Review: The Levenger Circa System, Part II

Levenger FolioA little more than a decade ago, I was scouting out some venture capital for a possible multimedia project, and made arrangements to meet with a retired paint manufacturer at a cafe. Wanting to appear as professional as possible, I wore my best suit and tie, got a hair cut, and filled my slick black vinyl day planner with all the requisite calendars, to-do lists, expense sheets, project planning forms and special notecards that I thought might convey a good impression. I therefore felt a little awkward when he hobbled in through the door wearing a t-shirt and long shorts that barely skirted the top his knobby knees, toting a worn leather planner that looked like it might have been subjected to World War II. In fact, it had been: he had used the same planner for over five decades, spanning a wartime stint in the navy to the present day, and it was now a rich but scarred ochre brown, replete with years of yellowing papers brimming with ideas, random numbers, and a legacy of tasks undertaken and completed. During the conversation --not much was to come out of it-- I was at first amused, and then transfixed by the rustic nature and longevity of both the man and his queer little "catch-all," as he called it.

The necessity of quality workmanship was made all the more plain when the following month --while trying to stuff too many papers into my own planner-- the cover split along the spine from an errant stitch, and I sliced my finger open. By contrast, I can today hold all of my father’s 50-year-old gear from his army days, from notebooks to sliderules to map cases, mostly still in excellent condition, and the value of investing in quality starts to really hit home.

In my last article, I looked at some items in the Levenger Circa line, and wondered if it crossed the boundary from form into function. Since I’ve already covered the system in general, this article will review the basic core of any planning or notetaking solution: the notebooks and folios that bring all the papers, forms, writing tools and techniques together. And then the big question: is the quality worth the price?

It’s all about perspective, young man...

By even bothering to pose the question that way, it’s clear that we’re talking about some fairly expensive gear. But let’s put on the brakes here, and seek some context:

  1. How much would it cost for, say, a medium-to-high quality Franklin-Covey or Filofax planner? Roughly $90-135 to start, and up to twice that.
  2. How much does it cost for a higher-end one-time-use notebook, like a Moleskine? Roughly $12-15.
  3. How much for all the gadgets one buys that become outdated and disposable after a year or so? I don’t know about you, but almost everybody I know spends hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on cell phones, MP3 players, GPS systems, laptops, and other devices that are constantly being replaced by "next-gen" versions.

Given that reference point, a $12-18 notebook that can last for years isn’t all that bad, nor a $70 planner that can last for decades. The question then becomes, would you be wasting your money if you purchase them? To that, I’d answer, it depends if you use them. (Ah, such a simple answer indeed.) This little review may help you decide that.

Yes, but can it make breakfast?

Circa NotebookLast week, I wrote about the Circa Translucent Notebooks. In a nutshell, these are notebooks of various sizes --letter-size, junior (almost half-letter), compact, and index card-- that are bound by a set of Circa rings and contained by a stiff set of slightly frosty covers. The notebooks do indeed have their benefits. All but the letter-size covers are strong and stable enough to be used as a writing surface, even when held in your hand, and all can fold back around, like a spiral-bound notebook, and therefore take up less space in use. It’s very easy to insert and remove pages at any point in a notebook, and there’s no snapping of rings and awkward shuffling of pages.

Plus, Circa-punched papers of any size can also be used within a notebook of a larger size, meaning that you can mix-and-match several different note-taking and planning solutions. I use a few different sizes for various projects, and love this ability. Unlike a regular notebook, you can insert different styles and thickness of paper to suit your needs; for example, a designer’s notebook may have lined pages, blank sketch paper, storyboard forms, and much thicker paper for ink and wash. You can vary the thickness of the notebooks by swapping ring sizes, effectively creating anything from a 20-page watercolour portfolio book to a 200-page planner. And lastly, a matter of aesthetics: the translucent covers will show any picture page laid under them, allowing you to customise the outside look to your liking.

This is not to say that the notebooks are perfect. Although the 60 lb refill paper at Levenger is high quality and thick, not to mention fountain-pen friendly, it is still rather expensive if you write a lot. You can however purchase compatible Rollabind paper at cheaper rates, or you can make your own (assuming you spring for the special punch). If you use larger rings, you may note that the "spine" tends to jiggle a bit vertically due to a slight give between the rings and the paper. Since there is no fixed spine, like in a planner, this is natural, and using a smaller ring size mitigates this somewhat. There is no loop for pen or pencil, and so you’ll have to improvise for that. And finally, there may sometimes be an occasional “catching” and bending of the perforated paper between the rings, depending on the paper-to-ring size ratio.

All told, these are minor quibbles, and the translucent notebooks are an excellent bargain, depending on how you fill them. (Ah, this is where we get all D-I-Y in the next article.) For a $10 starter kit and a punch --a Levenger or a cheaper Rollabind-- you could be using a completely customised notebook for many, many years.

In-between days

A quick note to elaborate on something I mentioned last week: the fact that Levenger is transitioning its middle-size notebooks and paper from their "Junior" size to the North American industry standard of Classic size. As you probably know, Classic is half of a letter-size page, which is to say 5.5” x 8.5”. It’s fairly easy to find this size, or to make your own by chopping letter-size stock in half. Junior size is rather awkward, slightly wider and shorter than Classic. However, I do find that the current Junior sized gear does facilitate Classic pages quite well. I use a combination of both Junior and Classic, and the differences are small enough that I barely notice. True, the edges of the paper don’t line up exactly right, but given my history of making my own pages by chopping and punching, I’m rather used to that anyway. The important thing is that Classic pages still fit in Junior notebooks and folios, as long as you’re careful about how you punch the pages.

I should note that the newest colour "Junior" tabs produced by Levenger are in fact Classic size. The previous set seemed too thick, to the point of sheer bulkiness, and were (some would say) a tad too colourful. The new thinner ones offer rich, earthy hues that match well the green and gold Levenger colour scheme, and strike me as far more attractive.

A question of lust?

Circa Leather Foldover NotebookOne of Levenger’s top sellers is the Circa Leather Foldover Notebook. (The Junior size I tried is item ADS2280.) I can see why people like this product so much. Or rather, desire them, almost illicitly. Instead of a translucent cover, this model uses a rugged black plastic "skeleton" layer wrapped by finely-stitched leather. The inside front is plain, but the back cover sports three pockets: one full-length for tucking larger papers, and two that hold business cards or sideways index cards. A thoughtfully-designed pen loop with leather facing outside and elastic facing inside will accommodate almost any pen, although it will be pushed outside the notebook if one uses tabs. The covers are just thick enough to offer excellent support without feeling bulky, and the whole affair has a unique classic-futurist feel to it: classic because of the leather, futurist because of the Circa rings. Overall, it’s quite pleasant to hold and use. The fairly high sticker price is $58-94, and thus any decision to purchase will probably come down to a matter of cost versus quality and longevity. Given the amount of money that people like me spend on office supplies, journals, notebooks, binders and other productivity paraphernalia, it strikes me as a good buy. In fact, I like it so much that I’m saving to purchase one in green, to match my planner.

Who needs a digital hub? Gimme analogue.

Oh yes, my planner. My Great Circa Experiment was conceived as a way of consolidating all my various bits and bobs of productivity gear into a collective whole, with the notion that a Circa system might be able to forge some semblance of compatibility. The core of it would have to be, of course, a planner.

I’d like to say that I don’t switch planners lightly, but the sad fact is that I do. The constant tweaking, experimenting and designing of different size template "solutions" is what led me to this sorry circumstance. Was it truly possible to create a system where I could implement everything I needed to do to become productive, creative, and —well—- on time for appointments?

Circa Zip FolioThe dubious honour of my next planner falls to the Circa Zip Folio (item ADS2985 for Junior size). I refer to mine as my Levenger Lincoln Green Special Edition, because the only other time I’ve seen that specific colour was on Errol Flynn’s costume in The Adventures of Robin Hood. Levenger, with a somewhat more staid market in mind, calls it "Evergreen," a limited edition colour. Whatever the case, I love the hue of the full-grain leather, as it’s completely unlike any other planner I’ve owned, and it somehow reminds me of the nature I'm missing in this near-Arctic winter. (I'm also a decent medieval longbow archer, but take that as ye would.)

The folio meets my criteria quite well. First, the leather is rugged without seeming bulky, and the folio seems far slimmer than my Day Runner. The zipper enclosure helps keep my papers, cards and pen protected in the rugged clime I live in, and I can easily carry a Circa notebook with 1” rings inside (fitting about 150-200 pages). There are plenty of pockets on the inside of the front cover, including three full-length ones (that can carry a letter-size sheet folded in half), a see-through business card window, two deep pockets that can hold index cards, and four that are suitable for holding business cards. The planner is supple enough that it can easily open flat, and the pen loop is the same leather/elastic combination that works so well with the foldover notebook. The cost for the Junior version is $78, just $10 more than the foldover, but note that one has to purchase a Circa agenda or translucent cover notebook to go inside.

By comparison, my clunky half-leather/half-vinyl Day Runner retails for $85, and some (unused) Franklin-Covey planner binders in my possession retail for $120 plus. The quality of the Levenger Zip Folio is similar, if not superior. It feels like it could last for a long, long time.

Slip-sliding away?

That being said, the product is not flawless. First, I really wish there was a second pen/pencil loop. I carry around a mechanical pencil as well as a fountain pen, since many of my appointments and contacts change regularly, and there was no obvious place to store it. Second, and the source of many late-night oaths that would no doubt induce fainting spells in those of a more delicate constitution, was the infernal sliding of the notebook within the folio.

Some further context: only occasionally do I use a planner on a table or firm surface. Most of the time, it’s in my lap as I muse at the base of a tree, scratch out mind-maps while leaning precariously back in a chair, or jot memos to my future self while sitting up in bed. My life is not meant to be lived solely in compartmentalised boxes, on stable surfaces, or in a perfect office environment, and thus my planner has to be yanked out at a moment’s notice to catch whatever leaps wildly from my brain.

In a Junior Zip Folio, the back cover of a Circa notebook is meant to fit inside the pocket of the back folder to keep the book stable. But this only works on a flat surface. Holding the folio at an angle, I found that since the back cover didn’t fit tightly inside it, the notebook would shift all over the place --usually declining to the left-- while I wrote.

Folio Anti-slide hackThankfully, there’s a happy conclusion to this sordid development. I carefully measured the inside of the folio and sketched out a little hack. Using a guillotine, some scissors and the inside of a plastic Levenger file folder (though any stiff report cover would do), I created the shape you see at right, then punched it with the desktop Circa punch. I rounded the corners, attached it to my notebook, and slid it inside the back pocket. Voila! No more sliding, and I can now easily clip my mechanical pencil below the notebook. A major pain, a simple solution. Score one for the flexibility of the Circa system, a modder's delight.

There are a few other hacks I pursued while turning my folio into a viable planner, but those will have to wait till next week, when I’ll review how I set mine up using a D*I*Y Planner approach.

Head in the clouds, feet on the ground

But the questions remain. Are these upscale notebooks and folios really worth the cost? Do they possess both form and function? Will you still be using them decades from now?

Back when I was twelve or thirteen, I told my father I wanted to buy a computer. (This was in 1981 or 1982, mind you.) He gave me a friendly whack upside the head and said, in his usual direct and indomitable tone, "Never buy anything you won’t use." I bought it, and twenty-five years later, I’m a multimedia producer. Of course, I’m not using the same old VIC-20 (would that I could), but I’ve invested in my equipment wisely over that time.

Likewise, it pays to consider carefully any path that involves time, effort or money. It’s folly to pay $60 for an attractive notebook or folio you’ll use for a week. But it’s certainly worthwhile to invest that money if you plan on using it for years to come. Many people ask me for advice when choosing a planner. I tell them to start cheap, perhaps with a $20-40 model, and then “upgrade” to a high-quality one if their usage warrants it. (After all, many people purchase paper planners and never use them.) By the same token, if the Circa system interests you, I’d suggest buying their inexpensive starter kit and some refill paper. If you use it regularly, then consider a punch next, especially if you like to cut or print your own forms. Then, look at the pricier upgrades. All things told, it’s still a heck of a lot cheaper than a comparable Franklin-Covey or Filofax solution, and more so if you use D*I*Y Planner forms or blank fills.

Really, it’s all about investing your money over the likely lifetime of a product’s usage, and then deciding if it’s worth it. In the case of the Levenger Circa notebooks and folios, I certainly see its value for my own use.

In retrospect, the old man in the cafe no doubt found me just as amusing as I found him. Here’s a young whippersnapper, trying to impress me with his business wiles, and he’s probably not written a single idea in that fancy black planner. Of course, he was right. It’s just taken me a decade to understand the emotional involvement he had with his catch-all, and the untold hours of quality time he probably spent with it. I think it’s a safe bet that this wouldn’t have been so, if it had been made of plastic.

Next week, the birth of a Circa-based planner, D*I*Y Planner style.

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Back Cover Fix

The fix described can be used on any planner that does not attach the binder mechanism directly to the cover.

I believe we have found a quantity of such planners in Classic size here on eBay. It is not yet certain, but at least two DIY-ers have ordered these and we will report as soon as we have them in hand.
"I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson)

Circa Rolla

I find your articles on Circa Experiment fascinating. I have link your writings in:


Nice article Doug. I have used the Circa for some time now with DIY. I have yet to try the levenger forms but yes, the quality is what attracts me them, and as you point out the circa system of no rings to open and close make it very attractive. I'm most interested to see how you have set yours up.

rollabind notebooks

I'm glad I saw this! I'm one month into a new job and still trying to get things organized. I'm in a large organization and am officially part of two departments - one which uses standard pop3 mail but then goes off the deep end and uses Oracle calendar, and the other is completely running on Microsoft Exchange and Outlook. The offshoot: I need to check two places to see if I have meeting coming up!

My solution: once a day I check both and see what meetings are coming up and put them in my planner. I have a Classic size Franklin Covey planner I picked up at Target for $23. After seeing this post and reading about the Circa and Rollabind systems, I decided I need to check them out. There happens to be a Staples on the way home. They had junior and letter size Rollabind notebooks. 70 pages of blank pages. I opted for the Junior size, since I find it to be a better size to deal with. The fabric covered one was $5.99 I think, but had a weird feel to it. I went for the fake leather instead for a couple bucks more.

It comes with a ruler/pagefind, one plastic tabbed divider, one plastic divider with a pocket, and one plastic business card holder for three cards. I've got this divided into three sections: Notes, Tasks (little one off tasks that aren't big enough to be a project) and Projects (first page lists projects, following pages will be one page per project). We'll see what kind of shape this is in after a month, and then I'll decide if I stick with my Franklin or buy my own Circa.

One a side note, did you happen to see this?


I wish we had a Staples here~! That sounds like a great way to try out the system without breaking the proverbial bank. I'm eager to hear how it all works for you :)
my artwork

Stapleis shipping == pricey

Staples wants $8 to send a $6 notebook. Ridiculous.

free shipping

Buy it with a printer cartridge to get free shipping ;-) Another couple ideas - slightly pricier: has a sample notebook for $14 or so. Not sure how much shipping is. The link I posted earlier is a 70 page notebook for $14.95. No clue how much shipping is on that one either.

The info is on the Levenger

The info is on the Levenger site:
Shipping charges to the 50 US States and Puerto Rico:

According to the chart, anything up to $14.99 will cost $5.00 for regular/ground delivery.


I'm curious if you mean free shipping because it is over $50


is there a special I can't find... ?
my artwork

bad attempt at humor

This was a bad attempt at humor. The joke was ink cartridges are expensive so one notebook + one ink cartridge would almost qualify for the free shipping because it would be a $50 order.

Staples Rolla Quality??

I think this may be in the archives somewhere...

How is the quality of the Staples faux leather binder? No pictures of the inside on thier website - does it have any pockets or what-have-you inside? I want to go Circa but am balking at $60 each for a desk punch and foldover (classic) notebook. I'd spring for the Rolla punch (I think) if I could get a cheap notebook to get going with. The Staples one may be a good starter, then upgrade to the Levenger down the road.

So, anyone know the Staples quality? Are there hole compatibility issues with real Rolla/Circa products?



I saw one finally AFTER I had been to a Levenger Store. Had the order been reversed, I might never have gone to the Levenger Store.

You would still need the punch or you'd need to buy pre-punched paper refills.
"I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson)

Which Nasty?

Was the product quality nasty, or just the fact you didn't find them until later? Yes, I know I need the punch, but I'd nee dit anyway.

Just looking for clarification.


Product quality was nasty

Sorry for being unclear :(

The covers were scruffy and unimpressive, especially after seeing the Levenger/Circa products.
"I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson)


I've seen the staples notebooks. In my opinion, the quality of the covers is unbelievably poor. Both the "leather" and the cloth covers were warped and very shoddy. The paper is ok, as far as that goes. I actually bought one of the cloth covered ones just for the silver rings... but the silver started wearing off after like two days.

For just seeing if you like the format, I'd say it's probably worth it, if you have a Staples nearby.


The quality of the Staples notebooks is quite poor, even for only $10. I rooted through the entire stack of the "pleather" notebooks and the best one I could find still has the plastic under the pleather cover visible and the edges are not even. Really not visually pleasing at all. Although the black rings are holding up better than sarah's silver ones, at least! The paper is fine and if you are looking for cheap refills it's adeqaute.

It is good to try the system but, if you're like me, once you're hooked (which took about 35 seconds) you will end up ordering from Levenger.

Staples Rollabind test drive

The Rollabind notebooks at Staples are good to see if you like the format. That is about all they are good for. The paper is OK - not as good as the paper that comes in most Franklin Covey planners. No clue what weight it is. I'm trying not to move pages around any more than I have to for fear of messing up the "wings" or whatever you call them. The cover on the notebooks are fake leather over top of a plastic sheet, which is showing.

The notebook comes with a ruler/page divider, one tabbed divider, and one divider with a pocket. The rings are plastic with some kind of silver paint on them and it scratches off fairly easily. When this happens, they look scruffed up but still work fine.

Re: Quality of Staples Rollabind

That's too bad about the poor quality of the Staples Rolla products. A bad experience might turn off a lot of people to the system altogether.

A colleague of mine bought a Staples notebook on a whim but isn't all that "into" the system beyond just her one book. So if it falls apart, she's not likely to go look to Levenger or Rollabind for a new one, she'll just throw it away and be done with the concept altogether.

She probably won't be the only one. But maybe I'm overreacting... I hope!


More on staples rollabind...

Well, i purchased a rollabind notebook from staples online, the day before you all started critiquing the product. I went to cancel the order after I read your posts, but was too late.
I received the shipment today. Letter size fake leather notebook and a package of sheet protectors. So, here is my opinion. The fake leather cover is actually quite nice. It does not look fake and is not warped or damaged in any way. It is very sturdy, so it will bulk up the planner a litte. There are no pockets on the jacket though.It came with 70 sheets of ruled paper which, of course, is not levenger quality, but paper none-the-less. it also came with a biz card holder, a slash pocket divider, a ruler place holder, and a tabbed divider. The page protectors are awesome, sturdy, and will work great for me. The rings are like everyone says and are pretty much junk. I will replace them with rings I have already purchsed. They are silver coated clear discs and the paint is already chipping off.
So, that is my opinion on the product. I think for those who do not want to spend a fortune at levenger for a foldover notebook cover, this should do just fine!
nay nay

Staple's rings

nay nay said:
>>The rings are like everyone says and are pretty much junk. I will replace them with rings I have already purchsed. They are silver coated clear discs and the paint is already chipping off.

Here's a thought. Would it be possible to soak these rings in vinegar or maybe clorax or something, to get the paint all the way off? It might be pretty neat to have clear rings, and certainly you would no longer be worrying about the paint getting everywhere. Or are the rings not worth the effort?




You could try any number of solvents to get rid of the paint. I've got a paint pen here that says it comes off with turpentine, for example.

Just be careful--the stronger solvents will soften the plastic as well as the paint!


paint removal

jon & shris - i will give both of these ideas a try as they are good ideas! I think if it doesn't work, I will just use them for my archive notebook - a place to holster my used and no longer needed pages.
thank you!!
nay nay

quick post...

ack i'm multitasking and this isnt on my to-do list hehe...

BUT i had to recommend plain old household ammonia... it smells horrible but works like a charm for removing paint... might need a lil scrubbing with an old toothbrush or the like.

(I paint miniatures and this works WONDERS for removing old paint :) )

kk back to my multitasking hell before work hehe. ♥
my artwork

I have use polyclens to save

I have use polyclens to save brushes from dried on oil paint, or you might even try some kind of sanding. Whatever you use remember to ventilate, and consider a mask for solvent fumes.

btw. and just in case I find that baby oil is one of the best ways to remove non water based paint from hands.

all the best, jp


Clear rings

Honestly, for the price of the solvent you can order clear rings online. I think I got my clear rings from a reseller.


I agree

I popped into a Staples yesterday and for a modest $7.99, picked up the faux (sounds snootier than fake :) leather Classic size. Quality is what you'd expect for $8, but not unreasonable at all. The covers are bent a little, but I wouldn't call them warped, exactly. They just aren't super heavy-duty. Certainly a reasonable cover to get started with.

I got the one with black rings, so they aren't painted. They are molded with "Rollabind" right in them, so aren't some Staples knock-off. I don't see a qaulity issue there either, in my case.

Regarding the ease of foldover (mentioned in another thread I think) if anything, it is a bit difficult just because of ring size. The amount of paper in it is too much to roll around nicely on the rings (~7/8" - what size is that?) The action itself is smooth enough.

It would be convenient for many folks if this format takes off via Staples and they start carrying rings and punches...

My $0.02,

Sounds about right

My opinion of the Staples stuff was tainted by the fact that I had seen "the Good Stuff" earlier the same day. I agree that it is a good starter for the cost.

Once you play with it for a while you will be primed to go to a Levenger Store.

Warning: Leave all credit cards with a trusted loved-one before entering the store the first time :)
"I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson)

Uh oh...

Taking the family on a trip to DC over the kids Easter break. I'm already trying to work in a stop at Tysons Corner ;-D

My wife won't know what hit her...


Tourist Guide

Drop me a PM if you need some local tourist info
I've lived in the area most of my live and love going to the museums and such.
"I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson)

Much Appreciated...

We've been down before and generally find plenty to do. The kids have meuseums they want to hit, got to do the zoo (early in teh morning) one day, gonna hit the Shobukan aikido dojo to train one night, and so on. We always have found great restaurnats and lot sof fun.

Thanks for the offer - I'll keep it in mind!

That's what I needed to know!

Thanks for the comments, all. I may pop into a Staples to see the product and flip through one while I stand there, but may well wait and just go Levenger if I like it. Why wouldn't I?

Best, Reese

good idea

That's a good idea. I'm liking the format and the idea, I'm just afraid I'll rip something every time I move pages around in the Staples Rollabind notebook. I think if I got something higher quality (like the Levenger sampler notebook) I'd have a better idea if I'd like it or not.

Invest in Levenger

I purchased the Levenger system while in Chicago on my honeymoon in 2005. I had been drooling over it for a while, and it exceeds all expectations. The quality of the leather far exceeds the leather Franklin planner that my company bought for me a few years ago.

I also purchased a bag of extra 3/4" rings, paper punch, and the sample planner. I have been printing my Outlook pages and custom forms for two years and I love it [more than my wife] a lot.

Do not waste $10 or $20 on an inferior product that you will not be happy with. The zipagenda is so worth the price...

Also the pocket briefcase, I have been using it as a wallet and note-capture device for almost four years, and I would not give it up for anything. No, not even that.

Now that's dedication...

A man need to have his priorities straight!


Thumbs down

Lured by the thought of a rolla notebook without shipping and handling, I went to Staples this morning. The Rolla notebooks there were... disappointing. The covers were very warped and so thick that I didn't think they'd straighten out even if I pressed them under a stack of phonebooks for a few days. The edges of the fabric ones were all frayed. Neither style offered a pen loop, which was pretty much the only advantage I could see over the basic plastic cover from the Levenger starter kit.

BUT... I did discover a section in the store I hadn't visited before: The spiral binding supplies. Clear plastic covers, solid plastic covers, fancy cover stock... All begging for punching with my circa punch!

Y'all have created a month-terrr! Bwah-ha-ha!!

Laura :)

Some people hear voices in their heads.
Writers take dictation.


I never thought of the spiral binding supplies. If I find myself using my homemade Rolla notebook (cardboard back, clear cover from an old presentation cover) a lot, then I'll definitely hit that section.

If I turn into a total Rolla nut, then I'll go for the Levenger junior Circa after they move it to classic size. But no way am I shelling out that much money before I discover whether or not I like the system...

-- Steff

no Rollabind punches at Staples

I didn't see any Rollabind punches at Staples. I think all they have are letter & junior size notebooks and the refill pages. I wasn't even impressed with the quality of the paper. It is better than regular printer paper, but that is about all I can say good about it.

rollabind punch

yeah, i'm pretty sure that Staples doesn't carry the punch. all Staples don't even carry Rollabind, which is interesting. i think you need to order the punch online.

Too bad no local supply for Europe

Too bad the only way to get Levenger stuff is get them from US. From a 10$ starter kit + shipping costs I get to 37$, that's definitely no "starter" investment ...
Also I was about to subscribe to your feed (reviews and articles such this one are just plain lovely!) but if the advices you give are too US-centric (this being natural as you live there), I fear it would be sad for me getting to know all these wonderful tricks and not being able to even try them because of the Atlantic ocean right in the middle!
Keep up the good work, looking forward next week!

flevour - where are you? I'm

flevour - where are you?

I'm in Malaysia, and have the same situation with ordering Levenger stuff. The shipping cost for my most recent order came to the same as the items ordered! But it was a small order, and I really wanted the stuff, so I'm not complaining much.

Junior Covers and custom sizes

I have both the junior folio and the foldover. I like and use both - I've found the biggest difference in terms of what I use at any given moment is thickness. The foldover tends to be less bulky than the folio, an important consideration when traveling and trying to fit it in a computer bag. The folio tends to be chunkier, but is more rugged in that it zips shut and will keep things inside if dropped, tossed, etc.

As for custom sizes - I've use Levenger cover/back sheets (the heavy plastic or vinyl) to cut and punch hinge strips to create everything from business card sized (2 holes) to tabloid size "big brainstorming" notebooks. I love the flexibility. I've made a variety of custom sized watercolor sketchbooks, too. Half the fun is whippin up something that meets a specific need or situation.

DIY options?

i wonder if it would be possible to DIY a leather foldover cover instead of buying the levenger one?

or, if there are leather folios (like the levenger) that would fit a circa binder? anyone know?

does anyone know if the rollabind punch is the same as the levenger punch?

Planner covers

I just received a Levenger Circa junior size notebook and it fits handily, if somewhat loosely, in the Franklin-Covey Classic unstructured zipper binder I have. This has a slide out binder ring set, so one can take out the binder. In fact, the Circa notebook is somewhat dwarfed in there and would probably fall out. However, any 5.5"x8.5" planner binder with slots inside the cover instead of binder rings should fit. Ditto for any folios that have inside slots.

Remember, no matter where you go, there you are.
B. Banzai

R & L punches

Yes, the two punches are the same.
If not exactly the same, they are compatable.
I use Circa books and a Rollabind punch with absolutely no problem.

DIY Leather Foldover?

For a couple of years, I did do leatherworking as a hobby, and so I wondered the same question before I received the Levenger product. The internal plastic layers generally wouldn't be a problem, assuming that one had access to a Circa punch (although one might run the risk of ruining it with such thick plastic). The leather on it, though, is of fairly high quality, and the stitching would be very difficult to do by hand. You'd have to be quite a craftsperson.

If one *did* want to make such a thing, it would probably be easier to tool something a little more like the handmade Renaissance Art covers, rather than the slickly produced Levenger ones.

all my best,

Based on the reviews on

Based on the reviews on D*Y*I Planner, I visited the Lavenger store on Michigan Avenue this weekend -- neither Staples nor Target in my area stock the Rollabind version. While I didn't have any intention on purchasing the leather foldover, it did give me an opportunity to see what the system is all about.

I ended up buying the Lavenger Circa punch, and the extremely friendly and helpful salesman threw in a couple of the starter kits and some refill paper for me as well. After only a couple days using the system, I think it may actually help solve a lot of my issues. I can see myself replacing my notebooks and sketchbooks with home-punched paper and rings. The punch is built like a tank, and it looks like all the parts can be replaced if they break, so I expect it'll last a long time.

Now I just need to find some sturdy paper -- the 67# Vellum Cover stock I bought is too thick -- and I'll be all set for some D*I*Y goodness.

Any suggestions for the best paper to use would be appreciated. I'm not sure if the 60# paper advertised is 60# Text stock which can be replaced with 24# Bond or not.

Paper weight


I use 24 lb in my rolla rings and it works fine. If you like heavy, stiff paper you might like 28 or 32 lb better, but 24 is sufficient to snap in and out OK.



Thanks for the advice. I'd probably like the 28#, but it's good to know that 24# will work just fine. Much apprciated.

Does your Circa Punch create

Does your Circa Punch create exactly the same holes as those on Levenger refills? If the hole is an umbrella, does the handle part have the same length? Does the umbrella part have exactly the same shape? I recently bought the Rollabind Punch PBS1000 and the holes it creates are different from those on Levenger refills. The handle part is slightly shorter and the umbrella part is a lot shallower. Staples Rolla notes have this shape and it makes folding over of pages and covers difficult. So I need to know if Circa Desk Punch holes and Levenger refill holes are exactly the same. Thank you for your help.

that itch...

I'm getting that circa itch again... must fight back... must... maintain willpower... must... use up crappy already owned notebooks first... must... ::groan::

Seriously, I might need a new black ink cartridge soon and ... the online ordering at Staples is very tempting.
I hope I can be strong.

I am considering bribing a friend to take me to Chicago and visit one of the Levenger stores down there... I would die if I had to drive down there myself... but if I could close my eyes in the passenger seat, might be worth the near death experience. :P
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The Levenger store at Macy's on both State Street and Water Tower Place has a sale going from 2/9 to 2/19. The ad they gave me over the weekend says 30-70% off, though I'm not sure exactly what items that includes.

I guess I'm really not helping you, am I.


I think I recieved that email too :D I wish I had some paper pr0n addict friends in the area >.<

Thank you for reminding me... sale is my middle name... ;P
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What's on sale ?

I'll check the L-Store near me.

The web page says the Leather Monopoly Set is marked down from $2,700 to only $1,499.95

How many do you want ?

"I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson)


If yer buying, I'll take one ;P

If I'm buying, I'll make my own heheh
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Levenger genie,

We need a Levenger store in Charlotte, NC!

Argh. I want to go see and touch!


ooo ooo

If I can convince anyone to drive me to Chicago, we'll just detour a little and pick you up too :D ROAD TRIP~!!!
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Road Trip


Maybe I can get some of my relatives to let us crash on their couches. :) I have several extended family members in the region.


I Used Something Like This...

I used something like this when I was in college, except I made it myself. I got the idea from a lady I took classes with in Jr. College but it consisted of some ring clamps, a 3 hole paper punch and thin cardboard/cardstock.

Essentially I punched holes in the cardboard/cardstock material and used them as covers and dividers for each class. I'd fill the areas between the sections with paper for notes, etc. and would punch holes in papers I needed to keep from the classes to insert into the "organizer" It's very reminiscent of this system that Levenger has put forward but significantly less expensive (especially for the hole puncher).

My system

...I still like my 3x5 Hipskine better.

After reading the various

After reading the various comments about the Rollabind notebook, especially nay nay's experience with the online purchase, it seems to me the online purchase is a better deal, whereas the ones in the stores are warped, probably from being handled by one too many curious customers (including kids with sticky hands).


Is the Rollabind system even that good? It seems like it'd just be some cheap plastic disks...and I'd be afraid if tearing the paper...


i personally have had no problems with the rollabind system. i use both rolla and circa and they work great together. and, i move my pages around a lot and have never had one tear yet. i am going on about 2 months of using this system...
nay nay


I've been using a variety of Circa-Rollabind-Jotz products fairly heavily for the past 6-7 months, and my experience is that they are rugged, reliable, and useful. The whole process gradually becomes invisible and natural as you get used to using it. It also changes your workflow in subtle ways the more you use it -- I feel that it's made me more efficient. The flexibility and ability to customize are just so worth it for me.

Just one user's experience... ymmv, of course.


very true

funny that you described desires for the circa system as illicit- I have been salivating over it for years, and finally decided to take the plunge four years ago-- and missed out when levenger pulled their starter kit I had been planning to buy (too economical?) now i'm finally off to buy my punch and junior kit since they're on sale (20% off with special code) cannot wait!

But will it fit?

I'm thinking about using a junior zipped folio as my planner-in-chief. But it only accomodates 3/4 inch discs. A key component for me is the 2-page weekly agenda, which seems like it alone would max out the discs. Is it possible to have an junior portfolio with an agenda section, AND a few other tabbed sections, like to-do lists, notes, etc.?


I use 1" discs in my Levenger junior zip portfolio. I have the entire year in 2 page per week, plus 5 tabbed dividers. It's a bit of a tight fit, but I don't keep other documents in the folio pockets so it works. However, it is too big and heavy to carry around, so I use it as home base and take my pocket calendar and 4x6 index cards in a mini photo album in my purse. The bottom line is I've ended up not using it much.

If you are committed to this as your main planner, you can save some thickness/weight by making your own dividers. Levenger dividers will probably last forever, but they are so thick and heavy they take up a lot of valuable real estate on your disks. You might want to consider cutting dividers from a light-weight plastic report cover, or even foregoing actual dividers and replacing them with a post-it durable tab on the first page of each section.

Good luck finding a combo that works for you.


Have you considered only keeping part of the year in your planner at a time?

I have done that in the past to reduce the bulk I was carrying :)

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Good point

This is what I've always done--back in the days of my pocket spiral-bound Daytimer, one could only hold one month's worth of pages, plus monthlys. I used the monthlys for future scheduling, as well as for ticklers for the next month. Later, with larger Daytimers, I kept up the practice of having only the current or current plus next month in my planner, with future months only present in the monthly calendars. The first of the month was a good time for reviewing things, and the re-writing of upcoming events was also a good reminder of what was coming. I would never try to carry a whole year, or even half-year now. :-)