The Ultimate Guide to Zettelkasten Index Card Storage

Invariably, when one is starting out on their analog zettelkasten or index-card based commonplace book journey, one of the first questions besides what size and type of cards should I use, is naturally what sort of box should I put them in? This is one of the more frequently asked questions I’ve seen of those who have detailed their systems or especially in online fora.

Generally until you’ve made the commitment to keep up at it beyond a few hundred cards, a simple cardboard box, shoebox, or something sitting around the house will generally do. If a simple box worked so well for Vladimir Nabokov‘s work, surely you might do as well? Eventually you might want to move to something larger or more permanent, or at least something that looks nice on your desk or tucked into a corner. Those who, like Niklas Luhmann, Gotthard Deutsch, Gershom Scholem, Roland Barthe, S.D. Goitein or many others, are in it for the long haul and may need storage for more than 10,000 – 100,000+ cards might prefer something larger and more permanent, or at least something modular that might grow with their collection over time.

Whatever your choices, budget, and ultimate path, it might help to have a list of some of the more common options available to take a look at to see what might work for you now or in the future so you can begin thinking (or if you’re smitten: dreaming) about what your ultimate path might might be. Hopefully this guide will be helpful in that endeavor.

While storage for 3 x 5 inch and 4 x 6 inch index cards are the most ubiquitous and easy to find (with there being a fairly larger market for 3 x 5 inch card storage), one can find larger cards (5 x 8, 6 x 9, etc.) and storage boxes for them, they just may take more searching or cost a bit more. One should keep in mind that the larger the card and box, the harder and more expensive sourcing them will usually become. Your home country may also play a factor in your card size and box choices. I generally wouldn’t recommend that those in the United States opt for the European standards like A4, A5, or A6 cards as they’re slightly harder to source here and there aren’t nearly as many options for the range of storage options unless you’re willing to buy and ship cabinetry from overseas which can become expensive for the more budget conscious. A similar caveat should be noted for those in other countries looking at the standards in the United States. One of the greatest benefits of the A size standard is that larger slips can be folded in half to create the next smaller size down, so for example you could use A4 slips, but fold them in half and have them fit very neatly into your A5 standard box.

Your personal working needs may also play a factor in your choice. Nabokov, mentioned above, may have opted for simple shoebox like boxes because he preferred to be able to work easily on the move. However as seen in the example in Robert Pirsig’s book Lila: An Enquiry into Morals, you might also want to guard against your box tipping over and spilling all over your room. This incidentally is the purpose of the holes in library card catalog cards which are held into their drawers by long metal rods. One should keep in mind that death by zettelkasten as seen in Anatole France’s book L’Île Des Pingouins (1908) is rare, but given the vending machine size and weight of some of the larger index card filing cabinets below, one might consider some care. 

My personal preference has been for the 4 x 6 inch form factor, so most of the suggestions below are geared toward that size, though in many cases options for 3 x 5 inch cards are all readily, if not more readily, available. Card storage for larger form factors may not be as readily available for more modern options, but with a little bit of looking, perhaps you’ll find something functional and within your budgetary range. I have definitely seen some lovely storage options for larger cards.

Of course if you go all-in on a gorgeous restored wooden card filing cabinet for something in the $5,000+ range that you intend to use for the next 50 years, the $100/year storage cost over time may seem like a drop in the bucket for something that will help to develop and expand your knowledge and creativity. When you compare this to computers in the $500 – $2,000 range, it’s really not so bad, particularly when you realize that these won’t need replacements or upgrades over time the way your computer might. They also don’t come with the recurring costs for data storage, back up, or software subscriptions that digital zettelkasten methods entail.

One of the few caveats in purchasing a box for your cards is to make sure that they’ll actually fit. While many boxes may advertise that they’re for a specific size and usually those will fit, you may actually want them to be slightly larger. For example, a box may fit your 4 x 6 inch slips, but will it also accommodate the tabbed index cards you use to help organize them? As a result you may actually want something that will accommodate 4.5 – 4.75 inches in height instead of just 4 inches. If you’re shopping for boxes in person, it may behoove you to carry around an index card or two or even a tabbed card to make sure your potential new box will work for you.

DIY and Makeshift Boxes

As I recommended above, your best bet on a first box is something that you have on hand, can upcycle, or that you can make for yourself in DIY fashion. Cardboard boxes, shoeboxes, or even custom cut and glued/taped cardboard can serve as a useful and functional zettelkasten box. One practitioner I’ve encountered swears by her upcycled Sam Edelman shoeboxes which are incredibly sturdy and colorfully handsome boxes which others might spend upwards of $40 on otherwise. Some recycled cardboard and duct tape can give you a custom-sized box for pennies on the dollar and fit anywhere from 500 – 2,000 cards pretty easily.

If you want to go crazy you can decorate your box with stickers, construction paper, or even wrap it with fabric or contact or shelf paper with a variety of patterns and designs. Because they’re cheap, you may as well spend a few dollars and minutes decorating and making your box something you enjoy working with for the coming weeks and months.

Modern Boxes

Before exploring boxes made specifically for index cards, keep in mind that there are some vendors who make boxes for other purposes, but which will easily accommodate your index cards as well.

Recipe boxes

While these tend to be relatively small and only hold somewhere from 200 – 1000 cards, they can be excellent starter boxes that allow some portability and more style options than many of the other options on the market. You can easily find these sorts of recipe boxes in online stores like Amazon and Etsy in a variety of styles, colors, and materials (wood, plastic, metal, etc.) A wide variety of these should be easy to find in the $10 – $100 range from such a wide variety of vendors and suppliers that I won’t bother to mention them.

My first box was a small tin, green box that I’m reasonably sure was from the Martha Stewart collection from Macy’s that I repurposed until it outgrew its 300 card capacity.

photo of desk featuring a green index card with a fountain pen on top of it. Surrounding it are a book on a book stand, a green card index and a pair of glasses

Microfiche boxes

Library supplies company Brodart has a selection of potential boxes including Microfiche boxes. These should easily fit 4 x 6″ index cards as well as card dividers with taller tabs which commercially don’t often get taller than 4 1/2″. See also their microfiche divider guides which might be used for sectioning one’s work.

Postcard boxes

Brodart and some other art and photo supply manufacturers make boxes for postcards or photos. (N.B. presuming the 4 1/8″ H dimension of Brodart’s postcard box is even the outer dimension, this means that one can’t easily keep tab cut dividers which often go from 4 3/8″ to 4 1/2″ tall in these boxes with the lids on properly.)

Another subtle difference between Brodart’s postcard and microfiche boxes is that the smaller postcard box is 60-pt paper versus 40-pt for the larger microfiche box, which means that while sturdy, isn’t quite as sturdy. A side benefit in addition to their stackability is that they’re designed for archival storage purposes which may help in long term storage of your collection.

Photo boxes

While they’re no longer available, Ryan Holiday has previously indicated in many places that he prefers and uses Cropper Hopper plastic photo boxes to keep his index card-based commonplace book. Though those aren’t around anymore, there are certainly others that will fit the bill well since 4 x 6 inch standard photo size are the same size as many index cards. And of course, if you’ve got a favorite index card or two, why not buy a photo frame to feature it on your desk?

Decorative boxes

Kuggis is a generic, but fashionable IKEA box with a lid that can be used for card storage. At 7 x 10.25 x 6 inches its a nice size and just about the perfect size for 4 x 6″ index cards. The lid has a slight indent to make it easily stackable. At $5.99 its a nice budget-conscious option.

Surely there are a wide variety of other decorative boxes one might find with a bit of looking. The downside may be that while these might look nice on a desk, they’re less likely to be high capacity, modular, or able to grow beyond a certain point.

a white wooden crate with rope handles at each end and a red placard on the side that reads "Joy" with the "o" replaced with a snowflake.
I recently saw a simple decorative holiday box from Kohl’s that could be repurposed into a holiday themed zettelkasten. Does your zettelkasten bring you this kind of “joy”?

Universal Storage Boxes

There are a number of available mass manufactured boxes made for a variety of general use purposes which can be used for zettelkasten containers. Some of these include:

Room Essentials™ 6qt Clear Storage Box White, a clear plastic box with a white lid whose interior measurements are 11 1/2″ x 6 3/8″ x 4 3/8″ and retails for $1.50. These are billed as nested/stackable as well. (Example in use

Sterilite 1751 – 6 Qt. ClearView Latch™ Box, a clear plastic box with handles whose interior measurements are 11 5/8″ x 6 1/8″ x 4 5/8″ and retails for $3.89 at vendors like Target, Home Depot, TruValue, and Big Lots. (Example in use)

Boxes made specifically for index cards

For the more serious zettler, one may prefer to have boxes which are custom made for storing index cards. These usually have some nice refinements for daily use, are more rugged, and come in a variety of colors and styles and are generally meant for easy use in a desk drawer, on one’s desktop, or for easy storage on office shelves. As a result, they’re also generally a bit more expensive than their non-custom brethren.

Acrimet makes a number of box sizes (3 x 5, 4 x 6, 5 x 8, and 6 x 9) and a variety of colors in metal with plastic lids. They all hold approximately 600 index cards and range from $28.00 – 45.00 depending on the card size they’re meant for. While these are quite beautiful on a desk, their hinged lids don’t lend them to easy stackable accessibility if you have a larger collection. This is what I personally used after making the step up from a recipe box, though I opted for purchasing a few additional plastic dividers for $4.20 each 

A small metal zettelkasten with a clear plastic lid sitting on a wooden table with a fountain pen and index card in front of it

コレクト (Collect, or sometimes translated as Correct) MDF boxes from Japan, $40 and up holds approximately 1,000 cards. The dimensions for these are usually given in centimeters, and so are more likely to be found for DIN sized cards (A6 or A7). These were the boxes used by Hawk Sugano who used a Correct Indexcard Dock (C-153DF) box for some of his 3×5″ index card “Pile of Index Cards” practice.

Globe-Weis/Pendaflex Fiberboard Index Card Storage Box, $20 – $25, holds up to 1,000 cards. These are the boxes used by writer Robert Green to write his books. When they were originally manufactured by Weis, these were also the boxes used by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. while he was studying for his doctorate at Boston University. They’re made of some sturdy archival quality cardboard and their simple structure makes them fairly large and easy to stack. 

Snap-N-Store Index Card holder is a collapsible box fits that will fit 1,100 4 x 6 cards for $10 – $15.

Max Gear business card/index card boxes are made of bamboo and will hold up to 600 cards for about $40.00. 

JUNDUN index card holder can contain 1,200 cards, comes in 3 x 5 and 4 x 6 options with several available colors from $18 – $30. While being portable, these are also lockable and fireproof. 

Steelmaster card files manufactured by MMF Industries are one of the more industrial/serious options in this category. Their 263644BLA Index Card File Holds 400 4 x 6 cards with dimensions of 6 3/4 x 4 1/5 x 5 inches. $80- $100.

Library Charging Trays

These boxes were originally intended for use in libraries to help librarians keep physical track of the books which were out on loan. Because the 3 x 5″ index cards used in the pockets of library books were primarily used in portrait orientation instead of landscape, these boxes are meant to accommodate that specific size and orientation. These might be an interesting choice if you use a non-standard card orientation or perhaps if you’re recreating the old Memindex card productivity system. A few manufacturers like Brodart still make them or they might be found on the used market as libraries continue computerizing. You’re exceptionally unlikely to find them for larger card sizes. I’ve seen them in 1 to 5 tray styles in a variety of lengths and colors and some even with lids. Used versions of Remington-Rand and Gaylord Brothers versions can be found used online (eBay often has them), but they’re usually misidentified as drawers and very rarely identified as library card charging trays.

Update [2023-11-30]: I’ve written a bit more about these boxes and provided photos of a couple I’ve collected for those interested in more information about them.

Side view of a three row charging tray with index cards sitting in it.

 

Brodart Full-Length Single Charging Tray Intended for desktop use, it holds 1,000 5″H x 3″W cards, has an adjustable steel follower block with automatic lock, and felt pads on tray bottom to protect your desktop.

Brodart Mini Single Charging Tray holds 600 5″H x 3″W cards, adjustable steel follower block with automatic lock, felt pads on tray bottom 

Modular and Industrial options

For the more serious long term zettelers who have rapidly growing collections, there are some options for modular systems that will allow you to easily add additional boxes over time.

Vaultz 2 drawer card file both with/without locks, $69. These are the type used by many in the zettelkasten space including Scott Scheper.

Steelmaster by MMF Industries, mentioned above in a smaller form factor, also manufactures a two drawer modular card cabinet that holds up to 3,000 cards. Their model MMF263F4616DBLA runs in the $75-100 range. If you’re interested in these, they seem to be becoming harder to find, so you may wish to purchase a few up front in case they are discontinued in the coming years, which seems to be the general case for these sturdier metal filing boxes over the past several decades.

Office furniture manufacturer Bisley has a relatively wide variety of small modular boxes in a variety of form factors and vibrant colors. Some of these aren’t as readily sourced in the United States, but can be ordered from their New York offices. They are not only meant to be stackable, but have options for locking them as well. 

Tennsco is one of the few remaining index card filing cabinet manufacturers left in the United States. They make significantly larger cabinets with a variety of sizes, numbers of drawers and colors. Amazon carries a variety of them as does the aptly named Metal Cabinet Store. For purchasing new card filing cabinets that can hold tens of thousands of cards, this seems to be the only stop. Depending on type, number of drawers, and your particular card size these can range from $1,800 – $2,300 and will store up to 43,400 index cards. On the positive side with such high capacities, two of them will likely to take you a lifetime to fill. I’ve not seen exact specifications for these, but I suspect they’re made of slightly lighter 18 gauge alloy steel which makes them fairly sturdy while still being only about 220 pounds. They’re not quite as industrial as the 20 gauge steel filing cabinets made in the mid-1900s which can much stronger as well as much heavier.

FireKing Card, Check & Note File Cabinet, 6 Drawers (6-2552-C) FireKing International manufactures a 1-hour fire protection filing cabinet with index card inserts, that has options for various locks, is rated for 30 foot drops, and is sealed against potential water damage. They offer both four and six drawer options with the larger clocking in at a massive 863 pounds. With each of the 18 sections on the 6 drawer model capable of 25 15/16″ of storage, this beast should hold about 64,800 index cards. The rough news is that this king of cabinets, while providing great protection and security for your zettelkasten, runs a fairly steep $6,218.00 and up which makes it one of the more expensive options out there. Despite the initial sticker shock though, keep in mind that it should provide a lifetime of secure and worry-free storage for just under 10 cents per card.  

Brodart libary card catalogs. Brodart is one of the few companies still manufacturing library card catalogs, and they’re doing so in a modular way so that you have a bit more selection about how big your filing cabinet is and how it’s configured. Generally you can choose a table base or not, how many sections of drawers you purchase, whether or not it includes writing board sections (for having writing surfaces for quick note taking in front of it), as well as the ability to remove the top and add new sections. The down side here is that they only make them in the 3 x 5 inch form factor. I’ve previously written about them and some of their available supplies in detail in the past here: Brodart Library Supplies for the Analog Zettelkasten Enthusiast.

Vintage Boxes

Commercial demand for card index files has waned dramatically since the advent of commercial computing. Fortunately they were so tremendously ubiquitous from the late 1800s through the mid-to-late 1900s, they can readily be found in acceptable to excellent used condition, and sometimes even in restored condition for a reasonable sum in comparison to purchasing new filing cabinets. Because the market for people looking for these used boxes and filing cabinets is so thin they’re not terribly expensive. The one caveat to this seems to be for larger restored/refinished wooden library card catalogs from the early 1900s in part because they are stunning pieces of nostalgic furniture and can still function as curiosity cabinets or high end wine storage cabinets.

These cabinets can be searched for at specialty office liquidation companies, surplus government/school/library companies, auctions, and vintage and antique stores. However, some of the quickest places to find these on the less expensive side can be your local Craigslist furniture listings, E-bay, Etsy, Facebook Marketplace, Offerup.com, and even Nextdoor.com. I recommend looking around at all of these venues for the variety of what’s available versus your particular style, taste, and budget level. Looking and waiting can be particularly useful if you’re budget conscious, but I’d also advise that once you know what you want and have fallen in love with something, buy it immediately as you may not come across a particular piece again.

A wooden 12 drawer index card filing cabinet (or zettelkasten) sitting in an antique store.
I ran across this 12 drawer 4 x 6 inch index card filing cabinet at an antique store in Southern California in December 2022.

Because some of these cabinets are so large and the demand is so low, many sellers may be motivated to offload them for much less than they list them for. I purchased my own Singer Industrial cabinet for $200.00 while I’ve seen similar ones listed online (and unsold for long periods of time) for over $1,000. Sellers of refinished pieces are much less likely to drop their prices for obvious reasons.

Another factor to consider in purchasing larger cabinets is that in the 200+ pound range, these can be harder to package and ship and may require freight or furniture shipping methods. As a result, shipping can easily cost as much as the piece itself, so when shopping, keep this in mind. If you’re more budget conscious, narrow your search to local sellers which may make pick-up or shipping significantly cheaper.

Once you’ve gotten something, keep in mind that the original wear and tear and potential patina of a piece can be part of the allure and nostalgia. Sadly, second and third hand owners may not realize the functionality of some pieces of these files and as a result they may be missing some hardware like card rods, following blocks, locks, or other pieces which may be hard if not impossible to find or replace. 

If you’re inclined, you can either send them out for refinishing or refinish them yourself. Some of the larger metal pieces can run from $500 – $1,500 to bead blast and re-paint or re-enamel, but have the benefit that you can choose which color(s) you’d like them to be to fit into your decor. You may have to search around to find refinishing shops for these, but you might also find that your local auto-repair firm is well set up for stripping, priming, and repainting these as well (some of them are almost as large as a car, but without wheels and engines.) 

Wood

Cabinets in the late 1800s and early 1900s were primarily manufactured out of wood. Some midcentury and later cabinets mixed wood with steel drawers or in the late century wood cabinets with plastic drawers inside mounted to wooden fronts. Many were made with quarter sawn oak or with “tiger oak”, which can often be a useful key search term for finding them. Sometimes it can also be useful to search for the key phrase “apothecary cabinet” as many who have these either don’t understand the difference or add it to increase their search exposure for potential buyers who seemingly no longer desire to store large quantities of index cards. Another useful search phrase is midcentury modern (or the abbreviation MCM) especially if you like that particular esthetic. 

While a number of manufacturers focused on the library card catalog space with catalogs containing 10-30 or more drawers almost exclusively for the 3 x 5 inch index card, many also made file card furniture for business use and these can usually be found with 1-10 drawers in size. Possibly most common are the two drawer files which can often be stacked in a modular way to allow for growth of one’s desktop system. In these areas it is more common to find 3 x 5 inch and 4 x 6 inch form factors, but often larger card sized furniture was built and distributed, though these are rarer on the second hand market.

Oblique angle on a Shaw-Walker 11 inch 3 x 5 inch card index
An 11 inch Shaw-Walker wooden card index that I picked up for $10.

With some searching, one can also find combination cabinets that have drawers not only for index cards, but also contain standard hanging file drawers for 8.5 x 11 inch files and paper filing purposes. These sorts are particularly more common in the very early 1900’s as modular systems which were focused on the business market.

A two drawer wooden card index sitting on a wooden table

Some of the more common manufacturers for wood card catalog files include: 

  • Library Bureau (Ilion, NY) (1876), Sometimes listed as “Library Bureau Sole Makers”
  • Yawman & Erbe 
  • Globe-Wernicke
  • Gaylord Bros. Inc. (Syracuse, NY and Stockton, CA) (1896)
  • Remington Rand
  • Weis (Monroe, Michigan)
  • Wagemaker
  • Tucker File & Cabinet Co. (Ilion, NY)
  • The Fred Macey Company, Ltd. (Grand Rapids, Michigan) aka Macey

Update: In September 2023, I’ve written more detail about the state of the used Library Card Catalog market, for those who might be interested in going that route for 3 x 5″ index cards: Market analysis of library card catalogs in 2023.

A waist high Gaylord Bros. library card catalog with a smaller desktop card index and black Smith-Corona Clipper typewriter on top.

Another option on the secondary market are used library charging trays, but it’s rare that sellers know what these were called or how they were used, so searching for and finding them can be difficult at best. Most often sellers confuse these with card catalog drawers or tray inserts. Additionally searching for charging trays directly results in modern accessories for charging cell phones and other personal electronic devices. Because they’re difficult to search, there’s a greater than necessary implied rarity to them, and as a result, they can be listed for several hundreds of dollars though most often they sell in the range of $5-15 per row of cards in the tray and are frequently found in configurations of one, two, three, and sometimes up to five rows of cards in a single unit.

Library charging tray with two rows for storing 3 x 5" index cards in portrait orientation. It's sitting on a small library card catalog.
A two row charging tray sitting on top of a library card catalog.

In addition to the more standard run-of-the-mill card files in single or multi-box form, you might also find some rarer combination furniture like the Satelite Combination Card Index Cabinet and Telephone Stand (circa 1906), though something like this could also be used as a semi-portable or movable piece of furniture that one could place as a small writing surface next to their favorite reading chair to write and file notes away on a leisurely evening.

1906 Advertisement for a combination card index table and telephone stand featuring a desk with the satellite combination table next to it.
1906 magazine ad from the Adjustable Table Company

Steel

As the 20th century progressed, many manufacturers switched from wood to steel as their material of choice. Most library card catalogs continued to be made of wood though a few can be found in steel. The larger proportion of steel filing cabinets cabinets were manufactured by companies that also manufactured desks and other industrial use filing cabinets. 

Again, here desktop two drawer modular/stackable cabinets abound though 8 – 10 drawer and even larger free-standing filing cabinets can be found. Many of these include tab and slot features to lock them together for safer stacking. A good example of a modularly built collection can be seen in this photo from a 2017 New York Times article of Joan Rivers’ collection of index cards with 36 drawers of 4-by-6-inch index cards containing jokes she’d accumulated over her lifetime of work. 

Credit: Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

Somewhat rarer, but findable, one may encounter filing cabinets meant for Hollerinth or punch cards which eventually standardized at 3.25 x 7.375 inches, which was also the standard size for paper currency of 1862–1923. Often these will have drawers high enough to accommodate 4 x 6 inch cards, but one should double check this prior to purchase.

Some of the more common steel cabinet makers include:

  • Yawman & Erbe 
  • All-Steel Equipment, Inc. (ASE) (Aurora, Illinois) 
  • Steelmaster (Art Steel Co., Inc.) (New York)
  • Browne-Morse (Muskegon, Michigan)
  • Cole-Steel Equipment Company (New York) 
  • Singer Business Furniture
  • Globe-Wernicke
  • Buddy (later Sandusky/Buddy)
    • They seem to have ceased manufacturing them some time around 2016
  • MMF Industries
  • GWS

The smaller 1 to 3 drawer vintage metal card files are readily available on a variety of online shopping sites usually between $15 and $40. This isn’t bad given how expensive new files can run. Many were made with small fittings that allow them to be stackable. Usually these are sturdy, but light enough for relatively inexpensive shipping. If they’re in bad shape, they can usually be easily cleaned up and primed and repainted in more modern colors to suit your taste and style. 

The larger multi-drawer full cabinets can often run from $200 to over $1,000, but their bigger issue is that they’re so large and heavy that they can be in the range of $800 or more to ship anywhere. If you want something like this, your best bet is to try to find something local that you can drive to and pick up locally.

If you’re into 4 x 6 inch cards, double check with the seller to make sure that they’ll fit as most sellers won’t list the card sizes for drawers since they don’t expect them to actually still be used as card indexes and they’ll neglect to not additional clearances for tabbed cards. Keep in mind that often even the somewhat larger cabinets are a 1/4″ too short for 4 x 6 inch cards, much less the slightly taller tabbed cards (A-Z) you might use for separating sections. 

A while back I personally picked up a large Singer Business Furniture card index which I’ve written a fair bit about. Some of the information there may help to provide some more context about these larger cabinets.

Custom made

Of course given all this selection, you still may not have found the right box for your taste or your working style. In this case you may want to have something custom made. Given this, however, it may still behoove you and your designer to be aware of what has existed in the past when designing something specific for your needs. 

Some common features you might find useful in either designing or choosing your own cabinets include:

  • follow blocks to bunch cards to the front of the drawer and hold them upright or at a slight angle without falling over;
  • bail stops, a mechanism to keep the drawer from being accidentally pulled completely out of the case and dropping your cards everywhere;
  • card rods as often seen in library card catalogs which insert from the front to the back of the bottom of drawers to prevent accidental card spillage.

I don’t have many examples of custom made set ups, but I’ll add links to what I find below and some individuals may add others in the comments section below as well.

Examples

Been working on this Zettlekasten for my thesis for nearly a year… Made some personal modifications to the system, so it includes a chronological stack of cards and lots of images.
byu/fer_mese inantinet

In late 2022/early 2023, Scott Scheper commissioned a two drawer solid wood (cedar) desktop zettelkasten box similar to those from the early 20th century. He had it listed on his website initially for $995 and then later for a reduced price of $495. He created a waitlist sign up for copies like it, ostensibly to test the interest in  manufacturing/selling them as a product. To my knowledge he never made any beyond the initial prototype, but it does show that one could custom make their own if they prefer.

Foreign Made Zettelkasten

Particularly missing from this collection is a wide array of European standard furniture and boxes for A4, A5, A6 etc. cards. There are some great German, Russian, and other cultural design specific pieces I’ve not included, in part because they’re not as readily available in my market and I haven’t yet had the time to delve into their histories. If you’ve got experience here, I’d love to hear what’s available.

Anecdotally, I’ve heard that the IKEA Moppe will work for A7 cards. Additionally, I’ve heard that some Chinese practitioners have used Taobao cabinets.

Others?

In addition to the A-standard types mentioned above, surely I’ve missed some boxes and cabinets along the way, though this may be one of the more complete collections of boxes I’ve seen compiled. If I’ve missed any that should be included, or you have an example (your own perhaps?) that I can feature or link to, please let me know in the comments or via a reply in social media. Particularly appreciated are examples of non-standard boxes in use as zettelkasten or custom made examples, particularly if they include photos and/or DIY instructions for construction.

Remember that you shouldn’t have to settle for your zettel… Happy zettel casting!


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Index Card Accessories for Note Taking on the Go

Index Card “Notebooks”?

Before I go the DIY route, has anyone seen gummed 4 x 6″ index cards available for sale? I’d love to have a bunch of index cards temporarily glued together almost in notebook form for easy use and portability.

I’m looking for something along the lines of traditional note pads or memo pads like this: https://finecardstock.com/product/memo-pads-paper-white-4×6/, but which used a thicker index card stock.

I know there are a handful of manufacturers who make spiral bound versions with perforations for tearing cards out, but I’m looking for something a tad less bulky for putting in a back pocket or jacket pocket. I’ve also considered using binder clips and even book rings, but again, I’m trying to slim the system down.

If there’s nothing great, I may just go with my favorite cards and DIY with some PVA Glue which is often used in book binding and is suggested frequently in crafting videos like: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-Wp0sLpnMY. In the end, this may be the best route to allow me to choose my favorite cards in addition to how thick I can make the “notebooks”.

Note card cases, folios, and holders

Similar/related/useful things I’ve come across in this related space:

Kaitiaki 3×5 Inches Index Card Organizer, though they don’t seem to have anything for 4 x 6 inch index cards.

Rite in the Rain (zettelkasting in the elements while hiking anyone?), though they all appear to be designed around 3 x 5″ cards.

Oxford At-Hand Note Card Case, this could work, but as ever, it only seems to be available for 3 x 5″ index cards

YOAVIP 4×6 Index Cards Clear Plastic Holder looked interesting, but was a larger, notebook sized version, though still had some useful portability features, yet might be a bit persnickety for regular in-and-out usage.

Other ideas?

Has anyone else done this or anything similar? How about wallets, folios, or thin covers? What’s your experience?

Update

This is ultimately what I ended up doing

A notepad for my Zettelkasten! 🗃️
30 index cards, some bookbinder’s (PVA) glue, a brush, some clips, and ten minutes of craft time. We’re ready for the road…

Wooden table featuring a deck index cards bound by glue at the top stand up near some PVA adhesive surrounded by some binder clips, a paint brush, a Lochby case of fountain pens and a stationery bag.

👓 To Save Net Neutrality, We Must Build Our Own Internet | Motherboard

Read To Save Net Neutrality, We Must Build Our Own Internet (Motherboard)
We must end our reliance​ on big telecom monopolies and build decentralized, affordable, locally owned internet infrastructure.
This could make an interesting small project. Reminds me of stories about Claude Shannon making his own telephone set up by electrifying barbed wire fences in his youth.

Chris Aldrich is reading “How to print your posters on fabric”

Read How to print your posters on fabric by Veronika CheplyginaVeronika Cheplygina (Veronikach.com)
My material of choice became fabric. After some searching, I settled on this product, in particular the “vlaggendoek” or “flag sheet” variety. This material weights just 115 grams for 1m2, which is conveniently almost the same size as an A0 (841mm × 1189mm). Printing + delivery costs just over 20 euros, which is actually cheaper than an A0 paper poster with a plastic coating. That’s not all: apparently the material is fire retardant, because you never know when fire could break out at a conference. But the best thing of all? You can fold it and it still looks great when you unfold it!

Little Free Library #8424 (Adams Hill Branch) Grand Opening

About two years ago while surfing online I came across the concept of the Little Free Library and  instantly fell in love.  It turned out I had been driving by one on my commute regularly and had always wondered what it was and what was going on.  I immediately had big dreams for building my own.  I surfed their website for ideas and building plans.  I registered for my placard. I received my placard. I drew up elaborate plans for building my own.  I debated buying new parts versus recycling or upcycling parts. [Trigger warning for bibliophiles: addictive material to follow] I spent hours surfing photos of Little Free Libraries on their Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Flickr pages.  This is when Little Free Library Envy set in… for almost two years.

I’ve finally broken the spell! Supplies have been purchased. Work has commenced.  Drilling and mounting have been completed.

The first branch of the Adams Hill Little Free Libraries is now open!

 

Little Free Library Grand Opening

You’re cordially invited to the grand opening of the first Little Free Library in Adams Hill (Charter #8424).

Date: Sunday, August 9th, 2015
Time: 4pm – 5pm
Location: 1411 Dartmouth Drive, Glendale

Lemonade and cookies will be served.

Come chat with your neighbors, say hello, and check out the library.  If you’re so motivated, feel free to bring a book (or two) to help stock the library.

More information about the Adams Hill “branch” can be found at our library’s page Little Free Library #8424, but the scant basics are below:

  • The books in our library are always free and never for sale.
  • Feel free to take a book.
  • If you have a book you’d like to share, please feel free to donate it.
  • When you’re done with your book: return it, pass it along to a friend, or release it back into the wild.
  • You don’t need to “check the book out” or “check it in”, but we do encourage you to sign our guest book and participate via Book Crossing.

 

More Details About Little Free Library

First, What is a Little Free Library?

It’s a “take a book, return a book” gathering place where neighbors share their favorite literature and stories. In its most basic form, a Little Free Library is a box full of books where anyone may stop by and pick up a book (or two) and bring back another book to share. You can, too!

If you want to learn more about the movement or host your own Little Free Library, please visit their website.

Location

Little Free Library Charter is located at 1411 Dartmouth Drive, Glendale, CA 91205. It is located at the dog-leg on Dartmouth on the west side of the street. It is just west of S. Adams Street, roughly at the top of the hill.

A library with a view of the mountains
A library with a view of the mountains

Our Library Philosophy

Though Chris built and hosts the library, he’s simply a steward or caretaker, of the branch. The library is free and open for the use of our friends and neighbors in Adams Hill and the surrounding neighborhoods. If you’ve stopped to check things out, you’re automatically an associate librarian. It is appreciated if everyone helps to care for and maintain the library.

General Suggestions

  • The books in our library are always free and never for sale.
  • Feel free to take a book.
  • If you have a book you’d like to share, please feel free to donate it.
  • When you’re done with your book: return it, pass it along to a friend, or release it back into the wild.
  • You don’t need to “check the book out” or “check it in”, but we do encourage you to sign our guest book and participate via Book Crossing [see below].

Arrangement of Books

Since there isn’t a full time librarian and only so much space, there isn’t (usually) a set order to the arrangement of our books. Since it’s been a long trip up the hill, feel free to stop for a minute to cool off, consider yourself an associate librarian, and rearrange them to suit your whimsy – it is your neighborhood library after all. We only ask that you try to keep any children’s books on the lower shelf for short legs and arms to be able to reach, and that your arrangement ensures all the books fit into the library just in case it rains.

Possible suggestions for arrangements might include:

  • by size
  • by color
  • by the order in which you’ve read them
  • by author’s first name
  • by publication date
  • by publisher or imprint
  • by topic in reverse alphabetic order
  • by best to worst (in your opinion or someone else’s)
  • by those you’ve read and those you haven’t

The options are infinite, so be creative.

Book Crossing

All of our books in the Adams Hill Branch are “traveling” books. We try to register all of them on Book Crossing. This is a free web service for watching the journey of individual books as they meander about the world. If you’d like to, you can enter the BCID number inside the front of the book to see where it’s been and even where it goes after you’ve read it. You can also enter any data, thoughts, reviews, etc. for the book on your own, as well as create a note about where you re-released it. (Note that we don’t expect all of our books to necessarily come back to our branch, but we do ask that you pass them along when you’re done with them.)

Pending people updating the location of books removed, check availability at our Book Crossing Zone.

Donating Books

We gladly accept your donated books.

If you have more books than the little library will fit, please don’t simply dump them! You can leave them in a covered box preferably on our stairs/landing – this will keep our sprinklers and the elements from ruining them or you can contact me through Nextdoor.com. If the library has more books than will fit, we’ll occasionally rotate them to help improve the diversity of the available collection over time.

If you’d like to, please write the titles of your donations into our guest book as this will help us to register them on Book Crossing. (You’re welcome to register them on book crossing yourself prior to donation as well.)

Guest Book

Our library has guest book and a pen. Feel free to write down any thoughts, comments, or suggestions you might have about the library and leave them in the library for the other associate librarians who happen by.

You’ll find a red composition book (and pen) inside our library where you can leave your thoughts and comments. Kindly leave the guest book in the library – it’s the one book we have that doesn’t circulate!

In some part the guest book is meant to help catalog the progress of our library. Below are some suggestions for what you might write into our guest book when you visit:

  • Patrons/Associate Librarians are encouraged to (optionally) write in the books they donate or check out.
  • Say hello to your fellow neighbors! You can simply write down the day and time of your visit along with a note for future visitors.
  • Bringing back a book? Feel free to write in a short review of the book you’re returning so others will know what they’re getting into. (If you give it a number of stars, be sure to indicate out of how many possible, so we know your scale.)
  • Liked a book you borrowed? Flip back into the guest book to see who made the donation and write in a thank you to the donor.
  • Have a book you’ve been longing for? Write it in and maybe a fellow neighbor has a copy they can donate on a future visit.
  • Visiting our branch from far away? Be sure to write down your hometown and country  so we know how far away our books travel.
  • Maybe you’re waxing poetic when stopping by? Feel free to write a short poem or haiku about our library.

Wish List

Our wish list has two functions:

  1. Write down any books you’d love to see come to our library so you can borrow them in the future.
  2. Read the list to see if you have any of the books you might donate so that others can enjoy them.

A Tiny Library with Its Own Social Media

To help support the neighborhood library (in the digital age every library needs a blog right?), I’ve created a website for it at: http://lfl8424.boffosocko.com/. The site has a variety of resources relating to our branch. For those that prefer to follow and interact with the content via social media, there are also the following:

 

Building Process

For those interested in my particular process, here’s how I did it.

Recently I saw something a bit more quirky and interesting than my original plans that I could up-cycle, so I made the purchase (happy belated birthday to me)!  It was a nice little metal newsstand that Cost Plus World Market had put on clearance as they’re no longer going to carry it.  The last one the store had was a bit dinged up and had some scratches, so I negotiated an additional discount. It’s got two spacious shelves with two doors including a glass fronted one, and it’s got the capacity for at least 6 linear feet of books.

A trip to the hardware store for a small sheet of plywood, an 8′ post, and some wood screws, machine screws and nuts finished up the material needs.  I cut the post down to 54″ and cut the plywood down to fit underneath the newsstand.  I pre-drilled some small  holes in the plywood to screw the plywood down onto the post.  Then I drilled holes into the bottom of the newsstand and fit it down on top of the plywood and attached with the screws and nuts.

Photo of plywood, ruler, tape measure, screws, nuts, sandpaper, pencil, and Little Free Library placard.
Parts and hardware for building my Little Free Library

I posted a note on Nextdoor.com and within just minutes had an offer from two neighbors to loan me a post hole digger. (Thanks Rob and Scott!) The following day the 2 foot hole was open and the library was planted.  (And I returned the post hole digger to Rob.)

Following this, I dug up a handful of seeder books, registered them with BookCrossing.com and put them on a GoodReads.com shelf, and put them into the library.  We’ve technically been open for a week and without any publicity at all, we’ve had over a dozen books flow through the library already.

Total cost out the door: just under $200.

Little Free Library #8424 (prelaunch)
Little Free Library (prelaunch)
The library finally planted in the ground.
The library finally planted in the ground.
A library with a view of the mountains
A library with a view of the mountains

The first books move in
The first books move in