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 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.


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

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



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.



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.



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).



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


Mini Review: Rhodia Webnotebook A6 Black

21 05 2011

Ladies, gentlemen, and individuals who choose not to gender-identify, here is a notebook worth buying.

The Rhodia Webnotebook (a.k.a. the Rhodia “Webbie”) is probably about as far as you can get from a Moleskine while still falling in the “little black book with a back pocket and elastic band” category. The cover is a soft, black leatherette which is lovely to rub on your face, or to stroke as if you are an insane evil villain who has mistaken a notebook for a cat, but it tends to accumulate little smudges, scuffs, and remnants of fingerprints as though it were born for the job.

The specs: 3.5 x 5.5 inches, bit thick on the profile side, featuring 96 sheets of 90g ivory Clairefontaine paper. Oh, and you can use BOTH sides of those 96 sheets.

In profile, you can see how the exceptionally tight elastic closure has forever warped the hard cover. My guess is that starting with an almost impossibly tight elastic means an overall greater lifespan for the useful elasticity of the closure; I’ve certainly had some SHODDY NOTEBOOKS WE SHALL NOT NAME whose elastic bands have gone uselessly limp. I do wish there were a way to have a better elastic and also have it not warp the cover though.

I'm sorry; were you still trying to write on that page?

Wrapping up the general complaints and grievances section, I need to note that this notebook will not lay flat of its own initiative. You have to hold it down, like a prisoner. Now, my Webbie is fairly new, and only has about 4 pages that I’ve written on so far. My guess is that with extended use, the Webbie will eventually learn to lay flat on its own. Or perhaps I could go through and try to crack the spine a little. Just a warning though, when the notebook is new: do not expect it to lay flat. If you need the pages to lay flat, say to dry, then weight them down or the book will shut itself.

In spite of the little flaws, I love the overall design of the Webbie; I like the subtly embossed logo, I enjoy the rich and supple feel of the cover, even if it does get a bit dinged up…but this isn’t a beauty pageant. Let’s get on the paper.

everything is so beautiful...

Drying time is a bit longer than most, though I didn’t do any informal time-test, I have not yet had a problem with smudging any of my still-drying writing. Maybe I just pause too long to think when I write. Every pen’s writing looks gorgeous on the page; lines are crisp, they have character, and I see no fuzzing or feathering.

Still usable! WHOA

And look! No bleedthrough. You can somewhat see the shadow of the writing through the page, which I’m guessing will be a problem you’ll have with any paper that isn’t some kind of 140lb (300g/m²) watercolor paper. If this really bothers you, try writing on watercolor paper. Problem solved!

What even HAPPENED with the colors on this. I do not know. I would like to thank/blame the cloudy day, and my continued lack of skill in Photoshop.

Doesn’t that look delicious? It certainly feels delicious. Writing in the webbie is smooth and enjoyable. The paper works with the writing process, instead of against it.

The webbie runs a little more expensive than a standard pocket Moleskine, but with the unique experience that you’re actually paying more money for a quality product, instead of just for the heck of it. Typically, the pocket webbie seems to retail around $16, but with a little snooping on the web you can find a better price. Goldspot pens has a good price on them right now (though I think it might have been even more on sale when I tweeted about it last week…or I’m hallucinating); JetPens also has a pretty good price, provided you are buying at least $75 worth of assorted notebooks (which is about never for me, so this will never actually be a good deal for yours truly). I don’t feel like doing the mathematical gymnastics required to divine exactly which combination of sale price and shipping price yields the exact lowest price among every retailer with a Rhodia webnotebook in their stock; I’ll leave that to you, and assure you that even if you don’t finagle the most bargain basement deal in getting one of these notebooks, it’ll still be worth it.