A couple of years ago, I got a copy of the Stifflexible notebook from Pen Chalet. Stifflexible is an Italian notebook that, according to its web site, has been around for decades but has recently been relaunched and has been trying to make in-roads in the upscale notebook landscape in the last couple years.
The re-launch of Stifflexible offered an interesting, little pocket notebook. I was curious about the design with the bendable hard cover and three types of paper in one notebook but the initial paper offering was not up to snuff for fountain pens so I did not review the notebook.
This new, improved version of the Stifflexible notebook has introduced much-improved paper and new cover designs. I received two sizes: an XL (19x25cm or 7.5×9.8′) London Underground Map and a medium (13x21cm or 5×8.25″) Coconut from the New Fruits.
Unfortunately, in transit from the Atlanta Pen Show, the London Underground Map notebook came into contact with water and the lower righthand water took on water like the Titanic hitting an iceberg. Still being wrapped in cellophane only exacerbated the problem. So now I have one swollen, bulgy corner, to no fault of the distributor or the manufacturer. I blame myself, the airline, the airport or the baggage handlers for leaving my poor R2 unit out in the rain.
Two of the most distinguishing features of the Stifflexible notes are the deep grooves in the cover to create the “flexibility”. I type that in quotes because the grooves give the cover large scores that allow it to bend more readily but I don’t know that it makes it flexible. It does provide a nice slot to rest the vertical elastic in, however.
The other feature is the three types of paper included in one notebook: lined, blank and graph. Of the 192 pages (144 in the smallest, pocket-sized edition) over half (144 pages or 96 in the pocket edition) are dedicated to lined paper. There are just 32 pages of blank paper and 16 pages of graph paper.
The graph paper is a bit odd in that it is only printed on one side of the paper and its the only section of the book that is perforated.
On the reverse side of the bookmark included with each notebook is information about how the company envisions you might use the envelope in the back of the book and the long flap pocket. Clever.
But, of course, what you are actually waiting to see is if the paper has actually been improved. And indeed it has been. The paper is a soft white 85gsm. While lined paper isn’t always my favorite and the line spacing is a bit wider than I initially thought I would like, the light grey lines fell to the background quickly and I was able to ignore them easily. The paper has a slight tooth to it but nothing too distracting. It was just enough to let my inks dry in a reasonable amount of time so as not to smudge (lefty-concern) and not so much that I had any feathering or bleeding issues.
I tested a wide variety of everyday pens from fountain to rollerball and gel as well as a ballpoint and some pencils and everything performed as expected. I did not drown the paper with anything ridiculous, I just used what was already in my pens.
From the reverse side, there is a tiny bit of show through but I would easily write on this side of the paper.
The most show through is in the lower left which is the water-damaged corner and the section I hit with the wettest and widest fountain pens. It was also the part of the paper that wasn’t laying flat so its getting some light from underneath.
So, overall, I think the Stifflexible notebooks are a pretty interesting notebook line. My biggest complaints are the graph lines are not printed on both sides and I was disappointed to discover that the circle on the cover of the coconut notebook that says “Coconut” was not a sticker on the cellophane packaging. I was hoping the cover was just the swirly lines. Which makes me sad to realize that the whole New Fresh Fruit line is the same way. They would all be really fun without the sticker on them. At present, the New Fresh Fruit and the Underground Line are the only collections with the new 85gsm paper. The other notebook collections still feature the 80gsm paper which is fine for ballpoint and pencil but frowns at liquid ink.
Many of your favorite online and brick and mortar retailers currently stock the Stifflexible notebooks. The prices range from about $10-$30.