At the San Francisco Pen Show, I had the privilege of meeting the owner and creator of Coal Creek Leather, Ehsaan. It was his first pen show and his first experience with world of fountain pen collectors but he was excited. He also had the table next to Brad (NockCo) so he got the full force of Brad and Myke’s celebrity within the community. By the end of the weekend, he was ready to reach out to the larger pen community and asked both Brad and I to review a few of his leather goods, which by this time since my table was just one row away, we were both totally on board to do.
I arranged to have him send me a Bainbridge A5 ($85) in tan which is an English Bridle leather. The cover is hand stitched around the edges and includes inners sleeves in the front and back cover to keep the notebook in place in the back and to hold the business card pocket, accessory pocket and additional sleeve pocket in front. Depending on which A5 design chosen, the back sleeve has a slit to allow for a a notebook elastic to slide through. This is a great solve since a lot of folks have mentioned that they like being able to reign in their notebooks and any loose papers inside, even if they are using a cover.
Because I put a Nanami Seven Seas notebook with a softcover into the Bainbridge, I tucked both the front and back covers into the sleeve pockets to provide the notebook with strength and stability. It doesn’t have an elastic so I didn’t need to take advantage of the slit in the back for that.
Initially, I was tentative about the Coal Creek Leather covers because there was a lot of dark browns and black on the table. I know that not everyone in the world is a pink-haired walking rainbow, I wasn’t sure that the products that they were selling would necessarily be enticing to a lot of the readers here. But after having the Bainbridge in hand, I can safely say, I had no idea what I was talking about. The cover is exquisitely made. The tan is beautiful. There is not a lot of extraneous details on the cover that I don’t need nor do I wish for more.
The first comparison that popped into my head with the Bainbridge A5 cover was that it reminded me of my favorite Filofax Original planner cover. Obviously there are differences in size, color and functionality but it’s similar in its simplicity. I was hard-pressed to give up the Filofax Original because I like the format so much so maybe that’s why I was so taken with the Bainbridge.
The next comparison is with the Galen Leather A5 Folio. Both the Bainbridge and the Folio are fairly rigid leather as a result of the layers of material and the resulting thickness. The Folio, however, is considerably stiffer due to the zip closure. There may be other elements that add to the stiffness of the Folio but I’m not going to disassemble my Folio to figure them out.
The Folio also has a lot more inner pockets than the Bainbridge. After months of use, I find that I don’t actually use all the pockets and loops in the Folio.
And where the inside of the Bainbridge is leather, the Folio is a felt-like material.
My final comparison is the Curnow Leather A5 cover which was designed to hold multiple, smaller notebooks with elastics like a traveler’s notebook. The Curnows improved upon the Traveler’s Notebook by adding secretary pockets in the front and back covers and stitching around the edges that give the covers a clean finished look.
The Curnow cover is a considerably more flexible leather cover, some might even call it floppy.
The pockets in the Curnow are more spacious than the pockets in the Bainbridge and will hold an A5 sheet easily or lots of smaller ephemera.
After a week of use, I am surprised at how much I love the Bainbridge cover. I didn’t think the pen loop inside the cover would be as effective as it is. I wouldn’t recommend a large pen in it but it works great. I feel better with the pen inside the cover rather than a pen loop along the clasp. Business cards, postcards, and postage stamps fit neatly into the front cover.
The snap on the Bainbridge works better than I expected too. And I was surprised how much I liked the tan finish. I’ve already put some scratches in it and it just makes it look better.