Thin Letter-Size Planner???

Maybe the crowd here can help me out. I'm interested in a thin letter-sized planner. I have a 1/2" 3-ring binder that I used for a while, but I guess it didn't stick. Something a little nicer would be desirable, plus multiple rings would be nice. Lately I've been using spiral notebooks -very thin.

All the planners I've seen so far are 1-2+". Too big for me.

I know that Circa will be brought up. I've looked at them and 1/2" rings might work. For some reason I just don't like the look of the notebooks with the big rings sticking out the end. Perhaps 1/2" rings are small enough they don't protrude out. Also maybe a cover would make it look spiffy, but that might make the whole planner/notebook fat, which I'm trying to avoid.

Any ideas or suggestions are appreciated.

Thank you,

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So, OK, yah, Circa. Hard to get good stiff covers that are really thin, too, AND circa-punched. Can be done if you buy yourself some really great matte board or something similar, then shave the edges so they'll fit in the punch.

How about this instead:

1. Go get the really great matte-board from the art supply store, cut it to size, and run it through a 3-hole punch. I found some in the scrapbooking section of a craft store that's actually all black, inside and out. Too thick for a circa punch.

2. Go to the office supply store and buy the package of loose notebook rings in the 5/8" size (I found some at officeMax in a package with other sizes too).

3. Punch your papers with the 3-hole, then bind everything together with your tiny rings. Note: These little monsters are stiff and a little hard to open unless you have tough hands or a couple pairs of small pliers. They are not gonna let go of your papers without a fight.

I actually made mine up with page protectors as the inside (labeled 43 folders-style) so I won't have to open those rings again. :) With 43 good page protectors and 2 nice heavy black covers on mine the tiny rings are full but not over-full. And this cover material, while slightly flexible, is much stiffer than plastic. Since I got my board in a 12x12 size, I cut it down to slightly larger than the pages on all sides and rounded the corners (with scissors). It's lean, it's neat, and it's no-frills.

That's an interesting idea

That's an interesting idea with the loose rings. I'll have to try it out. I'm wondering if there will still be 'ring-show' on the edge? It would also be interesting to put together a cover that is over the edge, sort of like the circa notebook covers though I'm not sure exactly how to do this...



Yes, the rings do show. However, 3 small silver rings with a black cover has an element of cool that a regular 3-ring just doesn't have, IMHO. And you can decorate/trim your covers with whatever you like, if you want.

If you want a cover over discs, you can use a piece of fabric that is loosely adhered to the front and back covers (but not the discs). That is to say, the edge of the fabric should be tightly adhered, but loose over the discs. Stick the fabric on when the covers are closed tightly, then when you open them, they'll gap a bit. If you stick the fabric on when the covers are open, the book probably won't close. :)

Personally, I'd rather have the exposed discs than the bulge, but that's just me. Finding a snip of fabric that suits your personality would be interesting--you could stretch the fabric over the entire cover and glue it on the inside (handy if you think the glue will show through).

You could do the same thing with decorative paper, and maybe reinforce the bulge on the inside with packing tape to strengthen it.


Other bindings


Forgot to mention--you can use zip ties or ribbons or string for your binding instead of discs or rings if you prefer. 3-ring holes work just fine with all sorts of ties or clips or whatever.

Not sure that'd really be your style, but I thought I'd mention it. You could even get some heavy duty Romex (household wiring) and strip off the insulation--hand-made copper rings would have more cache' then notebook rings..


Kid's book cover

For that matter, you could get a stretchy fabric book cover at your local Wonderful World of School Supplies. I have several that are large enough to fit over a letter-size 3 ring binder. They are cheap and washable; come in lots of styles and colors; sometimes even have interior pockets, pen loops and built-in bookmarks; and can be switched out at whim.

I don't actually *use* 3 ring binders or even letter size stuff much, I just like to hoard stuff like that in my stash... just in case... ;-)

Try Rollabind rings, 1/4

Circa rings only go as far as 1/2, Rollabind goes as far as 1/4, I use that size in my letter sized binder, which I currently use only for reference. At first I used that size for everything, quite exciting at that thin size, but later I needed more space in my hipster and Classic planners, so I got bigger rings. I guess you know Rollabind and Circa rings are compatible.

I like my Rollabind letter sized covers, but I was only able to get one set at a local paper supply store (they are out of more), so I ended up cutting up plastic sheets for additional binders in other sizes. The plastic sheets are nice and thin, with sufficient stiffness for protection, but only the Rollabind covers are stiff enough to be used as a writing surface by themselves (in letter size), so I ended up getting a Franklyn Rollabind planner, since everyone says ordering from Rollabind direct is a pain (even my local store says the same thing).

Ordering from Rollabind

I haven't had any trouble receiving notebook and disc orders from Rollabind. Received two orders in the last couple weeks within 3 days via USPS & I live in Ohio.

They are having trouble with shipping the desktop punch. Apparently they received defective units from their manufacturer. Waited almost a month & gave up. I had them ship me discs instead after ordering the Levenger punch. Shipping was free since my original order was over $75. FYI - their discs are MUCH cheaper than Levenger and come in lots of colors.

Circa 1/4" Rings

Just one note - Levenger does have 1/4" rings... here

thin binders and ring-free binding

Hi Aaron,

I haven't seen any 1/2" or 1.25cm spine planners around however thinking laterally ...

there are some nice, thin, letter sized address and presentation books with multiple rings out there. Companies that sell executive gifts and promotional portfolios for conferences often have them. Also I've seen binders with 5 or 7 rings in A4 size used as menus, so I wouldn't be at all surprised if letter sized binders like that are available from restaurant suppliers.

Something a little different is a ring-free binder. For example this magazine binder holds a single magazine or booklet. (This is a cheapy one but I'm sure there are nicer looking covers out there.) This appears to be just a cover. But you can also get magazine binders with string or plastic holders in the middle that you slide a booklets onto - so you don't have too bind the contents.

From memory there were instructions and ideas posted for binders like this in the DIY kit section.

There are also some great ideas for alternative binding there (as mentioned above).

If you use a spiral binding machine, you could use one of those plastic sleeve display books with a pseudo
spiral binding. (The sort of binding where instead of a spiral there are a lot of individual 3/4 rings fixed together and a plastic strip that clips over the opening and holds the spine closed. Anyway, most of those binders use holes as the same spacing as a spiral binding machine. So paper punched in the spiral binder can be put into the binder cover in place of the plastic sleeves.


Kit section where?

Hi Katrina,
Are you referring to the gallery when you say 'gallery' when you mention the DIY kit section? Am I missing this place that has info on 'alternative' binders?



Yes, it would help if my post made sense. Sorry.

There are a number of posts in the kit gallery (earlier posts before the circa invasion) with interesting ideas for notebook style planners.

Also, early posts under ‘creativity’ (pre 2007) include book binding, creating notebooks and alternative ideas for putting planners together. And there are some posts under Journalling that move away from the contents of a journal and talk about putting together books/journals and what has worked or not worked for some people.

I suggested them because sometimes it's useful to look at a completely different non-business approach to putting something together to come up with ideas for a conventional professional business planner.

If thin is the main thing...


If a thin planner is the main goal, you probably can't get more space efficient that something like those wire bound At A Glance type planners. Not DIY, but would be thin.

The standard Circa notebook comes with 7/8" outside diameter discs (3/4" ID) that may feel large to you. I substituted 3/4" OD (9/16" ID) medium Rollabind discs in one notebook and it's a lot thinner, but pages still turn easily. Rollabind says they're good for 1/2" of material. With the plastic covers, it's quite compact. You could build those yourself.

I have some 9/16" OD (3/8" ID) small Rollabind discs which are good for 1/4" of material. With the smaller diameter, though, pages don't turn as easily.

Hey, I just noticed that Levenger has a sale on these:
Circa Deluxe Shell with 1/2-inch Discs
Price: $9.95 - $12.95
Letter Was $16 Now $12.95
Junior Was $14 Now $9.95

A Circa notebook cover with backbone
To create your own Circa notebook, start with this sturdy translucent binder and accompanying Circa discs. Then add your desired refill sheets and other tools to make your Circa notebook work efficiently for your needs.
Elastic band holds your notebook closed in a briefcase or tote
Label on the spine for easy reference
Sturdy translucent plastic
1/2-inch discs accommodate up to 80 sheets
Junior, 7W x 8 3/4H
Letter, 10W x 11 1/4H
Refill sheets available separately

Or this:
Circa Presentation Portfolios (set of 4)
Price: $16 Now $9.95 Save $6.05
A Circa binder and portfolio
Our Circa Portfolio has a window pocket on the front so you can customize projects and reports with your own cover sheet. And because you can rearrange the pages with ease, you can make last-minute changes in a snap.
Set of 4
1/4-inch discs hold up to 50 sheets
Elastic band keeps the portfolio closed in a bag or tote
9 1/2W x 11 1/4H

These are just plastic covers and discs. You have to supply your own paper, but it looks like a great size for you. The discs are covered by the shell so that it won't catch on stuff in your bag.

"The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once." Albert Einstein and Buckaroo Banzai


Do you ever feel like there's too much out there? As if the office supply world is some black hole that keeps pulling you in with new things to try out.

I came across some Rollabind binders on the rollabind website.

I want to try them out! Too many options is not a good thing sometime.

print shop binding

If taking pages in and out of your planner is not a priority, then you could consider getting the pages you want bound by a print shop or an office supply story. You would have to get all the pages you want into the format they accept, most take pdf and word documents. Many let you upload your document then customize the covers and binding. You might get more options going into a smaller print shop. You could also check out print on demand operations like Lulu -- many let you order just one book.

Let us know what you do.

Follow-up on my search

Ok, I visited the big three office supply stores (Office Max, Depot, and Staples) to see what they had. I looked at the At-a-glance and other similar spiral planners, but couldn't find anything I really liked. I'd be looking for one page-a-day planners and the selection was sparse on these type (mostly weekly or monthly).

The closest match for me could be the Franklin spiral planners, but I've only seen them on their website. I'll have to visit one of their stores for a closer look.

In the meantime I found a possible solution - report covers. Basically they're fancy folders/binders.

I'm sure you all remember those paper/cardboard folders with the metal prongs in the middle. Typical for grade school. They sell for around $0.15 from what I saw. There are also covers with various side clips that hold the papers in place. The problem with these is that you have to crease/bend the paper as the papers don't turn freely like in a 3-ring binder. Not a big deal, but you do lose available space on the paper due to this fold.

But I did find a report cover that had some 3-ring plastic fasteners. I'm not sure I can describe it fully. The plastic fasteners form a ring and fold into little pockets to secure themselves. It's Avery Lay Flat Report Cover (47781) for anyone interested. Around $3.50. Plus it's thin. It only holds 50 pages (probably just right for me) and is only 1/2" at the binder edge. For comparison the 1/2" 3-ring binder I have is almost 1 1/4" thick at the edge.

It doesn't look too fancy and I'll have to think how I can make it look a little more professional. It's made of some plastic material and has a clear plastic 'window' on the front to put in a custom title page, so it isn't as eye-pleasing as some planners.

But I'll have to see how it goes. I printed out some forms and am ready to try it out.

Yay! Congratulations

It's great to hear you've found something that suits your needs.

As to the look, perhaps there are fancier versions of the report cover out there somewhere. If, after using it a while, you decide that you like the mechanism then you might be able to move the mechanism to a fancier report cover, or put the report folder into a slide-on cover.

I work in a professional environment and I regularly hide $2 spiral notebooks in black PVC slide-on covers from old diaries. I've seen cheap, thin, A4 month-to-an-opening planners with black PVC slide on covers. A cover like that would transform your report cover. Perhaps you can find a 2009 diary/planner like that on sale.

Although you might find that the folder is fine as it is once you get into the habit of using it and seeing it.


I've been wondering about the ProClick binding system. It is in the big catalog from my locally owned office supply company. It's like a spiral notebook binding that you can open and close, but I am not sure how easily the rings pull apart and snap back together. You could take a look at it. If you live in a large city, maybe you could examine it in a store; it is not in any stores in my town.