New Product – Custom Tiny Notebooks

The letterpress business is different from the weaving business in that I’m designing it to depend on custom work for a large portion of my income. As I develop new products, I’m constantly thinking about how to make things that are easily customizable.

This latest product is a quickly produced tiny notebook with a custom printed cover. By using the letterpress for all of the printing and folding, I can keep the prices down. I think that these will wholesale for about $7 each in quantities of 50 or more.

I somehow skipped taking pictures of the printing and drying of the covers, so we’re picking up with the real work, folding signatures and binding the books.

[Stack of paper, cut down and divided into 5-sheet signatures]
There is a way to quickly and accurately fold stacks of paper on the press. It’s called a “folding rule”, and is basically a rounded piece of spring steel that exactly the same height as the type. It has a matching plastic channel that sticks to the platen and provides the upward force on either side of the steel rule, creating a crisp fold.

[Folding rule in action]
In the end, this process gives me rows of perfectly folded booklet signature way faster than if I had done them by hand with a bone folder.

Rows of book signatures, folded to 90 degrees, laying on a table.
[The results of folding]
You’ll notice that they’re only folded to a right angle, though. The folding rule can’t really fold any further than that. Traditionally, these would next go to the book press the squeeze them and set the fold. I don’t have a book press, so I’m making do with the paper clamp on the guillotine. With a board above and below, I can generate a lot of pressure this way. I let it sit for a minute for the paper to “relax” into it’s new, folded state, then add another stack.

[Using the cutter clamp and boards as a book press]
When they’re all done, they sit on the table and stay pretty flat.

[Neatly folded signatures]
The next step is to double fold the cover so that it will wrap around both signatures and make a nice little spine. This only involves moving one of the registration pins over and passing the cover through the press twice, rotating it in between.

By folding the covers twice about 1/4 inch apart, I create a spine that will wrap around two signatures.
[Covers get a double fold for the spine]

[Video of the spine folding process, videography by Wonder]

After that, it’s time to use an awl to hand punch all of the holes. This is made way easier with a matte board jig with two notches for the awl. Grab a signature, snug up the jig, punch the holes, set them aside, repeat.

[Hole punching jig]
Ta-dah! Lots of holes for the stitching needle.

[Signatures with stitching holes]
At this point, I was racing with the clock to ensure that these could be delivered when I arrived for dinner with the folks who are taking part in this camp. I skipped trying to take snapshots of the stitching process. This is a quick and dirty binding, so it wasn’t really all that difficult.

[The end result]
[Quick stitching on the spines]
With the stitching done, I wrapped them up in the standard brown paper and zipped off to deliver them to the event organizer. One of the participants sent me a note to tell me how much folks are loving these little notebooks. I’m excited to have designed something that people enjoy! I can’t wait to make more and put them in my store. Keep an eye out!

If you are interested in notebooks like this for an event that you’re hosting, use the contact form on my website to tell me about your idea. I will need to order paper for your project, so these will probably take about two weeks from inception to delivery.