Mario Villalobos

A cardboard shoebox with 15 Leuchtturm1917 A5 hardcover notebooks, 13 of them finished and labeled and two brand new still in their wrapping. In the background is a Field Notes notebook and beside that is a pen case with an assortment of writing tools.

The Perfect Notebook Box

  • Journal

Recently, I finished my thirteenth notebook since the start of last year. Each notebook is the plain A5 hardcover notebook by Leuchtturm1917, and I didn’t really search long or far to find this notebook because frankly, I’m not too picky about them. I bought this one, liked it, so I kept buying them. These notebooks have about 250 pages, so in about 22 months, I’ve written 3,250 pages, or almost 150 pages a month. What I am picky about, though, is storage, as in, how I’m going to store my notebooks once I’m done with them.

When I first started keeping notebooks on a daily basis back around 2004, I chose the pocket Moleskine. Like many, I liked the size, the hardcover, the elastic band, the entire aesthetic of it. Sometime around the early 2010s, I noticed the quality of each new Moleskine I bought degrade compared to my earlier notebooks, so I began to look for alternatives. I really liked the Field Notes brand notebooks, and for a few years, I subscribed to their annual plan. Because these had fewer pages than the Moleskine, I quickly filled these notebooks, and I wanted a way to store them neatly. Fortunately, Field Notes sells an amazing archival wooden box that holds 60 notebooks. I bought two. And because the Field Notes pocket notebooks were the same dimension as my older Moleskine ones, I could store my Moleskine notebooks in here, too.

So when I switched over to the Leuchtturm1917 A5 notebooks, I wanted to find something similar. When I couldn’t, I drew up some plans myself and asked a few friends with woodworking tools if I could commission them to build me boxes for my notebooks. Unfortunately, my sketches required more precise tools than my friends owned, so I was back to square one. However, back in March, Warren Ellis noted a link to this Notebook Stories article on, as Warren put it, “deep nerding on the perfect notebook box.” I read through the article then and learned about Fantastapack, a site that makes custom boxes at whatever dimensions you’d like. So I took my sketches with my custom dimensions, inputed them into Fantastapack’s order page, and before I knew it, I had ordered 11 of them.

I designed each box to hold 15 notebooks, and because I ordered 11 boxes, that meant I could theoretically fit 165 of these Leuchtturm1917 A5 hardcover notebooks, or about 41,250 pages worth of notebooks. And because I had already filled 3,250 pages, I had about 38,000 more pages to write in before I ran out of boxes. At my pace of about 150 pages a month, that means I won’t reach this end for another 21 years or so. I’d be in my late 50s by then, and you know what? That doesn’t seem too old, so what I’m hoping is that I either know how to build my own wooden boxes by then, in which I can just build my own, or that Fantastapack is still around so I could order another 11 boxes from them.

I feel good knowing I have homes for my next 150 notebooks, which means all I have to worry about is writing. That’s it. I’ve tried many morning routine’s over the last few decades, and the one I’ve enjoyed the most is the one I’m doing now: wake up, make my coffee, make my bed, grab my pen, grab my notebook, drink my coffee, and write in my notebook. I’ve done this for over 680 days straight, and I don’t feel like taking a break because there’s nothing to take a break from. This is my life, and I love it. As simple as that.

Now to buy 15 more notebooks just so I can prepare my 2nd box…