John Norris: The Fobster

It's always a pleasure to hear from the mad genius of planners who hides under the pseudonym of John Norris. When I first heard of his idea a couple of weeks ago, I was rather skeptical about the latest creature to emerge from his laboratory, but the more I think about it, the more I think he's onto something....

The FobsterFor those of you on the go, a Hipster for your keychain. Keep those thoughts organized and close at hand. It's Spring, lighten your load.

Yet another planner? No... it's smaller.

The Fobster provides the basics of what you might need for short day trips. It allows one to stay organized on those quick jaunts. Attached to your keychain, you won't forget it.

Can a piece of paper a bit bigger than a Fortune Cookie be of much help? Are you kidding? How many tiny scraps of paper do you accumulate already? This puts them all in one place, with additional content and features. Never be at loss for a bit of paper again.

For you crafty types, try making a plastic cover. I keep my keys in my pockets, so a cover helps to protect the sheets. I cut out two covers from a 2 liter plastic pop bottle. Cut the length along the horizontal curve of the bottle. This also helps keep the sheets together. Decorate your Fobster by using a Cover with Frame sheet and some rubber stamp art or a mini collage.

Caution: Be careful about putting identifying information on your Fobster. If your keys are lost, you might not want people knowing where you live, or the car you drove.

Templates Include:

  • Two Covers with Frames
  • Blanks
  • Grids
  • Check Lists
  • Finances
  • Contacts
  • Quick Fold Cards
  • One Day Planners
  • Flying Spaghetti Monster Foldable Altar
  • Meditation Screen


  • Template type icon on lower right
  • Blanks and Grids include title line and check-offs for see-other-side, to-do and notes
  • Invoke the Flying Spaghetti Monster by dotting His eyes, or use like a Daruma doll
  • It's in Living Color!

John Norris' Fobster Templates

These templates are being released under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 license. Feel free to modify them as you'd like! Let all of us at DIYPlanner know how they turn out!

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Compact and bijou...

I was a follower of the Sacred Invisible Rhinoceros, however as a vegetarian I found some of it hard to swallow. Do you think the House of the Flying Spaghetti Monster may be more to my taste? ;)

BTW, Love the planner, Very 70s. :P

Fries with that?

I too couldn't stomach the Sacred Invisible Rhinoceros. It had a few points I couldn't pass on ;-)

I don't believe in the 70's.

I have one of these on my keychain right now

But I need to find a smaller binder clip. I like it so far, but I might try something business card sized next.

I am also considering using a binder ring and a hole punch, the problem is that I would then have to carry a punch to be able to spontaniously add, but I am not sure that would be a problem.

Binder Clip

I got a small Binder Clip at a local office supply store. It was probably made by these folks.

The business card size, along with my keys, is just too bulky for my pants pocket. It would be nice to have the extra room to write 'tho.

The binder clip not only keeps the pages bound, but the handles keep it from opening until I snap the front one back.


I got a small binder clip

by trading in my bigger one at the school copy shop. The right size clip helps, but my key ring is attached to my bag and flops about a bit- I had pages go scattering, so I think I will try it with a ring next week


Adding more pages will force the clip to grip tighter. I had about 30 sheets at one point and they stayed together. However, I don't think I subject it to as much motion. It would be interesting to hear how it goes.

One thing I had considered earlier was putting a small slot in the plastic covers so that the binder clip's "bite" would be partially on the paper and not the slippery plastic. Hadn't tried that yet.

Might be able to fit 'em in a match box too...I dunno :-)

One piece cover

I made the pop-bottle-plastic cover out of one long tape-like piece. I made it slightly (one-eighth inch?) longer than double length. I placed two folds on either side of the midpoint to make a spine. Put the clip on the open end and everything is nice and tightly held.

To accurately position the spine I used one of the cover pieces as a template and marked each edge of the spine starting one card length from each end. That way it centers nicely.

Pop Bottle Cover


I also found I had to round the corners of the cover a bit, otherwise they would poke my fingers everytime I went to get my keys.

Son of Fobster: Hipster Flash Drive?

I think the Fobster is terrific. Wanting this size "device" but also wanting larger paper to write on, the image of the Z-fold Moleskine came to mind. I cut four 8"x2" strips from some 8"x5" index cards and Z-folded to 2"x1", cut a 1 1/8" x 4 1/2" strip from a plastic file folder, and assembled them into a Fobster-style package:



This gives me only four pieces of card to manage and lots of writing space when a card is unfolded. The pictures above were taken before I had written anything on the cards, but the next day I was at a baseball stadium and needed to write down some future game dates - out came my Fobster and the dates were written.

Thanks, John, for the idea! I know I shouldn't use the word "hipster" to apply to something this size, but I still think of this as my "Hipster Flash Drive". :-)

a little off topic...keychain

Hi Bruce...I like your photos/idea. One thing I"m curious about is what you're using to hold your keys? It's not a "normal" split keyring...for YEARS I've been looking for just the right solution for easy key removal yet sturdy key holding and SMALL (or better yet customizable) size. I haven't run into your solution whatever it is.

Care to enlighten me?

key rings

I've been using this kind of ring for quite a few years now. It's a steel cable coated in plastic (available in different colors) with a "twist lock" - twist the circle into a figure 8 to lock or unlock. I like them because they're quite secure, durable and about as un-bulky as you can get.

I don't recall the brand name (it's been that long since I bought the last one), but I've purchased them at TrueValue hardware stores in Boston, Portland (OR) and Iowa*. I'm pretty sure I've also seen them in a locksmith shop in Stockton, CA.

*I think it was Iowa - I was on a long road trip in a rental car with two bulky keys permanently locked together on a similar ring (the lock was crimped). I rent a lot and I see this often - why do rental companies give you two keys but lock them together? I cut the ring and bought two new ones so my wife and I could each keep one.

On this brand, the male part of the lock inserts fully into the female end and twists to lock. I've seen another brand in which part of the side of the female end is open and the male end slips in and out of the side. This style looks easier to use, but I've found it to be a little harder to use and not hold up well over time.

I hope this helps. If I get to a hardware store and find the brand name I'll post it here. I'm an environmentalist nut, er, no, rather, a happily car-free apartment renter, so I don't get to hardware stores a lot. :-)

steel wire key ring

Just sourced that type of key holder here.

Sorry I gotta go, or I'd figure out a better retail situation....Hope it helps a bit anyway.


This key ring that John shows above is quite similar to mine, but a little different - mine's a smaller (in circumference), the plastic coating on the cable comes in different colors (my current one's green), and the clasp/lock is a little smaller and has smooth sides.

I've purchased mine (I don't know the brand) at various True Value Hardware stores in Boston, Portland (OR) and, I think, Iowa. I'm pretty sure I've also seen mine at locksmith shops. I saw John's model yesterday in a Portland Ace Hardware store.

can't find locally :-(

Hi Bruce,

I appreciate you telling me you bought them at True Value and that you saw John's model at Ace. Sadly it seems that neither chain has a store in the Ottawa, Canada region. I can't seem to find an e-tailer that will sell to consumers (in low numbers)

I don't suppose you'd be willing to go to the effort of picking some up and selling to me? (at a profit of course)

It seems a silly thing to think about, but I really have been looking for something like it for literally YEARS.

Thanks for considering it.

Online Supplier?

You might try this.

Locksmith Tool and Supply has a few things that may or may not fit the bill.

you are amazing

Thanks John! I couldn't find anything like that anywhere. I thought I was decent with a search engine. I guess not...

I have ordered a couple of types. It should keep me happy.

BTW I DO use a fobster...although mine is rather large as fobsters go. It's business card size. I guess that makes it somewhere in the fobster/hipster divide.

My next quest is to find a business card holder that I can attach to my new key holder. Preferably one that is light enough that I won't break the lock on my car's engine column from the total weight. :-)

Hipster Flash Drive

I like the foldable sheets! There seems to be plenty of room in the clip for the extra folds.

Great idea.

Slightly Larger

I needed a tad more room, so I made this version that is 1.5 by 2.5 inches.
This size is handy for me because it is the same size as my key ring credit card, so I use that as the back of my card stack and have an automatic writing surface.

More Room

I can totally understand wanting more room. I think of mine as sort of the minimum. I can see yours in a keycard/ID holder.

Super nice work on your templates. Very clean.

'sprial binding'

If you take a 1mm drill bit (available on ebay) and attach it to a dremel high speed rotarty tool (available in a hardware store), you can drill holes (i made three) along one of the ends
then, you take some 24 gauge wire (craft store) and double it over itself, then twist it (for strength)
then you feed the wire through the holes in a "spiral" fasion, and finish the top off in any way you want (i spun them together, and cut off the excess- they fit very nicely on my keys)
and there you have a spiral bound fobster!
IMO, this fits more nicely on a keychain

Spiral and other Bindings

Wow, that is just too cool.

I do some metal work, jewlery type stuff, and was thinking of coming up with a small case...but the mini-spiral binder is too neat.

I had also considered just gluing one side with rubber cement, to make a mini tear-off type pad. However, I think the spiral and wire may offer more possibilities.

Thanks for letting us all know!

Walleteer--printed on business cards

This looks interesting, and is also a small size, and it should be pretty easy to print on the Avery full-page templates.

(via Lifehacker)


I like the size...looks like that would work very well for the person on-the-go.

However, his Organizing Station is super cool. It really is a whole other way of organizing cards in space and a work/space. I could see all sort of ways this could work- cards presented in 3 dimensions, card's graphics refering to other cards that might be next to them.


Thanks GG!

Update: Fobster Faux Pas

I've fallen victim to a second Fobster malfunction. This again occured whilest grabbing my keys out of a tight pocket. I'm thinking I might have to go with one of the recommendations in these comments...or something else.

That one binder clip may not always hold things tight enough and ...phhhipppttt there is a little bizzard of cards circling down around your feet.

Course it may have been fate as I was going to get a snack at Voodoo Doughnut.

The Ultimate Accessory...

For the Fobster owner who has everything how about a stylish mini-pen? Amaze friends and baffle strangers with a Lamy M21 or Parker Vector 3 in 1 refill. Made from 100% genuine metal... :O

Fobster templates?

I went to:
However, the link to the templates won't open nor can I save as. And the link doesn't work for me either. It may be my computer system at work...

Any ideas how I can get the pdf version of his templates?

Join the Club...

Hi Rosemary, If you register with D*I*Y someone may e-mail one to you. :)

Pretty please?

I'm registered - can someone please email me the templates for the fobster?

Punished for a Previous Misdeed...

Did I mention you need to except e-mails? At least until you receive the .pdf :)


Sorry - thought I *had* checked the box. Try again?

Need the file still?


Not sure what the issues is. I am able to get to the site and files. If you are still having trouble, drop me a note john(at)

Missed this comment earlier-

Mary Poppins....

All sorted thanks John.

FYI, I check the links and they are fine. It would appear Rosemary's 'nanny filter' thinks your files a bad influence. :O

Use Old Business Cards

I created a "fobster-type" apparatus using old business cards. My company recently changed their name, so I have a couple hundred unusable biz cards. On the side of the card that has the printing, I used a shipping size label (needed a little trimming) and printed out my most-often purchsed grocery items. The other items I need at the store are just written down on that same side. On the blank side, I list all of my other errands. Then if I am running around, I have many other blanks cards available for other notes. I punched a hole in one corner of each card, and used an index card ring (like what people are using for their hipsters) to keep them together, and this makes it easy to attach to my purse strap or key chain!

Fobster mods

I also used my old business cards for my 1st Fobster. I thought to use some of those fake credit cards you get in junk mail as a hard cover front and back. I used some of the DIY Planner cover templates on labels. I also thought that a D-ring like you find on camping gear, would be a better way to hold the cards together and let you easily add and remove cards as well as attach the "device" to my purse or a belt. When I finally finished my Fobster I also used the fake cards for common info like frequently used phone numbers, birthdays, grocery lists etc. I used old Avery floppy disk labels to print the various templates you have designed. This is a very good way to use old supplies and to carry needed info. Finally I used an old Altoid tin to protect my "device" from the various other things in my purse. I hope this gives others new ideas. Thanks this was a fun and useful project.

b/c-sized Hipster

I use a business-card-sized HPDA. I clip b/c's onto an store swipe card (Safeway), and push the thick end of a Fisher Space Pen refill through the binder clip. The writing end is covered with a rubber tip which I remove to write. Great capture device.