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

 





Daycraft Animal Pals Notebook – “Aberdeen” Movie Edition Whale and Greenie

12 05 2014

I think Daycraft has nearly perfected the art of making almost unbearably adorable notebooks. Their latest offering is part of a tie-in with the movie Aberdeen. Why don’t we get sweet movie tie-ins in America? T-shirts and Happy Meal toys don’t count.

I think the movie is out now? Someone tell me if it's any good

I think the movie is out now? Someone tell me if it’s any good

I love Daycraft’s polyurethane—it’s so smooth and high quality, so well constructed. The embossing used to create the baleen whale plates, the cutaway for the blowhole, the stitching and cutaways for the chameleon—all brilliant details. These are wonderful stylizations.

If I had enough Animal Pal notebooks I could have made a looping chain of pockets in pockets in pockets!! Alas, opportunity missed

If I had enough Animal Pal notebooks I could have made a looping chain of pockets in pockets in pockets!! Alas, opportunity missed

A bookmark is pretty standard, but for some reason I was surprised to find a pocket as well. I guess I’m used to pockets only being present when there are elastic closures; it was a pleasant surprise (though it does create a slight bump in the back cover; life is full of trade-offs). Bonus: movie postcards!

I'm pretty sure #1 and #3 are the same. Oops.

I’m pretty sure #1 and #3 are the same. Oops.

Tell y’all what. The first three people to translate for me what these postcards say, I’ll figure out how to mail you that postcard. One postcard per person. Leave a comment indicating which # postcard above you are translating. One and three are, looks like to me anyway, the same. So, eh, once 1/3 and 2 are translated, the next person to leave a comment saying I want the last one can have the one that’s left.

Animal shapes!

Animal shapes! A tail, perhaps?

The paper is cream-colored with pale orange animal patterns on it (ears, tails, paws). The performance is standard Daycraft—does well with ballpoints, gels, felt-tip pens, pencils, but not so hot with liquid inks like fountain pens and rollerballs (unless you’re using the magical Rorher & Klingner Scabiosa ink, which I really need to review, on account of the magic).

Are my performance standards for liquid ink on papers too high? It's possible.

Are my performance standards for liquid ink on papers too high? It’s possible.

See? Fountain pens are doing okay on the animal print parts, except there’s kind of a weird pattern happening in the ink. Outside of the animal print, there’s a little feathering. It’s not the worst, but I’m picky. I’ll no doubt be happier using gel pens and other less particular instruments of writing.

Quick, someone go see Aberdeen and tell me if there are any catchphrases associated with Greenie. And then I can use that as the caption instead. Or, be lazy and just not.

Quick, someone go see Aberdeen and tell me if there are any catchphrases associated with Greenie. And then I can use that as the caption instead. Or, be lazy and just not.

If I could go back in time with these notebooks, I’m pretty sure I would have been voted coolest child in school. I don’t know how children vote for their superior peer leaders these days, but if it’s still based on the adorability of stationery products, then these notebooks are instant winners.

Animal Pals Notebooks – Greenie and Whale Special Edition at Daycraft





Moleskine Dotted Pocket Notebook – Soft Cover – Underwater Blue

23 03 2014

I can’t ignore the most popular and pretentious notebook maker, even when I’ve had extensive first-hand experience with their paper quality being generally terrible and all their products being overpriced. For one thing, I do like the format of some of their calendars—the extra small weekly calendar is perfect for keeping track of my work schedule. Plus, their notebooks are ubiquitous, and I denounce them at my own peril. Every so often I will check back in on the quality of Moleskine, to make sure my denouncements stand on experienced fact, and a brand new style of paper in the form of a dot grid notebook was the perfect opportunity to do just that.

Underwater blue maybe if you're under water and drunk and looking at a robin's egg

Underwater blue maybe if you’re under water and drunk and looking at a robin’s egg

We’ve got this attractive robin’s egg blue cover that I would describe as almost distressingly soft. The corners of the front cover want to curl up when the elastic isn’t on. Soft covers are so strange to me. What is the advantage of soft cover anyway? Are they easier to stuff in a back pocket because they fold around your buns?

I will give bonus points for the color-coordinated back pocket accents

I will give bonus points for the color-coordinated back pocket accents

All the usual features are here: braided bookmark, back pocket, elastic band (all matching in color), and the “In case of loss” section in the front, with a newer dot-based Moleskine logo (or maybe it’s supposed to evoke apps? I know I’ve seen it before, perhaps online).

Ahahaha I forgot to take a picture of the back of the page...too late now

Ahahaha I forgot to take a picture of the back of the page…too late now

A cursory glance will tell you that this dot paper doesn’t look like it does as bad with fountain pen ink as a typical Moleskine. Let’s look at typical Moleskine for reference.

Notes section from this year’s planner

Notes section from this year’s planner

Now look again at the Moleskine dots paper.

Why the bluish tint? Why did I do all these backwards? These are the mysteries of a rainy day

Why the bluish tint? Why did I do all these backwards? These are the mysteries of a rainy day

Better. But a curious pattern emerges—the best performance by far on the Moleskine dots paper comes from using the Rohrer & Klingner Scabiosa iron gall ink. Look at the difference.

LOOK AT IT

LOOK AT IT

Most regular inks are prone to some bleedthrough so bad you can’t use both sides of the page—not so with the Scabiosa, especially when writing in cursive. Lest we get too excited and forget what regular good paper is like, let’s look at some tests on Leuchtturm1917 paper.

Beautiful Leuchtturm1917 paper

Beautiful Leuchtturm1917 paper

Based on the evidence, I’m concluding the following:

  • This Moleskine dots paper is of better quality than most Moleskine writing paper
  • It’s still not as good as known fountain pen friendly paper (such as Rhodia, Clairefontaine, Leuchtturm1917, Quo Vadis, etc. etc.) but—
  • Rohrer & Klingner Scabiosa iron gall ink is magical, and can be combined with the Moleskine dots paper for a fountain pen friendly experience.
Acceptable!

Acceptable!

I feel like this is the kind of product you can only offer a backhanded endorsement to. “I don’t always use my fountain pens in substandard notebooks, but when I do I prefer Moleskine dots (with Scabiosa ink).” It won’t give you the best performance but with the right ink the paper performs quite acceptably (of course, if you prefer using gel pens or ballpoints, this whole paper quality discussion is pretty much moot to you). This notebook is a fun spring color, and surprisingly not a complete waste of money. Good job, Moleskine!

Moleskine Notebook – Pocket – Dotted – Underwater Blue – Soft at Moleskine





Dialogue A5 Lined Notebook – Fuschia Pink

16 03 2014

This Paperluxe Dialogue notebook by Grandluxe seems to combine some of my least favorite things about a notebook—big, floppy soft cover, horizontal elastic closure, horrendous shade of pink, no storage pocket, and paper of questionable quality.

Eating this notebook will do nothing to cure nausea, heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach, or diarrhea.

Eating this notebook will do nothing to cure nausea, heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach, or diarrhea.

This plain Dialogue is a lot like the Quotes Dialogue, only instead of having a quote embossed in the cover you have the imprint of the elastic digging into the Italian polyurethane.

The quote is just like one long hyphen

The quote is just like one long hyphen

Already you can see some wear to the cover going on—this is why I tend to prefer a hardcover notebook.

Not using both sides of the paper is deeply troubling to me

Not using both sides of the paper is deeply troubling to me

I don’t know what to make of this paper. Definitely no point in printing lines on these blank backs, because most everything shows or bleeds through. Gel pens and ballpoints aren’t much problem. Cheapo Pilot rollerballs seem to fare better than the more fancy/expensive Parker and Sheaffer models. Fountain pens, on the other hand, seem to be a complete mixed bag. Most all of them seemed pretty terrible on this paper, exception a Bic disposable (that has a nib I’ve done a little work on) and the Kaweco Sport which look ok, and the Sheaffer Connaisseur, the Pelikan M150, and the Zait Fountain Pen (all rocking Rohrer & Klingner Scabiosa iron gall ink) that seem to do the best.

Scabiosa iron gall ink by Rohrer & Klingner: possibly magical

Scabiosa iron gall ink by Rohrer & Klingner: possibly magical

This isn’t the kind of paper you can just start writing on with whatever fountain pen you like and expect everything to look normal. None of it looks quite normal, especially close up. The thing that seems to be happening is that this paper absorbs ink very quickly. Thus, the show/bleedthrough, the occasional fuzzing, and the generally slightly off-color appearance of the inks. There’s a definite trade-off when it comes to this paper. Faster drying time (and decent enough looking writing with the right pen/ink), but you can only use one side of the page.

Start a dialogue...with yourself

Start a dialogue…with yourself

My first snap judgment of this notebook was a little harsh—once I got to know it, I could appreciate its benefits (except for the pink; that’s still terrible). Luckily for the world, it comes in other colors. If you’re looking for a soft notebook you can jot in quickly, then the Dialogue might work for you.

Grandluxe/Paperluxe A5 Dialogue Notebook on Amazon





Grandluxe Dialogue Quotes Soft Notebook Giveaway WINNER

25 02 2014

I wish I could give everyone notebooks. But, I can’t. Here are the numbered entries, and here’s the winner:

A winner is you! Provided that this is you! If it's not you then my apologies!

A winner is you! Provided that this is you! If it’s not you then my apologies!

Congratulations, Rose! Email me as soon as possible (link in the upper right links menu on the webpage) with your contact information so I can mail you this notebook and hopefully it will go on to a better life with you! Everyone else, thank you for entering!





Grandluxe Dialogue Quotes Soft Note Book – Red A5 – Review & GIVEAWAY!

16 02 2014

Big, floppy notebooks aren’t really my thing, so this will be both a review and a giveaway. Hopefully someone else will get more enjoyment out of it. Thanks to Grandluxe for providing this sample!

Red is apparently my mortal enemy, as evidenced by my lack of ability to edit all these reds to the same hue. I really need to start taking pictures in the sunshine, instead of the vampiristic shadows available on my balcony...

Red is apparently my mortal enemy, as evidenced by my lack of ability to edit all these reds to the same hue. I really need to start taking pictures in the sunshine, instead of the vampiristic shadows available on my balcony…

The Dialogue Quotes features a soft-back polyurethane cover with matching elastic band (smart move, including the elastic band), with a quote-embossed cover.

TIME quote not to be confused with TIME magazine. No affiliation

TIME quote not to be confused with TIME magazine. No affiliation

The embossing is very nicely done. The whole notebook looks nice, but being softcover I worry it would get too badly roughed up in my prolonged possession.

This might be the most inaccurate color adjustment yet. Or maybe it's just this screen. MAYBE THIS PICTURE IS ACTUALLY PERFECT. But I'm going to wager a big ole probably not, since this paper is supposed to be cream colored.

This might be the most inaccurate color adjustment yet. Or maybe it’s just this screen. MAYBE THIS PICTURE IS ACTUALLY PERFECT. But I’m going to wager a big ole probably not, since this paper is supposed to be cream colored.

The cream-colored paper is lined on the front and blank on the back, though I wonder if this is just because bleedthrough is so bad that you can only use one side of the page. The paper drinks up the ink, spreads it out—at least for liquid ink pens like fountain pens and rollerballs. The upshot is fast drying time, but the writing looks terrible up close—liquid ink lines are fuzzy, not crisp. For ballpoint pens and gel ink pens, the paper is no problem, but if you like liquid ink, then this might not be the notebook for you.

Cutting board, table, chair, railing, apartment siding, and nature not included in giveaway

Cutting board, table, chair, railing, apartment siding, and nature not included in giveaway

Now, in honor of the day after the day after half-priced-chocolates-day (I always thought the 15th was half-priced chocolates day, until I walked into my local grocery purveyor on the 14th and espied shelves of 50% off heart-shaped chocolate boxes), and the fact that this notebook obviously isn’t the right notebook for me, I’d like to give this notebook away to someone who might better appreciate it. The first page was used for the writing sample, but otherwise it’s in good shape.

The rules:

  1. Because I am footing the bill and not feeling expansively dollartastic this month, I’m going to limit this giveaway to the U.S. only. Just leave one comment on this post advising that you’d give this poor notebook a good home any time between now and Monday, February 24th 11:59 PM Eastern Standard Time.
  2. One winner will be picked at random from the comments section of this post. Only one comment per person! Comments in excess of one shall be deleted. The comments will be numbered in the order they are received, i.e. the first comment is #1, the second #2, and so on. I will hand-number the entries in Photoshop because apparently that’s how I roll. The Random Integer Generator at random.org will be used to pick the number of the winner.
  3. I’ll post the contest winner on Tuesday, February 25th. Winner will have one week to email me. There’s a link to my email at the top of the right sidebar.

In the meantime, if you’re interested in a brand new Dialogue Quotes Soft Notebook of your own, you can get them from Grandluxe right here on Amazon.








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