Tag Archives: vari-dot

Printable Notebook Rulings

While Vari-Dot is the only truly original notebook ruling that I have developed to date, I have put together some other rulings available for download and personal use.

Here they are:

Why Download Notebook Rulings?

Basic lined paper doesn’t cost so much, but if you’ve ever had to shop for graph paper or other specialty paper, you know it can get expensive quickly. These PDFs allow you to try a new ruling by printing just a few sheets at home. If you use a economical inkjet printer, you may well be able to print these notebook rulings more affordably than you can buy them. I accomplish this by using refillable ink cartridges.

The Guitar Chord/Tab ruling at work for a song that I am learning to play
The Guitar Chord/Tab ruling at work for a song that I am learning to play

Extra Special Notebook Rulings

  • Vari-Dot: The only ruling of my own design, I’ve already written about it at some length here. The original goal was for design work, but it can be used for regular old writing and for anything for which regular grid paper can be used.
  • Guitar Tab/Chord: For guitar players trying to write or learn a song. Version 1 has space for a line a lyrics under the guitar tab. Version 2 has space for two lines of lyrics under each set of guitar tab. Both have empty chord diagrams up at the top and a line for the song name. The Guitar Tab without chords has a dashed line between the guitar tab sections also for lyrics. All versions are (hopefully) in a gray dark enough to see, but light enough that pencil on top of it shows clearly.
  • Seyès: The notebook ruling unique to France, named for the Parisian librarian who invented it. I prefer the Extra Light version. Both feature a red margin for good measure.

What’s Next?

As time permits some rulings may become available in larger or different sizes. I’ve already considered notebook rulings for practicing kanji and Russian cursive. Currently all the rulings have the Neat & Keen logo and website address in small print on the bottom of the page. In the future I may have premium “unbranded” versions available for a small fee. I’ve also flirted with the idea of customized stationery and letterhead in both a digital and physical format.

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Handmade Notebooks

More hand sewn notebooks with screen printed covers

After the my initial development of Vari-Dot ruling, I looked into having notebooks produced for sale. Many papers were tested. I reached out to binders and printers for quotes on getting various forms of notebooks produced. The prospect of spending $5000 or more on notebooks in this age of tablets and smartwatches was daunting. Instead I turned to prototyping small batch handmade notebooks.

I went on to purchase some modest supplies to craft the books myself. I have sold a few and given many away. Most have been prototypes, but I still kind of dream of producing a line of consistent handmade notebooks with quality heavy paper.

Operator Notebooks

While I was brainstorming ideas for a line of notebooks, the name Operator is the one that stuck out the most. We all operate something whether it is a motor vehicle, buttons in an elevator, or electric hairdryer.

A logo design for a possible run of Operator notebooks.

One of my favorite logo designs features a spoke wheel on a faux marbled pattern that hearkens back to the classic composition notebook. The wheel has a classic 36-spoke design, but erroneously (and intentionally) features an extra 37th spoke. (I turned 37 the year I was working on this project and I’m also fond of prime numbers.)

Operator jam page from my own Vari-Dot notebook


Dozens of mock ups have been done. Part of what has held me back from producing notebooks in this style is that it is challenging with my modest tools to trim books that are the same size and consistently square. The idea that someone might purchase two books that would sit next to each other on a shelf where one is a millimeter taller than the other does not sit well with me..

Furthermore, the amount of time that goes into putting together a handmade notebook is substantial. In order to bring that time down, I have some jigs and fixtures in mind. I still won’t be able to compete on price with notebook makers that churn out millions of books from factories overseas, but I can offer something unique and niche to discriminating stationery nerds like myself.

Why Notebooks?

Personally, I just like the feel of a good pen or pencil scribbling across a quality sheet of paper. However, beyond the aesthetics or tactile sensation, studies show that writing and taking notes by hand promote a better kind of learning.

Unintended Hiatus

It’s 4p.m. on Monday afternoon. I have to be at my regular job in four hours for a 10-hour shift, but I’ve been wrestling with some things and I’m going to sort out a couple thoughts regarding this side hustle of mine.

A week or two ago I started writing this. I’ve been getting e-mails about my Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificate needing renewing. It will only be $10 or so, but it was a reminder of how much I have neglected Neat & Keen this year and the question is: What do I want to accomplish here?

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