Review by Tina Koyama
An unusual notebook came my way in the Urban Sketchers Symposium swag bag: a Leuchtturm 1917 Academy Pad. From the outside, the A5-size notebook looks identical to other Leuchtturm notebooks (the traditional notebook is one of my favorites; I’ve used many as my journals and DIY planners), with a standard elastic band and hardcover. (Ana has reviewed the Bullet Journal version and the sketchbook.) And even when you open it and touch the paper, you might think it’s the same as usual (in fact, the paper weight and surface texture are the same as the traditional notebook).
The difference is that the 60 sheets are glue-bound and easily removeable without perforations. It’s not a notebook – it’s a pad disguised as one. I received a blank-page one for sketching, and it’s also available ruled.
Inside, the gusseted pocket is not in back as you’d expect. It’s in front, containing the usual Leuchtturm accessories: indexing labels and a writing guide sheet.
In back, I was surprised to see that the whole pad can be removed. Yes, it’s apparently refillable (though I didn’t find refills on Leuchtturm’s site). Since the pages are meant to tear out, it makes a lot of sense to offer refills so that the sturdy cover can be reused.
The glue binding allows all pages to open completely flat.
Although I’m familiar with Leuchtturm’s paper and usually use fine fountain pens and gel pens with it, I threw a bunch of other media onto it to test, including a few water-soluble ones. As expected, the sizing is not appropriate for water-soluble media (the first three tested), so washes looked pale, and the paper buckled permanently. The paper also started pilling quickly where I swiped it with water. But most other writing media and brush pens felt smooth, and nothing feathered.
The back of the sheet reveals that the Sharpie bled through (as expected), and the Derwent Paint Pen showed a few spots, too. The rest fared well, though the paper’s opacity allows most inks to ghost.
Since the pages pull out easily, I can now discard the test sheet if I want to, and the book looks new!
The Leuchtturm product information indicates that this pad would be a good choice for notetakers who want to later rearrange their pages (in a binder or folder, perhaps) or pass along the notes to someone else. I probably wouldn’t use it as a sketchbook, since I prefer to keep my sketches bound permanently, but it would be ideal for use during a portrait party. (What – you’ve never attended one? Each participant is paired up with another for a limited time until everyone has drawn everyone else. Then the portraits are all arranged on the floor in a grid – great fun! The first time I did it was during the symposium in Brazil; it was a great activity for people from many countries who didn’t always share the same language but understood sketching and laughter.)
(Leuchtturm 1917 is a long-time sponsor of the International Urban Sketchers Symposium.)