Stuart at Nero’s Notes (through the help of his lovely assistant Clare) sent over two plain notebooks for me to test out. The Fa Vo Plain in Vanilla and the Poach My Lobster Notebook (Lobster). I specifically requested plain notebooks because I like to be unencumbered by lines, grids or dots. Somedays I write, somedays I draw, somedays I do both and mostly if I do have lines or dots, I ignore them anyway so why bother with them in the first place? I know that I am among a small audience in my preference for plain notebooks but I can speak to the quality of the paper, binding and overall quality of the notebooks, as for the line or dot quality… you are on your own.
The Poach my Lobster notebook (£8) features a bright blue cover made from G.F. Smith’s Colorplan 270gsm cover weight stock with a textured emboss. The cover is foil stamped with a big red metallic lobster and dotted lines. The graphic is bright and engaging. Inside, the notebook features 128 blank pages of Italian Fedrigoni Arcoprint Edizioni Avorio 100gsm warm white paper (that’s a mouthful!). The book’s overall dimensions are 202mmx128mm, which is slimmer than a standard A5.
The Poach My Lobster notebook does have four stitched signatures wrapped with the card stock cover but there is a lot of glue holding the “perfect bound” cover in place making it necessary to force the pages to lay flat. The stitching can handle the abuse but the book is not going to look as pretty once you have worked the glue loose and the book will definitely need a cover or elastic of some sort to keep it closed afterwards. The detail of actual stitched signature is good though, in spite of all the glue.
In writing tests, the Poach My Lobster test did well with about 50% of the fountain pen inks I tried. The paper is slightly toothy making it great for slick gel pens, colored pencils and graphite. Some markers did well but others feathered. Despite the feathering, there was not too much trouble with bleed through. If you favor gel pens, fine fountain pens, pencils and the occasional marker, this paper is quite nice. The warm ivory color is pleasant.
The Fa Va Plain (which is also available in a dot grid, £11) features a completely unadorned cover. On the back is a blind debossed “FA VO” centered at the bottom. The cover is heavy cover stock at 350gsm. The cover has a subtle sand speckle to the paper. The interior paper is 100gsm recycled fiber with a natural, unbleached white color to it. There are some flecks in the paper that suggest it’s recycled quality.
The Fa Vo notebooks open completely flat to show off the sewn spine binding. The Fa Vo did not require nearly as much effort to get the book to lay flat since the stitched spine was not buried in glue.
(Ink or pink hair at the bottom of this photo? You decide!)
When testing recycled papers, there is a much greater likelihood of feathering and bleeding since the paper has been beaten, shredded and reprocessed making the fibers even more porous. This means that the paper is may only be good for pencil and maybe oily ballpoint ink and liquid fountain pen ink might be a challenge. The Fa Vo surprised me by performing above average with drier fountain pen inks. Some inks feathered a bit but the overall results were comparable to the Poach My Lobster notebook. Even though the paper is recycled, its a bit whiter in color than the Poach My Lobster notebook and the notebook is a little larger too.
The Fa Vo notebook is closer to traditional A5 dimensions at 205x145mm. Actual A5 size is 210x148mm. I accept a little undersizing for trim but 20mm is quite a bit of compromise on the Poach My Lobster notebook when I put it in my A5 leather notebook covers. There was an excessive amount of wiggle room.
Since both of these notebooks feature card stock covers and more than a Field Notes’ worth of paper, I do think it is nice to be able to keep them in a cover of some sort. The Fa Vo is much more in keeping with standard A5 sizing while the Poach My Lobster notebook is the same width as Moleskine large notebook (210x130mm) just a few millimeters shorter in overall height. So, if you already have a cover that accommodates a Moleskine notebook you won’t have any problem working with the Poach My Lobster book. Based on price, the Fa Vo is a little more expensive but it is larger and uses recycled paper and a more complex binding which all warrant a higher price. The Poach My Lobster notebook has a blingy cover and a warm ivory stock. Both will be excellent with pencils and standard pens and will provide mixed results with fountain pens but if you’re willing to experiment, may provide interesting creative results for drawing or lettering.
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