Mini Review: DIY Notebook—Moleskine Cahier Style

21 03 2012

WEEP, MOLESKINE! YOUR REIGN OF TYRANNY IS AT AN END! ... oh who am I kidding, millions of people will still buy Cahiers anyway.

I love the Moleskine Cahier, but for all the wrong reasons. Let me explain. The Moleskine Cahier plain notebook contains what is by and far literally THE WORST PAPER I have ever encountered in my life. The only thing worse would be newsprint, or napkins. Used receipts would be a step up. And that terrible paper is why I love it. I use these notebooks for pencil sketches, and since the paper is so shoddy I’m not inhibited by the art-blocking psychological worry of wasting good paper. I end up drawing more, being more loose and creative, and I make better drawings as a result. I also like that the notebook is thin, so it has a low profile when I carry it in my already notebook-laden bag (what’s the point of leaving the house, really, if you don’t have at least ten notebooks with you?). Now, I like this notebook, but I’m not insane. I’m not going to pay top dollar for a product that I value CHIEFLY BECAUSE IT IS SO HORRIBLY CONSTRUCTED. I might as well staple five dollar bills together, draw on them, and throw them out the window. But, my friends, these are simple notebooks. After a bit of Googling I settled on this tutorial, and got to work on making a proof-of-concept prototype.

Bound left-handed-ways. Also, if you don't know Blenheim's Ginger Ale, it is the best ginger ale in the world. Period. Exclamation point. Semicolon; no exceptions.

Since I was using thin weeny repair-kit thread, I doubled it up. The tutorial said not to, but I like living dangerously

Then I made another prototype when I was bored at work (there’s often a lot of downtime) and realized I still had my needles and thread with me. I had just finished a delightful box of Triscuits, and it served me well in my boredom-fueled-craftmaking.

Delicious notebook

Cut the corners off Battlestar Galactica style, cause I'm cool like that. Also because I didn't have a corner rounder at the time.

Concept proven. Buying actual supplies was now justified. My local pen store had a 100-page pack of typewriter paper for $1.00 that was almost an exact replica of the thin, cheap Cahier paper. An additional 99 cents (plus tax) at the A.C. Moore scored me a 22in. x 28in. piece of black posterboard, and for 39 cents each I picked up five different colors of thread. Additional expenses include: $1.69 for another needle (pack of needles) (the ones I had were either too small or too big), $3.59 for a corner rounder (thank you 40%-off coupon), and $2.39 for super glue (couldn’t find any around the house). I already had a large needle that I used in place of an awl, and an X-acto knife for cutting the board and trimming the paper edges. Time took maybe a couple of hours? I’m not sure; I love doing stuff like this so I didn’t time it. End result:

It looks just like a real notebook!

Gotta be reppin' some turquoise

WITH POCKET, BOOYAH. Also note that this notebook is left-handed bound.

Materials expense per notebook: 20 pages ($0.20), maybe three feet of thread (comes to about $0.05 worth of thread), 8.5in x 15.25in of posterboard (about $0.21 worth of posterboard), and a wee bit of super glue (we’ll be generous and say that it was maybe $0.20 worth of glue) = $0.66 per notebook
Plus tools investment: Needles, corner rounder, superglue: $7.67
Total cost for making a set of 3 notebooks, including tools: $9.65

And now I’ll never have to buy another Moleskine Cahier again. :D




17 responses

21 03 2012


*weeps tears of envy at how cool this is*

I will never have the skillz to do this myself but I will enjoy showering your work with praise.

22 03 2012

Very nice.

23 03 2012

Looks great! I do DIY too. The best part is giving them as gifts because so many people don’t realize they can do it too. <3
Out of curiosity, is it real typewriter paper? That lovely thin stuff that I can't find anywhere?? :D

27 03 2012
No Pen Intended

it is real typewriter paper! Mead brand “Typing Paper”….even has a typewriter graphic on it. :) my local pen store is the best. sadly, they don’t have a website, but if you’re ever in North Carolina try to make your way to the Triangle area and check out Office Supplies & More

25 03 2012
Perfect Tommy

RIGHT purdy, Lil’ Missy! I must try now! Thx!

27 03 2012
No Pen Intended

DO IIIIT! I’d recommend using nicer paper though, unless you have the same weird psychological paper oddities I do….. :p

26 03 2012
Monday Grab Bag of Links … | The Pretense of Knowledge

[…] Pencil [REVIEW] Japanese notebook happiness – Leigh Reyes Rotring Rapidograph 0.35 mm Review Mini Review: DIY Notebook—Moleskine Cahier Style Friday Link Share – a giant list! Ink Links – The Pen Addict [Pen/Pencil Review] The TomBow […]

31 03 2012
Francisco Durán (@bored_agitated)

this would be great with paper from a rhodia dot pad!

24 04 2012
Ink Drop Soup: The Moleskine Tradition of Quality « No Pen Intended

[…] I hadn’t figured out how to make these notebooks for less than a dollar a notebook, I’d probably be peeved enough to write a sharply worded letter, or demand some […]

26 04 2012

I did something similar but just stapled the pages together as I have a binding stapler. I used HP laser paper for excellent use with fountain pens. Then I made a bookmarked similar to what Patrick NG uses for his chronodex planner.

11 12 2012
DIY Pocket Notebook GIVEAWAY « No Pen Intended

[…] remember that post I did about making your own cahier-style notebooks? Well I’ve been making scads of them, and […]

19 04 2013

Great idea. I’ve done something very similar, only using recycled paper from old books and academic journals. With this free paper, I’m even more liberated in their use.

23 08 2013
Wendy Van Camp

I love the pockets! :)

26 08 2013
No Pen Intended

Always gotta have pockets

24 08 2013

I do this too — so easy and fun! I like to reuse greeting cards as covers for the notebooks.

26 08 2013
No Pen Intended

That’s a good idea!

31 08 2020
Tag Team: Prismacolor Col-Erase Pencils & Mead Typing Paper | No Pen Intended

[…] Let’s start with an introduction to my number one quarantimes combo: Prismacolor Col-Erase pencils used to sketch in homemade notebooks containing Mead-brand typing paper. As I’ve mentioned before, nothing fires up my creative engines quite like outrageously cheap paper, and I’ve made a great habit turning my hoard of typing paper into cheap DIY notebooks. […]

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