Notepad tutorial

So here it is. To make your own notepad (read previous entry to understand why you should bother to do such a thing) you will need the following:

  • Paper, preferably cut into uniform sizes. I pick stacks of these up from the copy/print shop every time I’m there–they sell cellophane wrapped blocks of individual small sheets of paper leftover from printing something that didn’t use a whole page. These, called shorts, are your friends and will save you hours of heartache and elbow grease if they’re all the same size–mine are 3-1/2″ square. You will have stamped these with your chosen image. This notebook is stamped with a pale green canning jar.
  • Lightweight cardboard for the notepad backs. I also get these at the printers and I’m charged something different each time, but it’s never much. They just sort of eyeball a stack of it and say, “How about 20 sheets for $2?” and I say yes and scram with my loot.
  • Something to cut the cardboard with. I actually usually cut these by hand (matching the size of your notepaper) with sharp paper scissors, but you could easily do this on a paper cutter.
  • Paper clamps (not paper clips)–2 for each notebook
  • Little scraps of cardboard
  • A small, stiff-bristled paintbrush. I got a pack of these for about $1 at the odd lots store.

And now, the magic ingredient:

  • A small jar of padding compound. It comes in huge buckets for industrial users, but you might want to try getting just a few ounces. It comes in white (which dries clear) and pink and possibly in colors I haven’t come across. So far, my money’s on the white.  I have heard that you can make notepads in this way with white school glue, but, honestly, I’ve tried it and it works a million times better if you just buy some padding compound.  The compound has a lower percentage of water in it and it won’t make the top edge of your notebook swell up and wrinkle like the school glue can.

Where to get padding compound? I got two 4 ounce jars on etsy a year or so ago for some reasonable price, perhaps around $14  for the two (but it’s been a while, so don’t press me on that).  That person doesn’t seem to be around any more, but there is another etsy seller of it, just at the moment, and there are also several places online you can get it. A little goes a very long way, so start by finding someone who will sell you a very small amount.

[Dum te dum te dum . . . waiting with you by the mailbox while your padding compound wings its way to you. Ah! There it is.]

Now we can get started. The rest is easy.

FIRST stack up your printed papers and cut a cardboard backing to the same size as the papers. (You’ll love yourself better if you make all your pads the same size.) Stack them neatly so that all four sides look smooth and lined up.  As you can see from the Tower of Notebook in my previous post, I just sort of eyeballed the number of pages to put into each pad and they weren’t all the same thickness. Give thicker ones to people you like better.

Make sure you know which edge of the notebook is the top and take care to check that your stamped design is oriented in the right direction:

NEXT clamp the papers so they don’t shift around, keeping the design oriented. Use small scraps of cardboard as shown below to keep the clamps from marring the paper. Keep the clamps close to but not touching the top edges.

THIRD, take a little padding compound on your brush and brush it along the top edge of the notebook. Use enough that it covers the whole top edge, including the top edge of the cardboard backing. Use enough so that there aren’t any bare spots, but not so much that it drips down onto the paper or the cardboard drips are easy to wipe away with a clean finger or rag). If you look closely you can see a little of the shine from the padding compound on the top edge.

Wash your brush in warm water, and lay or prop the notebook somewhere safe. When I did big batches of them, I threaded a dowel through the wings of the clamps and laid the ends of the dowel on the backs of two kitchen chairs.

Let dry for 4 or 5 hours, then put on another coat of compound, making sure it connects the paper with the backing.

Again, wash the compound out of your brush and close the jar securely (I’ve had mine for over a year and it shows no sign of drying out).

When it’s all dry, take off the clamps and add (if you like) some kind of mark or signature on the backs of the notebooks. I mark mine with my stick of incense hand carved seal:

And that’s it. Now, go and make about 60 more and you’ll be a weekend closer to holiday gift giving.

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