The Crescent Rendr No Show Thru Sketchbook 3.5″x5.5″ ($10) was something I wanted to try in hopes of finding a good multimedia sketchbook. I got the small size to sample at first before investing in a larger version. Crescent also claims that the sketchbook lays flat as show on the wrap included with the book.
The sketchbook has a flexible, soft touch paperboard cover and a perfect binding. In looking closely at the pages, the paper looks like there is a black core in the middle of the white sheet to create the bleed-proof quality.
Was the paper bleed proof? Yes, but any wet media, including watercolor markers, liquid ink applied in any volume, brush pens filled with liquid acrylic or ink, caused the paper to buckle and curl severely. I tried adding water to Winsor & Newton watercolor markers to blend the color and the color wouldn’t move. So there is another aspect to this paper that changes the property of some materials as well. The watercolor marker absorbed into the paper and made it impossible to manipulate those markers with water. I got a little movement with water soluble pencils like a Stabilo ALL but mostly, I found the paper frustrating. Sure, most material didn’t bleed to the reverse but the curl and buckle was so bad I couldn’t really use the other side of the sheet anyway so bleed through didn’t really matter by the time I finished a page anyway. At least for the types of art materials I use.
As for the claims about lay-flat, I found in the small 3.5×5.5″ size, the book did not lay flat at all, even after trying to bend the pages and cracking the spine. I ended up having to use a clip or hold the book with my hand. Maybe the larger book lays flat more easily but the small pocket-sized book did not lay flat and then after I used it, it did not close either.
Overall, I found this particular product quite frustrating. I looked online to see if anyone else had reviewed it. Notebook Stories agreed with my findings: bleed proof but curls with wet media. On Amazon, I found reviews that suggested that if you use a lot of alcohol-based markers like Copic Markers, then you might have a better experience with this paper but that fountain pens feather terribly. So, this is definitely not for fountain pen users or watercolorists. If you do a lot of marker illustrations, I would be more inclined to recommend traditional marker paper which is translucent but designed to withstand alcohol markers. If you want to use a wider range of mixed media (from pens to ink to graphite) and wet media (watercolor, markers, etc), I’d recommend Strathmore Mixed Media, Canson XL Mixed Media, Stillman & Birn or one of the artist’s sketchbooks from Seawhite of Brighton. I’ve written reviews about the Seawhite Artist’s Travel Journal and the A5 Starter Sketchbook pack if you’d like more information.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’m fully prepared for backlash and vitriol from this post, but, over the years, Moleskine continues to be the measure used — for better or worse — for all other notebooks. First and foremost, Moleskine notebooks are available in a multitude of sizes, configurations and form factors. The overall aesthetics are streamlined and understated. While you might not love them, its hard to truly dislike them. If anything, they are plain. And they are ubiquitous. You can buy them almost anywhere: the airport, the bookstore, the coffeeshop or your favorite boutique.
What really spurred me was a recent comment that suggested that the paper stock used in the Moleskine Cahier, Volant and standard Moleskine Notebooks was different. Well, that gave me something worthy of investigation.
So, I bought one of each at the standard large size (5″x8.25″ or 13x21cm slightly smaller than A5), new, off-the-shelf from my local Barnes & Noble. I wanted to make sure I had recent editions and not ones that had been sitting on my shelves for months or years that may have been manufactured with different paper stock. I purchased all plain notebooks since I like to use guide sheets and Moleskine paper is very conducive to using your own guide sheets as the paper is not super thick. Of course, all the Moleskine notebooks are also available in other colored covers but I went with plain black. The Cahier I couldn’t find a black version so I went with grey as the next best option for neutral.
I also tested the week-on-two-pages planner for 2016, also with the soft cover, which I got through Jenni Bick. I was curious if the process of adding printing created any coating on the paper that might alter ink adhesion in any way so the planner is my monkey wrench in the testing process.
Of course, my expectations are not that the Moleskine notebooks are all of a sudden 100% fountain pen friendly or anything like that but there are many readers who don’t need all-day, everyday fountain pen friendly paper. And there are lots of other notebooks that we often rely on heavily that don’t support fountain pens the way we wish they would like the Baron Fig, Field Notes, or Word Notebooks.
As pen and pencil aficionados, we also love gels, rollerballs, ballpoints, pencils, felt tips, brushes and all sorts of other mark-making tools. And sometimes, we need something that is easy to find in the size that fits our favorite Fauxdori, Roterfaden Taschenbegleiter or whatever other carryall or pocket we need to stuff with paper.
No. of books
perfect bound, stitched
ribbon bookmark, gusset pocket
perfect bound, stitched
sticker sheet, all pages are perforated
glued slit pocket, last 16 pages perforated in each book
First things first… a spreadsheet of specs!
The first thing I noticed when I put together my spreadsheet is that the Cahier 3-set is a better price value, page-per-page, than the Volant or the soft cover notebook, sales or discounted pricing notwithstanding. Of course, the covers are not as durable but the Cahier sets include the perforated pages in the back and the pocket so there are still some “extras”. I just thought it was interesting to note.
My experience with the large, soft cover plain notebook is pretty much identical to the XL version. The paper behaved as well as I expected and I’m finding that the flexible cover is a good compromise between the classic hard cover Moleskine notebook and a floppy paper cover. The soft leatherette cover actually feels very nice in hand and allows the cover to be folded back or to lay flat as I need it. It also slims the book ever so slightly so its not quite as bulky overall. The soft cover notebook still includes the gusseted pocket in the back, ribbon bookmark and the vertical elastic like the classic hard cover version.
The covers on the Volant feel the most rugged of the three. They are more plasticky feeling than the leatherette quality of the soft cover which feel more supple and upscale. However, I do like that all the pages in the Volant are perforated as an option. If you are looking for a notebook that could be used for lists and leave-behind notes, the Volant offers the easiest flexibility. There are no extras in the Volant — no ribbon bookmarks or pockets in the Volant so its a very stripped down and streamlined notebook. The writing sample on the Volant was absolutely consistent with the plain notebook. My husband voted the Volant his favorite.
The Cahier notebooks are lovely to look at with the exposed stitching and the kraft paper covers. However, the paper in the Cahier did seem to be more inclined to feather the fountain pen inks than in either the Volant or the soft cover or the planner. Even the J. Herbin Emerald of Chivor in my TWSBI EF behaved nicely in all but the Cahier. Now I don’t know if the Cahier paper behavior was a fluke but it even shadowed and bled to the reverse more than the other three. Maybe that’s part of why its a slightly better price value? You get what you pay for?
Finally, for comparison, I also tested the week-on-two-pages 2016 Weekly Planner (with the same soft cover as the plain notebook) to verify that, in printing, the paper quality didn’t change. I used all the same pens with the same inks as I did on the plain paper which I assume was not run through printing press and the results were consistent with the plain notebook and the Volant. The Cahier paper still seems to be a little more absorbent than any of the other papers but generally speaking the printing lines don’t seem to alter the quality of the paper. So if your preference is lined or graph paper, Moleskine notebooks will withstand the same scrutiny that the plain books do.
One of the things I really enjoy about the Moleskine paper is the warm white color and the smoothness of the stock. The warm white color is very inviting and easy on the eyes. I find it less intimidating than a stark, bright white sheet found in other notebooks.
For the writing tests, I left the full-sized images available to view so that you can get as up-close and personal with these photos as you’d like. As you can see, with most everyday, fine line pens the Moleskine paper performed pretty well. Even fine fountain pens were mostly well-behaved. I particularly like how felt tip pens pens behave on Moleskine paper like the Sharpie Pen and Staedtler Triples Fineliners. They sort of grip along and make lovely marks.
Because the Moleskine paper is very smooth, if you do prefer a very fine writing tool, you are unlikely to snag an 0.25mm on the tooth of the paper. Pencils also glide across the paper. Even the finest Pilot Hi-Tec C, Energel Needletip or (my current favorite) Platinum Carbon Pen, skates across the paper. Despite the issues with some fountain pens and fountain pen inks, many writing tools are a joy on Moleskine paper.
Since most of my daily writing and drawing work is done with a 0.5mm or smaller tool, the Moleskine paper is really quite adequate. And all of the plain paper performed the same. What I did notice was that heat or moisture from my hand could affect the paper. Its not heavyweight paper by any means but honestly, neither is Tomoe River. Sure, Tomoe doesn’t feather but its transparent and takes an age to dry so there are trade-off’s with any notebook or paper you may choose.
From the reverse of the pages, you can see some ghosting and show through on the top row which is the planner and the Cahier but not so much as to be distracting when written on the other side. With the plain paper notebooks, I tend to only use one side of the paper anyway. For the planner, I use mostly color coded gel pens for daily use so they don’t show through as much as the testing actually demonstrates. Generally speaking, the reverse of the pen tests were not as bad as I was expecting them to be. Of course, I didn’t try a lot of wide calligraphy fountain pens but even my brush pens behaved with some discretion.
So, in the end, the Cahier paper does seem to be a little thinner, and a little lower quality, than the paper used in the Volant and standard notebooks. I’d be more inclined to recommend the Volant and the soft cover notebooks over the Cahier if you’re going to dip your toe back in the Moleskine pool.
Part of what spurred my interest in all this Moleskine business was when I started using my Moleskine XL for a daily sketchbook late last year. I’ve warmed back up to the possibilities of the Moleskine notebooks. I’ve carried the XL everyday, to and from work, doodled, written, stamped, scribbled, watercolored and basically treated it as the workhorse object it was designed to be treated. To no ill effects. For three months. I’m happy to keep drawing in it. In fact I look forward to continuing to fill the pages and THAT is why we have notebooks. This goes back to the whole reason I keep a notebook — so that I write and draw and make marks.
I think whatever notebook makes you want to make marks, write your story, save your memories, doodle, scrawl or write your grocery list, don’t feel guilty about it. If you love a Moleskine, use it. If you prefer an Italian embossed leather notebook purchased on the Bridge of Sighs, than use that. The best notebook is the one you have with you, no matter which one you choose.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Nock Co. recently revised their DotDash Pocket Notebooks (3-pack/$10). The new books sport a simple black cover with a white Nock Co logo. I still think the card stock for the covers could be a tad thicker but the low profile black covers are being warmly received here at Chez Desk. The big change, however, was the paper stock inside.
Nock Co does not include details inside their notebooks about the paper stock like Field Notes does but the paper has definitely been upgraded. It doesn’t feel like its any heavier weight (maybe ever so slightly from a 24 lb to maybe 28 lb but that’s just me guessing). The DotDash ruling appears to be printed in a blue-violet compared to the a more greyish color of the original yellow books but it could be my eyes playing tricks on me. The paper is a bit brighter white than the original yellow books as well which might create the optical illusion of a change in ink colors.
The new paper stock is definitely fountain pen friendly and there’s no blurring or ink spread. Its particularly apparent how much the paper has been improved when you set the books side-by-side. My writing just looks crispier and not like I need to have my eyeglass prescription checked again. Even the felt tip pen writing benefited from the new paper stock and looks cleaner and finer.
There was also less show through on the reverse of stock though with a reporter-style notebook, I’m seldom inclined to write on the reverse of stock.
The original yellow books are still available (3-pack/$9) so if they are your favorites, I recommend picking them up quickly as I suspect they will be phased out for this new and improved stock.
I’m a big fan of the new paper and I think its a great upgrade to an already cool product.
DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Nock Co. for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.
When I started this blog, I never thought I’d be so fortunate to receive stationery gifts from all over the world. For example, Amit kindly sent me an A5 notepad from Hadera RePaper, all the way from Israel. The paper is a deeply speckled, taupe sheet in a tearaway pad bound at the top like a classic legal pad. The paper is listed as 100% recycled and a glance at the Hadera Paper web site made it clear that the material used to make the paper is collected from all over Israel in special collection bins. Hadera also does not use bleach in making the paper to keep the environmental impact down.
The biggest surprise of this office supply staple is that the paper is fountain pen friendly. I am as surprised as anyone about this since most recycled papers are known for being super absorbent even with the most average of supply cupboard pens. But not the Hadera RePaper. Not only is it a pleasing color and a nice alternative to stark white but all three fountain pen nibs I tried on it performed admirably. So much so that there wasn’t even any show through on the back which means the whole sheet can be used for writing, not just the fronts. Try that with most legal pads!
The Hadera RePaper web site was interesting as it gave me a peek into what the standard Israeli office products might be. The stock spiral bound notebooks with the spiral on the right hand side since Hebrew is written right to left. I think lefties would love all the right hand binding options in Israel. Israelis use standard A4 and A5 notebooks and RePaper even has an A6 pocket notebook like Field Notes.
I also got to do cost conversions from Israeli New Shekel (which has the coolest symbol that looks like cupped hands) to US dollars. Most of the Hadera paper products were competitively priced with American big box stores so this is the best fountain pen friendly paper in the world I think. A 5-pack of A5 notepads is 14.90 in New Shekel which is about $3.87 US. That’s less than $1 per pad.
I could not find any information on the site about shipping outside Israel but since the paper is made from locally sourced recycled material and pistachio shells it seems counter-intuitive to their environmental mission to ask them to ship a bunch of notebooks and paper internationally. I’ll have to get by with my one little A5 notepad and hope that someday I’ll have a reason to be in Israel so I can stock up on RePaper notebooks. I wonder what other stationery wonders exist in Israel?
(Thanks to Amit in Israel for sending me a pad to try out!)
It took me almost a year to fill up my first Word Cards ring with ink swatches. It was a Kyokuto brand Word Cards ring I purchased in San Francisco from Maido for about $3. I liked the Kyokuto cards well enough that I wanted to buy a new ring but could not find them available online anywhere. As a result, I decided to try out the Maruman Word Cards. The Maruman cards are a little larger than 4″x2″ so they are visibly larger in size than the Kyokuto cards and a bit pricier ($4.45) for 100 cards. They do have pleasing rounded corners and a toothier stock so the increase in price does not seem wholly unreasonable.
At first, I was worried that the Maruman cards were not going to be white enough to give a clear representation of the ink colors but it turned out not to be the case. The Maruman cards are a touch softer white than the Kyokuto cards but not so much as to alter the ink colors.
The tooth of the paper definitely gives the ink someplace to settle into and potentially show off any tonal variations in the inks which I quite like. The larger sized cards give me more room for both swabs and potentially a little writing sample when the inks get filled into pens.
And the biggest plus for the Maruman Word Cards is that they have continued to be available on JetPens for several years so I should not have to change or upgrade my ink cataloging system again anytime soon.
Several requests have been made to add graph paper to the official Well-Appointed Desk Guide Sheets. Ask and you shall receive! I’ve included 5mm and 10mm graph paper in US letter, A5 and Field Notes (pocket notebook) sizes. I hope to add A4 in the coming weeks. In the meantime, if you need graph paper in A4, check out PrintFreeGraphPaper.com.
But if ordinary graph paper is not enough for you, I found PrintablePaper.net for all the graph paper (logarithmic, isometric, hexagon, octagon and pentagon to name a few) you could want plus music paper, shooting targets, cross stitch, calligraphy and polar grid and so much more. You’re welcome.
Honestly, the Levenger Circa Pro Folio is the most posh thing I think I’ve ever owned. Its a letter-sized, black leather folio with a Circa notebook inside. I’ve always been intrigued with the Circa system. It seems to be a great way to have flexibility with a notebook – add, rearrange or remove pages easily without the inconvenience of a 3-ring binder. The Pro Folio takes this to a whole new level.
I’m not inclined to go into a lot of detail about packaging but the box that the Pro Folio came in deserves notice. It felt like a box worthy of the product inside. The Pro Folio came in a heavyweight, glossy bronze box with an fabric elastic closure and subtle “Levenger” embossed on the box – prestigious without being fussy.
Inside, the leather Pro Folio was wrapped in a felt cloth to protect it. The wrap was tastefully stamped with the Levenger logo.It reminds me of how high-end handbag manufacturers provide a felt bag for storing purses when not in use. Very elegant.
By the time I had completely unwrapped it, it felt like my birthday. Inside was this beautiful, black leather folio. The Pro Folio is made of a soft-to-the-touch leather but has a sturdy material stitched inside to keep the covers rigid. It would be easy to use this folio on your lap in a lecture or meeting, if necessary. The leather along the spine is supple and the folio easily opens flat. I suspect the cover could fold back on itself but I can’t bring myself to mar the leather spine trying it.
Inside the front cover are two pockets for business cards and a larger slot for loose papers. The back cover has a full-length slot for holding the Circa notebook in place. The folio came with a standard Circa notebook with black rings and a clear, frosted plastic cover. The Circa notebook has 0.5″ rings and contains 60 sheets of 90 gsm soft white paper. The paper is lightly lined in a pale grey with a wide left margin left blank and spaces at the top for date and topic headers.
The folio will accommodate up to 1.5″ rings and 200 sheets of paper so there’s definitely room to grow with this folio.
I was so grateful to discover that such an extraordinary leather folio contained equally stunning paper. It took ink beautifully. Since Levenger does sell fountain pens I would have been surprised if their paper didn’t behave well with fountain pens. However, I was delighted with how well it behaved. The lines were light enough to accommodate even the lightest ink colors and pencil without obscuring legibility while keeping all the fountain pen lines crisp.
Lokta paper is made from the fibrous inner bark of the high-elevation evergreen bushes in the Himalayans. This paper is often just called Nepali paper. Pen Boutique has started carrying a wide variety of lokta-based paper good from a company called Monk Papers including journals, notebooks, and stationery sets.
I received a packet of deep violet printer paper cut to 8.5×11 to fit into US printers and copiers, an A5-sized hardcover journal and a boxed photo album.
The cut sheets are a deep vivid purple. I thought the dark color of the purple screamed for an opaque white gel pen and it looks fantastic.
One side of the paper is smoother than the other and probably better suited to holding ink jet inks than the more textured side. Unfortunately the purple paper is too dark to be legible but I think other colors would work well and be great for invites, resumes or a typed letter.
I was also sent this festive photo album and matching storage box. Its about 8″x8″ in size. The dots are colored dots of paper attached to the cover. I think this is one of the best uses for this paper. It looks fabulous, durable and totally unique.
I was also sent an A5 hard cover journal. The cover is the same color as the interior pages and the spine is covered in a contrasting colored paper . The binding is a traditional stitched binding that lays flat easily.
I experimented with a lot of different tools with this paper because my standard habit of using super-fine pens just did not work on this paper. The super-fine gel pens and fountain pens stabbed into the soft, fibrous paper. Brushes, pencils and wider rollerballs and art tools work best on this paper. There doesn’t appear to be any sizing on the paper so wet tools like brush pens and watercolor absorb quickly. I think heavy water coverage would warp the paper pretty severely.
From the reverse of the page, there’s some bleed and show-through as I would suspect from such a soft paper.
The Lokta paper is unusual enough that I think everyone should have a chance to try it but it is like other specialty papers, not all the tools you normally use will work but other things might.
DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Pen Boutique for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.
Now that Nock Co has opened the online shop, I can finally rave about their DotDash 3×5 notecards. Using a beautiful, silky smooth, bright white, 80lb stock, NockCo has created a notecard to be reckoned with.
Printed on both sides with NockCo’s signature orange ink is a “dot dash” grid. The ink used for the dot dash grid is light enough not to interfere with the legibility of most writing tools including pencil. Normally, I don’t lean towards grid ruling because the lines are often too dark but the shade of orange Nock Co chose for these cards is fun but not too bright, nor are the lines too bold as to be distracting. The grid is spaced at 4.25 mm. All in all, this is one of my favorite grid rulings.
As promised, almost any writing tool I threw at these notecards worked as promised. Neither fountain pens, gel pens, rollerballs, ballpoints or pencils had any issues with bleeding or feathering. Some wet inks may take a couple minutes to dry completely on the stock, just to be on the safe side.
Even from the reverse, no color bleeds through to the back. This means the cards really are two-sided.
Brad made me keep my secret stash of 3×5 notecards secret for ages. They were sitting on my desk at work for “real world testing” when someone grabbed one to write a note and said “I can’t write on this! Its too nice!” I had to insist they try it just to get someone else’s impression but she refused. Instead she took the card back to “keep”. So somewhere, there is a lone NockCo DotDash 3×5 enshrined on someone’s desk. Well, there’s no need to enshrine these cards any longer now that they are available in packs of 50 cards for $6. I recommend ordering at least two packs straight away because you’ll want to share them.
Whimsical illustrations on the covers of the MosseryCo pocket notebooks are what caught my eye when I wandered into their Etsy shop. These 3.5×5.5″ rounded corners pocket notebooks feature 52 pages of acid-free 120 gsm paper. A set of 9 different, illustrated pocket notebooks can be purchased for $36 or individual notebooks can be bought for $6 each. Plain paper covers are also available, individually or in a set.
What really caught my eye was the hardcover, refillable notepads. The covers looks like vintage books with the quaint illustrations ($20 each) and refill paper can be purchased as needed in different designs ($7 each). The notepads are about 4.25″x6.5″ and are also filled with 110 gsm acid-free paper. There are 110 sheets in each pad and the pads are perforated for easy removal.
At the Spectrum Live Art Event I was lucky enough to pick up a couple packets of paper samples from Stillman & Birn. I’ve always been a little flummoxed by their notebook naming system so actually getting a little 4×6″ bit of each paper available was such an eye-opener.
There are six different kinds of paper; three types of paper at the 100 lb/150 gsm weight (Alpha, Gamma and Epsilon) and three types at the 180 lb/270 gsm weight (Beta, Delta, and Zeta).
For the most part, the lighter 100 lb/150 gsm is plenty heavy enough for most writers. If you are planning to do more mixed media, collage or art journaling, you might want to consider the 180 lb/270 gsm papers. To me, these feel more like cardstock than paper.
I used the same tools on all six papers from an assortment of pens to a brush loaded with ink and a Sharpie marker. All the papers performed admirably and I don’t think anyone would be disappointed by any of them. Even my flexible nib dip pen did not bleed, though on some of the papers it took several minutes to dry (not uncommon for dip pens though).
The Delta (180 lb/270 gsm) and the Gamma (100lb/150 gsm) are both warm ivory stocks. The Alpha and Beta papers are both cold-press (which means they have some texture to the paper like watercolor papers). Because the Alpha is a lighter stock the tooth to the paper is less noticeable. The smoothest papers are the Epsilon (100lb/150 gsm) and the Zeta (180lb/270 gsm).
The lighter weight papers were my favorites. I could see using them to write or draw and were thick enough to handle a little water color or ink washes. They would be more than enough for me under most circumstances. The Alpha sample got a lot of ink pooled on it and buckled a little bit as did the Epsilon. The cream ivory Gamma paper stayed flat. The Alpha and the Epsilon were my favorites. The Epsilon is smoother so my tools had very little resistance. The Alpha paper is a little toothier, providing a bit of friction which is helpful with rollerballs and slick gel inks. The Epsilon is probably the most comparable to Canson and other makers of the classic black sketchbook though the paper is a bit heavier weight (better).
The heavier 180 lb270 gsm papers withstood all the inks and the Sharpie marker without being worse for the wear . The Zeta is smooth to the touch, the Beta has a little tooth to it and the Delta is the creamy ivory with some texture as well.
From the reverse of the papers, you can see the top row is all the 180 lb/270 gsm papers and the bottom row is the 100 lb/150 gsm papers. There is the merest hint of the Sharpie marker but no actual bleed through.
All-in-all, these are excellent papers and I can see what all the fuss is about now. The best source for Stillman & Birn sketchbooks is Goulet Pens. They stock all six paper stocks in the 5.5×8.5″ A5 size and a few of the other available sizes of the Zeta (smooth, 180 lb/270 gsm). Prices start at $18, about the same as a Moleskine and the S&B books are considerably better for fountain pens.
GIVEAWAY: Oh, I have ONE sampler pack to give away. Its just a little thing with one sheet of all 6 grades of paper. Tell me which grade of paper you’re most interested in trying in the comments to be entered to win.
UPDATE: The kind folks at Stillman & Birn have offered to provide the winner of this giveaway with the notebook of their choice and I’ll still send you the sampler pack as well so now there is even more reason to enter!
FINE PRINT: All entries must be submitted by 10pm CST on Friday, June 13, 2014. All entries must be submitted at wellappointeddesk.com, not Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook, okay? Winner will be announced on Sunday. Winner will be selected by random number generator from entries that played by the rules (see above). Please include your email address in the comment form so that I can contact you if you win. 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. I’m feeling generous today so, this contest is open to any reader, US and international readers!
Neatography offers a monthly or quarterly subscription packages filled with paper, letter-writing and office goodies. I received the May kit entitled “The Good Ol’ Days” which included an assortment of pencils, a His & Hers list notepad that is perforated down the middle to split up the tasks, a Rifle Paper Co. Thank You card, Telegram-style postcards, postcard stamps, a calling card, a sharpener and a self-addressed stamped postcard to send back to Neatography letting them know if you liked the latest kit.
Its a lovely package and a great way to discover new paper goods brands and receive a lovely little pick-me-up in your mail box. A monthly package with cards and stamps is $17 per month or on a quarterly schedule, and a paper good subscription is $27 per month or on a quarterly schedule. Shipping costs for the US are included in the costs but international subscriptions require an additional shipping fee.
I like that there’s an option to receive a package every three months. I acquire a lot of other office supplies, cards and writing tools that if a package came every month, I don’t think I’d ever get a chance to use everything and it might accumulate.
I love that the kit includes some stamps so that I can immediately write out a few cards and pop them in the mail.
Once I unwrapped the His & Hers notepad, I was able to see the perforation and started to really like it. There is a magnet on the back of the pad to attach to the refrigerator making it easy to make lists of tasks that each person can tackle. I’d also love one that was “groceries” on one side and “everything else” on the other since our trips to Costco, Target, and the hardware store usually happen separately from the grocery buying but its still a clever pad and will probably get a lot of use at our house.
The pencils in the kit were a Palomino Blackwing 602, Golden Bear #2, Ticonderoga EnviroStik #2 and a Ticonderoga Laddie #2. I look forward to trying a few of these new-to-me pencils like the Laddie and the Envirostik. More about those in the coming weeks. But, yeah! Pencils!
The apple Thank You card from Rifle Paper features a gold foil apple on the cover on soft ivory paper. Its lovely and general enough to be sent to anyone though it would be perfect to give to a teacher.
The sharpener is a brushed aluminum from Maped and looks like a decent little sharpener with a reomveable/replaceable blade. The postage stamps are the new hummingbird design postcard stamps that will go perfectly with the Telegram postcards from Girl of All Work. I’ve used these before and I quite like them. The paper has a bit of tooth to it but ink stands up nicely to it and the look is classic postcard/telegram.
All-in-all I think a subscription with Neatography would be a great opportunity to explore some new paper goods. Looking through the Lookbook at past offerings, each paper goods kit looks to include at least one small-press card, a notepad or other larger item (one kit included Rifle Paper Co mail stickers), some postage stamps, and a small selection of office supplies (pencils, thumbtacks, washi tape, etc.). They value of the items seems to add up to the asking price pretty closely and includes domestic shipping so it is a good value. Everything is packaged beautifully too so it feels like a little gift.
H. C. Marks (@HCMarks) on Twitter asked “do you know of any stencils with which to draw ruled lines in blank notebooks?”
I have something so much better, at least in my humble opinion. I use a sheet of lined paper that I tuck under my blank page to create perfectly straight lines that are there. But not. Using a guide sheet does not require any prep time. Just slide the sheet behind your current page and start writing.
And his request could not have been more timely as I’ve been planning to make up a few different line widths to share with readers so that you too can try this. The sheets have pretty thick dark lines that can be seen through most standard writing paper. I’ve tested these sheets in my Rhodia Uni Blank for several weeks.
I have created lined paper guides in 6mm, 7mm, 8mm and 10mm spacing. Each .pdf file includes a full 8.5×11 US Letter sized guide and a smaller 5×7″ guide that you can trim to fit in the average A5-sized notebook. Print out your favorite line width spacing on a laser or ink jet printer. One copy of the guide sheet can be kept in each of your favorite notebooks and should last for a long time. The guide sheet often doubles as a blotter sheet, pen primer or to protect the next sheet from pesky bleed through.
These new sizes have been trimmed down width-wise so there’s no overhang in your pocket notebooks. I’ve also added 3-up layout on a US letter sized sheet.
Tips for printing guide sheets:
When printing, be sure that you choose to print at 100%, do not choose the “fit to paper” option. I ran the lines to the end of the template to maximize guides. Let your printer trim them where it must. For the smaller sizes, just trim it out. The Field Notes sized sheets can be printed 4-up on a sheet but be sure to set your printer to 100% (actual size) and then tile. If your favorite notebook is smaller, just trim it as needed.
Using a guide sheet with a blank notebook gives a lot more flexibility. You can sketch and free form on some pages and then use the guide sheets when you want to write. Guide sheets are great with letter-writing pads too.
If there’s interest, I can make up other sizes as well. Just let me know in the comments what you prefer.
11/9/14 Added 5mm and 10mm grid and true A5-sized.
2/3/15 Added A4 and revised Field Notes sizes, added 3-up layout for Field Notes.
Kansas City Letterpress-ati, Hammerpress, have recently updated their web site and added a lot of new products. Their letterpress cards are gorgeous and if you can’t make it to Kansas City to shop locally, ordering online is the next best thing. Prices on cards are $4-$5.50 per folded card, and are blessedly blank inside and ship with a kraft or coordinating envelope.
But the best shopping experience is to stop in to the Crossroads store in KC and browse posters, postcards, and ephemera.
All specialty skills have their own languages, knitting is no exception. In fact, it has its own codes to convey patterns and notes in a way that might baffle non-knitters. The new True Brit Knits knitter’s notebook provides a great place for knitters to track projects and pattern notes complete with standard pattern abbreviations and symbols on the inside front cover and a ruler in centimeters on the inside back cover, perfect for measuring your swatches. The kraft paper covers feature red, foil stamped knitting needles too.
It’s compact, A5 size is filled with 28 sheets (56 pages) of 100gms paper with clean white paper, alternating plain sides and 4:3 ratio graph paper printed in a pale blue. £10.00
Beneath the rather banal cover of the Kokuyo Campus Report Pad A4 ($4.10), hides some pretty amazing paper. When I first peeled back the flimsy cover, I was greeted by the undersheet and went “Hmmm, is this what I ordered?” After flipping past that, I realized that the paper was actually blissfully blank and a very lightweight. It reminded be a little of the Tomoe River paper found in my Hobonichi Planner. Do I have you attention now?
The undersheet is conveniently printed on both sides. One side is just lined, the other side is marked with a grid.
The paper is lightweight enough that you can easily see the lines or grid undersheet through the paper. The undersheet is more heavyweight than the paper so it feel like it will be durable enough for use through a full pad of paper, even with the possibilities of ink transfer.
Undersheets are one of the reasons I love blank paper. If the paper light enough, or your undersheet is dark enough, you can quickly have lined or grid paper to work from but then not be distracted by the lines once you’ve written on the paper. If you’re sketching, you can skip the undersheet altogether and you have a clear, blank of expanse to inspire you. With blank paper, you get the best of all worlds.
Now, how well does the paper perform in writing tests? Excellently, that’s how. I put it through its paces with gel, rollerball, pencil and fountain pens and not one bled or smeared. I didn’t track dry times but even with my smeary, left-handedness, I didn’t have any smudges. The only pen that led through was a Sharpie marker but I tried it just to see if it would.
From the reverse of the paper, you can see that there is quite a bit of show-through because the paper is so lightweight but nothing leaked through except the Sharpie, which I expect on all paper but cardboard boxes. I like this paper so much, I considered putting it in the queue as a regular pen testing notebook so I thought I better compare it to the current reigning champ, the Rhodia No. 18 Uni-Blank.
The Rhodia pad paper is on the left, the Campus pad is on the right. As you can see, the Rhodia paper is considerably brighter white. The Campus pad is a soft white. Which, for my purposes, rules the Campus out for ink testing since I like to be able to clearly see the colors without any color pollution as a result of the paper.
From the reverse, its easy to see that the Rhodia is a thicker stock so there is little show-through. I added the Sharpie marker just to have something bleed through so my camera had something to focus on.
If cost is an issue and you are looking for a lay-flat writing pad with easy, tear-away sheets AND is fountain pen-friendly, the Campus Report Pad is a great option. Its considerably cheaper than a Rhodia No. 18 pad and very similar size. For US folks, the A4 size is about an inch taller and a quarter inch narrower than “letter-sized” paper so fitting the sheets into a 3-ring binder or standard file folders might not work as well as the Rhodia No. 18 which perforates down to a standard letter-sized sheet.
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.
I picked up this stack of Kyokuto Word Cards at Maido in San Francisco. They are small cards measuring just 1.5″ x 3.5″ (3.7 x 9 cm) and contain 100 sheets. I paid $2.75 for them. They are hole punched at the narrow end and held together on a clamp ring making them perfect to store and collect ink sample swabs. Because the clamp ring is easy to open, ink samples can be rearranged by color or manufacturer on a whim.
I’ve started using them to have swab references of the Ink Drop colors I receive. I plan to go back and do all the previous color swabs so that I can get all OCD and mix and match them by color, which ones I’ve purchased and manufacturer at a whim. The paper quality seems good, only one ink swab of the ten I tried showed any bleeding or feathering. Its bright white and my printer husband estimates the paper weight between 60 lb and 80 lb cardstock. Think of the card stock used for magazine blow-ins (those subscription cards that fall out the first time to open it) for a comparable weight. The cards are very smooth paper, there is little-to-no texture.
The nice thing about this set (or any of these mini-flash-cards-on-a-ring) is the ability to add more cards as needed. If they exceed the ring capacity, larger rings are available in most office supply stores or I can split the colors between multiple rings or divide them into smaller rings — all the reds, all the blues, all the blue-blacks, etc. I just love how easy it is to review, sort and be as anal about my ink collection as I want to be.
For some time now, I’ve kept and ear and an eye open for good quality writing paper for letter writing. Stationery (not note cards) is getting harder and harder to find so I’m always on the look out for it. I’m familiar with the French line G. Lalo but had not tried out their paper until recently. It’s a textured paper with a classic laid finish which gives it some toothiness. I was concerned the toothiness would cause ink to bleed or skip but I should have expected that an upscale French paper would be as luxurious as it sounds.
I’ve used the G. Lalo Vergé de France pad for a couple weeks to write letters and found it easy to write on. The pad is a standard A5 size (5.75 x 8.25″) with a glue edge at the top to easily tear away sheets. Each pad had a cardstock cover with a metallic finish and gold embossed logo. It folds back easily. Each pad has 50 sheets.
The pad I purchased is listed as white but I found the stock to be a warm white/ivory color which is pleasingly warm but not so dark as to alter ink colors dramatically. The paper is blank but I use an undersheet with lines or grid under it to keep my lines neat and straight.
The best thing about the paper is that not one single fountain pen I tried on it bled or splined or did anything untoward. This is THE paper for writing letters for sure. The paper is thick enough (100 gsm) to use both the front and reverse of the stock too so its economical — relatively speaking.
I purchased my pad at Patrick & Co. Office Supply in San Francisco but can be purchased online through European Paper for $11.50/pad (if you purchase two or more, the price drops to $11) and they stock a range of colors including a lovely pistachio green. I might have to grab another pad. Matching envelopes are also available.
Need to keep the snack-stealing, pencil-nabbing, cube-dwelling troglodytes from running away with your beloved office supplies or snacks? The KnockKnock MINE! sticky notes might do the trick. They are standard 3×3″ squares with removable adhesive and a place to clearly establish your ownership. $3.99 for a 100-sheet pad. Just in time for Valentine’s Day.
I have a CRAP sticky notes pad and, while they are not the stickiest sticky notes in the world, I always get comments on how fun they are.