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properties of ghost-grid graph paper

I've been buying pads of your graph paper for a couple of years, and I noticed that the most recent batch seems to have a different, more solid glue along the top. This makes it almost impossible to fold over the paper--it tends to break free. Have you changed glues, and have others reported this problem? Thanks. -Martin Stabler

-- Martin Stabler (email)

Yes, it does take a variety of fountain pen inks without feathering. It also accepts ballpoint and pencil quite well. Best paper I've used. I wish they came bound, too!

-- Eric Diamond (email)

The paper is Monadnock Dulcet Text, which is used in all 3 books. It is pH neutral (perhaps even slightly alkaline) for archival purposes. The uncoated paper prints well and also has a nice soft texture to the touch and good opacity. Since the paper is uncoated, the ink does not sit up on the paper compared to coated stock, and so there is some softness in reproducing color photographs. On the other hand, uncoated stock is more archival and avoids reflections and glare. Over the years, Graphics Press has used about 2.0 million pounds of Dulcet. The paper was first specified in 1983 by the excellent typographer and book designer Howard Gralla. We use it in part, despite its considerable expense (more than Mohawk Superfine, another excellent paper), because of its slightly warm off-white color and its good opacity, unlike the electric blue white of many papers.

Like nearly everything in printing, paper is a multivariate problem with some definite complexities and trade-offs.

-- Edward Tufte

Your ghost-grid paper is well-designed not to dominate what's drawn on it, but I prefer to maintain lab notebooks with stitched binding. Do you have any plans to bind ghost-grid paper into composition notebooks, or suggestions on how I might do it myself?

-- Ron Wurtz (email)

Danny Gregory has a "Bookbinding 101" for simple sketchbook self binding at

I haven't tried it with E.T.'s graph paper, which may be a little too stiff for this technique. However, your town almost definitely has a professional bookbinder, and if you're especially desperate, Kinko's will have the equipment to provide you with a few binding options.

-- Art Taylor (email)

Just me thinking out loud, and I've only made one book of a few signatures, but I think without professional help you can make a 100 page, saddle-sewn, 8.5x10 notebook with 50 pages of 11x17 paper, a thick needle, 6 thin nails, a small ballpean hammer, thread, and a block of wood. Signatures of 16 pages can be punched by hand with an awl and sewn by hand without noticable shearing of the pages. The thing about these 100- or 200-page composition notebooks is that a machine can easily hold a stack of paper without letting the stack shear before all the thread is run. To prevent shearing a thick stack by hand, fix the stack with the nails and board. Place the stacked paper on the wood. Draw a line down the middle of the top sheet and mark six points at 1", 1.5", 4", 4.5", 7", and 7.5". Drive small-gage nails (about the same size as the needle) through the marks in the stack and just a bit into the wood. Counting from one end remove the first and second nail from the stack, and pass thread through the first hole with the needle (down, toward the wood). Carefully roll the edge of the stack up and pull the needle through. You can now let the stack shear because the thread will guide it back into shape. Continue rolling the stack up and pass the needle up and out while unrolling the stack. Leave an ample thread tail and don't remove it from the needle. Pull the next two nails and repeat until all six holes are threaded. Tie off the ends however you'd like. I'd recommend you hide the ends in the crush if you decide to put boards on (see the book cited below). I'd recommend having a pair of needle-nose pliers on hand for the nail and needle work. The book block is typically folded and sewn so the long stretches of thread, in this case the 1.5 to 4 and 4.5 to 7 stretches, are in the inside, the gutter. This would require you to pass the thread back through the 1.5" and 7" holes if you intend to keep the knots out of the gutter.

If you don't want the open edge of the paper to form a V from folding, then cut it off, trim it. Clamp your notebook (technically a book block at this point) between two pieces of wood with the ragged edge just sticking out beyond the sides of the boards. The best thing to use is a specially made book block clamp (typically measuring 4'x4' and 1' tall) and a two-handled trimming knife that weighs about 3 pounds and is operated like a woodplane. Failing this, two hardwood planks, some Jorgenson wood clamps, and a heavy knife will do. Make sure the clamping boards are amply longer than the pages (say, 2 feet over all), and hard, as the board surfaces from which the ragged edge extends will also serve as the facing surface for your trimming blade. Several complete passes over the entire length of the edge are typically necessary and the final pass can sometimes be done with a woodplane.

There are many books on bookmaking, the third edition of Marshall Lee's Bookmaking is a good start. Chapter 13 is particularly what you want. See page 225. If you want to add a hardboard covers like the Mead composition notebooks, see page 227 and 228.

On a separate note, I've always wondered why lab notebooks aren't made with the sort of paper used in engineering pads, with the grid laid on the back of thin, semi-translucent sheet of paper. This, in my mind, is a truly ghostly grid. Do such notebooks exist? I use the engineering pads for general notetaking by dividing the page in half to form two 5x7 columns. I find I can put more information (and hence, more connections) in the same space this way. The dimensions translate well to the plain moleskine journals I've been using recently.

-- Niels Olson (email)

Lab notebooks

In fact, I and many of my life-science friends do use engineering pads for our lab notebooks, and keep the resulting notes in 3-ring binders. In my case this is for two reasons. First, I'm left-handed, and I find sewn notebooks very difficult to write legibly in. That's enough of a challence with an engineering pad. Second, X-ray films and photocopies of papers don't go into bound notebooks gracefully, but they go into a 3-ring binder easily. In the lab where I was a postdoc, people chose to use 3-ring binders over sewn notebooks by more than 5:1. As for Moleskine, the thin 5x7" gridded notebooks are now my standard "carry" notebooks. Where were these for the first 35 years of my life?

-- Alex Merz (email)

Moleskine's pedigree has been questioned. A dash of revisionist history and good marketing (by Modo & Modo). See

You can see some popular modifications or "hacks" to Moleskines at:

History aside, it is pleasing to see paper triumph over PDA's.

D. Meatte

-- Dan Meatte (email)

The reason I divide the page into 5"x7" columns is because I'm left-handed: in additon to the awkwardness of the spine I tend to get ink on my left hand's ulnar palm (between pinky and wrist) as I move across the page, so I write in the right column first. Same for the moleskine. In deference to Chatwin, it would appear moleskine is a descriptive noun, not a proper one, so it should be lowercased. Another similarity between engineering pads and moleskine: the paper is semi-translucent.

-- Niels Olson (email)

You may be interested to see this paper...


"Top-quality micro-grid notepads with an annotation margin The way ideal white canvas aids the painter, the way perfectly smooth ice aids the skater, in this way Levenger notepads can aid you while taking notes for your profession. And while we think of notepad perfection as a quest with no finish line, we know of no micro-grid notepads better than ours. Our pen-friendly paper is weighty and substantial, and the smooth surface is a pleasure to write on. 3/16-inch grid pattern for precise calculations The annotation margin is compatible with the Cornell method of note-taking Headers help you file or categorize notes Sturdy, 60-lb. text stock is more substantial than office-supply pads and practically tearproof Set of three notepads 50 sheets 8 1/2 x 11 3/4 Made and printed in the USA"

NOTE the line: "3/16-inch grid pattern for precise calculations"



-- Tchad (email)

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