Author Archives: jemorton

Introducting Notebooks and Pencils (Maybe)

Two weeks ago I activated listings for 15 categories of vintage American made pencils and 11 of my Vari-Dot notebooks. June will mark a year that I have spent prototyping these notebooks. I have given away as many as I now have available for sale and I have scrapped a fair number in the research and development process.

Silver Coca-Cola Pencils

Silver Coca-Cola Pencils: I love how the lacquer dripped over the edge of these pencils.

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1Q 2018 Progress Report

Two weeks ago I sat down and wrote out a To-Do list for Neat and Keen. The following week I had off from my regular job and planned to accomplish it all. However, I always underestimate how long a task will take and how many other distractions will arise.

Custom Printer Catch

Fancy pants cardbaord paper catch taped to the wide format printer

The biggest accomplishment is that I finally used up all 1000 sheets of 13 x 19 inch 80# Lynx paper. I really like this paper. It’s become the standard for all my notebook prototypes. The remaining paper yielded enough for 10 more Vari-Dot notebooks and one lined notebook. The lines in this one notebook are dotted (not dashed) lines and similarly very light in pigment just like the Vari-Dot ruling. Continue reading

Silkscreen Art & Design 2017 Wishlist

Last year I tried this exercise with the Flatstock Screen Printer’s Wish List 2016, so I thought I might give it another go. Here are some of the things I’d like to add to the studio or maybe things you could use in yours.

70/90/70 Triple Durometer Squeegee Rubber, $43 to $80

Triple Durometer Squeegee Rubber

90 durometer rubber sandwiched by outer layers of 70 durometer.

This has come to be the standard squeegee rubber I use in squeegees. The first roll I ordered was from Gold Up USA via an eBay auction, and at $43 for a six foot roll, it’s a pretty solid price.

The absolute best price I’ve found is from Miami Screen Print Supply. A 12-foot roll is $72.25 plus shipping. Dynamic Screen Printing Supply isn’t much more at $80 for a 12-foot roll. If you’re planning to order other supplies that Dynamic carries, you might do better ordering from them as orders over $150 ship free.

When I ordered 6-feet I thought it was going to last a long time. After making a 19 and 25-inch squeegee, only 28 remained. You go through it faster than you might think, especially if you’re building up your squeegee inventory like myself. When I start investing in the Ergo Force Squeegees (from last year’s list) I’ll probably also buy 12-feet of 70/90/70 squeegee rubber. Continue reading

Two Vari-Dot Notebooks, $602.21. (Just $301.10 each!)

There’s dirty clothes on my bathroom floor. It’s Tuesday and the cupboards are bare having been over a week since I’ve done any grocery shopping. I have dating profiles on half a dozen sites getting zero hits and there are expensive pieces of maple and walnut in the garage waiting for me to turn them into a guitar. To add further insult to injury, in the span of five months I have spent $602.21 to create two Vari-Dot notebooks.

It’s easy to get bogged down in the failures, but the truth is that those two notebooks represent some success and maybe even hope for the future.

Nine book blocks sewed and glued for 5 x 7 inch books, unlikely to be used.

Nine book blocks sewed and glued for 5 x 7 inch books, unlikely to be used.

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Vari-Dot Grid Research and Bullet Journal Giveaway

This is part of an on going series of posts following the variable size dot grid notebook research and development, aka Vari-Dot. For previous posts please see:

Vari-Dot Grid Research

While waiting for screens to dry and such, I’ve been working away on this Vari-Dot book. Here’s what I’m looking to make now.

(If you’re just here for the Bullet Journal Giveaway, you have to keep scrolling a bit)

Diagram 1: Dimensions of the proposed Vari-Dot Layout book

Diagram 1: Dimensions of the proposed Vari-Dot Layout book

I want a big book. Almost a sketchbook, but with more order. This is a plan for a 9 x 12 inch book with perforated pages and double wire-o binding. Not shown at this scale is the new Vari-Dot graphic that I’ve been testing. Continue reading

New Prints, Dough Giveaway, and Project Updates!

August was a great month for printmaking as I finished two print runs. Now the arduous task of publishing them online and selling them will begin. Before that happens we’re having a Dough Giveaway along with some Andy Warhol books! First, the print…

“Dough”

“Dough” was first declared done in May of 2016. Wow. Then it was a 5-color silkscreen print and I debuted it at the first ever Neat & Keen Open Studio. To my dismay (and possibly good fortune) I didn’t sell any copies then. Since it wasn’t out in the wild anywhere, I decided to print more colors on top of it this summer and here’s what we have.

"Dough." 7-color silkscreen print on 100# Cougar, 19 x 25 inches

“Dough.” 7-color silkscreen print on 100# Cougar, 19 x 25 inches

It is now a 7-color silkscreen on 19 x 25 Cougar 100# cover stock. When I first printed it over a year ago I was determined not to get carried away with the number of colors, but now that it has two additional screens I love this piece even more. Continue reading

Variable Size Dot Grid Notebook Research [Part 2]

This is part of an on going series of posts following the variable size dot grid notebook research and development. For more, please see:
Variable Size Dot Grid Notebook [Part 1]


Notebook Research

If I’m serious about the possibility of making a dot grid notebook, I had to check out some others with some notebook research. These aren’t full on reviews. I don’t need to do a pen test because I’m going to have to choose paper from the ground up. What I do have to evaluate is the construction, dimensions, and general usability. For my test I chose notebooks from Leuchtturm, Miliko, Muji, and Northbooks.


Paper Size/Color

Stack of notebooks

Top to bottom: Miliko, Northbooks, Leuchtturm1917, Muji. Digital caliper is ready for some serious notebook research.

  • Leuchtturm 1917: A5/Ivory-ish; the darkest paper of the group
  • Miliko: A5/Ivory-ish; second darkest
  • Muji: A5/Off white; lightest in the group
  • Northbooks: 5 x 8 inches/Off white, between Miliko and Muji in color

All but the Northbooks are A5, though they do make A5 versions. Honestly I didn’t realize how non-white some of the pages were until I set them all down next to a stark white college ruled notebook. Personally I kind of like notebooks/sketchbooks/etc. to be just a little bit off white. I think on a subconscious level most people do. Have you ever painted the walls of a room with white ceiling paint? Even in printmaking if I can find white cover stock that is around 96 brightness instead of 98, that’s what I prefer to use.


Ruling/Dot Size/Dot Color

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Variable Size Dot Grid Notebook [Part 1]

This is part of an on going series of posts following the variable size dot grid notebook research and development. For more, please see: Variable Size Dot Grid Notebook Research [Part 2]


Today I’m going to share the details (and download) of my latest idea, the Variable Size Dot Grid Notebook.

I’ve always liked stationery and office supplies. With this particular idea, I asked myself if I were going to have a store and offer just one line of notebooks, what would be the best notebook line to carry? There’s lots of great notebooks out there, but eventually it led to me designing what would be the best notebook for me.

Now everyone has different needs and wants from a notebook, so there is no one perfect model or brand. One size does not fit all. Still, I’m pretty pleased with the idea I’ve come up with.

First, I like a dot grid layout. As near as I can tell it was first introduced by Rhodia in 2010. In hindsight it seems like such an obvious innovation that it’s difficult to believe it has been around for just seven years. Still, I feel like there’s room for improvement within the dot grid. Here’s what I came up with.

The Variable Size Dot Grid Explained

Zoomed in example of a square Variable Size Dot Grid layout.

Zoomed in example of a Variable Size Dot Grid layout.

The Primary Dot: It measures 0.4mm in diameter, which is a bit smaller than many others notebooks. The Primary Dot composes the standard grid on most dot grid notebooks. Continue reading

Guitars and Motorcycles and Work, Work, Work

Holy No Posting, Batman! It’s been five months since I wrote an update here. While I’ve sort of made my peace with the fact that weekly written updates are not a necessity right now, I didn’t realize it had been quite so long. Here’s what’s been happening.

All Work and No Play

Just yesterday I finished a 19 day stretch of work at my regular job without any weekends off. Working third shift is tough enough, but when 40-hour weeks turn into 58-hour weeks and those turn into 66-hour weeks, it’s enough to drive most people batty. Things may calm down, but I’ve definitely looked around for other opportunities more in the past month than I have in the past year. Continue reading

A Flatstock Screen Printer’s Wish List 2016

What’s a growing screen printer have on his or her wish list this year? Here’s a list of common and not so common items that may be useful to the flatstock screen printer.

Speedball Permanent Acrylic Screen Printing Ink ($18/quart, $59/gallon)

Speedball Ink

I’ve tried a variety of other printing inks and had success with some. Speedball still offers the most bang for the buck as far as I’m concerned. Valley Litho sells it by the quart for $17.95 and by the gallon for $58.95. Dick Blick sells it for a little bit more, but you usually get free shipping from Blick on orders over $45. A gallon of all 19 colors would only set you back about $1200…

I like to have process colors on hand (cyan, magenta, yellow), but I like to get the less common colors like Fire Red, Primrose Yellow, Ultra Blue, and even Violet because I am less likely to be able to pick those up locally in pinch.

To get even more mileage out of your ink, be sure to get a gallon of Extender Base. At about $27 for a whole gallon it is less than half of the cost of actual ink.

Also on my list is Speedball Professional Poster Black. Available in both the quart and gallon size, this stuff is still relatively new and the screen printer on your list might not have tried it yet. It’s getting high marks and I’d like to give it a go myself. Continue reading