How to make a DIY leather padfolio for a disc bound notebook

Designed to accommodate the M by Staples Arc Discbound Notebook,
download the free pattern for this leather portfolio here.

(Click images to enlarge)

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Killing time in Staples while my wife was in a nearby shoe shop doing some serious damage to the family budget, I came across the M by Staples Arc Discbound Notebook system.
This consists of a fully customisable notebook that combines the compact format of a spiral-bound notebook with the convenience of a 3-ring binder allowing one to insert and remove pages with ease.

Impressed by the flexibility that the Arc Discbound Notebook offered, I wasted no time before becoming the proud owner of a brand new 60 page 8-1/2" x 11" disc bound notebook complete with polypropylene cover.

At first, I was delighted with my new notebook. As advertised, pages were easily removed and reinserted, and the paper quality was very good, giving an excellent writing experience with both pen and pencil.

But everything was not perfect, it didn't take long before I found two shortcomings that really irked me:

The first, and for me this is a big one, is that it is UGLY. The huge black plastic discs that masquerade as a spine are not very elegant, and no matter how hard I tried, I just could not learn to love the look. The photo above doesn't really convey this adequately.

Second, is that the flexible poly front and back covers with an open spine are not really robust enough to protect the content if just tossed casually into a briefcase, resulting in torn and creased pages unless some care is taken with it.

As a result, my thoughts turned to making a leather cover to solve both problems.

After an online search for a pattern turned up nothing, it soon became apparent that I would have to create my own.
Thinking of how to attach the cover to the notebook, it occurred to me that by folding both the front and back covers over backwards, they could be slid simultaneously into a pocket in the portfolio back panel. In practice, this turned out to be a very successful strategy.

Assembling the padfolio

After downloading the free pattern (scroll down to the bottom of this page), the various pieces are cut out and dyed as required. After the dye has dried I use a homemade dubbin buffed in thoroughly with a soft cloth to both feed and protect the leather.

Prior to assembly burnish any edges that would be difficult to do so afterwards. I use Seiwa Tokonole for burnishing as described here.

The various parts ready for assembly are shown above. The image includes two t-slot card pockets that are not part of the final pattern. After the prototype was assembled it was found that these were not usable due to the lack of flexibility of the front cover because of the stiffening material used in the construction - the pattern has been amended to remove them.

Construction is fairly straightforward as long as the correct sequence is followed.
After the closure strap has been burnished, attach it to the back of the outer cover.

The central section of the flesh-side of the outer cover will be visible once the portfolio is complete. In the image above it has been given a coat of Seiwa Tokonole and burnished with a glass slicker to leave a smooth finish.

Next, burnish the inner curved edge of the document pane and the left edge of the back panel before attaching both to the outer cover.

The back panel forms the pocket that holds the notebook poly covers. It is a close fit so care should be taken when marking the stitch lines to not make the pocket too small.

After glueing and stitching the document pane and back panel to the outer cover, run a bone folder around the inside of the pocket to loosen any areas that may have become stuck down due to excess cement.

Try the notebook for size. The front and back poly covers are folded back and slid into the pocket.
If the pocket is too tight, the top and bottom edges of the poly covers can be trimmed with a sharp knife.

With the notebook in place and the cover closed, the position of the snap (press-stud) can be transferred from the closing strap to the front of the outer cover and the snap installed.
Do not pull the closing strap too tight when marking the position, allow a little room to accommodate the front panel that still needs to be fitted as well as for pens, pencils etc.

Burnish the top and side edges of the cardholder and ruler pocket, as well as the left, top and bottom edges of the penholder before glueing and stitching these into position on the front panel. At this stage do not stitch the bottom edges of the cardholder and ruler pocket, or the right edge of the penholder as these will be stitched simultaneously with the front panel.

For stiffening, a piece of 1mm thick High Impact Polystyrene Sheet (HIPS) is used. This is probably firmer than needed so could probably be replaced by a piece 0.5mm thick or even a piece of cardboard. Either way, this should be cut to size; 220m x 285mm and glued to the back of the front panel. Centre this carefully so that it will fall inside the stitch lines. Cement doesn't really adhere very well to the HIPS, but it only needs to hold it in place long enough to attach the front panel to the outer cover.

Turn the front panel over and glue and stitch it into place.

All that remains to be done is to burnish the remaining edges, give it a final polish with a little dubbin and the padfolio is ready for use.

Download the free pattern here

download iconClick to download for printing on A4 sized paper
download iconClick to download for printing on Letter sized paper