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Mid America Buckskinners Info Page

The JP Finn Method for Impressive Journals

Missouri Iowa Nebraska Kansas

No, it's not skinning bucks............ Developed and maintained by JP Finn

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I have long had a desire for impressive journals of my Adventures. You've seen those journal entries in the magazines. The ones that were written by quill on parchment by firelight. The descriptive phrases and word pictures just flow into that little book after a hard days trek.
I tried to maintain the (to be famous) Journal. That didn't work. Words don't come easily when I am hot or cold, wet, hungry and tired. Even when they do, I find either my hands don't want to write long interesting insightful passages, the light is bad, or there just isn't time after enjoying all the wit and humor bandied around the campfire.

I tried copying my friends journals, but they attempted to downplay my brilliant role in our outings. Some of my friends even seemed to take offense in the corrections and additions of their oversights that I made in their borrowed journals. This left me only two choices. Either forget keeping a journal or develop a system that would work for me. Once I get my mind on something, I never let it go. It may appear that I have forgotten it, but back in the recesses of the mind the problem is being worked on. It was just a matter of time before I came up with a system. Perhaps my system may work for you too.

I begin by making a small notebook. Take three pieces of regular sized paper and fold them in half. Sew them together through the fold in three places, one in the middle and the others about half an inch from either edge. Make a cover from a paper sack or other heavy rough paper and fold it around the booklet. The cover should be slightly larger than the pages. Now sew the whole mess together through the fold in two places to hold it all together. Reinforce the cover by gluing the facing page to the front and back inside covers.

I have used the cardboard back from tablets, light leather and wood for covers. I find the attempt to stiffen the booklet for ease in writing not worth the effort. It is, after all, just a notebook for one use. The back of my wooden trencher makes a fine lapboard to write on. This method also ensures that I clean the dishes instead of leaving them for tomorrow.

Three pieces of typing paper may not seem like much, but the finished booklet will have eight pages to write on. I usually put the date and the plan of the outing on the inside of the front cover. The names of the participants also go there, after we have started. The back inside cover collects a map of the area we will be in. If it is an area that I know, I draw it in before I leave. If it is a new place, I either copy a map of the area or sketch in the major landmarks and planned route as I go. I find some of my maps are more interesting than the journal entries.

Most of my Adventures are for a weekend. If I am going for a week, I either take a couple booklets or make a thicker one. The thick booklet is made by taking two or three groups of three folded and sewn pages and sewing them together sideways right at the fold. A one inch wide piece of paper is glued down the outside of the fold area, making sure to glue the back of the folds to the strip. A cover is made and the front and back pages glued to the cover, leaving a little gap in the cover at the folds so it can close. A thin leather cover made like a large checkbook cover will make the notebook look a little better to the passerby.

I am sure this is not an authentic method of constructing a notebook. But then, I use a store bought drawing pencil without an eraser to write in it, and I expect it is not genuine period either. My only excuse is that a pack of typing paper will make around 30 booklets. This is a years supply for me. I use "on sale" brand typing paper most of the time. The paper grocery sacks are free. The thread and glue are normal household supplies. This makes for a yearly cost of under five dollars for materials. My wife likes that.

When I get back home, the notebook is tossed on my desk and a new one takes its' place in the bag. Sometime in the next few days, the notes from the booklet is transcribed into the Journal. This is where the expansion and agonized over phrases and explanations take place. The notebook is just notes, sketches and bits and pieces of details I don't want to forget before it is put down in the Journal. It collects names and addresses, dates and places of coming events, notes and sketches of gear that catches my eye. Occasionally, I even scribble down something that has to do with the happenings of the day.

This system also has the advantage of allowing the Adventure to stew and take on a flavor before being set down in ink. That little comment or unimportant happening that might not be noted in a regular journal, at the time it happened, may be the cause of a major event in a day or so. Hind site and all that. Besides, after a couple days, that Adventure may have been more interesting than it seemed at the time. You may have noticed that phenomenon yourself.

There you have it. The JP Finn Method for Correct Journals. With my system, you too, can have a Journal of Adventures that you can be proud of.


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If you want to plaver, do so. Hey, jp!