Posts filed under Notebook Reviews

Holtz SenseBook Notebook Review

Small format hard-bound notebooks are in an interesting spot in the market. They have their fans, but are they functional enough to find a home in your pockets when deciding on a portable writing kit? To me, they are not.

The prime reason I rarely use this style is because the hard covers are too stiff in the 3.5” x 5.5” size. The Holtz SenseBook is no exception. It is too big to carry in a pocket, and too small to lay flat with this number of pages in this type of binding. That said, there are some redeeming values here.

The leather cover is a single layer and somewhat pliable, unlike similar products from Moleskine or Rhodia, who wrap leather around cardboard or some other material. This gives is some flex, although you wouldn’t know it from how stiff it feels. But it can bend, and I’ve had not problem bending the cover all the way around the back and return to its original shape.

Transotype did a nice job with paper performance-wise. It is marketed as wood-free paper, which confused me enough to have to look it up. The manufacturing process removes the wood components and the remaining materials are used. Wood free paper also doesn’t yellow as much, but with the cream color used here you won’t see it as readily regardless.

In use, it reminds me a lot of Leuchtturm1917 paper. It handles most inks well, with only the widest nib fountain pens bleeding through to the back of the page, but only barely and not to the page behind it.

The extras in the SenseBook are six index pages in the front, 16 perforated pages in the back, with numbered pages throughout and a rear storage pocket. The light brown leather is set off nicely by the red ribbon bookmark and red elastic closure band. I could do without the double tag label hanging off the cover though.

That is the SenseBook in a nutshell. Beautiful, not functional. It’s not a bad notebook by any stretch. It won the highly prestigious RedDot Design Award in 2013 and the German Design Award in 2015. Congratulations - great job! When it wins its first functionality award I might be more interested.

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

Posted on March 21, 2016 and filed under Notebook Reviews, SenseBook.

Curnow Bookbinding Backpocket Journal Review

As a frequent fountain pen user I find it hard to beat Tomoe River Paper for every day use, especially if you want to show off your inks. When it first became a hot item, users were limited to loose sheets of Tomoe. Fun to use, but not exactly functional or portable.

Since then, many companies have been able to get their hands on the pixie dust and turn it into all kinds of bound products. Curnow Bookbinding was the first I recall to bind it into smaller formats, most notably the memo book sized Backpocket Journal.

This pocket rocket contains 48 pages of blank, cream-colored Tomoe River paper. The binding is hand-stitched tightly, and the size is just a tick shorter than standard memo book, checking in at 3.5” x 5.25”. Included with each three pack is a lined guide card to help keep your lines straight if needed.

The overall package is nice, if bare-bones. That’s completely fine by me, because it’s what’s between the covers that counts. What Tomoe River paper does for fountain pen inks is a turning point for many people. It is so thin that you think you are writing on tissue paper, but without the feathering and bleed. Unless you pour ink onto the page you aren’t going to see either of those things.

Even more importantly, the paper allows the ink to shine, almost literally. If you want to see any and every feature an ink has you must use Tomoe River. All of the shading comes out, and inks you never thought had sheen light up around the edges. Using this paper never fails to put a smile on my face.

If I had my druthers I would increase the pages in the journal by at least 50%, if not more. 48 pages is what memo books without thin paper use, giving them a nice, sturdy feel. The Backpocket Journal is flimsy in comparison and could use a bump in that area. But still, it’s Tomoe River paper in a pocket notebook. How much can I complain?

Curnow Bookbinding doesn’t have a traditional storefront you can order from. Instead, you can see their inventory on their Facebook page and contact them directly to order. You can also order from Vanness Pens and see all of the sizes, shapes, and colors that Curnow is offering, including refills to fit your Midori Travelers Notebook.

Bung Box 4B has a full red sheen in the right light.

Bung Box 4B has a full red sheen in the right light.

Posted on March 7, 2016 and filed under Tomoe River, Notebook Reviews.

Life Index Cards on a Ring with Leather Cover: A Review

(Susan M. Pigott is a fountain pen collector, pen and paperholic, photographer, and professor. You can find more from Susan on her blog Scribalishess.)

When I decided to get the Life index cards, I honestly did not pay attention to the size or the word "index" on the JetPens website. In my head, I imagined them to be the same size as the now unavailable Mnemosyne Word Cards. I planned to use the Life cards to replace the Mnemosyne cards.

So, I was a bit surprised when I opened them up to find that these are 3x5 cards. I'm not disappointed in the least that they are larger. In fact, because of their size, they can be used for many more things.

The Life cards are unlined. I could not find the weight of the paper anywhere (and I tried), but the cards feel sturdy. The paper itself is creamy, and fountain pens simply glide across it. I much prefer the Life cards over Mnemosyne. The Mnemosyne cards have a texture to them that catches my fountain pen nibs. Plus their off-white color seems to affect ink color slightly. The pure white color of the Life cards offers a truer base for ink samples.

Although at first I thought maybe the Life cards were too big for ink samples (my primary use for the Mnemosyne cards), I found that the larger size allowed me to do more with my ink samples. Instead of just the name of the ink, some nib strokes, and a swab, I can include the ink name, an ink swab, a scribble, nib strokes, a water test, and a line at the bottom for color sorting.

The cards are also the perfect size for making a small photo album. I have a Fuji Instax printer, and I can print small photos straight from my iPhone and glue them on the cards. The Life cards provide enough space for the photo and a description.

Obviously the cards can be used for anything you like: to do lists, sketching, recipe cards, study notes, etc. They will handle most pens and inks well, but if you plan to do watercolor, the cards will warp a bit.

The leather cover is bare bones with the Life logo stamped on the front.

And the back has two grommets that hold the elastic closure. Two holes at the top provide a place for the ring.

Essentially, you're getting a piece of stained leather with no stitching or other design elements. The leather is not colorfast. There's a warning on JetPens saying that sweat or moisture can stain the cover or transfer the dye to other objects. While the leather is thick and smells nice, I'm not impressed with the quality, and it's pricey (the cards themselves are only $6.00, but with the cover and ring you pay $28.50–that's $22.50 for a piece of rectangular leather).

The cards, on the other hand, are high quality. They handled my fountain pens well. I had no problems with ink bleeding or nibs snagging because the paper is silky smooth. Some of my more saturated inks (like BungBox Sapphire) did show through, as did the ink swabs and water tests.

You can get the Life cards with the leather cover from JetPens for $28.50 in either reddish brown or dark brown leather. With this set you get 100 cards and you can purchase additional cards for $6.00.


  • Life paper is high quality and the cards are smooth and sturdy.
  • The large 5x3 size allows for multiple uses.
  • The leather cover and ring keep the cards together and somewhat protected (the sides of the cards are exposed).


  • The leather cover is not colorfast and lacks stitching or other design elements that might make it more appealing.
  • The leather cover set is expensive.

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

Posted on February 26, 2016 and filed under Life Notebooks, Notebook Reviews.

Clairefontaine Triomphe A5 Notepad Review

International Correspondence Writing Month is almost over, but that is no reason not to have a nice pad of letter writing paper on your desk. Sure, you could use the Clairefontaine Triomphe as a high quality notepad, but where it really shines is for letter writing, and is one of the best options around.

Clairefontaine has long been known for making wonderful fountain pen friendly paper. The Triomphe pad is perfectly smooth and extra white, both features which make your writing pop off the page.

It handled any pen or pencil I threw at it, with fountain pens being the standout of course. My nib choices tend to lie at the extremes, with extra fine needlepoints mixed in with fine cursive italics. Soft, rolling nibs these are not, and they all performed flawlessly. When I branched out to medium nibs, the Triomphe paper handled it in style, with no feathering of bleeding to speak of.

Rollerball inks did well too. They are the most similar to fountain pen inks since they are water based, and I saw no issue with them. Gel inks did well, as did ballpoints and pencil. The one pen style I did not enjoy on this paper were plastic tip pens. My beloved Kuretake and Copic felt waxy on the page, even though there is not much coating on the paper as best as I can tell.

Outside of pure performance, there are two small features that make this pad perfect for letters. One, the glue binding allows for clean page removal, and two, the pad includes a lined guide sheet. I can write somewhat straight lines on my own, but getting the neat output like I got below only comes from guide lines.

When I have a size option, A5 is usually my first choice, but there is an A4 pad option as well, with envelopes to match. The price is reasonable too: $6 for 50 sheets of A5, $9 for 50 sheets of A4. If you are looking for quality letter writing paper I would look no further than Clairefontaine Triomphe.

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

Posted on February 22, 2016 and filed under Clairefontaine, Notebook Reviews.