A long time ago, in what feels like an entirely different lifetime, I worked in an office.
Yes, friend. It’s true.
And in that office I worked with a bunch of environmental professionals, scientists and engineers, that worked on projects that helped improve the natural and lived environment. We did things like improving the efficiencies of water treatment and wastewater treatment. We improved drain systems and cleaned waterways. We remediated old dumping sites and brought ponds back to life.
And we wasted A TON of paper.
Still, to this day, I shake my head about it. You can’t see it, but I’m shaking my head right now. I never understood contradictions like that. And I still don’t understand them today. But anyway.
Recycled, or Repurposed, Paper Notebooks
Being the action-oriented do-gooder creative that I am, I decided to do something with the wasted paper. Just to prove that it was possible. Just to make a point. But also, for the sake of the challenge. And because I wanted to see if it was something we could truly do to change the way we consider our paper use.
So I made these notebooks and used them to document summer lists, favorite projects, and plan for new creative endevors. And I loved them.
Years later, I realized I never actually wrote the blog post I planned to write way back then, so here I am doing it now.
What You Need
To make this book, you’ll need a few materials which you should have around the house.
- Paper | I used 8.5×11 paper from the recycle bin next to the printer at work. I slowly collected it over time, making sure to throw away anything that had confidential information, too much text, or distracting text. Turns out, you can still get A LOT of paper this way. Another option is to use blank paper you have at home. Obviously I used printer paper, so it was generally lower quality. You can certainly use a variety of mixed papers – cardstock, watercolor paper, etc, just make sure that they’re all the same size so that it’s easy to cut and size them properly.
- Scissors + Paper Cutter | I have an X-Acto Guillotine Style Paper Cutter and Fiskers scissors
- Masking tape | I used black masking tape, but any masking tape will do.
- Glue | I used Clear Gel Glue and Glue Stick. Anything similar will do, but you will need both a liquid glue and some kind of stick or spray.
- Scrapbook Paper | This is a great project for that favorite scrapbook paper you’ve been saving. Make sure to pick paper that will cover the front, the back, and the inside cover of the front and back.
- Cardboard | I love repurposing things (DUH), so this is a great job for a cereal box or an old cracker box.
- Binder Clips | I use two small 3/4″ binder clips, but any size binder clip will do. The benefit of the small ones is they lay flat, but larger ones are stronger.
- Something heavy | I use a small stack of heavy books, bigger than my notebook. These are used to help the drying process.
Now I don’t have pictures of every step, but I think you’ll get the idea. It’s simple, I swear. Just some precision measuring and cutting with your paper cutter and a day or two to let the binding dry.
Cut the Paper
I’m using photographs from this AWESOME tutorial by Gathering Beauty Blog because she does a great job showing the process. For the sake of this particular book, though, you’ll need my instructions below.
- Cut the paper in half. Depending on your paper cutter, you might be able to do a few pages at a time. For this task, I used the giant paper cutter at my office. It could do 8-10 pages at a time, and made the entire process WAY faster. Be precise with your cutting, but recognize that the edges might be slightly different. And that’s okay. Because it’s a free notebook.
- Cut the cardboard to size. I made my cardboard intentionally bigger. You’ll want to use your paper cutter, rather than scissors, so that the edges are straight. You can free-hand guess this, but if you want exact dimensions, or you’re not a math expert, an 8.5″ x 11″ paper will cut to 5.5″ x 8.5″. The size of my cover is 5.625″ x 8.625″. **Keep some extra cardboard for the binding process.
- Cut the exterior cover paper. Cut your cover paper for both covers to LARGER than your cover. My paper was cut to almost 1″ bigger than the cover, so the size of the paper was 6.5″ x 9.5″.
- Cut the interior cover paper. Your interior cover paper will be SMALLER than your cover. I would do a very small amount smaller. My interior cover paper was cut to 5.5″ x 8.5″.
Make the Covers
- Adhere the exterior cover paper. Cover the cardboard in glue stick glue. Attach your exterior cover paper so that there is an overlap on all sides. Place it under a stack of books while you do the other cover. You want to give it a few minutes to dry.
- Fold the edges in. After your paper is mostly dry, grab your glue stick and run it along the edges of the inside of the cover. Fold the exterior paper over the edges, sides first. I would also fold it in triangles along the top and bottom edges because it makes for a cleaner edge. Place it under your stack of books and do the other cover.
- Add the interior cover. Glue stick the entire inside cover (apart from the edges). Center the interior paper. Place under stack of books.
Bind it All Together
This blog post by Gathering Beauty gives you a better visual of what we’re doing with the binding. It’s not exactly how I did it, but read below.
- Stack the binding edge of the paper together. Make sure all of your pages are clean and flat. It’s okay if that makes the other edges less flat. If they’re not even, they won’t stick. Note that I didn’t add the covers here. You can, but I think the notebook is more flexible if those are added with tape after the paper is bound together.
- Binder clips along the sides. Binder clips go along the sides (different from the picture above), just outside the binding edge of the notebook. Use extra cardboard to help it stay in place.
- Add A LOT of gel glue to the binding edge. You might have to repeat this process so that you have good coverage on each page.
- Cover it. I used extra cardboard to keep the glue in place, but you could also use tape or an extra piece of paper. Just know that whatever you use here will be visible in the final notebook.
- Let it dry. Overnight or for a couple of days (depending on humidity). Once it’s dry, check the coverage and repeat #3 and #4 if needed.
- Add the covers. Once it’s dry, you can add the covers with the masking tape. And boom! Done.
It’s not a short process, but if you take the time to do the binding, it will be a strong notebook that you can carry with you on many adventures.
If you make this, post a link below so we can see your gorgeous DIY books!