Gromit, erstwhile heroes of "A Grand Day Out," "Wrong Trousers." "The Curse of the WereRabbit," etc,

An old biscuit tin on top of he bookcase stamped with an impression of the characters holding electrical bits contains pieces of Meccano. An engineering construction toy from way back. 

Working - playing - with Meccano is a noisy job, especially when the bits are in a biscuit tin. Digging through the metal parts looking for the right one.

I spent a while nosing around the Internet, especially Pinterest, picking up ideas and wound up with a vague idea of what I wanted, and how I might do it, nothing planned, a sort of picture in my head and little else to do for a couple of hours. 

The Meccano built the base, the cradle, and the bed where the paper would lie came next.

A while ago, I had a need for a six inch rule (don't ask, it was an idea stuck in my head moment and only a six inch rule would do,) and ended up with a packet of ten or more from a supplier on the Internet. Two of these rules became the sides of the bed, held by a couple of rubber bands to stop them slippping and the job was good to go.

The test piece was a handful of folded pages torn from an old reporters notebook, and they proved the cradle worked. It was strong enough for the job. The jeweller's awl was too big. The holes were far larger than required.

The solution came with a return to my original home made awl, a needle thrust into the cork from an Islay whisky. It punched beautifully and the holes were closer to the size of the needle I use for stitching. I was happy with the result.

The moment of truth beckoned! A new refill, as I had done with all the others, I clipped the leaves and the template together, dropped them into the cradle and punched.

Two out of three ain't bad, according to Meatloaf. 

I want three out of three.

What happened?

The cradle gave as I pressed down. The rubber bands around the six inch rules flexed slightly, allowing the leaves and the template to drop with the bottom of the cradle, into the V.

Because I had clipped one side of the booklet to hold the leaves together it flexed awkwardly and couldn't follow. The spine was thrown out of line at one end and the needle missed the mark. 

Next time, without the clip, I folded the leaves and the cover together, slipped the punching template into the middle, tapped them straight and dropped them in.

I punched the centre station first, and the flexing cradle sorted the alignment. Three out of three, spot on! 

The job is a good one.

I am pleased with the result. It has the over engineered qualities of Wallace and Gromit, or Heath Robinson, (Rube Goldberg has a similar reputation in the United States,) in the spirit of cobbling it together, hey, it works.

Only one thing left to say. 

"That'll do!"

Martyn

Sunday, 11 October 2020

Under the skin

No pun intended, but the idea of the Midori, Traveller's notebook or whatever brand name your variant may, or may not have, it strikes me that is what this item does. It gets under your skin.

I've found the concept and the way so many users employ it to facilitate their own personalities, fascinating. 

The number of pins dotted around Pinterest offering downloadable formats for the inserts, and the production lines feeding the internet stores and Etsy will easily pass an hour while the tea goes cold in the mug.

It creates a discussion inside my head.

The old habit of carrying multiple notebooks is hard to break, and the reality of multiple books inside one cover is equally hard to establish.

Not one book, books with paper layouts specific to a role, or task.
Plain, lined(ruled), grid, dots, storyboards, musical staves, the list is bounded by the imagination.

Sketchpad, story board, planner, diary, bullet journal - the list is comprehensive. If you are inclined to make your own, incompetech.com has a variety of downloadable formats to . 

The result is a pleasantly tactile, versatile tool.

A tug of war ensues, the notebook on the desk says, pick me up, write, you know you want to, and it's true, even when the idea isn't there. 

An endless notebook, a literary suitcase, when the pages are full, at journey's end?
The inserts are unpacked, and fresh ones are stowed for the next stage of the jounrey. 

The previous inserts are tucked away, not sent to the laundry - hopefully!

A reversal of the previous reticence to plunge into a new volume. A pamphlet stitched signature drawing you under the covers. 

The package exerts an intimacy, the individuality of each one, shunning the regimented uniformity of staples. The way the elastic cords, the bands, hold the notebook inserts into the cover, and each, other is quirky. Not precise, they snuggle together under the covers.

This quiet intimacy creates the connection, and is self reinforcing. The more contact you have, the stronger the hold and the pull becomes.

It has gravity,  The evidence of its experience is on the cover, as we wear the traces of our own, and reveals the character of the notebook itself. You wouldn't be surprised to see Indiana Jones draw one from his pocket, and all eyes are on the book.

Who wouldn't like that notebook?

Martyn