Vintage Book Expanding File

I wanted to have a few new examples for my vintage book planner notebook demo next weekend at the Maker Faire. (Here are some from last year, a few that I will be bringing with me again.) I spied a brand new letter-size expandable file at the thrift store the other day and thought it would be fantastic nestled into a vintage book cover.

I have a couple of 3-ring Better Homes & Gardens vintage binder books, one of which I just found today at the recycle area of our county transfer station. They are both perfectly sized for this project, but I chose The Handyman’s Book for its awesome graphics.
You can use any hardcover book that fits the expandable file. But if you choose to use a binder, first you need to get the 3-ring mechanism out of there by any means possible that won’t destroy your cover. I tried drilling out the rivets, but in the end it was a bit of a rip-and-tear on my part. No biggie, it’s easy to cover up. And look, the original pages stay in tact, they will be a fun resource!I used some 7Gypsies red measure paper tape to cover up the torn hole area and around the inside edges of the book, not because the edges needed it but because that tape just went so well with the design of the book.To create an elastic closure, you can use narrow stretch hair/headbands from the drugstore, which usually come in packs of assorted colors. Cut the headband and pinch the ends together with ribbon end crimps. You can tie a knot but that may create too much bulk within the book cover.Use a hole punch and hammer to create a hole in the center back of the book cover. You can also use EK Tools heavy duty punches if your book cover isn’t too thick. The nice thing about the EK punches is that they won’t open any further than they can punch, so you’ll be able to tell right away if your cover is the right thickness for them. My book binder cover was very thick, so the hammer method worked best. In a pinch you can also use a drill.Fold the center of the elastic band and slide it through the hole in the back of the book with the loop to the outside. Tape down the crimped end on the inside book cover.Goop up the expandable file covers with your preferred adhesive. I used E6000 for this project. You should not glue the bottom section that will be at the spine of the book.Place the expandable file into the covers. Lay flat and stack weight on top while it dries. Use clamps if necessary around the top edges to finish.Now I’ll have to decide what to file in it. It will be easy enough to cover over the alphabet tabs with little file labels if I decide to file by subject. This just might make a great file for magazine inspiration clippings.

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91 Responses to Vintage Book Expanding File

  1. #1 - Bonnie says:

    I love this idea! Will be hunting thru the Thrift stores for the expandable files! Very cool for all those recipes I need to cut out constantly! Thanks!

  2. #4 - Lori says:

    Great idea, Cathe! Now you’ve got me thinking about the smaller files too (like for coupons). Hmmm…wonder what I could do with those? Thanks for whirling the hamster wheels!

  3. #5 - Melanie says:

    This is a GREAT idea!!! I love the vintage books.

  4. #6 - Judy Johnston says:

    Absolutely brilliant – you never cease to amaze me with your ideas and talent. Keep up the good work

  5. #7 - alice kelly says:

    What a clever idea. I am going to look thru the old books stacked in the garage tomorrow and see what I can come up with. Wouldn’t the smaller expanding file be a cute idea for a greeting card folder.

  6. Love it, absolute a wonderful and fun thing to make AND use time and again ♥

  7. #9 - heather says:

    This is awesome! Thanks for the diy!

  8. #10 - mummylade says:

    this is a brilliant idea!

  9. #11 - Crystal aka Caitlynsmommy says:

    What a neat idea! Great job upcycling!

  10. #12 - Susan says:

    Great, great, great idea! Thanks for the inspiration!

  11. #13 - Candice says:

    This is brilliant! I love the cover you chose. This would make filing papers so much more fun!

  12. #14 - Annette G says:

    Such a great idea and a fabulous tutorial, thank you so much

  13. #15 - Valerie says:

    I love how the elastic looks like it’s crossing out the word “man’s” 🙂 Great tutorial, looks simple enough for me to try! Thank you.

  14. #16 - Carole RB says:

    You are a genious!

  15. #17 - SuzyMcQ says:

    Just loving this! It’s ingenious and so cool and different. I look at tons of blogs and things just sort of start to repeat themselves. This is so fresh and I love the recycling aspect of it all! A big BRAVO!

  16. #18 - donna!ee says:

    WOW…how cool is that! i use these expanding files BUT with this upcycle they will last longer & be easier on the eye! thank you much for sharing! 🙂

  17. #19 - Jill says:

    Very, very neat!

  18. #20 - Janice says:

    What a great idea you had to cover the expanding file, I love it. Where can you purchase the ribbon end findings? I have been looking for them and have not been able to find any.

  19. #22 - Laura says:

    What a great idea! So creative. That Better Homes and Gardens book is perfect for this project.

  20. #24 - Pam Dennison says:

    This is the best idea EVER! Love it! My sisters and I email back and forth about your blog all the time!

  21. #25 - Rebecca says:

    Cathy, you are AMAZING! I love every post and every creative idea you have and look forward to reading the next. I need to make one of these to file every creative ‘wish’ on my list so that some day I’ll get to tackle all of the projects I hope to do. You are inspiring 🙂

  22. #26 - Lizzy Ford says:

    WOW!!! That is fabulous!

  23. #27 - nicke says:

    that is such a great idea! i love it!

  24. #28 - Dana Gustafson says:

    Well if you have to do filing, might as well make it fun! Brliliant Cathe!

  25. #29 - Christine says:

    Love this! Very clever

  26. #30 - Meri Wiley says:

    Hi Cathe,

    What an amazing idea, thank you so much for sharing it. I’d like to invite you to visit my blog and sign up to follow. I’ve got quarterly giveaways of OOAK paperclay sculptures, and I think you’d appreciate the inspirations (vintage valentines or birthday cards). My summer giveaway will be going on soon…… hop on over!


  27. #31 - Heidi says:

    Love this!!
    It reminds me of the telephone book cover you made a while ago using a vintage book as the outside…or was it a journal? Mine is a telephone directory.
    keep ’em coming, please.

  28. #32 - Momma Mindy says:

    Always in awe of you, dear Cathe. Wow. I have a book like that, it just sits on my shelf useless. Thank you for always passing on your amazing abilities and creations…

  29. #33 - martina says:

    That is an excellent idea and I will have to make one! You could probably do the same thing with a smaller book/expanding file and use it to sort coupons before taking it along to the store, or recipes.

  30. #34 - laurie magpie ethel says:

    Filing this idea away…time to hunt down a book to use. Awesome idea as usual….I love how your mind works!

  31. #35 - ann divelbiss says:

    LOVE THIS!!!

  32. #36 - Monica says:

    You always have the best ideas! I love your creativity. Wish I could come check out the Maker Faire. Maybe someday. Hope you have a great time!

  33. #37 - PennyA says:

    Hi, Cathe!
    A friend shared a link to this post (knowing the book-craft junkie in me). I was so taken with your delicious photos and concise writing I have spent the past evening *not to mention the better part of today* working backward through your older posts! It is always a treat to run across a fellow sufferer of OCG (ha!) — and my beloved and I have used 143 as our shorthand since back in the day of pagers as the electronic leach of choice!
    So glad to have found you! I look forward to following along, and using all of the scrumptious eye-candy in upcoming projects ~>:-D

  34. #38 - Diane Costanza says:

    I love this idea. The decorating book looks like a wonderful find!

  35. #39 - Saucy Chick Sherry says:

    Cathe you are brilliant! Once again you have nailed a perfect project. This is a wonderful gift for anyone especially the male species. I love the finished file folder system. Happy weekend to you…

  36. #40 - Immi says:

    Another awesome project! I love this and will have to keep my eyes open for a suitable book!

  37. #41 - Darlene DeRyke says:

    Congratulations on the newsletter…it is great and reflects your talent.

    Best wishes on your many ventures.

  38. #42 - Donna says:

    A very cute idea!

  39. #43 - Annette says:

    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your ideas!!! Thanks for sharing them!!!!

  40. Pingback: Weekend Workbench: Re-purposed Book File « A Snail's Life

  41. #44 - Anna says:

    Oh, this is fanTAStic! I’m going to start thrift hunting for the supplies to make several of these. Recipes, clippings, inspirational pieces, my daughter’s art. Thank you!!

  42. #45 - Lauren B says:

    Brilliant as always, Cathe!

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  44. #46 - AprilG says:

    What a great idea! This would be great for a secret hiding place for valuable papers or even a hidden stash of cash that you want to keep at home. I’ve never had a hidden stash of cash but I’ve heard there are people out there that do. LOL

  45. #47 - Julia D. says:

    Thank you, Cathe! You are the best………..Your filled with such wonderful talent!

  46. #48 - Liz says:

    Hi Cathe’—What a beautiful idea. I have a question !!!!
    I want to make a few today, I have all the material. But my question is. When I put the folder in the book, I notice that it takes up the space where the pages are. Can I get a bigger book where the spine is wider, so when the folder is expanded with a few things in it, it will not alter the book so much where it is hard to close. I would like to make one where I put Garden Seeds in it for a gift, and then one for garden tips.

  47. #51 - Rupa says:

    I have no idea how you dream up of these things and better yet, actually make them look so easy and perfect!!! You are truly an inspiration in so many ways!!

  48. #52 - l3ilani says:


  49. #54 - fran says:

    I love the book cover idea. Recycling AND useful. Instructions look easy to follow especially with the photos. The GH book reminds my of an old sewing machine manual that my son (with tongue in cheek) said it instructed you to put on your lipstick before sewing or at the very least put on a nice housedress!

  50. #55 - Roses says:

    I have been hesitant to try any book projects out, mostly out of fear of ruining beautiful books. But also out of fear of creating a ghastly creature. Yesterday I had a breakthrough and found a much abused but but lovely covered book. In a moment of inspiration I sliced out the pages and glued in a cute journal. Inked it to restore the color and added some accent tape and inserted an elastic closure. I love my new journal. Thank you for teaching the artistically hindered that we can be crafty too!

  51. Pingback: The Motherload » Amy’s Notebook 05.18.11

  52. #56 - Anna says:

    I have the yellow and green Junior Instructor books too! 🙂

  53. Pingback: Vintage Book Expanding File blog

  54. #57 - Kathy says:

    I groaned when I saw the first picture – I just donated that exact same book because I was tired of it being in my way! Who knew I could have made something really useful? You are a marvel!!!

  55. #58 - Patty says:

    You are so freakin creative and talented!!!!!

  56. Aww, this is excellent! I have so many vintage books and binder books that I get b/c the covers are so charming and retro. I’m going to have to give this a shot…thanks for the tutorial!

  57. #60 - Veda says:

    that is one wonderful thing u made….beautiful detailed pictures of how everything is done! love ur webpage n will b visiting u more often…

  58. #61 - Tidbitz says:

    That is amazing. Not too difficult either and opens up a new variety of DIY book/folder options for me and my kids!

  59. #62 - Cristina says:

    You are a genius!!!! Just the other day I was trying to figure out how to organize my garden magazine clippings. This is it. I’m off to the thrift store on Saturday. Thanks for posting the instructions.

  60. #63 - Doti R says:

    These re wonderful, I love old books. Bu these would hold my knitting and quilting patterns.
    Thanks so much for sharing. Doti

  61. #64 - Allison P. says:

    We’re loving this! We linked to it on our site…

    GuppyAl will be seeing you at Maker Faire this weekend!

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  63. #66 - Lori says:


  64. Brilliant! This looks fantastic!

  65. #68 - Connie says:

    EEEEWWWWWWWW!!!! LOVE the greeting card idea too!!!

  66. #69 - Connie says:

    LOVE the greeting card idea!!!

  67. #70 - Leah says:

    I love this, I wonder if making my filing system this cute would make me better at keeping up with it?

  68. Pingback: Dollar Store Crafts » Blog Archive » Make a Vintage Book Expanding File

  69. #71 - Donna says:

    Cathe, I just love this! I’m a sucker for vintage books AND for storage things! I’m your newest follower. 🙂


  70. Pingback: Make a Vintage Book Expanding File |Candle Making Kits | Beeswax, Soy and Gel Candle Making Starter Kits

  71. #72 - Sandra Bartman says:

    What a great idea for a book that won’t be used for reading.

  72. #73 - Damsel says:

    I love this!!!!

  73. #74 - lisa says:

    I LOVE this project. You are amazing.
    I found a copy of the book, but my copy is 8 x11. Too small for a file.
    I already removed the binder. Can you help me with a different idea?
    I love the handy man cover. I was thinking mini clipboard and graph paper. Thank you

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  75. #75 - Jasmine says:

    Just love this, will be looking for similar file and book, thanks again,jasminetg

  76. Pingback: L’atelier du mercredi : j’organise mon bureau | PLUMETIS Magazine

  77. #76 - Christi says:

    Hi Cathe,

    This was a GREAT idea, and combined with your previous post for covering a spiral planner with a vintage book, it was a jumping off point for me in making a gift for my niece for Christmas this year. I turned an old copy of “Les Miserables” into a Nook cover for her. Your creativity is inspiring, and your instructions are clear and easy to follow! My project turned out beautifully, and I couldn’t have done it without your posts.

    I did want to mention, though, something I wished I had known before I started my project: I used the E6000 glue to adhere the covered panels to the inside of each cover. While it did the job perfectly from an adhesion standpoint, immediately the smell was intense and overwhelming. Luckily, I had started early enough (which is highly unusual for me as I am a serial procrastinator). I placed the whole thing on a table in front of a fan in my garage for TWO WEEKS. The smell was reduced but it was still noticable when I gave it to my niece. I’m disappointed because even though she loved it, she has said that she may not be able to use it.

    I can say with certainty that I will NOT be using E6000 again. I thought it was important to let other people know so they can keep it in mind as they are planning their project.

    Thank you for all your endless creativity and for letting me share my personal experience!

  78. #77 - Victoria Ciolek says:

    cool idea!

  79. #78 - Linnca Steven says:

    LOve this – where do i get the ribbon leads?

  80. #79 - Jamie says:

    Stopped by via Pinterest. LOVE this idea! Can’t wait to look through the rest of your website too 🙂

  81. #80 - Barb says:

    This is my first time visit at here and i am genuinely happy to read all at one place.

  82. #81 - Becky says:

    I love this idea. I just bought a Jan-Dec file to store all my kids cute crafts and school work for this school year. What a great way to have it handy on the shelf and look cute too!

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