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Travel Writing Folder - Light Box

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I travel quite a bit for work and am looking for a good way to write on the go. I, personally, prefer the look of unlined/grid/dotted paper but still need the crutch of lines. I've read that many people use a lined sheet under their page to achieve this. I am trying out some thin paper to see how I like it but I, in general, I'm a heavy/thick paper enthusiast. Beyond the feel, I like writing on both sides and hate ghosting. This makes it difficult to use a lined guide under my page.

So my thought was to use a light box. But with the amount I travel carrying something large was out of the question so I started thinking about building a 9"x7" (just larger than A5) sized 1/4" (~6mm) light box that could fit into a leather portfolio in the place where most people would have their notebook. The lighting probably won't be super consistent since it will be hard to diffuse the LEDs in that small of a space but it should easily be enough to see the lines.

My idea is to build something like this:


Imagine you store your paper (unused and finished) in separate slots on the left. Take a single sheet and the lined guide and move it to the right and slip it under the corner elastics (forgive the horrible "elastic" lines). Then write away.

As I see it:


  • Very portable light box (9"x7"x0.5" without paper)
  • >6hr rechargeable battery (probably shares a cylinder in the center with the pen holder)
  • Can use a lined guide with very heavy paper
  • Lexan surface made of multiple thin sheets so it's cheap to replace the top one when I inevitably stain/score/... it. (This should also help the diffusion since I can sand middle layers)


  • Writing on a sheet of lexan instead of leather or whatever your preferred surface is
  • Without a piece of paper on it it looks a little like a tablet/kindle
  • Custom build so won't be as polished (at least my customs aren't)
  • LEDs, lithium batteries, ...? Part of the romance of using a FP is the history

Thoughts? Has anyone seen anything like this (before I try to build it myself)?

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Oh what a lovely idea! I'm not a builder but do appreciate all things writing. I travel a lot and often wish I had a small travel writing desk. This takes my ideas to a whole new level.


I have no building help to offer, but I am here to see what is suggested and what you come up with.





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Thanks AD!


One thing I'm uncertain of is the number and type of pockets. My thought is that two large flat pockets are needed to store paper since I prefer loose leaf and something for a pen. But a lot of the commercial versions have 2-5 little pockets that I don't think I would need but would appreciate other thoughts. Normally I'd add more "just in case" but I'm trying to keep this as thin as possible.

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I think one pocket for paper and/or envelopes.


I would carry my pens separately, in their own case. They might bang around too much in a box while traveling and also could leak. So, my vote, today, is just one drawer.


Not sure what others might suggest though. I could be swayed!





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If you have an iPad or other tablet that could be used as a lightbox. There was an app for that, but really all you need is a photo of a white wall adjusted to be pure white.

"It's funny; in this era of email and voice mail and all those things that I did not even grow up with, a plain old paper letter takes on amazing intimacy."  Elizabeth Kostova





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If I had a full-sized iPad I would certainly consider this route. Use the flashlight app and go nuts. They even make leather folders to carry your iPad. It also wouldn't be too hard to have the line guide be displayed by the iPad instead of having to carry around a paper guide. I thought a "reverse" guide where only the lines were lit and the rest was dark would have a nicer effect in a darker environment (like an airplane).


CYA warning: I don't know what kind of coating Apple puts on the iPad but I assume writing on it will be detrimental.

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You might want to do a search on amazon for LED light boxes there are some available in the sizes you are looking for and are very thin. Many are designed to be operated on a 5v USB cable, you would have many available options with power banks that are available for charging cell phones. I think it is a very doable project with existing off the shelf items.

Edited by drumley

What evil lurks in the hearts of men?

The Shadow knows!

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This might be to big, but here is a link to battery powered lightpad.https://www.huiontablet.com/all-products/tracing-boards/lb4-led-light-pad.html

Darrin McArthur

Timber Elegance ~ Handcrafted Writing Instruments

My Etsy Store

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Hum, I simply use a writing mat on top of my sheet of paper. I line up the edge of the mat with the edge of the paper and it gives me a straight line to follow along as I write. A bit low tech, but it works.

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Hum, I simply use a writing mat on top of my sheet of paper. I line up the edge of the mat with the edge of the paper and it gives me a straight line to follow along as I write. A bit low tech, but it works.


Same here but I like the idea of a light box, only for use at home. I prefer to travel light and improvise.

Edited by alexander_k
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