Review by Tina Koyama
Before Pebble Stationery offered to send me a pack of its new notebooks, I admit I had never heard of the Australian company. A Kickstarter campaign last year helped bring a new pocket-size notebook with Tomoe River paper to market, and in August the limited Glacier Edition was launched (two notebooks for $12.99USD). A standard edition is also available for $9.99USD for a two-pack.
“Inspired by the blue glaciers of Antarctica,” the very pale blue cover is lighter than the photos on the company’s website and maybe even a little lighter than my own photos that were taken in the blazing sun. It’s hard to capture that delicate icy blue. Two 3½ -by-5½-inch books come per pack. Simple branding is embossed at the bottom of the front cover in silver foil.
Each notebook contains 80 pages of micro-thin 52 gsm Tomoe River paper. That’s nearly twice as many pages as a Field Notes Brand (or similar) notebook, yet the Glacier notebook is the same thickness. The difference, however, shows in the noticeable weight: It’s about 30 percent heavier than a Field Notes.
The books are stitch-bound with silver thread (according to product information, though the thread looks white to me). The most distinctive feature in its appearance is the silver foil on the notebook’s page edges (also difficult to photograph). I think the last time I saw a softcover pocket-size notebook with gilt edges was Field Notes Ambition in 2014. In general, I’m not a huge fan of gilding, but the Glacier’s silver gilding is a very nice touch because it’s not too shiny or garish. I like the way sunlight picks up a subtle glint. Overall, the appearance is elegant and understated.
The inside front cover has spaces for name, contact info, etc. The Tomoe River pages are dot-grid ruled with the tiniest dots and the palest ink – very subtle.
Now, onto scribble tests: Fountain pen fans already know and love Tomoe River paper for being extremely resistant to feathering or bleeding even though it is remarkably thin. In addition to my juiciest fountain pens – a Platinum 3776 with a music nib and a Sailor 1911 with a Naginata Fude de Mannen nib – I scribbled with the usual random assortment on my desk. Because Tomoe River paper takes a bit longer to absorb inks, a few pens smudged under my left hand, but I didn’t make too big of a mess. Strangely, the ink that took the longest to dry was the Ohto Fude Ball 1.5 rollerball (it smudged onto the opposite cover when I flipped the page). The reverse side of both pages shows ghosting, as expected for such thin, translucent paper, but no bleed-through at all, even where I deliberately paused. The Derwent Paint Pen (which I received in my Urban Sketchers Symposium swag bag this year), which has bled through nearly every paper I’ve tested it on, does not show a trace.
Finally, I made a sketch with the Sailor fude fountain pen and Platinum Carbon Black ink, which tends to be thicker and wetter than most inks. I spotted one tiny dot of bleed-through near one of the bunny’s feet where I must have paused the nib.
Since this wasn’t my first use of Tomoe River, I already knew that the amazingly smooth paper would be a joy to use with any pen – fountain, rollerball, ballpoint or paint. But I don’t recall trying it with graphite before, and even a Blackwing or a Uni Mitsubishi Hi-Uni 9B floats soundlessly and nearly frictionlessly on that glassy surface. It seems counter-intuitive – I expect graphite to need some tooth to cling to – yet apparently it doesn’t. (It reminds me of drawing on polypropylene Yupo with soft graphite, which I also love.) If you are one of those pencil users who prefers “feedback” from the paper, you won’t get it from Tomoe River, which makes no commentary as you write or draw.
Pebble Stationery is certainly not the first to come out with a pocket-size notebook containing Tomoe River paper; JetPens has its exclusive Kanso Sasshi series, and Goulet has its own with slightly heavier stock (to name just a couple). But I think the Glacier edition is certainly the prettiest. “Limited edition” implies that more new designs will be coming. I look forward to seeing what Pebble comes up with.
(Edit: Updated 10/20/19 to correct prices for AUS to USD.)