Oh, the hullabaloo around the quality control for the latest release of the Field Notes Colors Edition Utility Graph and Ledger has reached epic proportions. My Graph set had no visible flaws but the lower corners on the Ledger had a bit of a booger on a couple of them.

(Here is where I start my speculation… I did not speak with Field Notes about this and everything here is based on my own personal experience.)

Since I work in the printing industry, I know that stuff like this happens all the time. Ink coverage gets too heavy, things get mis-registered, the blade on the cutter gets dull, the paper is too thick for the folding machine, etc, etc. If the issue is not too severe, inhibit legibility or is not something like someone forgot a plate color (like they forgot the red on the belly band which is integral to the design aesthetic and would give the design team a stress tic) it is often let go by both the printer and the designers/clients in order to meet the deadline or the costs to trash everything and start over would be exponentially cost prohibitive. Not to mention, some of the materials may have been custom ordered and might take several weeks to be reacquired. You crazy people knew down to the minute when the email announcement for shipping of the Colors Edition was going to drop so stopping the print run to fix a booger-y corner and push back shipping by weeks potentially could have created anarchy. Not to mention how much money Field Notes/Coudal already had tied up in this print run. So… that said, let’s talk about the actual notebooks.

The shortfold back cover has also been discussed at great length by a lot of people already but I thought I give you a good photo and my own opinion. It’s short folded by about an 1/8″ and when unfolded it reveals a 5″ ruler on one side and 13cm ruler on the other. Pulling it back a bit from the edge of the rounded corner  gives the edges of the ruler a bit more stability, in my opinion, so that it is less likely to tear at the edges were it to have been flush with the cover and had the full rounded edges. That may or may not have been the reason that Field Notes chose to pull it back from the edge a bit. Maybe that will be one of the questions asked at the RelayCon event in October?

What the pen community has been happy to discuss about the Utility edition is the paper stock. It’s Mohawk Via Vellum 70# text. Fuss buckets will still bemoan that they’d rather just have grid or just have ledger but that’s what meet-ups and the Field Nuts Facebook Group are for. You can trade the ones you don’t want for the ones you do. Field Notes are grown-up trading cards.

I put the 70# Via Vellum through its paces with a variety of daily use pens like Lamy, Franklin-Christoph, Kaweco, Aurora, Sailor and Pilot fountain pens with fine nibs small enough to write on these small graph paper spaces as well as a variety of gel, felt tip and pencils. I didn’t have any issues with feathering, even with some fine italics, a brush pen or a Papermate Flair.

And from the bask side of the paper, there is the lightest bit of show through from the brush pen only. Pretty impressive. So, despite all the fussing about quality control and “What’s with the ruler?”, the 70# paper in the Utility edition meets all the utility standards that the average fountain pen geek has been asking for.

But wait… there’s more.

Bob brought home another notebook for me that bore a striking resemblance to, not just any Field Notes but, to the very similar colored cover Utility. It’s the Tom Sachs “10 Bullets”  Pocket Notebook. The “10 Bullets” comes as a 3-pack and sells for $20. I didn’t know anything about Tom Sachs or the “10 Bullets” prior to receiving the notebook. After a little research, I discovered that Tom Sachs is an artist with a working studio and several people who work for him including, at one time Casey Neistat. The “10 Bullets” appears to be both tongue-in-cheek and a creative statement but bears a striking resemblance to the Utility Edition so I couldn’t avoid talking about it here.

The cover is also Mohawk Via Vellum 80# (216 gsm) in Safety Yellow but on the inside, the Tom Sachs notebook uses Mohawk Superfine Eggshell Utrawhite 24# (30gsm) and uses a “ghost grid pattern licensed from Edward Tufte“. Really? It looks like 0.25″ standard grid to me. The book is slightly larger than a standard Field Notes both in height and width — about a 1/4″ taller and a 1/2” wider. On the cover are ten bullets in black matte foil with a matte white foil or silkscreen.

The inside cover is handwritten in the distinctive Tom Sachs penmanship and black ink.

Inside the back cover is a photocopy of a ruler and a millimeters to decimals conversion chart. They look photocopied like a zine. The last eight pages of the notebook are assorted reference guides including Sach’s 10 Bullets.

Overall, there are 59 pages of grid paper to use in the Sachs notebook so I put one to the test.

Directly across from Sachs’ “10 Bullets” I tested the same pens I used in the Utility notebook. With the wider spaced grid and the lighter weight paper, I ended up needing a page and a half so you get to see the back side of the page and the remainder of the writing samples in one go.

You can see that the type bleeds through in some cases and shows through much more often than it did on the Via Vellum 70# in the Utility notebook. While I like some of Sachs’ artwork, his more ironic “10 Bullets” video and notebook is way too ironic and smarmy, hipster, self-referential, I’m-not-sure-who-he’s-poking-fun-at-here. I get that we are a bit obsessive and ridiculous at times about our notebooks and our particular-ness and I’m okay with that and if he’s making fun of himself as much as us, then great. But somehow, I think it got lost in translation. And in the process, the product is pricey and not very good. If you’re going to make something snooty and self-referential and charge an arm and a leg, make it better than this. I’m glad I didn’t pay for this one. It was a print sample.


DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Field Notes for the purpose of review. Tom Sachs did not send me their notebook to review. It came to me by chance but I did not pay for it either. Please see the About page for more details.

1 comment on “Review: Field Notes Utility Graph & Tom Sachs Notebook”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *