I love Moleskine City Notebooks
. If you're unfamiliar, they're pocket sized, hard bound notebooks that contain maps, transportation info, blank pages for notes and more. As you travel, you can add your own stories, reference information, contacts, whatever.
To quote Aldous Huxley, "...the only useful guidebook will be the one which he himself has written
The problem is this: The manufacturers have only made them for a few cities. Those of you in world-class locations like New York City, Amsterdam, Barcelona or Dublin are covered. The rest of us are out of luck.
That's why when I saw this Flickr set
of a DIY project to make one, I thought, "I must do this!" Here is the step-by-step process I used when making my DIY Moleskine City Book: Cape Cod Edition
Number the pages
- A pocket sized, ruled Moleskine notebook
- A Fiskars x-acto knife. I like Fiskars because the rubber handle is easy to hold.
- Rubber cement. It won't seep through a page like many glue sticks. Plus, excess can be cleanly rubbed away.
- A Zig glue pen by Kuretake. They're acid free, xylene free and can be used as either a permanent or a temporary (reposition-able) adhesive. I'll explain why this is important later.
- A PopOut Map by Mapgroup. These tiny, foldable maps fit perfectly inside a Moleskine.
- A generic, full-sized map of Cape Cod
- Several sheets of plain, text grade vellum. Regular stock weight is too heavy.
- Paper clips
- Piece of cardboard (If you've got one of those fancy self-healing cutting boards, use that. Lucky).
No, this isn't exciting, but it's useful. There are two things you need to be aware of. First, you only need to number the odd pages, as it's the odd pages' corners you'll be looking at as you flip through. Also - and this is important - do not write the number in the very far, right hand corner. Move towards the spine about one inch. You'll see why later.
Once you've done that, leave the first ten pages alone. These will be your table of contents, which you'll populate as you make new, noteworthy discoveries.
As I mentioned, the PopOut Maps are great. First, pull them from their backing. You'll notice that one side features the map, while the underside features an index. Make a photocopy of the index, and set it aside.
Next, slather the bottom with rubber cement and position it on the inside cover of your Moleskine. Note how the map will open before placing it. I found that pointing the end towards myself worked best.
Now, cut up the photocopy of the index you made, and place the first one on page 11 of your notebook with the rubber cement. Keep cementing and adding, then write "Front Map Index P. 11" on your table of contents.
Now, when you want to find "Elm Street," you can quickly flip to P.11 (aren't you glad you numbered the pages?), see that it's in section A-4 of your map, flip to the front cover and find it instantly.
My PopOut Map came with two maps, so I affixed the 2nd to the inside back
cover, placed the cut up photocopy of its
index on the last page (number 192) and updated the table of contents.
The larger map was a challenge. I found that I was able to get two sections of the "grid" on a page. So, I cut it into two-grid sections, and cemented them inside.
Finally, I used a Sharpie Marker to color the edges of all the "map pages" green, so I could find them easily.
The Vellum paper
The coolest feature of the Moleskine City Notebooks are the sheets of sticky, transparent tracing paper. You can place them on a map and make quick notes about its locations. When you're done, simply peel the sheet off and replace it in the back of the notebook. It's an ingenious way to annotate your maps without marking them up.
to re-create this feature with my homemade version.
I used the Exacto knife to cut the vellum into a size and shape slightly smaller than a page of the notebook (roughly - I'm not a real perfectionist). Next, I applied the glue.
At first, the glue is blue. Eventually, it dries white. If applied to a surface when blue, it will stick permanently. If left to dry, it will remain tacky after many applications. I stuck the first sheet to a sturdy page inside the back cover, to provide a permanent backing for the other sheets. The rest I let dry white.
I put one on a map page and it worked! Woohoo! I could write on it, see through it and move it around.
Next, I designated 30 pages to be the notes section, updated the table of contents ("Notes Section, P.21") and colored the page edges red.
Allright, here's the tricky part. The real notebooks have this handy, tabbed reference section. I could have bought those sticky Post-It tabs, but no! I had to be fancy and cut my pages. If you're happy with the Post-It tabs, use them. If not, read on.
After adding my maps and creating the notes section, I was left with 55 pages. I wanted to create six tabbed sections, which worked out to approximately 9 pages per section. Typical section titles could be "Lodging," "Restaurants," "Activities," etc.
I counted out nine pages and a time and bound them with a paper clip. Then, I flipped to the back.
The last section does not need to be cut, so I turned to the second-to-last. I decided to make each section "four lines tall," using the lines on the pages as a guide. So, I counted up four lines and slipped my cardboard underneath the selected section.
Using the exacto knife, I removed a small, tab-shaped section. When that was done, I grabbed the next section, removed the same amount of paper plus four more line's worth for the next tab.
At this point, you'll be glad you didn't put your page numbers in the far right hand bottom corner.
Continue in this fashion until all sections have been "tabbed." You may be as precise with this as you like. I'm more of a "function over form" kind of guy, so my tabs aren't 100% straight. That's up to you.
Finally, label your tabs. I cheated here and used some of the extra labels from my real Boston City Notebook, but you could easily use a labeler or your own handwriting.
That's it! My custom Moleskine City Notebook is done. I think it looks great. A little thick, but great. Now, I can note the places I visit, sketch things I see, add keepsakes (business cards or the wrapper to that killer ice cream bar)...whatever! I even keep some blank 3x5 index cards in the back pocket so I can "beam" my own info to new people I meet. I hope you have as much fun making yours.