Category: Paper Review

Review: Field Notes Utility Graph & Tom Sachs Notebook

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.

Review: Dingbats* Wildlife Grey Elephant Notebook

I was recently introduced to a notebook company with a pretty long history called Dingbats*. The company was started in the early 19th century in Lebanon and has been passed down to the current great-great grandsons who have brought the business into the 21st century with a very interesting line of products. I got to try out their Elephant notebook in their Wildlife line, an A5+ (6.3×8.5″) with a textured leatherette cover and a debossed elephant in the center of the cover. The notebook has an elastic closure, ribbon bookmark and a gusseted pocket in the back for loose papers. There’s even an elastic pen loop that was stretchy enough to fit my Aurora Optima though it was a bit of a tight squeeze.

The end papers have a paw print pattern printed on a butter yellow color stock. There is a place for your personal information of the inside front page in case of loss. I like that the note at the bottom just says “please return to me” rather than Moleskine’s reward line. Its much altruistic.

Inside, the paper is 100gsm cream, acid-free, FSC-certified paper with a total of 96 sheets or 192 pages. I received a dot grid notebook and the dots are spaced at 5mm. The dots are printed in grey and are smaller than the dots in my Baron Fig notebooks but the grey is a shade or two darker. There are also grid, lined and blank paper options available if dot gird is not your catnip.

Every single page is micro-perforated as well. I didn’t notice the micro perforations at first until I was flipping to the last few pages where most notebooks include a few pages with micro-perf. Then I flipped through and noticed that all the pages were perfed. With very careful folding along the perforation, I was able to cleanly remove a page from the middle of the book.

The sewn binding allows the notebook to lay flat with no issues. Easy peasy. I almost forgot to mention it because, to me, with a bound notebook, this should be a no-brainer and should only be mentioned when notebooks don’t lay flat. But lat’s all cheer that the Dingbats* notebook does its job beautifully.

The Dingbats* notebook completely lived up to its claim that it was fountain-pen friendly. I had no issues with my daily carry fine and extra-fine nib fountain pens. I also tested an assortment felt tip pens, pencils and whatever I had laying around to get a varied perspective. Everything performed well, dried in a resonable amount of time and had no feathering issues. I, on the other hand, had some unique spelling issues today. No judgement. I must have been particularly tired.

From the back of my ink testing page, there was almost no show through at all and even the beefy Plumchester 1.5 brush pen had little show through.

When my husband saw the Dingbats* notebook, he really liked it as well. He’s not the stationery enthusiast that a lot of us are so I’m always pleased when a notebook or pen turns his head. He particularly liked the feel of the leatherette cover. And both of us enjoyed perusing the small pamphlet included with the notebook of other products offered by Dingbats*. Some of the products we really liked were the School Agenda with tri-language and the Personal Agenda available in English-Arabic. In the current cultural environment, I like knowing that students and adults in the US could get an Agenda that had Arabic featured. I do hope Dingbats* will offer these Agendas in the US market for 2018.

The Dingbats Company also has a strong environmental policy and include information on their web site and promotional materials about their dedication to keeping their paper making as clean to the environment as possible.

I really like the Wildlife series notebooks. They are good quality with all the right features, great paper, and a competitive price point. If you’re looking for a bound notebook alternative to what you are using right now, Dingbats* might be your next new notebook. Fingers crossed, next edition added will be a panda?

DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Dingbats* for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Review: Manuscript Notebooks & Crate Info

Manuscript Notebooks is a company that specializes in notebooks with a literary bent. They offer Large (A5), pocket (passport) and hardcover (pocket-sized) notebooks featuring classic literature covers.

The covers are a matte finish coated stock rather than the uncoated paper used by a lot of other companies giving it a slightly more durable feel. On the inside cover is a “table of contents” but because its printed on the coated paper stock it would be difficult to used with anything other than a ballpoint pen. It is a clever design but not entirely useful.

The spines feature a sewn binding rather than a staple stitch. I like the look of this and is a nice alternative that seems in keeping with the vintage vibe of the book covers rather than a more utilitarian staple.

Since I keep an A5-sized Traveler’s Notebook as well as my 5th Anniversary Edition Star Ferry Traveler’s Notebook, Manuscript’s two standard cahier sizes perfectly meet my needs. Not to mention, I have a certain penchant for books. So I had my fingers crossed that the paper quality would be good…

I pulled out a good array of “everyday carry” tools to put the paper to the test.  According to my contact at Manuscript, the Large A5 and the hardcover journals both contain 75gsm post-consumer ivory cream paper. The paper in the passport-sized pocket notebooks is blank 85gsm post-consumer. The hardcover journals are the only books with white paper and ruled pages.

In my initial tests, everything looked good with standard testing. I didn’t drench the paper, though I did throw the Plumchester 1.5 brush pen in at the end just for a challenge. I did pepper it with standard fine and medium fountain pens, some fine italics, a Papermate Flair and the standard general writers like a Pilot G2 and Sharpie Pen.

In a more close-up shot, you can see that I didn’t get any bleeding, feathering or splining of the ink. I’m very happy to report that there was also minimal show through as well, even with the great big, juicy brush pen, though there was a bit with that one. That was to be expected though.

There are 86 pages in each of the A5 notebooks so there’s plenty of doodling and writing space for the $11 price tag.  The Pocket notebooks are sold in packs of 3 for $11, each with 48 pages so they are priced competitively with many of the other notebooks currently on the market. While I did not get to test the heavier 85 gsm paper in the Pocket notebooks, if its the same stock as is featured in the A5, only slightly heavier, I think it will be excellent.

Manuscript is also introducing the Manuscript Crate. Each month Manuscript Crate will send a set of Pocket notebooks with a different literary cover art, such as Sherlock Holmes, Alice in Wonderland, Dracula, and many more. The literature will span all genres and international editions. Sometimes the cover art will be instantly recognizable, and sometimes they will be obscure limited run covers printed a long time ago in far away places. But every month will be a surprise. Right now, they’re giving away $10 gift cards towards your crate purchase to the first 500 people that sign up for Manuscript Crate. The monthly fee for each Crate will be $10 and shipping will be around $2. So the $10 gift basically gives you a free month. Manuscript is also hoping to include some surprise extras in their crates like stickers, bookmarks and miniatures pencils.

It looks like there is Manuscript is another source for good quality A5 and pocket notebooks if you don’t mind blank pages. Since you can use guide sheets, that shouldn’t be a make-or-break issue. And if you like pocket-sized books, the subscription service might be a good option as well.

DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Manuscript Shop for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Review: This Is Ground Medium Leather Notebook Cover & Notebooks

What could be hidden inside these silky, black nylon bags? I wondered the same thing when they mysteriously arrived in my mailbox recently from This Is Ground, most known for their high-end leather goods designed to hold electronics like iPads and iPhones.

What I found inside the luscious bags were two perfect-bound notebooks (perfect, of course) and a supple French Grey Medium Format Notebook Holder which is designed to perfectly carry one of the notebooks as well as business cards, credit cards, a mobile phone and such.

One notebook was called the “Designer” which features grid lines and the other was the “Artist” which is a blank format.

I found that the inside lower slit was perfect to hold a pocket/passport-sized notebook, so I tucked a Baron Fig Apprentice in the pocket though an actual passport would also fit in the pocket if you’re traveling and the This Is Ground site shows the pocket holding cards instead.

The top slit held my business cards perfectly and the secretary pocket on the left can be used for loose papers or a mobile phone. The right hand pocket is for the notebook.

Its a very aesthetically appealing format. The whole arrangement looks very pulled together in a meeting.

I tested the blank “Artist” notebook first. The paper has a soft ivory color and the only printing on the inner pages in the Artist book is the initials “TIG” in the lower right hand corner of each page. I used my usual “daily carry” items for testing the paper: fountain pens, felt tip markers, pencils, gel pens and a few specific art tools. Most of the fountain pens I used on the paper tended to spread a appear a bit wider than they actually are. There was a little bit of feathering on the edges of the letters creating a general “spread”. It just seems to be a more absorbent paper. My guess is that there isn’t any sizing on the paper to prevent the more liquid-y inks for settling into the paper fibers. So, gel inks, oily ballpoint and pencil are going to behave much better on the paper. There was a little show through and bleed through which, after seeing the feathering on the front was to be expected.

I had the most fun using the Plumchester brush pen and the Papermate Flair with colored pencil and watercolor markers on this paper, even though there was show through on the reverse. They handled nicely on the front.

The perfect-bound format does not lay as flat as I’d like without working the spine a bit and then the book doesn’t really close flat. Luckily, the leather cover weighs the cover down so it looks tidy.

The “Designer” gridded paper has a light dotted line grid pattern. The grid is spaced at 0.25″ (7mm) which, at first, looked a bit wide but ended up being fine. The lines are quite light and unobtrusive which is excellent.

The paper in the “Designer” is the same as the “Artist” in terms of weight and color. Both books feature 60# natural off-white paper with 110# covers and measure 5×8″ with 48 pages. There is also a ruled option available, if that’s how you roll. Notebooks are $15. There’s a Warhol “Banana” edition of the “Artist” available for $17.

My dreams for the notebooks Version 2.0:

  • Improved paper quality (it doesn’t have to be totally fountain pen-friendly but at least fountain pen-tolerant would be nice)
  • Cahier editions (3-pack) that are stitched or sewn so they lay flat and users can fit one in the left hand slot and the right hand slot
  • Artist edition has thicker, more art-specific paper. Maybe if has fewer pages but is actually more drawing paper rather than just blank paper with a catchy name

I love the leather notebook cover. It feels fantastic and looks ridiculously professional. While I love my Traveler’s Notebook, it doesn’t always look as upscale as I need to be at work. The This Is Ground Medium Notebook Cover definitely ups my “classy” game. The only down side is the notebook and that the cover only holds their proprietary-sized notebook. It becomes a serious limiting factor. I understand wanting to get the repeat business of selling refill notebooks, but the convenience of being able to refill with more standard-sized notebook (even in a pinch) might entice more people to invest in such a lovely notebook cover.

I am going to continue to use the Medium Notebook Cover and hope that This Is Ground will continue to improve the inserts for the cover. Because the cover, they got right.

DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by This Is Ground for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Notebook Review: Baron Fig Vanguard Black Box

The Baron Fig Vanguard Black Box is probably no longer a big secret but I’m going to hide the photos of the actual covers of the notebooks behind a “read more” so if you don’t want to have the surprise ruined, you don’t have to click through. Especially since the NEW Vanguard Edition launched last week. So, really… but not many folks have been talking about this edition. I feel like it got lost in the shuffle of the holidays and all the other special releases and I think people might kick themselves if they don’t grab this one since its still available so I thought I’d get my review out now. Better late than never.

Everything prior to the “read more” will not be a spoiler so feel free to continue to read on.

First, the Black Box comes in another one of Baron Fig’s excellent boxes. This one in matte black with gloss black symbols on the cover: an x, an o, a wave and a leaf. It reminds me of a puzzle, something from Welcome to Nightvale or an episode of Lost.

The big news is that its one of the first editions of the Vanguard with dot grid. AND… the paper looks to have been upgraded to the same stock that Baron Fig is using in the Confidant. The stock is  toothier than in my previous Vanguard editions and the color is creamier.

See that texture? Alternately, if you liked that smooth smooth Vanguard stock, then this is not the edition for you.

When I did a side-by-side comparison of the Black Box edition paper and an original Vanguard, the paper in the Black Box handled like the Confidant which was much more to my liking. My fountain pens were well-behaved and the toothiness of the stock meant that pencils and pen nibs didn’t slide around of their own accord.

The photo above is a close-ups of the ink handling of the two books. The bottom two frames are the same pen on the two versions of Vanguard. Fountain pen users will recognize that weird ink resistance on the right as opposed to the left which is just lovely shading. (It’s Oster Fire & Ice ink, if you’re curious.)

Okay… this is it… You want to see the cover details?


Review: Plumchester Square Sketchbook

Review by Tina Koyama

When I first saw it, I was immediately thrilled by the rich plum color of the new Plumchester Square Sketchbook – with a yellow-gold elastic and matching ribbon bookmark! I don’t know about you, but I don’t see nearly enough of the purple/gold complement anywhere, much less the stationery world. Let’s take a closer look, outside and inside.

Appearance and Features

The vegan leather hardcover has a smooth matte finish without the vague stickiness I sometimes feel on other synthetic leather surfaces. The corners are neatly rounded. Although I didn’t road test its durability, the cover resists minor fingernail scratches and looks like it would hold up well to daily-carry. The only branding is a white debossed logo on the back cover.

The elastic closure is significantly wider and heftier than what you’d find on a Moleskine – proportionate to the book’s 8.3-by-8.3-inch format. I wish the satin ribbon bookmark were wider – by comparison, it seems skimpy (however, the cut edge has been fray-proofed, so Ana would undoubtedly give that detail a bonus point!).

Other than its color, probably the most distinctive physical feature of the Plumchester sketchbook is its square format. Although an Internet search for square-format sketchbooks yields plenty of results, most are spiralbound or softcover, not perfect-bound hardcovers. The square format is one of my favorites for versatility – you can decide on your work’s format after it’s done, not be forced to conform to the format of your book. It’s also just right for sharing on Instagram, as Plumchester points out: “Snap a photo of your art on a square page and post it to social media using #plumchester.”

All of that caught my eye, but what held my attention was when I opened that perfect-bound hardcover binding – and how absolutely flat the page spreads open. As big a fan as I am of Stillman & Birn’s sketchbooks, I’ve looked askance at their claims that their hardcover books open flat – I have never been able to escape the telltale gray shadow at the gutter when I put a spread on the scanner. (S&B’s softcovers do, indeed, open as flat as any sketchbook I know.) The Plumchester, however, really does open completely flat. Since spreads closer to the middle of a book usually open flatter, I deliberately picked a spread near the back cover to scan the gutter. As you can see from my un-Photoshopped image, there’s no gray shadow. Based on all the hardcover sketchbooks I’ve opened, I had been convinced that it just isn’t possible to make one that opens completely flat – but the Plumchester proves it can be done.

Media Tests

OK, let’s get to the nitty-gritty – the 48 pages of paper. The smooth, bright white paper is 160 gsm (108 lbs.). Since I’m familiar with it, and it has a similar texture, I compared it to Stillman & Birn’s Epsilon series, which is 150 gsm (100 lbs.). While that weight difference is hardly noticeable in thickness, where it really shows up is in opacity. On an Epsilon page, the ghost of the image on the page underneath or on the other side is clearly visible, but I saw no ghosting at all on Plumchester pages, even when scanned.

I had a ton of fun throwing just about every medium I own onto those pages. Many sketchbook papers have a toothy surface that’s nice for art media, but the tooth is unpleasant with a fountain pen (my favorite writing tool), so I don’t enjoy writing on the same page I’ve sketched on. But the Plumchester’s smooth surface is a joy to use with everything from fountain and gel pens to fat, juicy brush pens.

The only media that bled through were an alcohol-based Zig Kurecolor marker, a Higgins Black Magic marker (wherever I stalled when writing, but not a scribbled line where I was moving faster) and a scribble of Liquitex ink where I sprayed it with water.

Plumchester says the paper is ideal for “graphite pencils, pigmented ink, colored pencils, paint markers,” so it was no surprise that the paper buckled under watercolor or wherever I sprayed or washed the page with water. While I expected the buckling (most papers lighter than 140 lbs. probably would), I was a little disappointed that the sizing allowed most of my water-soluble marker and brush pen inks to sink in rapidly, which means that giving them a swipe of a waterbrush didn’t bring out a rich wash. Papers of equivalent weight such as Stillman & Birn’s Alpha and Canson XL mixed media do a better job of that.

Still, my pear illustration shows off plenty of bright, blended colors from Kuretake Zig Clean Color Real Brush Pens, so I can’t complain. My other fruit sketches show conventional colored pencils, watercolor pencils (activated with water) and watercolor paints, and the colors all look brilliant on Plumchester’s paper. As expected, the page buckled wherever I applied water, but nothing seeped through.

With all dry media the paper is pleasant to use, especially plain old graphite. I thought it might not have enough tooth to use with charcoal and other chalky drawing pencils, but even those look beautiful. With colored pencils I tend to prefer surfaces with a bit more tooth to pick up the pigment faster, but I still like the results on this smooth surface.   

Final Impressions

I think the Plumchester sketchbook would make an ideal art journal. The page spreads are generous, and the flat-opening binding is unsurpassed. The paper takes nearly every medium beautifully, as long as you don’t get carried away with water, and the pages are heavy enough that they could support collage, too. A bonus is the smooth surface, which is a delight to use for drawing and painting as well as writing.

The A5 square size is a bit too large for me to carry in my everyday bag, so I am really hoping Plumchester makes a smaller book in the same square format – 6 or 7 inches would be ideal. With the same purple and yellow color scheme, please!

tina-koyamaTina Koyama is an urban sketcher in Seattle. Her blog is Fueled by Clouds & Coffee, and you can follow her on Instagram as Miatagrrl.

Review: Wanderings Traveler’s Notebook

I received the Wanderings Notebook to review not long ago and wanted to give a good thorough field test before I wrote my review. It will look like most of the leather, Midori-like notebooks you’ve seen on Etsy and other sites and wonder “What’s the big deal?” And that’s part of the big deal. There’s no a big deal unlike Foxy Fix, Chic Sparrow, Buteo Bunker, ZenCraft, One Star Leather or any of the other more posh brands.The Wanderings Notebook doesn’t have a lot of bells-and-whistles. There’s no pockets, extra stitching, no “extra room”, no personal size, passport size, Moleskine size, pocket size, slim size, blah blah blah…. It doesn’t come with a bunch of different colored elastic options or charms or custom embossing. To be honest, a lot of those options cause me to seize up with too-many-decisions-to-make-before-I-can-place-my-order and then I never place an order. The only branding on the Wanderings Notebook is a literal brand on the cover of a compass rose.

Right now, the Wanderings Notebook is only available in dark chocolate brown leather in the original traveler’s size (closed it’s approx. 8.5″ x 4.75″  or 22.2×12.7cm). The elastic is brown. Henry Ford would approve.You can get it any color you want as long as you want it in brown.

I decided to do a bit of a side-by-side with a regular Midor Traveler’s Notebook. The only full-sized Midori I could find was the 2015 Blue Edition Midori Traveler’s Notebook. The Wanderings Notebook is a bit wider overall than the Midori. The added bit of leather on the Wanderings strap is a noticeably nice addition. Also, the stock Wanderings elastic is a bit wider than the standard Traveler’s Notebook elastic. From the top view, you can see that the leather textures are a little bit different. The Wanderings Notebook is a bit more rustic where the Blue Edition has a smoother texture.

The leather on the Wanderings looks a bit thicker overall but its still supple. Inside my Midori Traveler’s Notebook (it as still branded Midori in 2015) is one a refills of handmade sketchbook paper and a plastic sleeve or two.

The Wanderings Notebook uses brass toggles to finish the ends of the elastics. The Wanderings Notebook also does not include any bookmarks in its notebook unlike the Traveler’s Notebook though it would not be difficult to add your own if you wanted to customize your notebook.

From the side view, you can see that the Wanderings Notebook uses the  side hole to attach the elastic for the closure which many people prefer over the back knot that the Traveler’s Notebook uses. Also, the Wanderings Notebook has the same brass noodle-like bead on the side. I prefer it to the Midori disc which sticks out away from the book quite a bit.

I tested out an assortment of my currently inked fountain pens on the notebooks that came with the Wanderings Notebooks.

The Wanderings Notebook ships with three blank inserts with kraft covers and ivory paper. I was surprised to discover that the paper was actually quite good for fountain pens. Most of my fine and medium nibs did quite well.

I usually clip a multi-pen to my Traveler’s Notebook since it ends up getting tossed around a lot or going to meetings and I like having a pen and a pencil with me. I was pleased that gel ink and pencil worked well on the paper that shipped with the cover but was equally happy to see that the paper stood up to a lot of different media.

There’s a little bit of show through on the reverse of stock but not too bad.

In the end though, with a Traveler’s Notebook cover, the most important aspect is always the durability of the cover and how well it wears and feels in your hand. The universality of the size means that finding a replacement insert is not a big deal. I will often just cut down old sketchbooks to make refills in a pinch. So I think it was wise for Black Mountain to go with this size to start. I know a lot of people don’t like this size or prefer the Field Notes or Passport size better but I find that once you adapt to the Traveler’s classic size, you re won over to it for good.

One of the things I talked with the Black Mountain Company about was that their notebooks are made in China and that is how they are able to keep their costs down. We talked about it at length and I hope that he won’t mind me quoting him here:

When I selected my supplier in China it was one of my top priorities to partner with a company that I felt good about in terms of how they treat their people and how the product is made. They pay their people well, source raw materials ethically, and produce a truly high quality product. I’ll leave that last point up to your judgement as well, of course.

I’m not an “artisan” as it is so popular to be these days, but that was not my goal when I started Wanderings. I wanted to provide a truly quality product to people at a price that a normal person can afford, along with stellar customer service (my specialty and what I enjoy doing).

Our planet is a global civilization and I run a micro-global company. My products are designed in Canada, made in China, and sold around the world, and I like it that way.

As someone who also works with Chinese manufacturers regularly, I can relate to his situation and his passion. I also his appreciate his honesty. Having walked through Chinese factories myself and seen the pride and hard work with my own eyes, I know what it means to see what you have envisioned come to life in the hands of craftspeople on the other side of the globe. Anyway… back to the bottom line.

The Wanderings Notebook is just $26.99 and includes three blank refills to get you started. Unlike the Traveler’s Notebook, it does not come with the cotton dust bag and the fancy paperboard box and extra elastics to keep those costs down. You can use that savings to embellish and add to your notebook however you see fit. If you’ve never tried a leather notebook cover before, there’s no better way to try one and I feel good about recommending a company who is both honest and honorable.