Lately I’ve been paying more attention to a bad habit of mine, which is that whenever I enjoy doing something I do my very best to turn it into a responsibility. Like DIY? Let’s start a blog with deadlines and accountability to do projects and posts! Like writing? Let’s set a goal to write a novel this year and track weekly word count in a spreadsheet!
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I like being organized and having things that motivate me to get up and be productive with my personal time. However, too many personal deadlines on top of work can start to feel overwhelming and serious. So I’ve done my best to keep some creative outlets that are just for fun.
For a long while now, the best one has been cooking and baking. It’s relaxing to put on a good audiobook and try out a new recipe, make an old favorite, or just make something up. And if it doesn’t turn out – fine! It’s not like I am relying on it for a post the next day.
I’ve been collecting favorite recipes for about 10 years now and copying them into a little notebook so I can easily find them again. Problem is, that book has just about reached the end of its usefulness.
For one, I’ve filled almost every page and then started going through and copying recipes onto the backs of pages or open half-pages in no particular order, so you have strange situations like the above with hot and sour soup right next to chocolate chip cookies. For another, I’m really sick of copying things over, so recipes build up in my computer’s bookmarks that I need to get around to adding, but never do.
So I decided to make my own recipe book, one that would allow pages to move around to keep things in a good order and would be sized to fit regular 8.5×11 paper so that I could just print recipes off rather than writing them over. And I obviously planned to make it with binder clips, since I don’t know how to do book binding and it looks pretty complicated.
I knew I wanted the cover to be wood, but I didn’t want it to be too thick, nor did I want the plywood edge from using a thin plywood sheet, even though that would have been really easy to get. I looked around the internet for a solution, and came across several places to buy thin real wood sheets, used for veneers and intricate scroll saw projects. I ended up buying two 10″ x 24″ panels of 1/8″ thick red oak from Ocooch Hardwoods for about $22.
I could have made a simple covered book with one sheet, but I had a vision of using additional pieces of wood on the inside of the book as a way to divide up the different sections of recipes.
Crafting the book was super easy. I just laid out a piece of paper on the wood and used it to find the right measurements. I measured for two pieces with a lot of overhang to be the front and back covers, and then an interior piece with only a little overhang beyond the paper’s edge to be a section divider.
I had to be really careful cutting the wood since it was so thin. I used my jigsaw when cutting against the grain and clamped it down on both sides of the cut to give it extra support.
However, I learned the hard way that even a lot of support didn’t work when cutting with the grain – it was just too fragile.
So I had to use a coping saw for the few cuts I had to make that way.
Then, since I am not terribly precise with either a jig saw or a coping saw, I had to sand down the edges to get them to be nice and uniform. I rigged a setup by clamping the piece along my little square ruler and using that to sand to a straight edge.
You can probably guess the rest. I sanded it all down to nice rounded edges, drilled holes for the binder clips, stained, and applied a poly. For stain I used my favorite to pair with red oak: Golden Pecan. I like that it adds some color and brings out the grain, but keeps the color warm and is light enough that you don’t lose the beauty of the wood.
It really couldn’t have been easier, but I’m so happy with the result. It is simple but useful, and the wood cover will hold up well to the mess of a kitchen.
I’ve been printing off all the recipes that I’ve been too lazy to copy over, and it’s great to have them all collected in one place. I’m using a simple uniform format for now, but I may start just printing them off in the future. This is supposed to be easy and convenient!
I’ve also made sure to include a spot for notes on every page, as I often end up adapting a recipe as I make it over time. I like having a spot to indicate whether I added extra vanilla or found it successful with a major flavor change.
I also made myself a super simple template with just some headers like “ingredients” and “instructions” that I can use when it’s easier to just write it in or to copy over old recipes from my book, which I’ve been working on doing over time.
The inside divider also works really well. I don’t need to be too precise with my organization here, but I do like having a way to divide the savory/meal recipes from the baking/dessert ones.
I’m glad I finally took the time to do this quick project, which will help my casual hobby stay easy and fun 🙂 It may not be the most sophisticated book, but its pretty and lays open really easily for displaying the recipes. It could also make a great holiday gift!