Handmade Quick Daily Journal – Part 1: Research and Development

This is a “Rerun” post from the original blog – I’ll be putting these up here and there alongside the new posts but with their original date of publishing.

I’ve never really been able to stick with a journalling habit consistently, although I’ve generally enjoyed it for a while whenever I’ve tried it.

I have, however, had very good results from the 5 Minute Journal – a quick mindfulness journalling exercise based around a set of well-written, structured questions. I copied the questions into text files and filled them in morning and evening for a long time, and they genuinely brought me a lot of joy and awareness and improved my headspace noticeably.

As my daily routine changed, I decided I wanted to avoid turning on the computer first thing in the morning and keep my head out of screen space until I left for work, so I wanted a physical journal to fill in. At the time, however, I had very little disposable income and I wasn’t willing to pay the exorbitant price of over twenty pounds for each six month journal, so I decided to make my own.

Like most projects, I first sat down and defined the parameters the journal would have to meet to make me really happy with it. It had to be smart-looking and durable, a satisfying object to hold and use so I would be motivated to pick it up and fill it in.

As I’ve mentioned before, I love the elegantly simple Field Notes notebooks, and I decided I would crib some of the elements that make them so satisfying for me – the stiff card cover with rounded corners, the convenient size and form factor, the use of bold clean fonts and (in my personal preferred variant) the gridded pages. I wanted to introduce some colour though.


First, I had to figure out a page design that would be aesthetically pleasing and ideally printable without going to a commercial copy shop. Unfortunately my cheap home inkjet wasn’t able to print clean gridlines as thin as I wanted them, but luckily I was working at the time in a college print room with access to a decent colour laser copier, and after a lot of experimentation I found a thickness and saturation that would print fine, faint gridlines. (Note from the future: I’ve since acquired a cheap desktop laser which does the job perfectly too).

I picked a nice, clean and readable font with a bit of personality – Andada, from the great free selection at Fontsquirrel – and experimented with text size and grid spacing until the headers and questions lined up nicely, then carefully noted down all the details so I could recreate them later if needed.

For ease of aligning the covers and pages, I decided to print two notebooks to a page with plenty of bleed (extra space around the edges), bind them as one block then separate them and trim them to size.

In the print shop I had access to a big heavy duty powered guillotine which sliced them beautifully, but again I wanted to be able to make these at home in future (once I had a printer that was up to the job). This guide from Big Jump Press gave me a technique and confidence for cutting clean sections of a booklet by hand (I actually use the “lift one leg” trick for all kinds of cutting now).


Calculating the thickness a saddle stapler could handle and trying out different card thicknesses and combinations of pages, I figured out I could combine a 270-300gsm card cover with 16 sheets (ie 32 sides), to make a pair of two month journals with each printing.

The last detail was the rounded corners. While a big punch press would be convenient if I was making these in bulk, I found a very affordable hand punch made by Docrafts which was more than adequate for an occasional run.


…and it has the added advantage that when my little nieces come over for a film session, they can give everyone their cinema tickets and clip the corners, which is very exciting ^_^


This is already a day late and I’ve got Brussel sprouts to roast for dinner (and inadequate photos right now), so in part 2 I’ll show the whole process of putting together a booklet.

If you’re enjoying these articles and would like to say thankyou, the best way is to get yourself something nice from my webshop Uncommon Works, or you can Like my Facebook page or subscribe to my newsletter to get more articles, news and special offers! I make beeswax candles, laser cut stamps, leatherwork and much more to come.

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