tuesday hack: 3×5 docking station

hPDA Docking StationHere’s a quick little hack that lets you park your hPDA and Circa 3×5 notes right in front of you while you work at your desk.

My Hipster PDA features three small Rollabind rings across the top, turning it into a reporter style flip notebook. The small rings are unobtrusive in the back pocket, and facilitate flipping back and forth between pages more easily than removing and reattaching the standard hPDA binder clip.

The use of the rings (okay, they are properly called discs, I know) lets me transfer notes between my back pocket, master notebook, and assorted project files quickly. But in the office, I like to park my to-do list right in front of me while I work.

Other than Levenger’s classy — but ginormous3×5 card bleachers, there are no free-standing desktop card holders out there. So I decided to make one . . .

As the photo shows, my wire-frame stand is simple, requiring one wire coat hanger and three (or more, as desired) Rollabind rings. and it takes about 1/2 hour to assemble. The framework of the wire is a little smaller than 3×5 to allow the cards to rest on the frame, but you could also make it wider to allow the cards to loop over and through freely, Rolodex-style.

Use a pin vise to drill out the holes in the rings. Depending on the rings you buy, you may have to eyeball the centering, so the pin vise will let you cut slowly and precisely enough to correct for errors as you go. The diameter of the holes should be the same size or smaller than the wire; you want them to be as snug as possible. Slide the rings on before you bend everything into shape using fine-nosed pliers to get sharp, clean bends.

I curled in the ends of the legs and sanded them down to avoid scratching the desk; you can also cover the rough cuts with dabs of hot glue, which also cuts down on sliding (another way to keep the dock in place is to perch it under a monitor stand or other heavy desk appliance).

Use hot glue and/or super glue to keep the rings in place; set the spacing by punching a 3×5 card and attaching it to the rings, and then slide the set back and forth until centered.

This design is also easily adaptable for cards with holes down the side, as used in the Circa 3×5 Foldover Notebooks; just glue five rings along the left side instead. The size and configuration is limited only by your imagination and the length of the coat hanger. Feel free to share your ideas and designs below!

Author: Paul Lagasse

Paul Lagasse provides expert-to-expert communications services to nonprofit, business, and government clients in the metro Baltimore-DC area. Specialties include science and medical writing, technical report editing, and content marketing.

4 thoughts on “tuesday hack: 3×5 docking station”

  1. Hi Paul – the Circa Queen here, reporting in. I LOVE this hack! I am suddenly entranced by the idea of having a circa 3×5 that lives in your back pocket and goes everywhere. How convenient, both not having to lug around your master notebook, but still having a workable “subset”.

    Franklin Planner has this concept (I think they call it a Satelite), but the small notebooks are flimsy and of poor quality, as well as an awkward size. The sheets just tear off too, so it does not work as a hipster pda.

    I have a couple of questions: you seem to be using the top-punched 3×5 cards. Are you using the Levenger cards, or punching your own regular cheapo cards? And how are you punching them?

    One more question before you cut me off: when you put them into your master notebook, you must turn them sideways. Any tips on how to keep them organized?

    Thanks, great hack!

  2. Hi, Shirl —

    Thanks for your compliments and very interesting questions. My back-pocket 3×5 notebook (subject of next week’s Tuesday Hack, BTW) has become absolutely indispensable. I’m a big fan of traveling light, and there are times even a regular notebook is just too much to carry around (at a lunch-time presentation, for example, when there’s nowhere to push your plate of chicken carbonara to make room for your notebook).

    I punch my own cards using cheapos bought in bulk from the office supply store. I use a Levenger portable punch; the card edge can be easily centered by feel, so I don’t need to use the guide.

    You raise the most important question — the sideways factor. I carry around a mix of blank 3x5s (not ruled) and the small 3×4 cards from the Jotz mini-notebook, which are ruled sideways (i.e., holes on the left side). I try to use the Jotz cards for notes that will end up permanently in a file, and the 3x5s for temporary notes, sketches, and things that I don’t mind being sideways because I won’t be looking at them much.

    Even so, my files can end up with notes written every which way. I find that this actually makes me pay better attention to the contents of a file. And when I’m searching for something, it also helps me visually “rank” items.

    The reason I use the paper from the Jotz minis, BTW, is because I have 65 jazillion pages of it. When you order a Jotz notebook, they usually throw in mini as a freebie, each one packed with 60 pages of thick creamy papery goodness. When (if) I ever run out, I’ll probably switch to ruled 3x5s.

    Which makes me realize that I should make an hPDA template for a footer that can be used on the long side of 3x5s. (I only have one for the narrow side at the moment). Thanks for the inspiration! Look for it soon on the Downloads page of my site…


  3. Hey Paul, you got me hooked! There is a great stuff in hardware stores. It’s a plastic dip, intended for hand-tool handles. You dip the handles in, it dries, you have a plastic handle on a metal tool. If you dip your holder in (before you add the rings) it won’t scratch AND it won’t slide on the desk.

    About the portrait/landscape cards, I had the same problem. I chose the easy way out–I turn the card landscape, and write the date and purpose (e.g. client meeting, ABC project notes) on the upper left side. Then I turn the card portrait and take notes. When I store them in my disk-notebook, I put them in so I can see all the date/title lines. Works for me.

  4. Quinn — the plastic dip sounds like something I would love to play with. I anchor mine under my monitor stand, so that it’s always “in my face.”

    Sounds like my blank page footer templates would be perfect for your note-taking style… shameless plug! 😀

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