Tag: notebook

Ask The Desk: Notebooks (TN, XL and A5 Filo)

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Matt writes:

Dear desk, My question is: I own two travelers Midori journals. One is the regular size while the other is the passport sized one. I am currently using the passport sized one for planning and bullet journaling/taking random notes in. I am not sure what to use the regular sized one for at this point. I was thinking as a daily journal. Any suggestions? P.S. — Do you use these too? Thank you. Matthew

inky-TN

The great thing about Traveler’s notebooks is that they can be used as you need them. So if you find that most of your needs are being served by the passport-sized cover right now, you can put aside the regular-sized one for awhile. However, I found that I loved the size of the regular sized Traveler’s notebook, even though it seems a little unusual. They are particularly good for journaling and traveloguing. I ended up using mine for planning too and the smaller sizes for note-taking and randomness. I don’t think I provided much clarity but the flexibility is the key to Traveler’s notebooks and the ability to use small booklets means you can try one method for awhile and see what works best for you. I’m excited to try my newest inserts, the Ink Journal with the Currently Inked card and the Inky Fingers Currently Inked Journal to help me keep track of what inks are in which pens.


Thomas asks:

I start law school in a few weeks, and I’m looking for a nice notebook to use for class notes. I just moved into my first house, and found my notes from undergraduate and and a masters program. They’re spread across lots of spiral notebooks that are looking as ratty as ever. I know that my notes for law school will be even more important, so I’d like to make sure they have a good home. In reading through your reviews, it seems most of the notebooks you look at are the A5 size–I carry (and love) a Moleskine A5 for meeting notes, ideas, and to-do lists–but for class notes I need something bigger, in the neighborhood of 8×10 or 8.5×11. I really like the classic look of Moleskine, but was also intrigued by the hardcovers from Baron Fig–only to be dismayed to find that they don’t make a larger version. So I’m wondering if you have a sense of who makes lined books that are little bigger, and that are affordable enough that I can buy a dozen or so over time without taking out a second mortgage. I’m also left handed, so that means that smearing is my worst enemy. I write everyday with a Uniball Vision Needle pen, which usually dries very quickly for me, but sometimes it has trouble on the Moleskine paper. And if anyone has done enough paper tests, its you! I would be extremely grateful for any thoughts you might have. Thanks for your time! Cheers, -Thomas

XL-notebooks

The first notebook I thought of was the Leuchtturm1917 Master series (A4 measures 9″ x 12.5″ – 225 x 315 mm – 121 pages in the Slim and 223 in the standard Master), which I suspect might be second mortgage requiring at around $27 per book for the Slim and $30 for the regular Master. Jenni Bick stocks both in a variety of colors and all the paper configurations (plain, ruled, graph or dot grid). The paper quality is good and the books hold up well but they are pricey.

So, I went digging for other options.

Still a bit pricey, the Blackwing Luxury Large Soft Cover Notebook (7.5 x 10) offers 160 pages of 100 gsm paper in plain, lined or graph and will fit into the Blackwing Large Folio. European Paper sells the books for $21.95 each but offers volume discount pricing so if you decide this is the notebook for you, you might save a few pennies ordering in bulk.

The Fabriano EcoQua Notebooks are available in 8×12″ size in either staplebound booklets with 38 sheets ($4.79) or gluebound with 90 sheets ($8.35) from Dick Blick. Its smooth 85gsm soft white paper that should work well with your Uniball Vision and available in lined or dot gird. The covers are cardstock, however, so its not as durable as a hardcover notebook but definitely easier on the wallet.

If anyone has other A4-ish sized notebook recommendations for Thomas, please leave them in the comments. Thanks!


Emily asks:

I’m looking for an A5 notebook that comes pre-punched with filofax-esque holes. I would like to use my A5 filo as the “home” for all the notes I take in meetings without actually taking my filo with me to meetings. Ideally it would also have perforated pages. Am I asking too much of the notebook world for such a thing? Thanks!!!

I have not seen any A5 notebooks that are pre-punched with holes for Filofax and that’s most distressing! I noticed that Michael’s was stocking pre-punched Personal-sized paper (not perforated) recently for their Recollections “Creative Year” planner lines but not A5. They had a custom larger-sized binder with four holes. So odd and unhelpful.

Readers, if you can help Emily, please leave a note in the comments. Thanks!

Notebook Review: Story Supply Co. Working Artists’ Series Mike Hawthorne Edition

Story Supply Co. Working Artist Series Mike Hawthorne

Story Supply Co. released their first Working Artist Series Sketchbook — The Mike Hawthorne Edition this month and its notable for a lot of reasons. First, the 2-pack volume is an oversized booklet at 5.25″x 7.5″ inches. Its also filled with thicker 70# Cougar natural smooth paper. Third, the covers are wraparound illustrations by the awesomely talented Marvel Comics artist, Mike Hawthorne and feature two unique storied illustrations on the covers. On one is characters prepared to go into battle and the other, the same characters celebrating symbolic of the phases of creativity. Oh, and the last… its costs just $14 for the pack.

Story Supply Co. Working Artist Series Mike Hawthorne

The covers are printed on a classic 100# kraft stock and Mike signed and dated the covers in white pen as this series is limited to 5000 packs. Sales of each of these packs allows one sketchbook to be donated to a young artist in York, PA with his or her own story to be told.

Story Supply Co. Working Artist Series Mike Hawthorne

On the inside covers, Mike included his tutorials on how to draw a face. I used the steps to draw my own face. Not quite up to Mike’s graceful line quality but the tutorial is a classic that any fledgling artist should try.

Story Supply Co. Working Artist Series Mike Hawthorne

I tested out a lot of different tools on the paper which is super smooth. Brush pens, markers, fineliners and pencils seem best suited to the paper. I definitely treated it like a sketchbook on these tests using materials I’d use for drawing. In other words, I totally forgot to test out my arsenal of fountain pens! But I will put some photos on Instagram later with some fountain pen tests soon.

Story Supply Co. Working Artist Series Mike Hawthorne

I could certainly apply watercolor but the paper was not really designed for it as it did cause the paper to curl quite a bit. I used the Sailor Fude fountain pen to create the pattern along the side and my Platinum Maki-e for the lettering and neither feathered, Both pens dried quickly as well.

Story Supply Co. Working Artist Series Mike Hawthorne

From the reverse, there was a little showthrough but minimal. I do stuff like this to purposely test paper limitations. You can clearly see ho much the watercolor curled the paper so I wouldn’t have wanted to draw on the reverse of this page anyway. My instinct is to recommend using watercolor pencils to add color with a semi-dry waterbrush or using watercolor markers if you want to add color to black line art on this paper. I think the effects would be pretty good with a lot less curl. Plus, colored pencil looks great on this smooth stock.

Story Supply Co. Working Artist Series Mike Hawthorne

I really enjoyed using this paper for mark making. I’ve been playing with patterns and the smoothness of the paper lends itself to a black pen, pencil, colored pencils. Its definitely smoother paper than you’ll find in most commercial sketchbooks so it creates a different experience. The size is perfectly portable and not so large as to be intimidating or overwhelming. Mike’s awesome cover art, however, is a lot to live up to!

Overall, I love this book. I love the size, the heavier weight paper and I love that Story Supply Co. is exploring a working artists series. And as a comic book geek, I love that they are working with Mike Hawthorne. I can’t wait to see who they will work with next. Not to sway Story Supply Co., but I’d love to see them work with a female artist — young girls need heroes too. Keep up the great work!


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

One Book July: Halfway Point

One Book July Halfway

I have to admit that after more than two weeks of One Book July, I’m about to lose my mind. I already fell off the bandwagon by putting a pocket-sized Moleskine sketchbook in my purse so that I have a portable-sized notebook for jotting notes on the go.

So my first downside to One Book July is not  always having a book that fits in my bag or pocket.

One Book July Halfway

Then, there’s the issue of the whole Bullet Journaling system… its not been my strong suit. I have been planning several trips that are coming up in August and October. Normally, I’d write all the details down in my Filofax which I keep a whole year in the binder at a time. With a Bullet Journal, there’s the need to write and re-write things in sections like “Forward Planning” and a monthly list and then later in the weekly pages. With my Filofax, I only have to write it down once in the weekly page and maybe on the monthly pages if its an all-day event or something that extends several days. So, that’s the next issue I’ve faced – I miss my Filofax.

I don’t really like keeping my personal notes in the same book with my work notes either. I seldom need my work notes once I’ve gotten home. I do tend to think of things I want to do when I get home or over the weekend while I’m at work so I do tend to carry my personal notebook back and forth with me. So its been weird to try to keep all the notes in one notebook. I’ve ended up cheating and keeping a lot of work notes on 3x5s and sticky notes rather than in my notebook just so I don’t have to keep the notes in my One Book July. So, its another fail for me.

One Book July Halfway

I know I need to continue for another two weeks to be true to the One Book July challenge but I’m not sure I can handle the compromises for two more weeks. I know it sounds ridiculous to need more than one notebook to survive but I’m that OCD.

On the plus side, I really like the the Midori MD notebook ($16) I’ve been using. The paper quality i excellent and has held up to all the pens and pencils I’ve used with it. I purchased the plastic cover ($3.80) for it which has made it feel much more durable and provided pockets to stash loose paper and keep the cream paperboard cover from getting dirty. I will certainly continue to use the Midori MD notebooks in the future. It’s some of the best paper I’ve used yet if you don’t mind the ivory cream stock.

One Book July Halfway

I wonder if I had chosen a Traveler’s Notebook with multiple booklets, if that would have more easily fulfilled my need for work, personal and calendar needs as well as being able to pull out a booklet for portability sake? It’s something to consider for next year.

One Book July Challenge

Midori MD Notebook cover

This year, I’ve decided to try the One Book July challenge. The purpose of the challenge is to use one book for planning, journaling or whatever for the entire month of July. I heard about the challenge last year but it was well after July so I put it on my calendar for this year. I wanted a chance to pick one book and focus on my system rather than the book for a change. Originally, it was set up to be a one book and one pen challenge but, in watching the videos and following along, the challenge is flexible to challenge yourself to find way to simplify your personal planning system, journaling or whatever will help you to personally find a way to streamline.

Midori MD Notebook Pen and Pencil Tests

In order to make this work, I wanted to find a book that was clean and  simple but with good paper so I chose the Midori MD with blank pages.  I knew it had good quality paper but was won over by the complete lack of ornamentation. The cover of the book is plain ivory cardstock that matches the thick, smooth ivory paper inside. I printed out guide sheets in both grid and lined to use with it and decided I’d try the Bullet Journal system that would let me plan, list, journal or do whatever — all in one book. I’ve never really figured out how to use the Bullet Journal system before so this has been a bit of an adventure for me and I’ve done a lot of research to figure out how to best utilize it for myself. Basically, I ended up having to watch Ryder Carroll’s video about ten times and then just jumping in with both feet and hoping for the best. I’m using the book for my planning, notetaking and as my logbook.

The only thing this book can’t handle is a lot of water media like watercolor so it wasn’t up to doubling as a full-blown sketchbook. Since I also want to participate in the World Watercolor Month project, I’m allowing myself a second book — one sketchbook to use specifically for this project. I haven’t chosen which specific sketchbook I’ll use but I have a couple more days to decide.

For me, my biggest issue was to stop carrying around FIVE or SIX notebooks and planners at one time and reduce down to just two books is a huge reduction. Along with this, I pared down my daily carry to a smaller zipper pouch, carrying a reduced selection of colored pencils, a mechanical pencil, a few felt tip pen, a  brush pen, a couple fountain pens and a small set of watercolors and a travel brush plus a back-up waterbrush, which is considerable downsizing from the 100 Pen Case.

Midori MD Notebook Monthly Bullet Journal

The goal of this project is to focus more on making this month with what I have rather than wasting time trying to decide which tool I should use. I’m looking forward to spending a month focusing on content and filling notebooks.

For more information about One Book July, check out the videos posted by Rhomany and Carie Harling, two of the hosts for the online challenge this year.

Note: This challenge will not affect product reviews. I will continue to review notebooks, pens and other products throughout the month but my personal planning and notetaking will all take place in the Midori MD. I will try to do a couple updates throughout the month to update how I’m doing in the challenge as well.

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

Review: Baron Fig Vanguard

Baron Fig Vanguard

Baron Fig continues to expand their line of products. This time with a soft cover cahier-style notebook they are calling the Vanguard. They are offering it in an A5 size (Flagship) as well as their smaller passport (Pocket) size in blank, dot grid or graph paper formats. There’s also a “plus” size which is 7×10″. The Vanguard is available with a light grey or dark grey cover. Each book is actually stitched along the spine with bright yellow thread which aesthetically lovely.

The lightly textured cardstock covers are clean, simple and elegant. And the overall lack of a lot of branding is most appreciated. The books are clean and simple and ready for the user to put their stamp on them which I like.

Baron Fig Vanguard

It’s been awhile since I’d used a Baron Fig notebook so I decided to run the new notebook through its paces to see if the paper stock was the same a the previous Confidant notebooks.

Baron Fig Vanguard Colored Pencil test

My first experiment with the Vanguard was to try some colored pencils. I pulled out my trusty Prismacolor Premier (and its brethren) and draw a fig. Of course.  I quite like the Baron Fig paper for colored pencil. Really, any kind of pencil works well on Baron Fig paper. Its quite smooth with just a little tooth and the warm white color is quite conducive to pencil sketching and colored pencils. Maybe a good candidate for a red/blue pencil?

Baron Fig Vanguard writing sample

I’d recalled that there was some issues with the Baron Fig paper and liquid inks like rollerball, fountain pens and such. What I noticed most particularly was that most of my felt tip pens seemed broader on the Baron Fig paper than on other paper. As if it sort of spread a bit. It didn’t look like it feathered per se but the ink must have absorbed a bit more than I remembered.

The Sakura Ballsign 04 in black was, by far, the best performing pen on the paper. It dried super-fast, jet black and matte without any bleeding or feathering. If you haven’t tried the Ballsign and want to try the Baron Fig Vanguard, its a great combo. In general, most gel pens work well on the Vanguard paper, more so, I think, than rollerball and felt tip pens which is a bit of a disappointment for me. I tend to use a lot of felt tip pens but I like a super fine point.

The fountain pen issue with Baron Fig paper has been discussed extensively elsewhere so I won’t delve into it but, like most pocketable notebooks (and for most of the modern world), its not something that they concern themselves with. Its just our small corner of the world that gets in a tizzy when every notebook we pick up doesn’t accept our wide stub fountain pen inks with open arms, no bleed through and instantaneous dry times.

I forgot to photograph the reverse of stock this time but I noticed a bit more bleed through this time around than in my previous tests on the Confidant lined and dot grid. I don’t know if it was because the blank paper had not been run through any printing presses and therefore had no sizing of any kind and therefore was more absorbent, if there is a slight difference to this batch of paper or if its because it was warmer and more humid during my testing or if some other factors were at play.

Overall, I plan to use my Vanguard as a colored pencil sketchbook with some notes and put my massive collection of Sakura Ballsign gel pens to good use.

Baron Fig Vanguard

THE GIVEAWAY: Would you like to try out a Baron Fig Vanguard 3-pack of your own? I have THREE (3) sets to give away. I have a Flagship dot grid, Flagship ruled and a Pocket blank.

TO ENTER: All you have to do is leave a comment below and tell me if you’ve ever tried a Baron Fig notebook before. If so, which one? If not, which one you like best, whether its one I’m giving away or another one. That’s it.

Baron Fig Vanguard

THE FINE PRINT: All entries must be submitted by 10pm CST on Friday, June 24, 2016. All entries must be submitted at wellappointeddesk.com, not Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook, okay? Winner will be announced on Saturday. Winner will be selected by random number generator from entries that played by the rules (see above). Please include your email real address in the comment form so that I can contact you if you win, not some junky account you never check. I will not save email addresses or sell them to anyone — pinky swear. If winner does not respond within 30 days, I will draw a new giveaway winner. Shipping via USPS first class is covered. Additional shipping options or insurance will have to be paid by the winner. We are generous but we’re not made of money. US residents and APOs only please this time. It would cost more to mail these overseas than the notebooks cost.


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

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Notebook Review: Apica C.D. Notebook Premium A6

Apica C.D. Premium Notebook A6

I’ve always heard such good things about the paper quality of the Apica C.D. Premium Notebooks that I jumped at the chance to finally try the A6 blank notebook ($10.25). Its a small pocketable softcover with warm white pages and a slightly metallic graphite grey cover with a bookcloth taped spine. It has 96 pages and crisp square corners. It’s about a half an inch larger in height and width than a pocket-sized Moleskine if you’re not familiar with the A6 size.

Apica C.D. Premium Notebook A6 writing sample

Inside, the paper is a soft, warm white. Not ivory, just a natural white and silky smooth.I used the notebook on and off for a week before I felt like I oculd make an informed opinion about the notebook because I had some surprising results the first couple times I used it. I had heard that the Apica premium paper was awesome so I assumed my fountain pens would work great.

What I discovered was that, for me, it was too smooth for most of the fountain pens I use. The inks from fountain pens either took too long to dry or kind of bled a bit and softened around the edges. And the paper was so smooth that I felt like I was chasing the smooth nibbed fountain pens around on the paper. However, what I did like using on this paper were felt tip pens like Microns, the Sharpie Pen, brush-style felt tips or even a PaperMate Flair. The felt/fiber tips seemed to have just enough traction on the slick paper to make for a wonderful writing experience. Gel pens and rollerballs also did well on the paper too. The one fountain pen I did find that worked well was the Platinum Carbon Desk Pen so I suspect that other microfine fountain pens might also perform well.

I had decent results with colored pencil. I tested graphite after I photographed. Palomino Blackwing 602 smudged a bit because its so dark but a harder 2H Turquoise worked quite nicely. I think a standard HB or 2H pencil or a mechanical pencil on this paper would be a good match up as well.

Apica C.D. Premium Notebook A6 writing sample

Overall, once I got over my disappointment that this notebook wasn’t going to be THE notebook for fountain pens, I ended up really liking it. I really like the size, the soft cover and creamy paper. It creates a nice form-and-function arrangement that I really like.


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

Ask The Desk: 4mm Grid Paper Notebooks

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Romain asks:

I am desperately looking for a large notebook (A5-A4) with 4mm squared paper; do you have any advice for me?

This took some hunting and I could only find one printed option that featured the coveted 4mm grid paper It’s the Miquelrius leather-look journals. They are available in 100-, 200-, and 300-sheet books with black, blue or red covers for $9.99 to $14.99. The paper quality is decent. I used a Miquelrius book for ink testing for some time early in my blog career before switching to Rhodia paper which is a bit more hardy.

Miquelrius books

There are more images of the whole Miquelrius Grid journal I used available on Flickr.

Another option for grid paper would be to print your own paper. Paper Snake offers printable graph in a variety of quadrille and graph paper sizes in metric and imperial sizes including 4mm.

Paper Snake site

Peek: 10th Anniversary Traveler’s Notebook Mini Size

10th Anniversary Traveler's notebook mini

I couldn’t resist doing a little unboxing photo peek of the Traveler’s Notebook 10th Anniversary Mini Size ($38) from Baum-Kuchen because the packaging is so spectacular. Full disclosure: I purchased this from Baum-Kuchen and was not compensated in anyway. I also bought my 5th Anniversary Traveler’s Notebook from them and received such lovely packaging and customer service that I was more than happy to send them my repeat business. And their packaging is even more amazing this time around. The little folded card is their business card and my invoice.

10th Anniversary Traveler's notebook mini

Once unfolded, there is a hand written note and rubber stamps making it extra special. I can’t imagine how long it must take them to put together each package!

10th Anniversary Traveler's notebook mini

Wrapped around the tin was kraft paper sealed with twine and a custom Baum-Kuchen wax seal plus a rubber stamp and my name handwritten. Amazing!

10th Anniversary Traveler's notebook mini

I was able to slide the tin out of the kraft paper without having to cut the twine or damage the seal. I’m such a hoarder I want to save the wrap. And I’m not sure I can bring myself to actually unwrap all the contents inside the tin either.

10th Anniversary Traveler's notebook mini

There is a little tiny wrapped leather cover in kraft paper with a paper label just like a real Traveler’s Notebook and a tiny charm in a cellophane sleeve and cardboard backer. The bottom container is teeny, tiny paper and covers that can be folded and put into the notebook cover. Seriously. That’s the level of detail. Under the molded plastic are a sheet of full-sized stickers as well.

I put my full-sized Traveler’s Notebook next to the box for size comparison. Pretty funny how little the book is!

10th Anniversary Traveler's notebook mini

I had to put the teeny little Traveler’s Notebook packaging in my hand just for scale.

The tins are available in three different colors, each with a different color leather cover contained inside. I got the new camel colored cover in the blue tin but whether I’ll ever unwrap the package is still up for debate. Right now, I’m going to enjoy the delightful little package with all the tiny details.

I’m totally amused at the 10th Anniversary Mini Size but I realize that it is definitely a collector’s item and is not particularly useful for most folks. But if you’re a diehard Traveler’s Notebook fan it might be hard to pass up this little gem. The tin is embossed and is a good place to store Traveler’s Notebook ephemera and the tiny Traveler’s Notebook can be used as a key fob or charm on a notebook.

Word. Terrain Series Notebooks

Word Terrain Series Notebooks

Word. Notebooks have just released their new Terrain Series notebooks featuring topographic style artwork on the covers of three different sets of notebooks in green, orange or ivory. Inside, these notebooks feature the same lined paper with the built-in bullet system as their previous notebooks and feature 48-pages in each of their 3-pack of notebooks. Each set is available for $9.99 for a 3-pack. Perfect for all your summer explorations.

Word Terrain Series Notebooks

Paper tests from previous reviews of the original Word. Notebooks and the Declan Floral Edition. The Terrain editions feature the same lined paper in the same color and weight.

Word Notebook Pen Test


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

Notebook Review: Seawhite Artist’s Travel Journal A5

Seawhite Travel Journal A5

After my positive experience with the Seawhite of Brighton Starter Sketchbook, I decided to take the Seawhite Artist’s Travel Journal out for a test drive. This is their best effort to replicate a better Moleskine Artist’s Sketchbook and they did it. First of all, its a true A5 size. Second, on Amazon, its priced at $12.50. Third, the paper is 130 gsm cartridge paper. And it has 128 pages.

While the Moleskine Artist’s Sketchbook claims to have heavier weight paper, it repels most liquid media making it entirely unusable for me since I like to add watercolor to my sketches. So… after quite liking the 140 gsm paper in the Starter Sketchbook, I was willing to accept a slightly lighter “cartridge paper” to have a light water-receptive paper for sketching at a reasonable price.

The Seawhite Artist’s Travel Journal cover is a slightly flexible hard cover like the Moleskines and the rounded corners too. Its not a stiff cover which makes it firm enough to support your writing or drawing but not overly stiff. I have other sketchbooks with stiff covers and square corners that could double as weapons. The Seawhite Artist’s Travel Journal also has a sewn binding and will lay flat with a little training.

Seawhite Travel Journal A5

The paper in the Artist’s Travel Journal is a warm white which is quite pleasant compared to the bright white of the Starter Sketchbook. I immediately went to it with pen and ink and watercolor and while the paper did waffle a little bit, it did not resist the paint nor did it pill. WIN.

Seawhite Travel Journal A5

I tested an assortment of fountain pens with good luck as well, though the paper did absorb the ink a bit more than Rhodia or other paper more specifically designed for writing. I didn’t have any issues with splining or feathering except with a rollerball and then only very minorly. Felt tip and fine tipped fountain pens behaved well on the paper making it a good book for art journaling, mixed media and dry sketching with light wash or ink.  Its definitely not watercolor paper but it can withstand a little bit of water and wet media. Enough to be a big step up from the Moleskine Sketchbook.

Seawhite Travel Journal A5

The Seawhite Artist’s Travel Journal includes a ribbon bookmark and a gusseted pocket in the back for scraps and momentos as well so all the details are still there. And there’s the vertical elastic. To the untrained eye, no one will know its not a Moleskine unless you tell them. And I would because this book is just better.

Seawhite Travel Journal A5

I did a second round of testing because I was feeling it… and with ink, watercolor and colored pencil, I was still thrilled with the overall performance of the paper. Yes, I got a little waffle after it dried but nothing terrible, all things considered. I slapped the elastic around the cover after everything was dry and hopefully that will help flatten things out over time.

Seawhite Travel Journal A5

And in my second round of pen tests, I added in more everyday pens like Fineliners, a Pilot G2, some gel pens and a Pilot Precise. I guess I was worried I was feeling too cocky about the sketchbook being good for me but maybe not right for someone else.

Now, I feel fairly confident that if you’re looking for something MORE than just writing paper — that you want more than a Leuchtturm 1917 or Rhodia Webbie because you want to sketch or do some pen and ink or markers or watercolor, the Seawhite Artist’s Travel Journal is a good option. Its not the top tier. Its the everyday sketcher. Its a notebook that  doesn’t make me feel like I’m messing up the “good notebook”. Its a “work” book. It good enough to get the bones of a sketch or idea down, capture my everyday adventures and get banged around in my bag. Does that make any kind of sense?

Review: Seawhite of Brighton A5 Starter Sketchbook

Seawhite of Brighton A5 Sketchbook

On the neverending hunt for the “perfect paper” for a notebook or sketchbook, I will try just about anything I stumble across on the internet. One such find is the Seawhite of Brighton A5 Starter Sketchbook set which I found on Amazon. The small set of three A5 booklets with simple black covers and 40 pages of 140gsm (approx. 80lb) “cartridge paper” were too good an option to pass up. First, they fit perfectly into my Chic Sparrow Creme Deluxe A5 Black Beauty Traveler’s Notebook cover. “A sketchbook in my planner/notebook kit? Yes, please!” And second, the paper was listed to be heavy enough weight to withstand ink and light washes which is my sweet spot for day-to-day sketchbook needs. So I invested the whopping $10.95 for the set and waited impatiently for the books to arrive.

Seawhite of Brighton A5 Sketchbook

From the exterior, the booklets feel like Moleskine Cahier or other small cardstock cover cahier. The black cardstock cover is not super heavyweight but is enough to provide protection and add some stability to the paper inside. The paper itself is a crisp bright white and the weight seemed like a good option for pen and ink with enough tooth for pencil and other materials.

I did a little research to determine what exactly “cartridge paper” is, a term not familiar to most folks in the US. Cartridge paper is a heavyweight paper originally used for making gun cartridges and later used by artists and printmakers and they kept the term. Its often compared to Bristol board though maybe not quite as thick. So, in the future, if you hear the term “cartridge paper” you have an idea that the paper is meant to be a bit more upscale than standard copier paper even though it doesn’t sound like it.

Seawhite of Brighton A5 Sketchbook writing sample

Because of the small size of the sketchbook, I was actually able to basically use a whole book before writing up a review rather than just a few small pen tests so I feel like I got a particularly good feel for the paper. In standard writing tests, I didn’t discover any problems. Gel pens, felt tips and fountain pens all seemed well-behaved with minimal bleeding or showthrough. If you like to use a wide nib pen and don’t mind blank pages (you can always use a guide sheet to keep those lines straight!), the Seawhite of Brighton paper might be a nice addition to your stationery cupboard.

Seawhite of Brighton A5 Sketchbook paper

Viewed from the reverse of the writing sample, the only show through was the Pilot Envelope pen and a bit of the panda drawing but it was not enough to keep me from drawing on the back side of the page later.

Seawhite of Brighton A5 Sketchbook

What I really wanted to test was when I introduced more art making tools like watercolor, ink, and colored pencil, which are my favorite portable media. What I came to discover is that “light wash” was the key with watercolor or the paper did start to buckle a little bit but it did not pill. So, by the time I had filled the booklet, the paper was a little waffly but there was not any bleeding of color through to the reverse from the watercolors or anything like that. Just potential puddle spots because the paper waffled a little bit.

Seawhite of Brighton A5 Sketchbook

Seawhite of Brighton A5 Sketchbook

I used the book to do a lot of color tests with some new watercolor sets that I’ll do lengthier reviews about in the future but it was nice to have a small book to keep all the swatches together and be able to flip back and forth and see color depth and granulation differences quickly and easily.

I still prefer a little bit heavier weight paper in general for my mixed media sketching but its the trade-off point between cost, portability and need. Some days, I’m just scratching out ideas, doodles and color chips and I don’t necessarily need 200gsm watercolor paper for that. The Seawhite of Brighton 140gsm paper is definitely a step up from the standard paper found in most black art sketchbooks in US art supply store that is usually closer to 65-70lb (96gms+) and much less conducive to any sort of wet media like ink or watercolor or even juicy markers.

Seawhite of Brighton offers their paper is other sketchbook configurations at fairly reasonable prices via Amazon. Or if you are in the UK, you may want to check out their direct website and find a local stockist.

 

Review: Story Supply Co. Pocket Staple Notebooks

Story Supply Co. notebook

Story Supply Co. Pocket Staple Notebooks (3-pack for $10, available in plain, grid or lined) might seem like just another in a long line of pocket notebook makers but I think they are offering a little something different. First, for each 3-pack of 3.5×5.5 notebooks they sell, they contribute a story supply kit to a chapter of 826, which provide writing and tutoring to school age kids in many major metropolitan cities like LA, Chicago and DC, to name a few.

Story Supply Co. notebook inside cover

Besides contributing to a good cause, the standard Story Supply Co. Pocket Staple notebooks are a little different than some of the others on the market. The covers are simple navy cardstock on the outside (100# French Paper Co. Kraft-Tone cover, if you want the specifics)  which are heavier weight than most pocket notebooks on the market. On the inside, the paper is a creamy, ivory 70lb Cougar smooth (described as “natural” on the Story Supply Co site). The paper is slightly warmer in color than the standard Moleskine paper — where Moleskine paper is yellowy, Story Supply Co. paper is slightly more peachy French vanilla, if that makes sense. Not noticeably peachier but if you put it side-by-side with a Moelskine, the paper is not as yellow.

My package also included a snappy logo sticker ($1 each) to add to my already buried laptop cover and a natural finish round pencil ($1 each) which managed to vanish before I got to sharpen it. Either a cat rolled it away or my husband absconded with it. No one is fessing up.

Story Supply Co. notebook writing sample

Inside the front cover is space to put pertinent information like contact info, contents and dates. In the back is information about the Story Supply Co. and their contributions to the 826 programs.

Story Supply Co. notebook writing sample

In writing tests, I found the paper to be very smooth and all my standard pens and pencils to perform well to my naked (bespeckled) eye pretty well. I definitely discovered that felt tips and gel pens were the most well received on the paper, as were pencils.

Story Supply Co. notebook writing sample close-up

Upon closer inspection though, I noticed some feathering, even with the finest fountain pens. I think there is little-to-no sizing on the Cougar smooth paper which let the ink just run free. I was a bit sad because even my almost-never-feathers Platinum Carbon Desk Pen feathered on the Story Supply Co. paper.

Story Supply Co. notebook reverse of writing sample

From the reverse of the writing sample, there’s a little show through and it would probably have been more evident if I’d used pens or nibs wider than and 0.5mm or darker colors but I didn’t have any loaded up or handy. The Sharpie Pen and Microns performed fine on the paper and the gel pens, including the Gelly Roll pen I tried did just fine. After I photographed my writing samples, I did another test with my stash of Staedtler Triplus Fiineliners and they all did quite well too with a little show through on the back of the page with some darker colors if they were used to fill in letterforms and such but no feathering issues. So, I think, like most pocket notebooks, a standard EDC type of pen or pencil with a Story Supply Co. notebook would be a fine combination but its not meant to be used with calligraphy nibs or Sharpie markers unless you’re prepared for bleed through.

I probably should have considered this before I tried to watercolor on the paper, though it actually held up better than I thought it would. The paper buckled and curled but it didn’t pill so it performed a lot better than most. I will probably continue to abuse this notebook since I still have a week left in my Rock Your Handwriting challenge and I filled up my other notebook already.

All in all, I think the Story Supply Co. Pocket Staple notebooks offer an alternative at a similar price point to many of the other notebooks on the market. The distinguishing features being the warm ivory paper, heavier covers and the donations to children’s writing charities setting them apart.

For a review of the graph paper version of the Story Supply Co. notebooks and the pencil, check out Andy Welfle’s review over on Woodclinched. And for more review details of the blank paper version, check out Mike Dudek’s review on the Clicky Post.


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

Review: Field Notes Sweet Tooth Colors Edition

Field Notes Sweet Tooth

I haven’t done a reveal post of one of the Field Notes Colors Editions in a long time but the new Sweet Tooth edition is a way more fun in use than I expected it to be. When described, a colored paper edition of Field Notes with perforated pages doesn’t sound like all that big a deal. Until I actually started using it.

The Pop Tone paper is 70lb and quite toothy (no pun intented) which makes it great for pencil and lots of pens. It also doesn’t bleed or feather and the bright colors are freakin’ fantastic for opaque gel pens. I don’t get a lot of excuses to humor my inner middle schooler and break out the giant box of Gelly Rolls but a 3-pack of Sweet Tooth is the perfect excuse. So much so that I’m thinking I’ll need to order about ten more packs so I don’t run out.

Field Notes Sweet Tooth writing sample

I actually think the “tangy orange” is more of a “cherry red” but I do agree that the other two colors are definitely “banana split” yellow and “blue raspberry” blue – in the most artificial candy-colored definition of those colors. I like the coordinated hot foil lettering on the covers, a subtle nod to candy packaging.

I don’t mind that the paper is unlined, in fact I actually prefer it. And it eliminated any issues  printing ink might have caused with writing ink adhering to the paper. So I’m actually glad they didn’t print on the paper. And it means there’s free range to doodle in any direction.

Field Notes Sweet Tooth reverse writing sample

From the reverse of my writing sample, there was no show through or bleed. You can see a little bit of indentation from my writing pressure where I went over the lettering with the clear sparkle Gelly Roll pen. On the yellow “Banana Split” paper, there’s a bit more show through because the paper is a lighter color but you should easily be able to use both sides of the sheet with all three colors.

The micro-preforation is tight and requires folding a couple times to get page to tear out but pages tear out cleanly. The advantage of the tight perforation is the pages are unlikely to fall out.

Field Notes Sweet Tooth writing sample

I even tested some fountain pen ink from my my Kaweco Dia II with Daphne Blue and didn’t have any issues. I’m sure thick, italic nibs might cause some issues but daily use fountain pens should be just fine though, with most Field Notes, I recommend felt tip, rollerballs, pencils and gel pens more often. Colored pencils were a particularly fun discovery as some colors really popped. Uni Posca and Sharpie water-based paint pens were also fun and didn’t bleed through. Aren’t these Field Notes the perfect excuse to use all those pens you bought on a whim?

I know folks are constantly tweaking their favorite Field Notes lists and when I initially saw Sweet Tooth, I didn’t think it would break my top five but now that I have it in hand, I think it will be my number one. I love it. I must order more.


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

Ask The Desk: The One Pen, Jotter Hacks & A5 Notebook

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Portia asks:

If you could only use one fountain pen, what would it be? I’ve never had one before, but I also don’t need another expensive hobby/collection, so I’d like to stick to just one purchase. I really like a smooth feel to my writing (so gels and ballpoints over felt tips!) if that matters.

Okay, here’s my answer but please leave your answer in the comments!

Pilot Metropolitan Reto Pop Fountain Pens

I’d have to say if I had to pick just one fountain pen that had a comparable experience to a gel pen, I’d probably pick a Pilot Metropolitan/Retro Pop with a F nib. They are super smooth writers and the fine nib is comparable to the 0.5mm or finer gel tips depending on the paper stock and ink. The M nib is closer to an 0.5-0.7mm gel tip, if you prefer a wider point.

You can get a converter for them which will give you an unending array of ink options as well. The Metropolitan/Retro Pop is not an expensive pen either so you won’t have invested too much into a new hobby and can put extra funds towards inks instead.

David asks:

I’m looking for a good A5 sized notebook/journal just for note taking and doodling. Nothing too serious :-). Just random thoughts and ideas as they come to me. I tend to write with ballpoints and pencils as I’m terrible at loosing pens so don’t usually buy anything more expensive than that. Which brings me to my question. Do you know if there are any decent A5 journals out there that come with pen loops/holders on them? Is this very common? Or do most people think this kind of thing is a bit intrusive which is why you tend not to see it so much.

The solution to your pen loop problem is the Leuchtturm adhesive pen loop. Depending on your locale, Bureau Direct, Cult Pens and Goulet Pens all stock this genius little add-on. I adhere one into the back of my notebooks and they work brilliantly. I’ve yet to try to remove one and they have not fallen off either so the adhesive seems good.

Leuchtturm Pen Loop

This opens up your options for an A5 notebook to a wider variety based on whether you prefer soft or hardcover books, lined, graph or blank paper. Actually, Leuchtturm1917 makes wonderful A5 sized notebooks in softcover and hardcover with lined, graph, dot grid or blank paper with numbered pages and an index. The paper is good quality and they pack a lot of sheets into each book. Most people consider them to be a step up, quality-wise from a Moleskine and the Leuchtturm1917 books are genuinely A5 sized. I reviewed the neon green edition here. Rhodia webnotebooks are higher quality notebooks with paper suitable for fountain pens but the books are pricier as well. If you stick to non-fountain pens, it may be more than you need. There are reviews of the Rhodia webnotebook in blank, dot grid and the Rhodiarama edition available for more details.

And last, Bill had a question about refills:

I do have a question about the Schmidt P8126 Capless Rollerball in the Parker Style refill section. Form the images I have seen of the refill it doe not seem to have the toothed cap on top like a standard Parker ballpoint refill. Do you know if the Schmidt P8126 will still work in a click pen like a Parker Jotter?

Sadly, the Schmidt P8126 will not work with the Parker Jotter. It turns out the P8126 is slightly too wide to fit into the Jotter barrel. Also, because of the flat cone shape of the refill, even boring out the barrel, the refill would not fit into the tapered end of the pen. Total pen hack fail.

But, I did find a possible alternative: The Kaweco Sport G2 Rollerball refill. It’s available in blue or black as a medium but I tested it out and its not super wide. Monteverde makes Parker-style gel refills in fine point in a variety of colors which might also be an option.

At the end of my written review of the Parker Jotter, I swapped out the regular ballpoint ink with the Monteverde gel ink fine point in blue black if you want to see how it performs. Its not a thorough review but at least its a peek. I write pretty small too.

Review: Rhodiarama A5 Blank Webnotebook in Anise

Rhodiarama A5 in anise

I’ve been coveting the Rhodiarama A5 Webnotebook in anise for several months now. Stephanie at Rhodia Drive sent it over to me back in September after she interviewed me for the site. I’ve kept it wrapped safely in its cellophane for just the right moment to open it. Today was the day that I cracked the seal on the plastic and let the beautiful new notebook out.

Rhodiarama A5 in anise

The Rhodiarama Webnotebook is the colorful edition of the signature Rhodia Webnotebook. There are 15 colors to choose from including Rhodia signature black and orange but I, of course, chose the anise green. The Rhodiarama feature the same PU leatherette covers as the regular Webnotebooks and vertical orange elastics along with the 90gsm ivory Clairefontaine paper you’ve come to expect from Rhodia. So the big differences are the range of colored cover options and colorfully printed end papers.

Rhodiarama A5 in anise

Rhodiarama A5 in anise

Rhodiarama A5 in anise

Its been awhile since I’d used a Rhodia Webnotebook so I was quite delighted to test out my pens on the paper and see who flawlessly they performed on the stock. Inks stayed crisp and nibs that had seemed quite wide and soft on other paper seem fine and crisp on the Clairefontaine.

Rhodiarama A5 writing sample reverse side

From the reverse, there was little to no show through at all making the notebook usable on both sides of the paper which is quite cost effective.

I paired my Webnotebook with printable lined guide sheets in 6mm ruling which I think give the cleanest finished look. If you prefer, the Rhodiarama Webnotebooks are available in a lined version as well.

Yes, the Webnotebooks are a little spendy but they sure are worth it. The A5 size retails for abot $30, the smaller 3.5×5 size is about $18.

Review: Leuchtturm 1917 Sketchbook

Leuchtturm1917 sketchbook

I recently discovered that Leuchtturm1917 makes a sketchbook notebook with 180gsm paper. I am sure this is to compete with Moleskine’s sketchbook line but since many people find Leuchtturm1917 to be superior, I wanted to test their sketchbook out for myself. I purchased the A5 sized hardcover in classic black on Amazon.

Leuchtturm1917 sketchbook

The sketchbook version of the Leuchtturm1917 notebook features all the same details that the standard notebooks include like the ribbon bookmark, the horizontal elastic closure, the gusseted pocket in the back and a place on the front flyleaf for your contact information. The corners are rounded like the regular notebooks too which is not a feature usually found in artists’ sketchbooks.

Leuchtturm1917 sketchbook inside coverLeuchtturm1917 sketchbook pocket

Inside, the paper is bright white and smooth with just a little tooth. My first experiments included attempting to rub a lot of watercolor into the paper which was more than it could handle and the fibers started to pill. The paper was good and absorbent though, unlike the Moleskine sketchbook paper, and the inks and liquids stayed put and did not bead up or bleed. It’s actually nice paper, its just not sized for watercolors or a lot of heavy wet rubbing.

Leuchtturm1917 sketchbook writing test

I played with fine nib felt pens and the lines stayed fine and crisp. Watercolor brush pens were well-behaved too. So then I went crazy.

Leuchtturm1917 sketchbook pencil test

I tested out a whole page of pencils: Magic pencils and watercolor pencils and even added more water. The paper took water fine as long as I didn’t try to grind it into the paper.

Leuchtturm1917 sketchbook brush pen test

I took out all my brush pens and discovered more than a few of them had started to dry out but the Leuchtturm1917 180gsm paper handled the ink like a champ. Fat pens, skinny pens, wet pens, dry pens… it didn’t care.

Leuchtturm1917 sketchbook fountain pen test

Fountain pens, you ask? Loved them. Inks sat up on the paper and the colors were crisp and clear. This paper would be great for ink sampling since you could test both swabs and in pen on the same paper without it curling or warping, all in a neat book.

Leuchtturm1917 sketchbook gel pen test

I even had fun playing with my massive assortment of gel pens. The inks dried in a reasonable amount of time on the paper, even some of those finicky Gelly Rolls and the colors look great on the bright white.

Leuchtturm1917 sketchbook felt pen test

I kept playing with all my felt tip pens too, from wide brush style to fine Microns and they all performed equally well on the paper.

The Fountain Pen page is even on the reverse side of one of the other writing samples so you know there was no issue with bleed through or show through. So while the book is a bit more expensive than the regular Leuchtturm1917 notebooks, you will definitely be able to use both sides of the paper no matter what tools you plan to use.

The sketchbook pages are not numbered like the notebooks but I think that’s okay. In fact, I’d rather not have page numbers in the way of my drawings, especially if I might end up scanning the art in for a finished piece.

All in all, I really like the quality of the paper in the Leuchtturm1917 sketchbook and I like that it is so much more opaque than the regular paper. There’s only 96 pages in the sketchbook compared to the 249 pages in the plain notebook but being able to genuinely use both sides of the paper or work across a spread is a big plus.

Chic Sparrow Creme Deluxe A5 Black Beauty Traveler’s Notebook

Chic Sparrow A5 Black Beauty

Chic Sparrow is known for making some of the finest quality leather traveler’s notebooks. Her business started on Etsy but she’s been so successful that she now runs her own site and limits the number of orders accepted each week in order to keep up with demand. Chic Sparrow offers her notebook covers in an array of sizes and finishes, including a full line of “deluxe” covers which include pockets inside the front and back covers with beautifully executed contrasting stitching. I purchased the Creme Deluxe in Black Beauty in the A5 size ($109.99). I wanted to be able to accommodate some larger sketchbook and drawing books as well as writing and planning notebooks and was hoping that the A5 would give me the space to do so.

All of Chic Sparrow’s notebook covers include four elastics inside making it easy to slide in four notebooks before you have to get creative with additional elastics to add more. Since the A5 is already a larger book and the Creme Deluxe is double layered, thick leather, I am trying to limit myself to no more than four books at a time so I don’t feel like I’m carrying around a brick in my bag.

Chic Sparrow A5 Black Beauty

Okay, I lied. At present, there are five notebooks in my Black Beauty but cut me a little slack since some of these books are specifically in here for review purposes. (Reviews to be posted in the near future!) But from the side view, you can see the thickness of both the leather, the smooth finishing of the edges by Chic Sparrow and the massive amount of books I have crammed into the notebook cover with room to spare. The middle two books are A5 sized sketchbooks, the front book is my Moleskine large planner and the back two are the Moleskine Volant and Cahier in large size from my previous notebook cover.

Chic Sparrow A5 Black Beauty

As I’ve only been using the Creme Deluxe for about two weeks, I have not yet filled the front pockets with cards but have slipped some notes and papers into the secretary pocket behind. You can also see the large pen loop on the right hand side that accommodates my Uni Style Fit 5-color gel pen easily. Its a large loop so any pen smaller than the Uni Style Fit needs to have a good clip or it will probably slide out.

Chic Sparrow A5 Black Beauty

One of the notebooks I’m using for drawing right now is the Fabriano EcoQua Staplebound Notebook. It has 38 sheets (72 pages) of 85 gsm paper and is available in blank, lined or dot gird for about $4.50. I found it in my local art supply store. Its not great for wet media but for pen, pencil and sketching, its a good option for the price point. )I reviewed the larger Dot Grid version of the EcoQua awhile back. Needless to say, I much prefer the blank version.)

Chic Sparrow A5 Black Beauty

In the back of the notebook cover is another secretary pocket to hold extra loose sheets and you can see more of the beautiful stitching details.

All in all, I am blown away by the quality of the craftsmanship from Chic Sparrow. The leather is beautiful and the notebook is expertly assembled. I was a little hesitant initially because of the price but I realize it was truly worth every penny I spent.

Write Notepads Subscriptions

Write Notepads is starting their very own subscription service for $99.99 per year which includes US shipping (additional shipping charges for Canada and international subscribers). Every quarter Write Notepads will be releasing a special 3-pack of uniquely designed notebooks. The subscription kit will include (2) two variety 3-packs plus (2) two current limited edition 3-packs, a personalized membership card, and additional bonus items.

Each following quarter, subscribers will receive (2) two limited edition 3-packs of the current release. Subscribers will also be able to purchase additional packs of notebooks prior to the release to the public as well as being notified of “members only” sales and special promotions. The first kits will start shipping on March 31st so if you’re interested in getting in on the inaugural run, subscribe soon.

Notebook Review: Word. Dot Grid and Declan Floral Edition

Word Notebooks: Dot Grid and Declan

I recently got a delightful little treat in my mailbox in the form of two new packs of Word. notebooks: a 3-pack of Word. dot grid books ($9.99) and a 3-pack of the new Declan Floral edition notebooks ($9.99).

The Declan Floral edition is a collaboration between Word. and Declan. Word makes the books and Declan designed the “Lang” floral print used for the covers. The floral print is taken from a retired design from Declan’s line of high-tech pocket squares that double as eyewear and digital device cleaning wipes. The Declan Floral edition features the classic 48-page Word. bullet system with lined pages and a circle/dot on the left-hand side of each page for list-making. The front cover includes tips for using the bullet system and the back cover has some tips for abbreviation.

Word Notebooks: Dot Grid and Declan writing samples

The paper in the Declan edition stood up to most of the pens I tried including an assortment of fine nib fountain pens without any show through and no bleeding. The only exception was the Platinum Preppy with Carbon Black ink and the Karas Kustoms INK with Waterman Tender Purple which had a little show through and a tiny bit of ghosting to the reverse of the paper. The printed lines on the Declan were also pleasingly light and thin which allowed me to use a wide variety of colors without interfering with readability.

Word Notebooks: Dot Grid and Declan writing samples

The Word. dot gid notebooks feature a light grey cover with the dot grid pattern printed in a slightly darker grey which is very subtle. The inside cover provides a place for contact information and the back cover has a 5″ ruler printed along the edge as well as the specifications of the paper and printing information. The books contains 48 pages of 5mm dot grid printed on Lynx Opaque Ultra Smooth White 60# acid-free paper which is 100% post-consumer recycled, in case you’re curious. Unfortunately, I found the dots in the Word. dot grid notebooks to be considerably darker and more distracting than the lines in the Declan notebook. I wish the dots were printed about 20% lighter or smaller and a little ligther.

Since the specifications about the paper were not included in the Declan edition, I can be sure if its excatly the same paper. I’m inclined to think it is, but for some reason, the ghosting on the dot grid bothers me more than on the Declan lined paper. Maybe its because I ended up preferring the lighter lines on the Declan so I just generally prefer it? Personal bias, clearly.

Word Notebooks: Dot Grid and Declan writing from reverse

Anyway, you be the judge. Does it look the same to you? I tested the same pens at the same time in the same colors. Maybe my eyes are just playing tricks on me. Either way, I think the results on the Word.notebook paper is considerably better than other pocket notebooks and I did test several fountain pens with better-than-expected results. The built-in bullet journal system is a bonus for a lot of people who have embraced the system. Even if you don’t bullet journal, if you use a pocket notebook for lists, then the Word.notebooks definitely provide a leg up over many of its competitors. And I partuclarly like the Declan floral design for being something unique, not overly feminine, but a nice aesthetic alternative to other cover designs.

Now I think I need to invest in the Tasting Notes. Did you hear the Freakonomics podcast episode called The Cheeseburger Diet? I feel like the Tasting Notes notebook was designed to be used for one’s own personal cheeseburger tasting mission. I’d have to do the full cheeseburger triumvirate though: cheeseburger, fries and a vanilla milkshake.


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

Review: Van Hook & Co. A5 Fauxdori Traveler’s Notebook Leather Cover

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I recently found Van Hook and Co. on Etsy and purchased a made-to-order dyed leather, stitched A5 wide cover fauxdori Traveler’s Notebook cover. The cost for the cover an $75 and took about ten days from the time I ordered it until it arrived.

The leather has a warm hue to it and is a heavyweight and firm, not floppy which I really like. There are two short, leather slash pockets in the front and back that add stability and weight to the covers as well. The stitching around the edges is even and bright white. The elastic is black and, by default, Van Hook included four elastics inside for books.

Also, there are two elastic loop along the righthand side for a pen. My Sharbo-X fits snugly in the loops and coordinates nicely with the cover but the loops aren’t wide enough to fit the Pilot Metropolitan without a bit of effort. A Sharpie Pen fits in the loops fine though not as pleasing to look at. If I were to order another cover from Van Hook, I might skip the pen loops just because I tend to carry a whole case of pens with me anyway.

vanhookco-2

I filled mine with the Moleskine large notebooks I reviewed earlier this week which fit perfectly. First, is the planner, then a cahier for my knitting project planning, then a Volant for sketching and notes. I have some other A5-ish notebooks on order that I may swap out along the way, but for now I wanted to see how these fit and how well the cover worked with the various thicknesses. So far, so good.

vanhookco-4

I never thought I would buy a larger fauxdori cover but I got a wild hair and I am so glad I have another size option in my ‘dori arsenal. I also absolutely love the unusual turquoise color. I cannot wait to see how the color will patina over time.

I will definitely be ordering another cover from Van Hook very soon. The craftsmanship and quality is excellent and I love how thick their leather is. I prefer the hardier leather as an alternative to the more traditional Midori floppy leather covers. I think a traditional, slim chartreuse leather stitched is next on my wish list!

Moving Into My Hobonichi Techo 2016

hobonichi techo 2016

The first step into getting prepared for 2016 was to set-up my new Hobonichi Techo A6 with the blue-green cover ($47). The color combo is absolutely PERFECT! Lime green loveliness inside with my second favorite color, turquoise, exterior. I had a decorative plastic protective sleeve I purchased a few years earlier from 1101.com that I added to the book. I quite like the overall look but sadly, this particular cover is no longer available. There is a different printed over available though or a clear cover.

hobonichi techo 2016

Inside, in the array of card pockets provided, I put lots of tidbits like stickers, washi tape wrapped around old playing cards and a few other tidbits. I’m not hugely inclined to do a lot of decorating in the Hobonichi at this point but the washi tape will give me a way to attach receipts, notes or other ephemera into the book as need and the stickers can be added to the monthly calendar for events and birthdays. Mostly, I plan to use the Hobonichi as a daily journal so the decorative bits are really for those days when I haven’t got a lot to write about and may be inclined to doodle or draw or just put a great big “X” on the day and call it done.

I wanted a pencil board to put between the delicate Tomoe River paper pages so I made one from a piece of index card (read: plain manila file folder), cut to size with a decorative tab at the top. I used the fancy tab punch and some scrapbooking paper to make the tab and the adhesive tab sticker to cover it. It wasn’t necessary to add the tab but it makes it quick to pull the card out and flip it around from page-to-page. It only took a few minutes to make it so I can use it as a blotter card as well if my inks are not completely dry. If it starts to look dodgy after awhile I can make a new one. I used a bit of washi tape to put in the ticket stub from Star Wars: The Force Awakens opposite my pencil board as you can see in the photo below.

hobonichi techo 2016

In the back of the book, I added a little A6 plastic folder that my friend brought back from Japan for me several years ago. As I was setting up the Hobonichi, I realized it was the absolute perfect size to fit into it and gave me a place to put a few more cards and stickers.

hobonichi techo 2016

The Hobonichi provides the last two weeks of December as half-page sheets so that I have been able to slowly start moving towards using it as a daily journal. The narrow half columns are a bit limiting so I’m looking forward to having a full page to write or draw the day’s events. I have been using an extra large Moleskine softcover notebook so the Hobonichi was seems incredibly small in comparison. I’m hoping moving to the full page will help alleviate any feeling of being cramped since the Moleskine XL was a bit larger than I needed per day most of the time.

I’m also still a little concerned about ink smudging and adhesion on the Tomoe River paper. The whole left-handed thing can be a bit of a pain and I get caught up in writing and forget to make sure the ink is dried before I run my hand through it. I’ve already run my hand through it a couple times so I will definitely need to make a point of finding a few pens that are the best match with the Hobonichi and keep them with the book to avoid future messes. So far, my favorite pen with the Hobonichi is the Platinum Carbon Pen. The super fine line allows me to write very small on the graph lines and the ink dries pretty quickly. I’ll play more with the gel pens I stash in my office at work in the next couple weeks and see if any others become favorites.

Are you moving into your 2016 system yet?

Kickstarter: Leftybooks

How can I not support a Kickstarter project that is attempting to create a product to make writing easier and more comfortable for left-handed writers? I couldn’t. So I put my money where my mouth (or in this case my keyboard is) and backed the Leftybooks project which is a notebook designed to help left-handed writers write more easily without dragging their hands through their ink or graphite.

I pledged for the Ambidextrous Couple Set with the B5 Lefty notebook as well as an A5 dot grid notebook. The total with shipping will be around $35. The one aspect of the books not included in the video is the paper stock weight which is always a subject of heated discussion amongst the fountain pen community but the video specifically talks about environmental factors and FSC certified paper so I suspect the paper is not going to be fountain pen friendly but fine for gel, rollerball, pencil and ballpoint.

The project was the creation of a team out of Spain called Imborrable and offers lines that are angled downward ever so slightly to help keep lefties with any hand position from smudging quite so much.

The campaign has 19 days left and they are only one-quarter to their goal of $10K. Let’s help them get there — one Leftybook at a time! And let’s put an end to the smudge!

Ask The Desk: Landscape Notebooks

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Anna Marie asks:

I’m looking for landscape orientation notebooks. I know there’s a landscape orientation Rhodia Webnotebook, but I wouldn’t mind a color that isn’t orange or black. (Sacrilege, I know.) Do any other quality notebook companies make blank landscape orientation options, with binding on the short side? Fountain pen friendly always a bonus!

The sad truth of the matter is that there seems to be an assumption that if you want a horizontal/landscape notebook, you must be an artist and therefore only want a black book. The only company I could find that made landscape notebooks/sketchbooks with any other color cover was Hand Book Artists Journals Travelogue Series. I find the paper a little absorbent for some inks but overall its a thicker stock an good for light washes, and a variety of pen, pencil and media.

If you can live with a black cover though, the Rhodia would be best for fountain pens specifically. For mixed media, I can’t praise Stillman & Birn sketchbooks highly enough. I’ve used the Alpha and the Epsilon notebooks and I like them both. Stillman & Birn offer a landscape format in both softcover (this is new and looks NOT black!) and hardcover. The only Moleskine notebooks I’ve yet to try is the watercolor notebook and many people actually praise it. It’s available in the landscape format with 200 gsm, cold press paper which sounds pretty nice.

Hand Book Artist Journal Travelogue Series, which just happen to be local (Go, Kansas City!) They are available with a linen fabric cover in black, red, blue and green with a soft ivory paper inside.

Review: Moleskine Soft Cover XL Plain

Moleskine Soft cover XL

Before you start asking if the headaches are giving me brain damage, I have to say I asked myself the same question when I picked up this Moleskine Extra Large Plain Soft Cover Notebooks. In general, I find Moleskine notebooks leave me wanting but there was something about the size of this book that appealed to me.

The extra large Moleskine soft cover measures about 7.5×10″ so its bigger than an A5 but its not as large as a full US Letter size or A4. It kind of reminded me of a school composition notebook. And the flexible soft cover only added to the nostalgia.

The soft cover makes it lay flat easily and the covers can be folded back to easily work on either the let or right side of the pages at a time. The book mark ribbon is still unfinished on the end so I added a little white glue to edge to keep it from fraying. The soft cover books do include the gusseted pocket in the back and the vertical elastic, like all the other Moleskine editions.

I added a Leuchtturm 1917 pen loop to the back cover and set to work using it. I think I was really looking for something to tide me over until the start of the year when I plan to start keeping a regular journal in my new Hobonichi Techo.

Because of the soft cover, this book is super low profile. It takes up almost no space in my bag meaning I am taking it with me everywhere and using it for some daily journaling and a catch-all commonplace book.

Moleskine Soft cover XL

If I come to accept that there is showthrough (not necessarily bleed through) on the reverse side of my writing page, than this paper actually did quite well. Even with some fountain pens and brush markers, I didn’t have the issues I’ve had with other Moleskine books. This contains what I assume is the standard writing paper but maybe they’ve improve the stock somewhat because I didn’t get any of the weird splining or veining that I’ve noticed in the past.

Moleskine Soft cover XLI’m a little shocked at how well-behaved the paper is and how much I’m enjoying the larger size.I’ve been using it mostly with felt tip and gel pens at work with the occasional watercolor brush pen thrown in and the inks have not spread or done anything weird. In fact, I keep thinking I could probably use the back of the pages as well but I have been so burnt in the past by earlier editions of Moleskines that I I just keep using the right hand pages only. But I could use the left hand side as well. Really. I’m just as surprised as you are.

Sometimes, the right notebook for the right moment just sort of shows up and no matter how much you think, “Oh, no. I would never use a Moleskine. Its only for posers and hipsters,” you find that its not all that bad after all.

I made a guide sheet for myself for this particular size notebook. Is anyone else interested in these? If so, I’ll add them to the guide sheet page soon. Just leave me a note in the comments.

Planner Review: Leuchtturm1917 2016 Planner

Leuchtturm1917 Planner 2016

Somehow, no matter where my planning path takes me, I always manage to come back to the classic hardbound planner like the Leuchtturm1917 A5 planner. It really does have all the parts and pieces needed to plan out my schedule, take notes and basically stay on top of things. And it does all this in a relatively small package without sacrificing writing real estate.

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Just to give a bit of size comparison, I sandwiched the Leuchtturm 1917 between my personal-sized Filofax Original in dark aqua and my A5-sized Finsbury in aqua (thanks to MJ for this beauty!) The paper size of the Leuchtturm 1917 planner is exactly the same as the A5 Filofax but it takes up considerably less space.

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From the side, the Leuchtturm 1917 is also much slimmer but you get the idea. If one of your goals for 2016 is to trim down your daily carry, the Leuchtturm 1917 planner may be the first item on your wishlist.

Now, back to the details of the planner —

The Luechtturm1917 planner features the same soft ivory paper as regular Leuchtturm 1917 notebooks and all the printing is in a light, warm grey that is subtle and not distracting at all. It makes for a very clean looking planner.

The book features two grosgrain ribbon bookmarks with (JOY!) sealed ends. One marker is solid and the other is striped. I think the grey-and-teal striped marker is fabulous!

Leuchtturm1917 2016 planner year at a glance

Inside the Leuchtturm 1917 Planner is year-at-a-glance calendars for 2015, 2016 and 2017 which makes it easy to reference for forward planning. The year-at-a-glance include week numbers. Next is a month-at-a-glance laid out vertically and include the moon phases. Each page had three months on it for a total of four pages of month-at-a-glance. Then comes a two-page spread of international holidays for 2016. Only the dates are listed, not the actual holiday, so if you don’t know why July 5 and 6 are holidays in the Czech Republic, you can make something up.

Leuchtturm1917 2016 planner

Leuchtturm1917 2016 planner project planner section

Then there is a project planning section. I did a little googling to try to figure out how this section would be used. Say you are having the roof repaired on your house and the contractor says it’ll take two weeks and they will start the first week of April, you’d write roof repair in the first box and then at the first week of April draw a line or dot or “x” then another in the second box under April. Then you could plan your mother-in-law’s visit after those two weeks. I’m not sure how useful these pages would be for me as I’m more inclined to use a month-at-a-glance calendar for these sorts of activities but it seems interesting.

Leuchtturm1917 2016 planner week on one page plus notes

Then comes the meat of the planner — the week-on-one-page plus notes layout that occupies the majority of the book. Saturday and Sunday share the bottom box which I’m not thrilled with but the full page for notes would provide any additional space I might need for weekend tasks, projects or events. At the bottom of each page is the week number again and the holidays are marked by country abbreviations. The moon phases are also shown in the weekly pages.

Leuchtturm1917 2016 planner extras

At the end of the book are 20 blank pages: 10 pages have perforation to make them easy to tear out. In the back in a bright white writing board with grid on one side and lines on the other in a dark black to act as a guide sheet with the blank pages. Also included is a set of stickers for labelling the spine and cover of your planner and a small cahier address book that can be tucked into the back gusseted pocket.

Leuchtturm1917 2016 planner pocket

Leuchtturm1917 2016 planner ink tests

I did some rigorous pen testing and found that most fine nibbed fountain pens and felt tips worked well on the paper. Of course, ballpoint and gel pens performed exceedingly well. Since the paper is slightly ivory, the yellow mildliner was too light to be much use but traditional yellow highlighters and other colors of mildliners should work just fine.

Leuchtturm1917 2016 planner ink tests reverse side

From the reverse of the pen tests you can see a little bit of show through with the Franklin Christoph medium italic and the Pilot Varsity with standard medium nib. I also got a bit of show through from the TWSBI Mini with Callifolio Oliphants but I think that’s the ink more than the pen itself.

The book I received is called “Emerald” but its more of a teal, blue-green. I think the color is magnificent. While I believe that the emerald green color is the absolute best color option, Leuchtturm 1917 has provided eight other colors to choose from for their planners including a classic navy, black and grey as well as radiant shades of lemon, berry, orange, azure blue and purple if emerald green ain’t your thing. The A5 size planner is available from Goulet Pens for $19.95 per book.


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