Posts filed under Notebook Reviews

Apica Wizard Notebook Review

(Jeff Abbott is a regular contributor at The Pen Addict. You can find more from Jeff online at Draft Evolution and Twitter.)

In the world of high-quality, affordable notebooks, you really can't go wrong. This is one of my favorite categories of notebooks because they provide so much value for the price. For just under $8, you can get a fantastic notebook that includes a sturdy binding, tough covers, and 70 sheets of high-quality paper.

There are several comparable options in this particular market, but right now we're looking at the Apica Wizard notebook. This is a newcomer to JetPens, and it's a welcome edition. The only option you have is between gray or blue covers — both of which are subdued colors.

Look & Feel

The Apica Wizard has a sturdy feel to it. It features a twin ring spiral binding that can take a beating (although you could probably bend them if you stuff it into a bag with other large objects). The front and back covers are both made of a medium thickness card stock that will hold up to your average semester of commuting. It's not nearly as thick as something like a Doane Paper Idea Journal, but it's a sturdy thickness.

The first page features a blank line for a title, followed by an index table. Like most Apica papers, there's a "No." and "Date" area in the upper outside corner of each page, followed by 6.5mm-ruled light gray lines with a dot next to each 5th line. Nothing ground-breaking here — very standard.

The front cover has a unique design compared to most of these economical spiral notebooks. It's very simple and somewhat spartan, and doesn't come in overly pastel colors. I'm so accustomed to pastels or ornate designs on these notebooks that I'm not entirly sure if I like it or not. I think my subconscious appreciates the subdued, calm cover design. It's refreshing and still manages to pique your interest.

Paper

How's the paper do? Great. Like most Apica papers, it handles fountain pens with ease. It's not the smoothest paper, but it is very resistant to feathering and show-through. It's a fantastic work horse of a paper. There's a tad of ghosting when writing on the back of a page, but for my tastes it's completely bearable. If you're using a gel pen, pencil, or fine fountain pen, you'll hardly notice anything showing through.

Dry time for the paper is quick, probably because the paper tends to soak the ink up since it lacks a smooth coating on top.

When you consider the price for this notebook ($7.25 right now), there's really nothing to complain about with this paper. It's a fantastic deal if you tend to enjoy spiral-bound notebooks of semi B5 persuasion.

Overall

This is an easy notebook to recommend. If you need a notebook of the semi B5 size and don't mind lined paper, this is definitely worth your time and money. I also like that there's no difference between the blue and gray covers. A lot of notebooks use a color scheme to denote different line formats, blank, grid, etc. paper types. I like that the color option is simple here: just pick the one you like better (or both).

This is a fantastic notebook that packs a lot of value into 70 pages. Definitely give it a try!

(JetPens provided this product at no charge to The Pen Addict for review purposes.)

Posted on May 20, 2015 and filed under Apica, Notebook Reviews.

Write Notepads Traditional Brass-Ruled Notebook Review

(Jeff Abbott is a regular contributor at The Pen Addict. You can find more from Jeff online at Draft Evolution and Twitter.)

When the fine folks over at Write Notepads sent me a Traditional Brass-Ruled Notebook to try out, I was intrigued, but it wasn't until I saw and felt the notebook in person that I fell in love with the aesthetic. It doesn't take long to realize that this notebook is crafted with care. Also, I'm a big fan of brass in just about everything, so that's an easy bonus point.

To give you a little background on the company, Write Notepads is based in Baltimore, Maryland. All of their notebooks are made in America from recycled materials, and the inks used in the notebooks are vegetable-based. What's even more awesome is that for each notebook you buy, they donate a notebook to an inner-city school in Baltimore. This is a great practice that shows that these guys are just good people. If you're interested in knowing where your companion donation book ended up, they include a 5-digit code that you can use on their website to find out which school you helped out. Nice.

Another thing that's worth pointing out: they also sell a left-hand version of this notebook. Yep, same notebook, but laid out for a left-hand writer. You know, with the spiral binding on the right side. I'm not a lefty myself, but I think this is an option that should be standard in all notebooks.

Now, down to brass tacks. The notebook is 5.5 by 8.5 inches and contains 120 pages of 70# paper with college ruling. The pages are perforated and held in place with a dual ring brass wire coil. The front and back covers are a thick, sturdy card-stock with lovely red embossing that really puts the finishing touches on the notebook. Along with the notebook, you get a large red rubber band to hold everything together. All in all, it's a fantastic product.

The notebook is well-made and I think it could take a serious beating over the weeks, months, etc. For a spiral-bound, perforated notebook, it feels sturdy. Another benefit of the sturdy covers is that you can use this notebook on uneven surfaces with no problem as the covers act as a writing surface.

And now for the big question: How does the paper hold up against different pens and inks? In a word: fair. If you discount fountain pens and markers, the paper is stellar. Once you get into fountain pens, your mileage will vary based on the ink properties and the width of the nib. If the ink has a tendency to feather on some papers, it will definitely show on this paper. However, if you're using a small nibbed pen with well-behaved ink, it's a pretty good experience. Again, wet or large nibbed pens will cause significant show-through on the opposite page. In some cases, I'd say you couldn't use the opposite page based on the amount of show-through.

With that said, consider how you might use this notebook before picking one up. This isn't your go-to notebook for your fancy fountain pens — there are plenty of other notebooks for that. If you're using a small/dry fountain pen, or any kind of gel, ballpoint, or hybrid ink, this notebook will shine. Oh, and, of course, pencils do a fantastic job with this paper.

Several of the images on the Write Notepads website feature the notebooks alongside other craftsman tools like hammers, rulers, awls, etc. To me, that elicits a feeling of using this notebook to build things and get dirty. It's for sketching up hair-brained ideas for that backyard shed you intend to build one day or measurements for the shelving you want to install in the closet. Whatever it is, this notebook is conveyed as a particular kind of tool that needs to be used in a certain way. With that understanding, I can highly recommend this notebook. Just don't expect it to handle all your fountain pens with grace — it just isn't meant for that. Like all tools, use it how it was intended and it will treat you well in return.

Posted on May 6, 2015 and filed under Notebook Reviews, Write Notepads.

Word Notebooks Adventure Log Review

I'm a big fan of the movie Moonrise Kingdom, and when I first laid eyes on the Word Notebooks Adventure Log I thought this is totally a notebook Sam would use. The artwork and color choices of the Adventure Log are a throwback to a simpler time where we could capture our travels and dreams in the most analog way possible - with pencil and paper.

The Adventure Log is laid out so you can capture the highlights from your recent travels, a day trip, or even that fantasy camping trip you hope to have someday. There are fields for date, location, conditions, companions, and notes, all of which are not too big, and not too small. It's just right for capturing the most important details.

As with other Word Notebook products, the Adventure Log is made with quality Made in the USA materials. It screams "use pencil in here" to me, so that's exactly what I did, choosing my Metal Shop Bullet Pencil from Kickstarter. The royal blue anodized aluminum barrel loaded with a Blackwing 602 pencil nub are the perfect match.

Pens work well in the Adventure Log too, including fountain pens. This is a carryover from Word Notebooks other products. There is only minor bleed, feathering, and ghosting no matter the pen I used. Gel inks performed the best, which is to be expected, but don't hesitate to use almost any pen inside this notebook.

Is this a product I am going to use every day? Of course not. But it is a very cool item for those looking to capture bits of their travel, especially as we head into the summer months. In fact, I think my kids will get a real kick out of filling these up when they are out of school and bouncing around on vacation.

(JetPens provided this product to The Pen Addict at no charge for review purposes.)

Posted on May 4, 2015 and filed under Word, Notebook Reviews.

Kaweco Zequenz Notebook Review

I've said it before, and I'm going to say it once more — there really is a notebook out there for every niche purpose, and the Kaweco-branded Zequenz dual notebook is why I'm repeating myself.

So, what's so special about this notebook? Well, it's two notebooks in one. Where most notebooks that feature two types of paper figure out a way to fit both types into the same binding, Kaweco and Zequenz went in another direction. What we have here is a bizarre double-sided notebook. If you look at the book from the top, the covers seem to form an S shape, with binding inside both curves of the S. In theory, this seems like a pretty great idea. Want lined paper? Great — just open one side of the notebook. Ready to switch to plain paper? No problem — just flip that bad boy over and you're all set.

As much as I wished a novel idea like this was successful in practice, I just can't say so in this case. I was a big fan of the show Flight of the Conchords back in its day, and there's a scene in the show where Bret, while trying to be thoughtful, glues his buddy Jemaine's cell phone and camera together, dubbing it a "cameraphone." It was really sweet of Bret to go out of his way to upgrade Jemaine's phone and camera, but Jemaine later admits that he thinks Bret kind of ruined his phone and his camera. Yep, I feel the same way about this notebook.

Jemaine's camera-phone

The notebook looks interesting from the outside, but once you start using it, it quickly loses its appeal. And, bear in mind that I'm just one dude with his own picky preferences for writing instruments and stationery, so don't let that dissuade you if double-sided, thick notebooks are your bag.

Comfort

One of the big things that made it difficult for me to like this notebook was the thickness. When you put two notebooks back to back, it stands pretty tall when laid on a desk. It's probably an inch and a half or more in height. Also consider its small footprint, and you have a notebook that is difficult to write in. I might be alone this (I've never talked to other people about this preference), but I don't enjoy writing in notebooks or pads that are very tall. It just doesn't fit with my writing style and grip as I feel like there's nowhere for my hand to rest. If I put my hand on the table like I normally do, then my wrist is at an awkward angle due to the tall notebook. If I try to keep my hand off the table, I have to float my writing hand above the notebook, and this just produces unreadable scrawls.

Stiff binding

Another issue that I couldn't ignore was how stiff the binding is. It's impossible for this notebook to lie open without assistance from your other hand. Otherwise, it just snaps shut. It doesn't appear to get any better with use, either.

Paper quality

The paper quality — this is where I was truly disappointed. Why? Because Kaweco put their brand on the covers. If a fountain pen company places their logo on a paper product, one has reasonable cause to believe that the paper plays well with fountain pens, right? That was my assumption, and therefore you can understand my disappointment when I tried out a few pens on both sides of the notebook and discovered there was lots of bleeding, feathering, and show-through. These problems weren't isolated to wet, wide nibbed pens, but any fountain pen — even small nibbed Japanese pens. I was disappointed by the paper performance, and honestly I think Kaweco should be ashamed of putting their logo on it.

Apart from the feathering/bleeding issues, the paper has an unpleasant tooth that seemed to catch nibs at inopportune moments. Overall, definitely one of the worst papers I've tested.

The band closure

On another note, this notebook also includes an elastic band that you can use to keep the notebook closed. This band also includes a small pen loop that does a pretty awesome job at keeping your pen secured to the notebook. It's really tight, and can therefore require a bit of work, but it's also very secure and makes you feel like your pen is safe for your travels.

The downside to this elastic band is that it isn't attached to the notebook. It's a separate piece and requires two hands to operate both when removing or placing on the notebook. It's a nice feature, but I just wish it was as easy to use as your standard Rhodia/Leuchtturm/Moleskine band.

Conclusion

Basically, don't buy this notebook unless you want a double sided book that you intend to use with gel pens and ballpoints. The unique attribute of this notebook isn't enough to outweigh the fact that it just doesn't perform as a notebook. At the end of the day, notebooks are for writing in, and this one doesn't do a great job in that regard. I think notebooks that are branded by pen/pencil makers are a great idea, and I hope that Kaweco continues with this by selecting a better paper partner for their future products.

(Kaweco provided this product to The Pen Addict at no charge for review purposes.)

Posted on April 8, 2015 and filed under Kaweco, Notebook Reviews.