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.

I’m off to see the Wizards of Arkansas!

I’m headed to the Arkansas Pen Show today and I’ll be setting up my very first (ever!) table at a pen show and I’m super nervous. If you don’t have plans this weekend, and live in the Arkansas area, please pop by the Crowne Plaza in Little Rock this weekend and say hello! The show opens Friday, March 17th and 10am and will be open until 6pm. The show will also be open all day Saturday, March 18th from 9 am until 6 pm and again on Sunday, March 19th from 9am until 4 pm.

Skylab Letterpress and I will be sharing a table full of goodies including:

  • vintage typewriters
  • letterpress notecards, notepads, prints, and coasters
  • rubber stamps
  • vintage office supplies
  • assorted Field Notes Colors Editions and Blackwing Editions s as I’m clearing some space in the stationery cupboard (Some Field Notes are still factory sealed and Blackwings will be available individually!)
  • and our brand new product release, The Col-o-ring Ink testing book!

A one day pass is just $5 and a 3-day pass is $10.

There are evening events both Friday and Saturday night.

Friday night is the Open House and Aurora “Flexi Pen Party” at Vanness Pen Shop. The event starts at 6:30 and goes until Lisa and Mike kick us all out.

Saturday night is the Pen Addict meet-up hosted by the one-and-only Brad Dowdy (AKA Pen Show Husband) and the Arkansas Pen Club. The event starts at 6:30pm and is FREE and open to the general public in addition to all pen show attendees, vendors, exhibitors & sponsors. It will be hosted at the Crowne Plaza but specific location will be announced later.

Link Love: Aurora Flex & Penmanship

Pens:

Inks:

Pencils:

Paper & Notebooks:

Planners & Organizers:

Handwriting & Penmanship:

Art Supplies:

Other Interesting Things:

Coming Soon: Col-o-ring Ink Testing Books

After obsessively testing papers since October and finally making a decision about the “right” stock in January, Skylab Letterpress and The Well-Appointed Desk is finally unveiling our answer to the gap in the market — the perfect ink testing swatch book, The Col-o-ring.

We sourced 100lb/160gsm natural white paper from a 400-year-old European paper mill through a distributor located right here in Kansas City. Each book is 2″ x 4″ with die cut rounded corners and the covers are sturdy chipboard letterpress printed on a Heidelberg Windmill then hand assembled with a binder ring so that the pages can be easily be removed, rearranged, added or swapped to your heart’s content. Each book contains 100 pages and the paper is a good clean white so your ink colors will show true.

To prove how much better our paper is to some “other” swatch books, I put the Col-o-ring paper (on the right) up against a discontinued product (on the left). Using the same tools to test the same ink– a watercolor paintbrush with synthetic sable bristles and a Zebra G dip nib pen– (you can see, the Col-o-ring paper is smoother, though there is still a little tooth, so your pens won’t slip and slide all over the place) but the good news, is that even the wettest inks in a dip nib don’t bleed or feather!

But wait! There’s more!

We tested several ink samples on both the front AND the back of the paper…. (Emerald of Chivor is so hard to photograph. It looks so good in person! Alternately, Noodler’s Tchaicovsky is pretty much as weird looking in person as it appears below… I had this sample and thought I would test it … strangely goopy ink. Don’t blame the paper.)

Can you see a difference between Col-o-ring paper on the front or the back of the sheet? Nope. Neither could we. And we got very little show through and no bleed through, even with wet swabs. I use a paint brush loaded with ink so it takes a while to dry and still there was no show through. You could do swabs on both sides if you wanted to. Talk about cost effective!

One more, front and back sample, just to show off. (Diamine Oxblood is lovely,)

If you’re more inclined to do your samples with a pen, rather than a swab and dip pen or glass pen, these cards can work for that too. I did a quick writing sample example with my Aurora Optima and the paper picks up all the shading and color variation. I would have sampled more sheening colors but I had them all packed up for the Arkansas Pen Show this weekend. So, if you prefer to sample your inks this way, these cards will work too.

I’ll have ink samples, swabs and cards to try available at the Arkansas Pen Show so if you are in the area, please come by the show and try them out for yourself. Bring your favorite tools for sampling with you too and try those as well.

The Col-o-ring books will be available in my shop soon after I return from the show. I will put a post on the blog when I get them listed in the shop. Col-o-ring books will sell for $10 each plus shipping.

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.

Fashionable Friday: Everyone’s Irish (in March)

Since I’ll be in Little Rock next week for the Arkansas Pen Show, I thought I’d get a jump start on the St. Patrick’s Day festivities with some green and gold themed Fashionable Friday. I’ll have more details about the event coming up soon but in the meantime, get in the spirit of spring with a little Erin Go Bragh!

  • PIUMA: Super Minimal Fountain Pen in Brass $70 (via Ensso)
  • Field Notes Portland $9.95 for 3-pack (via Pen Chalet)
  • Conklin Duragraph forest green fountain pen €55 (via Fontoplumo)
  • Misfit Ray in Forest Green with Green Sport Band $99.99 (via Misfit)
  • “The Farmer” Nail Lacquer 15.00 (via 1898 House)
  • ArtSnacks Travel Tote Bag $10 (via ArtSnacks)
  • Pelikan Souveran 400 Fountain Pen in Black $312 (via Pen Chalet)
  • MT Argyle Washi Tape V2 in Green and Yellow $3.50 per roll (via CuteTape)
  • Script Washi Tape $2 per roll (via CuteTape)
  • Monteverde Emerald Green Ink (30 ml Bottle) $8 (via JetPens)
  • Velos Push Pins in Gold $5.50 (via Fresh Stock Japan)
  • Palomino Blackwing 530 “Gold Rush” $25 per dozen (via Fresh Stock Japan)
  • Midori Brass Pen $22 (via Fresh Stock Japan)
  • Pelikan Edelstein Jade Ink (50ml Bottle) $26 (via Anderson Pens)
  • Pilot Metropolitan Fountain Pen in Retro Pop Green with Fine Nib $15 (via Anderson Pens)
  • Retro 51 Tornado Classic Lacquer Rollerball in Green $25 (via Anderson Pens)
  • Robert Oster Ever Green Ink (50ml Bottle) $16 (via Anderson Pens)