Moleskine Hacks and Dusk Jackets

Modofly Train Moleskine
Dan Hillier's Tentacle horrors laser-etched by Modofly

I just read through Nick Cernis’ Moleskine guide. It was interesting, but left me wanting for more². I’d never pay for customized Moleskines, but I’d modify the covers myself. Even so, it’s somewhat daunting because if you make a mistake, you’ll kind of ruin a MS notebook, which is usually expensive. I like MS enough to find out if I can buy them in bulk for cheaper. Well, maybe not in bulk, but scour some deals on the web. MS are pretty expensive here in Taiwan⁴.

Personally, I don’t really like modifying a MS to put in a pencil holder⁵. I find that ludicrous since I go pretty much everywhere with a pencil case. I’ve seen some very small and effective pencil cases that can be taken everywhere⁹. There’s no need to do that to a MS. Here’s a link to some MS hacks, two of which I don’t find useful. The pencil holder and the pencil sharpener don’t really work for me as I either use a mechanical pencil, (0.7mm Koh-I-Noor Rapidomatic⁶), or have a good pencil sharpener with me. I also have a micro backup solution if I need one, just a plain sharpener that I have in my pencil case. In exams, I’ve learned to be prepared. A simple lead pencil with a pencil sharpener is my backup solution.

There is one hack that I like. Using post-it notes to mark pages is something I do in my class books. I do not like writing in books, I think it’s sacrilege⁷. I always use post-it notes to do so. There are quite a few post-it notes that you can use. Some of them are transparent, which I really like. That lets you take small notes in books without damaging them in any way. Instead of using plain post-it notes, I use arrow flags and standard flags. There are a bunch of different options. I remember looking for completely transparent post-it notes and striking out. However, some of the flags have large transparent gaps, which make them perfect to annotate books.

Now since I have this system for books, I don’t see why they won’t work for notebooks, especially the Moleskine notebooks that I’m using now⁸. It will be nice to label certain sections in my MS notebooks that I use in class. Another hack that I’ll implement is creating a cover for my Moleskines out of plain paper that I’ll decorate.

Cover and art I created for a numerical analysis book
Cover and art I created for a numerical analysis book

I’ve done it before and I liked the results¹. My main motivation was that I had just spent $60³ on a textbook and it was going to get a lot of wear and tear from my backpack. So I came up by creating my own dusk jacket to keep it looking like new. With MS, in order to still be able to use the elastic, you can’t just use one sheet of paper. You need to fold and glue together a few papers. I think it will be an interesting project, as I have two MS that I use for class that look exactly the same, 2 softcover XL plain paper MS. Customizing them this way will make them easy to tell apart. Also, they can easily get dirty when you lug them around.

By using my technique, no glue, just scotch tape, you don’t damage the Moleskine. The adhesive tape is only used on the dusk jacket, not on the MS itself. That leaves it clean. Also, you can reuse the dusk jacket for other MS if there is a need. I’m not really into gluing stuff onto MS. You can probably hack this dust jacket in ways I haven’t thought about yet, like making extra pockets for it or hacking it to hold pens. Personally, I think I’ll integrate some extra pockets into my new ones. That way, you’ll have place to put in some more papers. My design uses thicker paper for the edges and the spine. This means that it reinforces the MS.

I’ve got one A4 plain paper Moleskine to cover. For that one, I’ll just use my usual technique. For the softcover MS, I think that I’ll use more durable paper. That way, they will be protected even further.

* * * * *

[¹]: The drawing was made on a smaller piece of durable Maruman paper that I had cut up‡. I think that this time around, I’ll take more care about how to fold it neatly.
[²]: I could read about notebooks and pens all day.
[³]: In Canada, in math, that’s a lot for a book written by your professor. This was a book published by the university as well. I didn’t like that prof. He went way too fast and he said that everything was easy, when it wasn’t.
[⁴]: Moleskines are significantly lower priced in Canada and in the US. Maybe they are dirt-cheap in Italy, where they are made!
[⁵]: The hacks to do this involve sticking strips of sticky tape onto your MS. Sacrilege!
[⁶]: I’ve had these mechanical pencil for about 15 years. I bought them first when I started university. I had a 0.3, 0.5, 0.7 and 1mm. The best one for my writing style was the 0.7 as the lead tended to break a lot less. They were quite expensive compared to other leadholders. Each one cost about $15 back then. The one I have now is quite old and parts of the mechanism is broken. I’m guessing that it can be easily repaired, though I’ve never really been able to. I’ll try this week.
[⁷]: It’s not as bad as when the Nazis where burning books, but still, it’s bad news bears!
[⁸]: I’m currently using Moleskines A4 and XL plain paper to take notes. I’m using Rhodia notebooks to do my exercises. I just remembered that I really liked Blueline notebooks as well. They aren’t available in Asia, but they were also hard cover notebooks. It is a Canadian brand.
[⁹]: I recommend Hightide†, a nice Japanese brand that makes really interesting stuff.

[†]: Here is the link to Hightide’s website.
[‡]: I was working on some ACEOs at the time.

Author: range

I'm mathematician/IT strategist/blogger from Canada living in Taipei.

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