Plexiglas (sometimes called acrylic or “plexi” for short) is a material that I worked with quite a bit in the not-too-distant past, but I’d been away from it for a while. Last week, however, I wanted to create a special space for my thoughts on my current values, and I knew a Plexiglas journal was just the solution.
What exactly is a Values Journal
? I’ll explain briefly at the end of this post, but what I really want to share with you is how fun and easy it is to create your own little tabbed journal or notebook using Plexiglas. I’m going to walk you through it so that you can give it a try.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Plexiglas or generic acrylic sheet, 1/16”
- plexi scoring tool
- cork-backed ruler
- cutting mat
- pencil and scrap cardstock
- jeweler’s saw, Faux Bone blade, bench pin
- sandpaper (medium grit)
- file or rotary tool (such as a Dremel)
- fine-point permanent marker
- alcohol inks
- drill (or drill press)
- no. 60 (or similar teeny-tiny) bit
- 1/16”, 1/8” and 3/16” bits
- 24-gauge wire
- index cards or other paper for interior
- typewriter (optional)
- tissue paper
- gel medium
- corner rounder punch
- binder rings
Plexiglas or a generic version (called acrylic sheet
) can easily be purchased at any big-box hardware store in a 1/16” thickness. Pick up enough to create a journal the size you want, including several plexi pages. My journal measures 3-1/2” x 4” and has five tabbed pages, for a total of seven 3-1/2” x 4” pieces. Try to avoid buying too large of a sheet because it will be more challenging to cut down. Sometimes the stores will sell pre-cut sheets as small as 8” x 10” (intended for picture frame replacement) and if that is available, get that or as small as possible.
For a lot more information on working with plexi and getting started with it, cutting it and so on, you owe it to yourself to check out Plexiclass
1. After determining the size you want to make your journal, mark where it needs to be cut, and then using a cork-backed ruler and a plexi scoring tool, score where the plexi needs to be cut.
Turn the plexi sheet over and pressing your thumb near the scored line, pull up on the sheet to snap it. (Alternatively, you can leave the sheet right side up and break it over the edge of your worktable.)
3. Repeat the scoring/cutting process until you have enough same-size pieces for your two covers and the interior pages. Now you’ll need to cut some templates to create tabs on the interior pages. I used index cards cut to the size of my pieces. I then created five evenly-staggered tabs, where the indent from the edge of the piece was 3/8".
4. Trace the tab sections from the templates onto the protective paper covering the interior plexi pages, using a permanent pen.
5. Load a Faux Bone* blade into your jeweler’s saw. (Note: In order for the saw frame to clear the width of your plexi pages, you may need to use a deep-throated saw. Working on a bench pin, saw along your drawn lines to create the tabs.
Repeat the sawing process for all tabbed pages.
For getting started with the jeweler’s saw, check out Thomas Mann’s book, Metal Artist’s Workbench
. And if you aren't familiar with Robert's Real Faux Bone blades, click here
Decide how you’d like the front and back covers to look. My front cover is cut up into segments resembling a sun, that are then stitched back together with wire to create a patchwork look. My back cover is left solid, but has one of my favorite quotes adhered to it.
6. To create the patchwork effect, begin by drawing with a permanent pen on the protective paper, the shapes you’ll cut out. Then, use the jeweler’s saw to cut everything out, creating something that resembles a zig saw puzzle. Use the pen to mark a series of dots along both sides of all of the shape edges. Take the awl and carefully press a divot into each mark. This will make it easier for the drill bit to find your marks and drill the holes.
7. Peel the paper off of the non-marked sides of the pieces.
8. Sand the exposed surface of each piece. I find this easiest by rubbing it in a circular motion face down on a sanding block.
9. Create some interesting texture in the surfaces of the pieces. One way to do this is to make a series of lines using the scoring tool. Alternatively, you can make divots with your awl, or drill dots that only go half way through the plexi.
10. Working with one piece at a time, add color to the pieces and accentuate the texture by dropping alcohol ink onto them.
11. Use a paper towel to move the ink around and blot up the excess. Experiment with the amount of ink and the blotting. If you don’t like what you’ve done, sand off the color and try again.
12. Using the tiny no. 60 (or so) bit, drill a hole at each mark. Go slowly, keep breathing and take your time. When all of the holes have been drilled, peel the protective paper off of the other side of each piece.
13. Cut a length of wire and using round-nose pliers, make a tiny loop at one end to act as a “knot.” Hold two pieces together and whip stitch them together with the wire, through the drilled holes. Pull the wire taught as you go and take care not to kink the wire. (This takes a bit of patience, but after you get into a groove it’s a fun and meditative process.)
14. At the other end of the seam, cut the excess wire to leave about a 1/4” tail and use the pliers to create a loop here as well. Press the loop flush with the plexi.
15. When the cover is completely sewn together, sand any sharp edges and use a file or rotary tool to make nicely rounded corners. Set the cover aside and do as you like for the back cover.
Because my journal is a “values journal,” I wanted a quote on the back cover that related to my intent for the journal. I typed my quote onto tissue paper, being mindful of the line length and the width of my journal cover. I sanded one side of the cover, then adhered the typed quote to the plexi (face down, so that it was readable through the other side) using gel medium. (To get an even coat of medium, I used a foam roller to spread it.) Finally, to tie it together with the front cover, I added a bit of alcohol ink to the top edge of the cover as well as a couple drips.
Each of my tabbed pages marks a section for each of my top-5 values. You might have a different need for your tabbed pages.
16. You can create labels for your pages using a typewriter and some tissue paper. Alternatively, you could write directly on the plexi, or you could write/print/type on a different type of paper. If you’re going to type onto tissues, it’s threaded into the typewriter easier if you place a sturdier paper behind it.
17. Peel off the protective paper from your tabbed plexi pages and sand both sides of each. (Sand the edges and file-round the corners on each page as well.)
18. My typed labels were too big for my tabs, so I decided to draw personal symbols, which represented the values onto the tab portion of each page. You can do something similar or even write words themselves, using a pen, but a pencil works on the sanded surface as well and gives a different effect of course.
I completed my tabbed pages by tearing my tissue paper words down and adhering each just above its respective tab using a small amount of gel medium and a foam brush.
Now you’ll need to drill holes for the binder rings in the covers and all of the pages. To do this, create a template first. My holes were 1” from each side and 1/4” from the top edge. To accommodate my rings, my holes needed to be 3/16” in diameter. But I know from experience, that it’s very risky to just drill a hole this large into plexi without first drilling a short series of smaller holes. That is to say, it’s a good idea to work your way up from a tiny hole to a larger one, re-drilling the same hole, about three times. Start with the bit used for the wire holes, then drill the hole with a 1/16” bit, then a 1/8” bit and finally, a 3/16” bit. Drill matching holes in all the pieces.
19. Decide what paper you want to go into your journal (I used white cardstock), and cut enough pieces to size. (Note: “Size” is the tabbed plexi page size, minus the extension of the tab. Otherwise, the paper will not leave the tabs visible.) Use a drilled page as a template to mark where the holes in the paper will be punched.
20. Punch all of the paper, then use a corner-rounder punch to round the corners.
21. Assemble your journal. I cut graph paper the size of my covers (rounded the corners with the punch) and typed the title on one piece, so that it would show through the cover. If you discover that your binder rings will not accommodate the book, you’ll simply need to go back and drill/punch slightly larger holes.
What is a Values Journal?
Our authentic values are not something we feel we’re supposed
to have, nor are one person’s values better or more or less admirable than someone else’s. Our personal values simply reflect what we are most passionate about and what is most important to us to have present in all of the assorted aspects of our lives. Some of our values change yearly, weekly or even hourly, but generally speaking, we usually have a core set that runs throughout most of our lifetimes. Sometimes one value (such as making art
) is a part of a larger value (such as beautifying the world
). And, while most of us are aware of things we like and don’t like, many of us aren’t exactly conscious of what our top values really are. But knowing what the top few are (I like to focus on my top five) can help us make decisions (Is this choice in alignment with my core values?
), figure out why we might be struggling (Might my actions here be at odds with my values?
) or how we could bring more satisfaction into our daily lives (What activities could I do more of that placate my values?
It’s only been in the last couple years that I’ve been more keenly aware of my own core values. One book that really helped me figure things out was The Fire Starter Sessions
by Danielle LaPorte. And if you aren’t sure yourself, I am confident you’re going to LOVE The Declaration of You!
by Jessica Swift and Michelle Ward (due out this July).
I plan on using my Values Journal to record inspiring quotes related to my values as well as to record ideas of future ways I want to intend actions that will honor these values. Plus, it’s just a nice pretty reminder for me to see regularly as it sits on my desk.
Whether you like the idea of making your own Values Journal or you have a different motive in mind, I hope I’ve inspired to you to try something new to add to your bookmaking/art journaling repertoire.
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