09 January 2012

The Great Organiser Hole Spacing Conspiracy

A dramatic title to this post I know... but when you read on you will begin to wonder!

The focus of this post will of course be Filofax organisers and what hole spacing they use. As well as hole spacing I will include notes on paper size, so you will at least have the information for Filofax if you come across another brand of insert and you can ask them the right questions with regards to size and hole spacing. 

Before we get in to this too deeply, here is an explanation of what I mean by 'hole spacing' and a picture might save a few words!

This is the dimensions for a European 'Two Ring' binder, in this case the hole spacing is 80mm the drawing also shows the tolerance of ±0.5 mm on that dimension allowed for in the ISO standard for hole punches.... yes such a thing exists!

Filofax Mini 

The Mini size uses 5 rings each spaced by 19mm or ¾ inch. The paper size is 67 mm x 105 mm.

Filofax Pocket

The Pocket size uses 6 rings each each spaced by 19mm or ¾ inch. The paper size is 81mm x 120 mm. A number of other brands use this size and spacing.

Filofax Personal

Filofax Personal size is a very common size, it uses 6 rings split in to two groups of 3 rings. The two groups are spaced by 50 mm or 2 inches with the three rings having the common 19 mm or ¾ inch spacing between them. The paper size is 95mm by 171 mm.

Whilst the hole spacing is a common feature of other brands, be aware that some brands use paper wider than 95mm, this can cause problems especially in the compact and slimline Filofax organisers, which with their smaller ring sizes have narrower covers. Try before you buy... is the best advice... or if you are buying on line, establish the exact size of the paper or the tabs and make a mock up of your chosen size.

Filofax A5
Filofax A5 uses paper that is 148 mm by 210 mm, exactly the size of European ISO standard A5 paper. However the company chose for what ever reason to use 6 rings, again like the personal size split in to two groups of three rings. The two groups are spaced by 70 mm or 2¾ inch with the three rings having the common 19 mm or ¾ inch spacing between them.

Now looking at other brands, it all gets very different to Filofax, so much so that re-punching some of these other sizes can turn your diary insert in to something resembling a Swiss cheese.

Quo Vadis Timer 21 is A5 paper size with six holes, but they use the same hole spacing as Filofax Personal size! Yes it took me a while to realise that! So QV Timer 21 pages need to be re-punched but the Filofax holes fall neatly between the original QV holes.

Time Manager International TMI like Quo Vadis use Filofax Personal hole spacing in their A5 products, but only 4 rings not six, they miss out the middle ring of each 3 ring group. So they have 38mm and 50mm spacing Again re-punching their inserts results in having 12 evenly spaced holes. 

Franklin Covey and Day Timer in the USA use a page size of 140mm x 216 mm (5.5 x 8.5 inches) which is close to A5 in size (slightly narrower, but slightly taller), but the hole spacing is very different to Filofax. Firstly they use a 7 ring binder, but ignore the middle ring! If you then think of their insert as being 6 holes split into two groups of three. The two groups are spaced by 38mm or 1.5 inches with the three rings being space by 1 inch (25mm)  

Punching one of these to fit a Filofax A5 will result in pages that look something like this:

As you might be able to see, the top and bottom holes of the row of 7 holes are very close to the top and bottom holes of A5 Filofax, in fact when punched those holes become oval in shape.

Mulberry for reasons best known to them, use A5 paper, but their 6 rings are spaced in to two groups of 3 rings. The two groups are spaced by 50 mm or the three rings having the common 19 mm spacing between them. As we have previously mentioned Mulberry sizes on all of their binders are different to Filofax, a previous Philofaxy post gives all of the details for this brand.

Filofax A4
As previously discussed the A4 size is 297 mm by 210 mm a standard European ISO paper size, the four holes are each spaced by 80 mm, again which is an extension to the ISO standard spacing (ISO 838) Nearly all binders in Europe that use A4 paper use this four hole spacing so finding alternatives shouldn't be an issue.

In the USA, Day Timer sell a 'Folio' size which is 216mm x 280mm (11 inches by 8.5 inches) which is a fraction wider than A4 but shorter. This also uses 7 rings, again if you ignore the middle hole. You then get two groups of three rings. The two groups are spaced by 5.5 inches with each ring spaced by 1 inch. None of these 7 holes aligns with the Filofax 4 holes.

Putting all of the hole spacings together in to one detailed picture I came across this graphic below. US 7 rings is the Day Timer/Franklin Covey 'standard'

I hope things are a little clearer now... if not... please ask questions in the comments and I will try and respond.


  1. Very informative - thank you Steve. This is particularly useful when looking at alternative inserts and also when buying hole punches!

  2. Thank you!! This is SO helpful for deciding if alternative inserts will work for you.

  3. I used some alternate inserts like this - and it was a big mess. I didnt even do it as neat as you. I can't see it working in the long term because with all the holes it would rip eventually. It would be easier to d/l, print and punch inserts then use ready made inserts you have to re punch

  4. Has anyone ever tried fitting Japanese 24-hole paper into FF? The Kinokuniya bookstore in NYC has a wide selection of that super-smooth Maruman paper in A5, B5 etc.

    FYI there is also Maruman paper that is Personal size-specific (they call it "Bible" size") - if anyone can get some, it's VERY fountain pen friendly.

  5. John
    Do you have a link so I can see this 24 hole paper? Sounds like this paper will fit anything!

  6. Steve,
    Maruman website for reference:


    Unfortunately, I don't have any UK stockist leads - Kinokuniya is the only place where I've traveled in the US that carries them. This is one of those products (so few in the age of Amazon) that I've only ever seen in person. The paper's in a class by itself - no thicker than FF stock sheets, but holds FP ink as well as cotton cream. Hope this helps.

  7. Fantastic work.
    Thanks for this.

  8. That diagram "holespacing.png" looks really familiar, I think I referenced it when comparing A5 Filofax and Time/System A5 hole patterns. I wanted to call out timesystem.us as a source for A5 punches, but they seem to have stopped listing them. The punch I got from them looks like this one at http://www.opto.se/scalers.htm, is even labeled "Scaler 61". It happily punches two sheets of 20 lb (75 gsm) paper, and will punch three with a little effort.

  9. For Japanese paper, bring a sheet of whatever you're hoping to match, if you remember and are going to Kinokuniya.

    On the B series, you have to read up. I seem to remember reading that it's a few mm off from ISO. Anyway, it's Deskfax that's close to a B series size (B5?).

    The chances are probably good on A4. I think the last time I looked at the paper, it had big holes, eithe two or four of them, in the European placement.

    On A5, short of just looking at them in hand, one could probably compare measurements.

    Japanese paper has pocket 6 hole in the metric version of 3x5", tall and skinny like every other brand, not the 3.25x4.75" (or 80x120mm) paper, which in some ways is pleasing and convenient at 3x4 proportions.

    I wish they had stuck with 4 ring pocket.

  10. I have some old A5 Filofax paper which has 12 holes in two groups of 6. No wonder I was confused when I read the problems people have with punches that fit personal and A5. I have personal paper in an old A5 binder but I've since realised it's not Filofax branded. Duh!

    So now I have to break the news to my partner that I want a new branded A5 (Malden) and I'll need a hole punch to go with it. Oops!

  11. All I want is a Mulberry planner diary without coughing up £20 for the privilege, anybody got any ideas?

    1. Scale down one of our A5 designs Mulberry is A6 a quarter of A4 size. But you might have problems with printing unless your printer can double side print A5 paper? If it can then you are in business.


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