Denik Layflat Notebook

10 04 2017

Lays flat. Is notebook. Ok, I think we’re done here!

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Go home everyone, you’ve done great

While I’m still not certain I’m certified cool enough to own any of these notebooks, Denik has once again reached out to me to give my opinion on their latest release, the Layflat notebook. Picking one notebook among a huge host of awesome designs was challenging. I convened a panel of the coolest people I knew to weigh in on my life choice. Ultimately I went with a blank Copper Frost.

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surprise!

…but also ended up with a lined Mandala Bloom and a lined Meadow Lark! I’ll be spreading the generosity with a giveaway on Instagram. In case you’ve forgotten, generosity and general goodness is sort of baked into the fabric of Denik as a company, with purchases supporting the artists who designed each notebook as well as helping third world communities where they’re building or have built schools. More here.

thankartist

Mesmerizing

I don’t really need to go into detail on the artwork, because it all speaks for itself. Freaking beautiful designs. I love them. I want them all. If I were made of endless dollars and thoughts to fill them all, I might actually buy all of them. But I’m not. So let’s get to the actual construction. I carried this notebook for about a week strapped onto the top of my lunchbox like a culinary stationwagon topped with creativity. I may not be as painfully hip as the beautiful people in the Layflat advertisements carrying their Layflats to all sorts of fancy trendy outdoor places, but I can fit at least a month’s worth of notebook abuse into a week or so.

spineandwear

A pancake stack would be more physically nutritious, but a notebook stack is more mentally nourishing?

The only damage I’ve done so far is a little wear to the copper foil. The cover is still delightfully textured with its soft-touch velvet laminated cover. It’s this magical smooth matte finish that you just want to rub all over your face. It’s also water resistant, though I wouldn’t go so far as to drop it in your nearest body of water. Just no need to fret if you set it on a wet desk or countertop.

laysflat

Layflat. Flat. Lay….flat. Life flat. Life flight. Life Alert. My notebook has fallen and can’t get up. Because it lays flat, you see. Alright, time for a nap.

I was surprised to see that all my pressing open of this notebook has not resulted in any cracking of the spine. No doubt due to the smyth-sewn binding. It doesn’t exactly lay flat on its own unless it’s open right in the middle, but it lays quite flat to use. Significant effort is not required to make it flat.

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My collage skills were not coming together to put the backsides of these pages in this example. If you want to see the back, let me know and I can email it to you. Also, per Denik the paper weight for both the lined and blank notebooks is “100gsm text (67.6lbs)”

Once again, the paper isn’t perfect but did bring some pleasant surprises. I was not expecting to see shading like I got from the 1.9mm Lamy calligraphy nib loaded with J. Herbin Indien Orange, and with no bleedthrough to boot. But with broad and/or juicy fountain pen nibs, you get some spots of bleedthrough, and some feathering (mostly feathering moreseo than fuzzing). This isn’t going to be a book to draw in with heavy applications of fountain pen ink.

PicMonkey Collage

Put this together using Pic Monkey collage, which was much more convenient than bringing all these together individually on my own in something like Pixlr. Most of the collages in this post I did with Pic Monkey, until it decided it had been too helpful and started loading only half of each image on the big writing examples

Watercolor washes also didn’t do very well. That  said, small applications of watercolor did great, no bleedthrough. Fine nib sketching with Rohrer & Klingner’s two iron gall inks (Scabiosa and Salix) gave crisp lines with no bleedthrough. Brush pen full of fountain pen ink was a no, but the Faber Castell PITT Artist Pen brush pen was a yes. For writing, the situation was similar. Some bleedthrough on the broader, juicier, heavier sorts of pens, but not much that was too egregious. With these notebooks, it’s worth your time to draw/write up a test page to figure out what all combos work best for you. For me, the sketchbook works best with pencils (wooden and mechanical), ballpoint pens, thin gel pens, Sakura Pigma Micron pens, PITT Artist pens, Uni Live Sign Pen, Sharpie pen, and fountain pens with thin nibs/crisp italics, especially with Scabiosa and Salix as the inks. And some spots of watercolor.

dada

I went to a prestigious university and what do I remember? This. Mostly this.

For the mixed media experience, I present to you washi tape on a precious adoptable catvertisement, and Dadaist poetry secured in poem 1 by generic tape, and in poem 2 by Zig Memory System 2 Way Glue pen glue. I think we’re done here.

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Time to ride this copper foil train horse off into the sunset

These are wonderfully portable notebooks in my favorite size, in a wide range of enviably attractive cover designs. The blank style is good for basic sketching techniques but not really the place for heavy media and tons of ink. Provided you’re using the right pen and/or ink, you can use both sides of the page in the lined version. Priced at $11.95, I think it’s a good deal for a good notebook supporting good causes.

 

Layflat Softcover Notebooks in Lined and Blank, So Very Many Designs at Denik.com

(Denik provided these products at no charge for reviewing purposes–opinions entirely my own)





Palomino Blackwing Slate

27 03 2017

In my mind, I’ve only made it to sometime around October of last year. It really isn’t, nor can it possibly already be, nearly the end of March 2017. This is some kind of trick of the light, or perhaps part of a marketing campaign by some cringeworthy brand that thinks making any type of commercial with the phrase “going viral” is gold, rather than something that should be quietly placed in a fire and never spoken of again. Surely not part of actual reality.

No, it really is reality, and I really took way a bit too long to getting around to this review

So, about six moons ago, I received the Palomino Blackwing Slate Drawing Book from Pencils.com for review. If you’re working on reviewing a Palomino Blackwing Slate, I suggest quickly getting over the first month of reverent adoration in which the notebook feels too pretty to open, or even touch. The wear-resistant polymer cover has a wonderful smooth matte feel to it, that I can successfully verify after several months of rough transport in an overstuffed lunch suitcase (it can’t really be called a box when you could probably pack a week’s worth of clothes in it) really is wear resistant.

Classy

The canvas spine is a simple design element that makes the Slate stand out from all your other typical black notebooks. The pages are sewn-bound together to form a block, then the canvas spine is sewn-bound to that block for a spine that is strong, sturdy, yet flexible that opens quite flat without hassle. But the really stand out feature is that elastic holster on the spine. It comes loaded with the fantastic Palomino Blackwing 602 pencil, but what else can fit on there? Any pen or pencil of comparable thickness of course, but pushing the limits I was surprised to fit (one at a time, of course!) a Rotring Art Pen, the Akashiya Bamboo Brush Pen, a Pilot Vanishing Point, and even a Lamy Al-Star (though that was really pushing the limit, and might wear down the elastic more than a less girthy pen). I like the spine as a convenient, handy, yet out of the way place to stash a drawing implement so the notebook is never alone.

Don’t mind the show through and such. It means nothing to me

This paper. This 100 gsm paper. This delightfully smooth, cream colored, wonderfully chosen paper is beyond what I’d hoped for. This paper is GREAT with fountain pens. I’m talking crisp lines, shading, sheen, no feathers, no bleedthrough. Let’s move in for a close-up.

I can’t pick just one. Must look at all

Delicious. Also did well with watercolors/water brush pen, Kuretake and Koi brush pens, and PITT artist pens. Not so great for Sharpie markers, Copic markers, the Pilot Twin Marker, the Sakura Gelly Roll Gold pen, and the Pentel Tradio felt tip pen, all of which showed signs of bleedthrough. The downside to this paper is that there is showthrough so significant it almost defies logic. But you get 160 pages, in a slim and easy to transport format. It’s a tradeoff. For sketching and brainstorming, I prefer thinner drawing paper, and especially prefer fountain pen friendly paper. And with all the Hobonichi Techo use in my life, I have come to fully accept a world of showthrough. But if showthrough bothers you, this might not be the notebook for you.

Clever little pocket, how could I have doubted you?

 

The Slate also has all your typical features: ribbon bookmark, elastic closure, unobtrusive branding on the back, and a back pocket…with a slot cut into it whose purpose I could not intrinsically divine. Apparently, it’s a pocket-in-pocket for holding things like business cards in a more accessible place. I was very suspicious of the functionality. It seemed like a dangerous set-up just asking for a business card to fall out. But then I actually tried putting a card in for photographic purposes and discovered that there’s a lip there for the card to tuck into.

Accept the corgipillar

In summary and conclusion, I love this notebook. Would I change anything? Not that I can think of. I guess you could make it in other colors?? Other sizes? But I really like this size, not too big and not too small–perfect for portability and usability. You’ve got me stumped. Good work, Palomino.

 

Palomino Blackwing Slate at Pencils.com

(Pencils.com provided this product at no charge for reviewing purposes–opinions entirely my own)

 





Quo Vadis 2017 Plan & Note Planner

30 01 2017

Welcome back, my fine friends, to a new year. New year, new planners. While the Hobonichi Techo has got a pretty firm lock on my heart, I do recognize that it’s not going to be perfect for everyone, so when the good people of Exaclair reached out to me many moons ago to see if I would be interested in taking the Quo Vadis Plan & Note for a spin, I was all for it. This is a planner coming from a good paper family (Quo Vadis, Clairefontaine, Rhodia are all of the same family), and I loved the Quo Vadis Miniweek back in my pre-Hobonichi days.

– All of my friends have decided that the texture of the cover resembles the peel of a banana. I am now questioning the sanity of all of my friends.

This is the Desk size Plan & Note in Violet. The cover is a rubberized soft-touch cover, somewhat but not quite like the Rhodia Webnotebook in texture, of a mostly firm, semi-flexible cardboard stock. The binding is designed to lay flat, and can be bent back on itself for added firmness and convenience when writing on the go.

On the go. The phrase sounded normal popping out of my head, and now looking at it on the screen is beginning to break down into inexplicable nonsense. How does one get on the go? Is the go going, or is it gone?

A matching purple elastic band holds the notebook closed. Size-wise, I was worried at the “desk” designation – I pictured some vast and endless windswept plain of fountain pen friendly paper, bound by the gods upon some ancient varnished desk. But who would need an elastic to hold that sort of notebook closed? Who would ever be able to carry such a thing anywhere to need to keep it closed? My fears were allayed by the actual facts of reality — the “Desk” plan and note, at 6″ x 8.5″, is an easily portable and slim planner, large enough to be useful while retaining the convenience of a semi-compact size. For at least three months I’ve been carrying this planner around (packed always next to my guilt at not having reviewed it yet), rarely taking care to protect it in any meaningful way. It’s important to see how such things hold up to the rigors and abuse of ordinary life.

The tell-tale puncture marks indicative of a feline presence


Looking close, you can find signs of wear, but the planner is still looking sharp. If you take even the slightest amount of care (i.e. not throwing it unprotected into a giant lunch bag full of knives, misshapen objects, and miniaturized kitchen implements) I’d wager you’ll still have a sharp looking planner by the time 2018 rolls around.

Unnecessarily dappled shading brought to you by my backyard trees


On to the features. In the front, a standard Personal Notes page, a 2017 reference calendar; in the back, an inexplicable nine pages devoted to contacts. In spite of all the signs, it IS 2017. Who is using this many, or any, planner pages to keep an analog record of contacts in a book only designed to be carried around for the course of one year? If you really keep an analog record of contacts, I hope you have a nice, separate book dedicated to such records, one that is not bound to any particular year. If a contacts section absolutely must be present, give it one, two pages at most. The rest of that space should go to notes, which this notebook currently only has two pages (a front and back) dedicated to. A Plan & Note planner should push the envelope a little more in the note department. Perhaps have the back free notes section include more than one type of layout to better facilitate brainstorming. Instead of all lined pages, you could have two dot grid, two grid, two blank, two lined, etc. This giant contacts section feels like a missed opportunity.

The entire time I’ve been trying to edit this picture on my phone in bed, the cat has been trying to stand on my face, my hands, or both


Back to the front of the notebook, to the first intriguing feature–the Anno-Planner. It’s a two-page spread encompassing all of 2017 that gives each day a little usable line. The second page header bills this as “The Organization of your year at a single glance.” It makes me think of the Bullet Journal Calendex layout. I feel like you’d need to develop your own legend involving some color-coding and symbols to get maximum usability out of this feature, but it holds a lot of promise.

Top: March-April; bottom: January-February.


After the Anno-Planner, we have a feature I can’t live without–monthly grid pages. A monthly grid helps me best visualize my life, especially working night shift as I currently do. The layout is oriented sideways to allow for maximum writing space in each square, which feels a little odd but is admittedly useful. My biggest issue with these monthly pages is the repeating of lines at the end/beginning of months. Look at the last week of January and the first week of February up there. It is the same line twice. I find this visually off-putting and potentially confusing. At the very least, don’t print the dates in the same color–where you have overlap, use something like a light grey to print the beginning of February that’s on the January spread, and vise-versa the end of January that’s on the February spread. Or, given that the next line is right there, why print the overlap at all? This issue pops up on every monthly spread; several even end up with two weeks printed twice. It’s wasteful, inefficient, and really throws off my groove. If you’ve got page real estate to spare, leave it blank so it can be used for something like …notes!

I really need more commitment to the Note half of this Plan & Note theme


The rest of the meat of the planner is devoted to the year’s worth of weekly spreads. Each day gets an equal amount of space (which is really nice especially when trying to plan in a business that is open seven days a week), with a section at the end of each week just for notes (notes! finally!!). No complaints here; it’s a solid, standard weekly layout. Each page has a perforated tear-off corner in the bottom, to mark where you are in the notebook and theoretically make it easier to flip to. I prefer ribbon markers for that purpose, but the concept works. I might prefer the perforated corners to be on the top, for even easier flipping. After the weekly spread, there is a monthly grid for January 2018, a 2018 reference calendar, and a 2018 Anno-Planner spread to ease the transition into 2018.

I don’t know if any paper exists that does a decent job with the ink of those little stamps at the bottom. They were forged at the bottom of a volcano out of the decanted acid derived from demon blood. Probably


The pages of the whole planner consist of 90gsm white paper, very fountain pen friendly with no bleedthrough and minimal show-through. The paper shows off shading fairly well (not so much on the sheen factor), with a decent dry-time between around 7 and 11 seconds for fountain pen ink. Most surprisingly, I was able to lay down some watercolors with no bleedthrough and no noticeable buckling of the paper. Although the overall format of this planner doesn’t lend itself to the type of planning/journaling where watercoloring would typically be found, it can be done. Of course, with this brand I expected good paper; thankfully, Quo Vadis delivers.


(Exaclair provided this product at no charge for reviewing purposes–opinions entirely my own)





Denik Brown Classic Notebook

10 11 2016

Even in my wildest hipster fever dreams, I would never come up with a collection of designs I want so much as nearly every notebook in the Denik collection of notebooks. They’re impossibly cool.

I am not cool enough for this notebook. A friend had to take this picture for me, while I hid in shame

I am not cool enough for this notebook. A friend had to take this picture for me, while I hid in shame

First a little about Denik as a brand, because we’re reaching the point in our reckless consumeristic acquisition where the first twinges of guilt appear at all the money spent with no good done, and the best way to assuage that feeling is to combine unchanged consumer behaviors with responsible companies that will somewhat redirect our funds for benevolent ends.

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I wrote this up several days ago, in case you were wondering if my saltiness were a recent development

Which is to say, when you buy a Denik notebook, it benefits not just you and Denik, but also the artists who designed the notebook, and communities in third world countries where some of the proceeds from notebook sales are going toward building schools. In 2015 they dedicated the Denik Middle School in Zambougou, Mali; with Pencils of Promise, they are currently working and preparing for the construction of a school in Guatemala which will start spring of 2017; and currently a portion of sales are going toward building a new school in Laos, which is 55% funded and set to be completely funded by the end of the year. Education is a splendid thing.

I like my notebooks like I like my economic future, on the rocks

I like my notebooks like I like my economic future, on the rocks

Back to the artists, they receive a royalty payment for their work, and get prominent billing inside the notebook and on the product pages online. If you like a particular notebook design, you will know who came up with it, and be able to find and support more of that artist’s work. Heck, you can even interact with them through social media. Is @khousdesign her Twitter handle, or Instagram, or both? Should I research the answer, or JUST TWEET BLINDLY?!

The answer is either B, or C: Forget the premise entirely. Yes, C. Who even uses Twitter anymore.

The answer is either B, or C: Forget the premise entirely. Yes, C. Who even uses Twitter anymore.

This notebook specifically that I received to review is the Brown Classic. It’s handcrafted (“meaning physical hands are touching the notebooks and helping to put them together. But automotive technology also helps put the notebooks together”) with leatherlike brown polyurethane and herringbone fabric, and a red ribbon bookmark for a pop of color. The whole notebook looks like the spirit of autumn called forth and captured in hardcover form. I’m not going to imply causation between the arrival of this notebook in my life and the temperature finally breaking out of sweltering summer digits, but I can’t entirely rule it out. Did warm brown boots spring forth onto my feet as I picked the notebook up? Did a scarf begin to grow out of my neck and artfully arrange itself over a tasteful fall bomber jacket? Who can say?

With enough spiked fall beverages, anything is possible

With enough spiked fall beverages, anything is possible

The paper (125 pages, paper of 70 lb weight) isn’t perfect, as my tests show some minor instances of bleedthrough, showthrough, and in some instances fuzzing or feathering, but it’s not a lost cause for the fountain pen world. Use medium nibs or finer with the right inks (such as Rohrer & Klingner Scabiosa, which I love), just experiment a little and I’m confident you can easily find a combination that will work for you. Naturally ballpoints, regular gel pens (the Sakura Gelly Roll is most certainly not a normal gel pen), and pens like the Sakura Pigma Micron work just wonderfully. Rollerballs may take some of the same experimenting as fountain pens; my Retro 51 Tornado had a bit of fuzzing and near bleedthrough.

If it weren't for Adobe Photoshop's auto levels, all these pictures would have been a disconcerting near-dawn blue

If it weren’t for Adobe Photoshop’s auto levels, all these pictures would have been a disconcerting near-dawn blue

At $24.95, the Brown Classic Hardcover notebook is reasonably priced for both what you get and what you’re supporting. Considering the list price of a comparably sized Moleskine notebook is $19.95, and they are the epitome of everything that is wrong in the world of notebooks, I think the Denik notebook is at a perfect price point. Good people, good brand, good notebook.

Brown Classic Hardcover Notebook – Denik.com

Denik’s Artists

Denik on Instagram

 

 

(Pencils.com in collaboration with Denik provided this product at no charge for reviewing purposes–opinions entirely my own)

 





Gfeller Casemakers Leather Cover / Clairefontaine My.essential Notebook

28 08 2016

First, you get the fancy pens. Then, you get the special inks to put in the fancy pens, followed by the nice paper for writing on with the fancy pens filled with special inks. The pens get carrying cases. Now, we are entering the stage of the illness addiction insanity hobby where the nice paper gets a spiffy carrying vehicle too. A step up from whatever cardboard claptrap it came factory-clad in. No material better answers that call than leather.

A wild notebook appears


I was fortunate enough to be one of two winners of the giveaway of a Gfeller Casemakers leather notebook cover and a new Clairefontaine My.essential notebook. I’ve given the products a couple months in the rotation, and now it’s time to pass judgment. Let’s start with the leather cover:

When computer screens are able to broadcast tactile sensations I will add the feel of this leather to my review for you all to enjoy


The leather is soft. Luscious, luxurious, rub it on your face soft. I have a pair of Italian leather gloves that are softer, but not by much. The light color worries me–will I stain it? Will I ruin it irrevocably in some unforeseen manner? But this concern is not unique to this case; I would feel the same about any light-colored leather. The notebook cover is well-made with smart details–the flaps that the notebook covers tuck into come much further in than I’ve seen on any other notebook cover, to avoid creating a bulge line under the page, and there is a cut out in the back flap to allow use of the elastic band attached to the notebook. It integrates well. The quality is solid. I’m thinking of getting a Gfeller notebook cover for my Hobonichi, I’m liking this cover so much.

Would I like this as much with no notebook cover? Probably not. I like my medium to large notebooks with a bit of sturdiness to them


On to the My.essential notebook, which the Clairefontaine people told me is a new product that will be available later this year (or possibly already, the email was a few months ago). I’m kind of surprised that this didn’t exist already in the Clairefontaine and/or Rhodia line-up: a paginated notebook with a table of contents, headers on each page, filled with high quality Clairefontaine 90gsm paper. It really feels like this should have already been around. It’s a wonderfully usable format.

Here is what cream colored paper looks like at sunrise, in case you were wondering


In design, the My.essential notebook is very similar to my beloved Leuchtturm 1917. The My.essential is a soft cover with camel-colored leatherlike cardboard pattern, quarter pockets in front and back, and dark brown elastic band and ribbon. It really has everything essential to a good notebook, unless you prefer hardcover. But that’s what the leather notebook cover is for! I have no complaints against this notebook, and hope they’ll be releasing editions besides just lined. Maybe include a 2nd bookmark for bullet journaling? There’s not a whole lot to say; it’s a darn good notebook with fountain pen friendly paper. That’s a Clairefontaine product for you.

 

Various Gfeller Casemakers Leather Covers

The giveaway & fan profile of Steve Derricott at Rhodia Drive

 

(The notebook and cover were won by me in a giveaway, thus I received them for free. Opinions entirely my own)

 





Bookblock Original Customized Notebooks

2 06 2016
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Look at this snazzy, professional picture that Bookblock took! Of my notebook! Makes me briefly consider constructing some kind of light box for my pictures, rather than the random backgrounds of wherever I happen to be

When given the opportunity to customize a notebook with ANYTHING I WANTED….ANY ARTWORK MY IMAGINATION DESIRED…I naturally opted to slather the covers in fur children.

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Not even real camera pictures of the fur children. iPhone pictures. Photoshop-filtered iPhone pictures. The disgrace.

But perhaps I should rewind, and explain the process to create one of these notebooks. You go to the website, click the “Create Your Notebook” button, Launch the Artwork Editor (which seems to have some nice features for finagling around multiple images if desired), Submit Design, choose the color of your elastic band and ribbon book mark, choose your paper type (ruled, plain, or dot grid in 90gsm ivory; or sketch paper of 140gsm) and delivery area, and proceed to complete your order. It’s so enticingly simple that, in spite of already having my sample notebook I’ve received for free, I’ve nearly ordered an additional notebook half a dozen times now, in spite of not really needing one, not knowing what I even want to put on it, and currently trying to save money for the upcoming Triangle Pen Show.

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Once I decide what I want to put on a second notebook, then I’ll order it

I love the quality of the printed image. The notebook is a deliciously soft-touch hardcover, and the images came out beautifully. But I am concerned how that soft-touch finish will wear over time:

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Wear and tear

There’s already a crease in the spine. I’ve had it for about a month. Maybe the crease just seems extra visible due to the light color of my notebook. The notebook itself includes a ribbon bookmark, elastic band, and no inside pocket.

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My paper life was so much easier before I got into fountain pens…

Now here’s the biggest let-down: the paper. The paper comes from a company I have not reviewed before, Monsieur Notebook. Let’s take a brief detour down memory lane and I will tell you why I did not review a Monsieur Notebook.

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Had this not been inside the cover of my Bookblock, I would never have known…

Many years ago, when they were first coming to the US, Monsieur Notebook sent me samples of their leather notebooks asking for my feedback. The leather was wonderful and the paper was absolutely godawful for fountain pens. I told them as much, they said they were working on a version with more fountain pen friendly paper that they wanted to send me a sample of, I intended to wait until I received the potential improvement before doing a review. I never received the sample. That was 2011. Then, in 2013, I received an email from them again, as if we’d never spoken before (it was the same person, same email address both times), about the IndieGoGo campaign they were launching–they’d JUST discovered my blog and wanted to know if I was interested in trying a sample! Sure, I’ll go along with the selective amnesia. Send me a sample, since the last improved sample never made it. Surprise! This sample never made it either. Somewhere at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, countless Monsieur Notebooks have no doubt gathered to die, as I’m not the only one who seems to have encountered this phenomena. I emailed back to say I never received the sample, and have heard nothing in the years since. So here’s a mini review of all I know about the Monsieur Notebook (leather cover edition):

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Elastic band, or jump rope?

The paper sucks, the elastic lost all elasticity after about 3 to 4 years, and the leather is awesome but seems to be pulling away from the notebook. If you write with gel pens, ballpoints, pencils, or micron-type pens, then the paper is ok. Anything remotely water-based will fuzz and bleed horrifically, and in spite of the wonderful cover you will essentially never use the notebook again.

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Enough about that! This is a Bookblock review, after all.

Now, back to the Bookblock. My notebook came with plain 90gsm paper–presumably the most modern and theoretically improved paper something Monsieur Notebooks-based can offer. Gel pens, ballpoint, pencils, Pilot FriXion highlighters, a quick and gentle pass with a Faber Castell Pitt Artist brush pen, and a light wash with watercolor pen/waterbrush were fine. Water-based inks still looking…not great.

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Who needs to use both sides of the page anyway

We’ve got showthrough and bleedthrough, including bleedthrough with heavy gel inks like the Sakura Gelly Roll. Very fine fountain pens are almost ok, unless your sketching involves going over a line more than once or twice, then you’ve got bleedthrough. This notebook is primarily suited for pencil or ballpoint pen sketching.

Normally I’m not keen on paper that doesn’t play nice with my fountain pens. So why would I still want another one of these notebooks? I’m not sure you can beat the customization at this price. The notebook is $18, with an additional $8 shipping to the US. And the notebook customization interface is so easy to use. These would make a great gift, especially for ordinary people who don’t care about fountain pens.

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Like Tobi here! She doesn’t give a single flip about fountain pens, because she is a cat.

(Bookblock Original provided this product at no charge for reviewing purposes. Opinions entirely my own. Monsieur Notebooks also provided that leather notebook, several years ago, at no charge, and opinions definitely my own since I never heard from them again…)





A Trio of Fountain Pen Friendly Notebooks

25 11 2014

Tsubame Fools Cream Notebook // Kyokuto French Classic Notebook // Apica CD Notebook CD15

It was hard to decide what would make a better background: uninspired carpet, or cut up cardboard box

It was hard to decide what would make a more captivating background: uninspired carpet, or cut up cardboard box

JetPens sent me three different vintage styled softcover B5 notebooks to take for a spin: two explicitly listed in the fountain pen friendly paper section (the Tsubame Fools Cream Notebook – B5 – Comfort – Lined and the Apica CD Notebook – CD15 – Semi B5 – 6.5 mm Rule – Black) and one wildcard (the Kyokuto French Classic Notebook – B5 – Ruled – 32 Sheets – Gray). These are exactly the right size for convenient use: school, work, etc.; they are large enough to really write in, but thin enough not to be a burden (I’ve come around to appreciate filling up more smaller notebooks rather than breaking my shoulders carrying big notebooks with more pages than I’d ever need in any given period of time).

Is the notebook the comfort? Am I to outline my comforts in the notebook?

Is the notebook the comfort? Am I to outline my comforts in the notebook?

This notebook is my favorite of the three on appearance. The white decorative print pops off the background, and the whole affair together with the gauze binding is vintage classy. Of the three, the Tsubame has the heaviest paper weight at 83.5 gsm.

This paper is much more cream colored than my photographs are making it look. Take more pictures, you say? NONSENSE. USE YOUR IMAGINATION

This paper is much more cream colored than my photographs are making it look. Take more pictures, you say? NONSENSE. USE YOUR IMAGINATION

The cream-colored paper has an ingrained latticework between the printed lines that’s a bit reminiscent of french-ruled paper. I don’t know what the point of it is, but who says no to extras? Fountain pen ink on the page is beautiful, lines crisp and charactered with glorious shading, no bleedthrough, and no issue with showthrough (there is some, but I don’t find it a bothersome amount).

Note to self: remember all previous notes to self about not taking pictures on such dark and cloudy days

Note to self: remember all previous notes to self about not taking pictures on such dark and cloudy days

The only pen that didn’t do well was a Sharpie Marker. But there is a cost to this performance—this notebook has the slowest dry times of the three. Lefties tread carefully; I had some smudging with a few combinations of ink and nibs. If you’re heavy-handed, this paper seems slow compared to the others. Maximizing this paper performance requires good fountain pen form: a light touch and deliberate movements to savor the process of pen and ink and paper. This is the paper you use to practice your writing.

The actual notebook looks like more of a yellow gray. Or a muted tan. A sandy gray. Maybe I just ought to do a better job on colors

The actual notebook looks like more of a yellow gray. Or a muted tan. A sandy gray. Maybe I just ought to do a better job on colors

The Kyokuto French Classic has a charming design and the fastest drying times (probably due in part to having the lightest paper weight at 80 gsm). However, it also has the most showthrough and even a few points of bleedthrough, especially with broad nibs, dark inks, print handwriting, etc.

The most showthrough of the bunch

We’re talking if you had this notebook with you in person, you could clearly read what I wrote on the page below

You can use the back side of the page, but it’s not the most beautiful thing. And yet the ink on the top of the page looks pretty decent. You’ve got shading, with no fuzzing or feathering. It’s quite tolerable in the grand scheme of things, especially if you need to take quick notes and don’t mind the shadows of the words you wrote before.

I SWEAR THIS IS CREAM COLORED PAPER TOO

I SWEAR THIS IS CREAM COLORED PAPER TOO UGH

Some pens and inks do better than others. I’m having good results right now writing in cursive, using Rohrer & Klingner Scabiosa in my Lamy 2000. Thin gel pens (0.5mm and under), ballpoints, pencils, and thin fountain pen nibs all seem to do best. If you pick this notebook, I’d recommend you spend the space of the back page figuring out what pen and ink combinations work best for you (rather than use pens and inks all willy-nilly and set yourself up for some potential disappointment). This notebook would do best somewhere you need to write fast, like for school or work.

The decoration stands out more when it's well lit. This is the disadvantage of completing the written portion of my review in a dimly lit cave

Looking at this picture, I realize the decoration stands out more when it’s well lit. This is the disadvantage of completing the written portion of my review in a dimly lit cave

Last but not least we have the Apica CD notebook. Similar to the Tsubame, with more subtle vintage styling printed on an irregularly textured cover, filled with 81.4 gsm paper.

Texture!

Texture!

The Apica notebook seems to present a good compromise between drying time and paper quality—dries faster than the Tsubame, yet does not have the problems of bleedthrough and extreme showthrough that haunt the Kyokuto with its faster dry times. Shading looks good, line qualities look good.

THIS is the only one of the three with white paper

THIS is the only one of the three with white paper

Of all three notebooks, the Apica is the one I would buy again first for my own personal use. Fountain pen inks look nice, the paper is delightfully smooth, and the drying time is sufficient. And, as I’ve grown addicted to with my Leuchtturm1917 notebook, it has a line for the date (the Kyokuto and the Apica both have lines for No. and Date).

WHO AM I KIDDING I LOVE ALL THREE

WHO AM I KIDDING I LOVE ALL THREE

Three notebooks, each with particular strengths and weaknesses, each with a time and place to shine. Thanks to JetPens for providing these samples!

Tsubame Fools Cream Notebook – B5 – Comfort – Lined at JetPens

Kyokuto French Classic Notebook – B5 – Ruled – 32 Sheets – Gray at JetPens

Apica CD Notebook – CD15 – Semi B5 – 6.5 mm Rule – Black at JetPens