Posts filed under Notebook Reviews

Tsubame Fools Cream Notebook Review

Yet another interesting paper product from Japan, Tsubame Fools Notebooks are an excellent quality mid-range notebook with a couple of interesting features to set them apart form the pack.

Tsubame has been making paper since 1947, most of it featuring their lattice-style watermark. This is not something seen or felt when writing, but is interesting nonetheless when holding the paper up to a light source. I was concerned it might be obtrusive at first - as a rule I don’t like watermarked paper - but it isn’t noticeable under normal use.

The first pens I tested on the Cream B5 5 mm Graph were fountain pens and I felt that the paper was smooth but didn’t have that glassy quality like Rhodia has. There is no tooth, per se, but there is a different feel to it. With my widest pens there was no feathering or bleed either. Zero. It barely showed through too, so those who write on both sides should have no issue.

All other pens performed well and pencil users may especially want to take note. Super smooth paper isn’t the best for graphite, so leadheads may enjoy these.

Everyone should enjoy the clean, classy design of the Tsubame Fools Cream Notebook. The navy/white combo looks great on the graph paper model, with gold/white and red/white featured on the plain and lined notebooks, respectively. I’m a big fan of the cheesecloth tape exterior binding and the thread stitched interior binding, both combining to allow the notebook to stay flat while retaining its flexibility.

At $6.50 for 32 sheets of B5 paper it’s moderatley priced. There are both less expensive and more expensive imported notebook options, but for one that can handle it all like Tsubame Fools I think the price is right.

Posted on August 18, 2014 and filed under Notebook Reviews, Tsubame Fools.

Rhodia Ice Pad Review

Upgrading your paper from the poor selection at the office supply store is a challenge. The good stuff isn't readily available to the masses, and when you hunt it down it is often more expensive than imagined. There is a difference though - a real tangible difference. This is why I tell people new to the pen and paper scene to buy some nice paper early on, and I always recommend Rhodia.

Why is Rhodia so good? It provides the best writing performance for the price. The paper is ridiculously smooth and will make even your worst pens feel and perform better. Yes, the right paper can actually make your pens write better. There is less bleed, no feathering, and their pads have the best perforations in the business. I mentioned it is smooth too, right?

That smoothness does come with one downside you should be aware of. Since the paper is higher quality than most it is not as porous, meaning the ink sits on top of the page for seconds longer than with inferior paper. Lefties especially should beware. This is one tradeoff I can live with.

The Rhodia Ice Pad has been around for a few months and I finally got my hands on my favorite No. 16 Graph size from my friends at JetPens. Rhodia Orange is so ubiquitous it should be its own Crayon color, but I like seeing these alternate covers. The white is wonderfully clean and the metallic silver accents are perfectly understated in typical Rhodia fashion. Plus, the lines are grey instead of the traditional violet, which I think I prefer.

Overall, this is exactly what I expect from Rhodia, if not more. The design is clean and beautiful, and the functionality is top notch. This is how you do paper. Do yourself a favor and add some to your arsenal.

(JetPens is an advertiser on The Pen Addict and I received this product at no charge.)

Posted on August 11, 2014 and filed under Notebook Reviews, Rhodia.

Etranger di Costarica Memo Book Review

I'm always on the lookout for good pocket memo books that play nicely with fountain pens and foutain pen inks, so it's no surprise that this post at The Well-Appointed Desk about the Etranger memo book caught my eye. Ana did a great job of showing the pros and cons of the book, so I ordered one right away from JetPens. I even chose the same color, because green is awesome.

Overall, this is a great little notebook, but this is one main reason why it hasn't become my number one memo book. For me, the lines are just too close together. By my measurement, the lines are 5 mm apart. I prefer something like 7 mm. That said, let's talk about the many things that make this notebook great.

The size

The size is comparable to the standard Field Notes size. It's just a bit smaller on both ends at 3.3" x 5.4". For reference, the Field Notes books are 3.5" x 5.5". The Etranger books pack in quite a few more pages than the Field Notes, however. 32 versus the Field Notes 24. Even though the books has more pages, it's still quite thin and I can barely feel it in my pocket.

The size is great and I can't really tell a difference between the size of this book and a Field Notes unless I have them side-by-side.

Paper quality

The paper quality is where the Etranger book beats out the generic Field Notes books for me. The paper doesn't handle foundtain pens like Rhodia or Clairefontaine, but it does a really good job. This is something that I've never been able to say about any Field Notes book I've used, and everyone knows that the Field Notes paper doesn't typically do well with fountain pens. That doesn't change the fact that I really would like to enjoy both the pocketable form factor and high-quality paper in a notebook.

I've used several different pens in this book so far, and it handles them all adequately. Obviously, it does better with finer nibs. Wetter nibs and inks tend to show through quite a bit, but dry inks and fine nibs do well. The paper is a nice white color, which is something I prefer.

Some inks also tend to feather a bit on this paper, but you have to look closely to notice it. If this was expensive paper, I'd complain, but for under $4, this is pretty impressive.

Now, for the reason that I can't use this book as my #1 pocket memo book: the lines. The lines! They're so close together. I normally prefer lined paper, but this is just too small. I have a Kokuyo notebook with 6 mm spacing, and it's manageable. I really like 7 mm spacing, honestly. But 5 mm is just too much for me. And my OCD won't allow me to use two lines for writing, so I'm stuck trying to fit my words into the tiny space allotted. If they had other options for lines, grids, plain, etc., I'd be extremely happy.

The outside

These books have a cover that is similar to other pocket memo books in that it's a medium-weight craft paper. What's different about the Etranger books is that they also come with a semi-transparent vinyl cover that slips onto each cover of the notebook. I wasn't sure if I'd like this when I ordered it, but after using it for a while, I've really grown to like it.

It feels good in hand, offers much more protection, and gives the plain white notebook a bit of personality. There are many colors to choose from, but I still think Apple Green is the right choice.

The book has no trouble mostly laying flat, and it closes nicely as well.

Overall

This is a fantastic notebook. For the price of a single Field Notes, you get a comparable notebook that has more pages, a vinyl cover, and is more friendly with fountain pens and inks. It's not for everyone due to the small spaced lines, but that doesn't stop me from using it every week. Even with the small line spacing, this notebook is far from a disappointment.

(You can find more from Jeff online at Draft Evolution, Twitter, and App.net.)

Posted on July 30, 2014 and filed under Notebook Reviews, Etranger di Costarica.

Baron Fig Confidant Review

It's safe to say that if you haven't yet heard of the Baron Fig Confidant notebook, you've been living under a rock for most of the year. A lot has been said about these new notebooks in that time, but I've held off on talking about the book for a while because I wasn't really sure. Now, halfway through the book, I have more solidified opinions.

Baron Fig started on Kickstarter, was massively successful, and launched a store shortly after. A heartwarming success story to say the least. But, since this is a notebook meant to be written/drawn/sketched/painted(?) in, how does it hold up? Not so bad. It's a great middle-of-the-road notebook.

Briefly, let's go over the specs. The Confidant is available in one color: light gray. You have one option, and that's the paper type: plain, grid, or dot grid. One notebook will cost $16, but you get a small discount for buying more than one at a time. The size is a bit smaller than A5 at 5.4 x 7.7 inches. The notebook is wrapped with fabric, which gives it a unique and pleasing appearance and touch. 192 thick pages (12 of which are perforated), and, of course, a yellow ribbon marker.

Design and Build

For a notebook, it's fairly unique. The cloth wrapped cover is something I don't see very often, and I wasn't really sure if I'd like it in practice. So far, it's held up fantastically. No noticeable stains or wear, but I'm sure your mileage will vary. Mine has been carried around in a bag 99% of the time. I would imagine that harsher conditions would take a toll on this exterior.

The cover is attached nicely to the inside of the book and doesn't look like it will come undone. The spine of the book is a little lumpy, and I'm not sure why. The stitching isn't perfect or symmetrical, but it holds the book together.

True to their claims, the notebook does an excellent job of laying flat. There's a tiny tendancy for pages to stand up a bit when you're using the first or last page of a register, but other than that it does great.

But, you should know that the notebook only closes flat when it's brand new. Once you crack the book open and begin writing, the book will never close flat again under its own weight. In this case, an elastic closure would be perfect. This little annoyance used to bother me, but now I've gotten used to it. I just have to be careful about laying pens on top of the book, as they'll roll off from the angle.

And, the ribbon marker. I really like this notebook, but I hate the ribbon. Several reasons why. First, it frays like crazy at the bottom. It started this immediately out of the box, and it's not the kind of material that can be melted off to prevent further fraying. I wonder if I'll finish the book before the ribbon becomes several dozen independent ribbons. Also, the way it's attached to the spine of the book combined with the fact that it's fairly wide means it is folded and creased every time you close the book. In my OCD attempts to make the ribbon lay flat while closing the book, I wasn't very successful.

Infernal ribbon. Moving on to more interesting things.

Paper

The paper is really the only important part of a notebook – the rest is just details. In the case of this notebook, the paper is pretty good.

I've only used the notebook for writing, and mostly with fountain pens. For fountain pens, the paper is good. It doesn't compare to Clairefontaine, Rhodia, or many other Japanese premium papers. It just doesn't have the smoothness that those papers offer. However, it handles inks and nibs very well.

There's a noticeable tooth on the paper that took me a few pages to get used to. Pens that you think you know and understand suddenly feel different in this notebook. That's the main reason I took so long to formulate my thoughts. I wasn't sure if I liked the way the paper felt under the nib. After a lot of writing, I've decided I like it and I would even purchase another notebook or two after this one is done.

I chose the dot grid pattern in my notebook, and it's a subtle pattern. The ink is a bit lighter than what's in my Rhodia dotpad, but it's not an issue. I think I'll try a lined version next.

The paper is thick. 100 gsm is heavy paper, and this usually means that there isn't much bleeding and almost no show-through on the pages. This is completely false for certain pens, like Sharpies. Testing with a Sharpie meant the next page was unusable opposite the Sharpie ink. As far as fountain pens, ballpoints, gels, and liquid based pens go, it does great.

The odd dimensions of the book (5.4 x 7.7") are actually really great. It's wider and shorter than conventional notebook dimensions, and I prefer this format.

Changes

One of the things that Baron Fig mention on their site is that the Confidant is not a finished design. To me, that means they might listen to feedback and make changes in order to sell a better version of the product. This is great, and I wish more companies would do something similar.

Here's my wishlist: - Offer a paper that has less tooth. Making a notebook that does well with many, many mediums means that there are tradeoffs. Offer papers that fit niche purposes. - Serviceable ribbon. Seriously. - Numbered pages. - Different cover colors and patterns. With fabrics, there are so many creative possibilities.

Conclusion

The Baron Fig Confidant costs $16. How many 192-page notebooks with 100 gsm paper and a dot grid option can you find? As far as I know, that's rare. And that's why the Confidant is a good recommendation. The quality is not as good as other notebooks you can buy, but those other notebooks cost much more. It definitely kills the Moleskine notebooks.

There's something about this notebook that makes it easy to use and toss around. You can treat it like the tool that it is without worrying about messing it up. Maybe it's the cloth cover, the marketing, or the lightweight feel. Whatever it is, I like that quality in a notebook. Because at the end of the day, notebooks are meant to be used.

Try one out for yourself. It's a good notebook made by good people. I look forward to seeing what they have up their sleeves next.

(You can find more from Jeff online at Draft Evolution, Twitter, and App.net.)

Posted on June 18, 2014 and filed under Notebook Reviews, Baron Fig.