Posts filed under Notebook Reviews

Leuchtturm 1917 Soft Cover Notebook Review

This week, I'm really pleased to talk about one of my favorite notebooks: the Leuchtturm 1917 Soft Cover Large Notebook. I've had this particular book for about two years now, and it's always a joy to use. When this one is full, I'll buy a replacement or two (or twelve).

Look and feel

There's something about a simple black notebook that catches my eye. It's not trying to be fancy or flamboyant. I'm neither of these things either, so maybe that's why I like it so much – we're two peas in a pod.

The synthetic cover is soft and pliable in the hand. In my years of using it, the cover hasn't discolored or worn at all. It sill looks new. Of course, there's an elastic closure and a black ribbon marker to hold your place. The sides of the notebook are completely square, and by that I mean that there aren't groups of pages that are misaligned due to hasty cutting at the shop. From the outside of this book, you can tell that quality was one of the top three requirements.

One thing I don't completely understand is the length of the page marker ribbon. It extends about 4 inches below the book and tends to get in the way when open or closed. My guess is that this can serve as a dual page marker, meaning you can tuck the end into a different place in the book. This is a small quibble, but worth mentioning.

On the inside, the Leuchtturm has a page dedicated to your name and address, a blank page, and then another page that has a pre-printed table of contents. This is really useful, and I know that several people have mentioned that this is really handy when using the Bullet Journal method. The back cover has a sturdy pocket for holding loose pages, which I've never used. Pages 107-121 are perforated.

One of my favorite features is the page numbering. Yes, the Leuchtturm notebooks have the page numbers printed in the bottom corner of each page in a light gray ink. I number all my notebooks, and this is a huge convenience for me.

The book also came with a sheet of stickers that you can place on the front or spine to label the notebook. I haven't used them yet, but plan to once it's full and I store it away for reference. Another cool thing that is included is a ruled card that can be placed behind the blank page so that you can have a rule to follow on the page. I haven't used it, but it's a nice thing to include. I have a plan paper version, and I'm not sure if they include this card with the other types.

Like I said, my notebook has plain paper, but this seems to be slightly difficult to find sometimes. Goulet Pens has a softcover book, but only with lined paper. Amazon has the Large Squared Soft Cover, which I'm sure Brad is all over.

Now, on to the paper.

Writing performance

In my testing, this paper has worked splendidly with every pen and ink I've tried with it. It's an 80g ivory paper, so it's a tad bit thin and allows heavier inks or pens to show through, but I haven't seen any bleed-through. I also haven't seen any feathering or bleeding on the paper.

It's a thin, bright paper that is enjoyable to write on. The paper tends to have a small amount of tooth with some pens, but it's nothing that bothers me. It gives a sense of feedback, which is usually helpful. Any pens that caught a bit more tooth were somewhat scratchy on other papers anyway. Overall, it's an excellent paper.

Being thinner than other papers like Clairefontaine, the dry time is slightly faster. The color and properties of the paper also show what I think of as the "true" color of the inks being used. Some papers make inks appear more or less saturated, which can be annoying.

Overall, this is a fantastic paper. I don't have any complaints.

Wrap up

Leuchtturm 1917 look like Moleskines on the outside, but they're so much better in quality and writing experience that it's not even funny. What is funny, however, is that the Leuchtturm notebooks usually cost a couple of dollars less than Moleskine. Now, if only Leuchtturm were in every major book seller in the states...

If you haven't tried a Leuchtturm book, it's a worthy risk to take. They have larger and smaller sizes, soft and hard covers, as well as different colors.

(You can find more from Jeff online at Draft Evolution, Twitter, and

Posted on April 10, 2014 and filed under Notebook Reviews, Leuchtturm.

Kokuyo Campus High Grade Notebooks (CYO-BO and MIO) Review

I bought a Kokuyo Campus notebook with CYO-BO paper over a year ago with intentions of reviewing it, but Kokuyo had another plan. I'm not sure when it happened, but they stopped selling the high grade notebooks with the CYO-BO paper. This is a shame, but it looks like they're replaced it with another notebook. The Kokuyo Campus high grade with MIO paper. So, which one is better, and is the MIO worth buying now?

The Similarities

The notebooks both share quite a few similarities. From what I can tell, the only differences are the number of pages in the notebook and what kind of paper they use.

Both notebooks are semi-B5 (9.9x7") and have 7mm ruling with subtle blue-gray lines. There's an area at the top of each page for a title or subject, a number, and the date. Each notebook has 30 lines per page.

A complaint of mine for both notebooks is the binding. It's some sort of glue binding, and it makes it difficult for some of the pages to lay flat, causing some wrinkling in the page that you're trying to write on. This wasn't a huge deal since I could bend and abuse the notebook into submission, but it was an annoyance.

Both papers are archive-safe and acid-free. The MIO notebook has a page at the beginning for your name, subject, etc, while the CYO-BO does not.

I mentioned I didn't like the glue binding, but I am a fan of the shiny silver tape that they use to cover the binding on the outside. Both notebooks have covers that are made of slightly light-weight cardstock. They won't hold up well in a back-pack.

Kokuyo Campus.jpg

The Differences

The only difference in these notebooks is the paper. In a sentence, the CYO-BO paper is thick and velvety, and the MIO is thin and light. They're both smooth and handle inks extremely well – I haven't noticed any feathering – but the paper weight is a major difference.

The CYO-BO notebook is about twice the thickness as the MIO notebook, even though there's only a 20 sheet difference.

CYO-BO Performance

I'll keep this brief since it's no longer for sale. This is a spectacular paper that handled all of my pens and inks with great ease. No feathering, hardly any show-through, and not much feedback. Great paper. I'll be disappointed when I finish this notebook.

CYO-BO Front

CYO-BO Front



MIO Performance

This is a lovely paper. First touch makes you think of the Tomoe River paper. It's thin, light, and smooth. It's not Tomoe River paper, though. Despite being thin paper, there's no feathering at all. There's a good amount of show-through, but that's to be expected for thin paper. Keep in mind, I'm talking about show-through, not bleed-through. I haven't seen any bleed-through.

The paper feels almost slippery with certain pens. Particularly gel pens – they wanted to slide off the page. I like this effect, but it could take some adjustment. Fountain pens felt great and there is just enough tooth to maintain excellent control of the nib.

Kokuyo explains that the MIO paper stands for "Mobile Ideal Original" paper. I'm not sure what that means, but I can vouch for the quality of the paper.

MIO Front

MIO Front

MIO Back

MIO Back


The Kokuyo Campus high grade MIO notebook is an excellent writing tool. It's extremely thin and handles pens and inks with ease. I love the size of semi-B5, but they also sell A5 for this notebook.

The major cause of hesitancy for me is the paper thickness. Being so thin, there's a good amount of show-through on the back sides of the paper. For me, this means I can't use both sides of the sheet. Effectively, this is a 30-page notebook for me, unless I use gel pens that are less than 0.5mm or pencils. Given the price, I don't think this is a good value. Still, it's fun to try and experience the silky smooth paper. Hopefully, Kokuyo will keep this notebook around for a while longer.

JetPens offers the MIO notebooks with blue and red accents in B5 or A5, and as bundles.

(You can find more from Jeff online at Draft Evolution, Twitter, and

Posted on March 26, 2014 and filed under Kokuyo, Notebook Reviews.

JAWNS No. 1 Notebook Review

Instagram is one of my favorite tools for discovery of new and interesting products. It is where I first stumbled on the ridiculously cool Pilot Kakuno and, more recently, where I found a curious notebook with a curious name: JAWNS.

JAWNS is an acronym meaning Journal for All things Written Needed and Sketched. An all encompassing name for an all encompassing notebook, JAWNS tries to cover it all with the number of features they pack into a 3.6" x 5" notebook. I think they succeeded.

The first thing that caught my eye in the early images I saw was the use of two credit card slots inside the front cover. While that idea isn't exactly new and novel in leather memo book covers, it is less frequently seen built into a paper cover notebook. JAWNS uses 80 lb. Yupo cover stock to handle the added wear and tear the cover gets. If Yupo sounds familiar, it is the same water and tear proof paper used in the Field Notes Expedition Edition. The JAWNS cover is going to hold up well to daily use.

That's good, because the front card pockets are only the beginning. The inside back cover contains a single full-length utility pocket for larger paper notes, receipts, stickers, etc. While that is standard fare in many notebooks, the money pocket across the insdie back length of the notebook is a cool addition. Before I dropped my singles in there I assumed it would be a full-depth pocket but was pleasantly surprised that it was only half-depth, meaning your bills are easily accessible as if they were in a bi-fold wallet.

When it comes time to jot down your innermost thoughts, international flight changes, or make a depression robe shopping list, the uncoated 50 lb. triangle grid paper in the JAWNS notebook gets the job done. It's not fountain pen friendly as evidenced by the writing samples, but handled everything else (except the Pilot FriXion) well. The rollerball and liquid ink pens were the best, with my Kuretake Mangaka 02 Purple getting the call for the handwritten portion of the review.

In talking with Daniel, the co-founder of JAWNS, simplicity and freedom drive the design behind the brand. That shows through in this limited all-white design, with cool added touches like embossed stamping and an edition card with specs like manufacture date and edition run. Future editions will include varied cover styles, designs, and colors.

Where does the JAWNS brand notebook fit in this great big world of paper at our fingertips? At $12 each it isn't cheap but it provides high utility. For urban warriors bouncing through the city or travellers looking to lighten their load it is ideal. It is a notebook begging to be used and carried daily with the inclusion of the card pockets and money pocket. Leave the junk behind and simplify with JAWNS.

Big thanks to Daniel and JAWNS for providing this review sample free of charge. Daniel has also offered up a discount to all Pen Addict readers for 15% off at checkout by using the code PENADDICT. The offer expires on 3/28 so get on it if you want to give JAWNS a try.

Posted on March 10, 2014 and filed under Notebook Reviews, JAWNS.

Apica CD Notebook Review

Apica CD Notebook.jpg

I've done a few notebook reviews in the past several weeks, so don't take it lightly when I say that this is one of the best value notebooks available today. The Apica CD11 A5 notebook has quickly flown up the ranks in my mind of notebook ratings. Let's take a look at my reasons for such an opinionated statement.

The Paper

Wowzers — this is some nice paper. It's on par with the Clairefontaine paper that I've reviewed, but it's available at a lower price. $6.95 is the price at JetPens for the A5 size. Oh, and that price includes 3 notebooks that have 28 sheets a piece. I know, right?

The paper is white with gray-blue lines. According to JetPens, the lines are 7 mm apart, which is similar to narrow or "college" rule. It's very smooth to the touch and when you write. Every pen that I've used with this paper has performed admirably. I haven't noticed any negative qualities with the paper except with one ink, but I'll cover that later.

Apica CD Notebook Ink Test.jpg

In all the inks and pens I've tried, there's been no feathering (except for one ink) and no bleed through to speak of. Every pen I've tried glides effortlessly over this paper. It's as smooth as can be.

I noticed some feathering when I used J. Herbin Eclat de Saphir on this paper. I used the inks in two pens, and they both had the same symptoms. I wasn't really surprised when the Plumix created some feathering, but I was perplexed when the Kaweco EF also did it. My only answer is that there's some property (or properties) in the Eclat de Saphir that make it susceptible to feathering on this paper. I haven't noticed this behavior from this ink on other papers. Strange.

Apica CD Notebook Bleed.jpg

Anyway, apart from that one downside, I love this paper.

The Style

I went with the navy cover, but the other color options aren't bad. I might end up trying other colors out at some point. JetPens offers these books in yellow, white, sky blue, red, navy, mustard, light green, light blue, and black.

The cover is a thick paper that seems to do OK with regular wear and tear. Personally, I think a nice leather cover would be a great addition to this book. The paper just isn't thick enough to stand up to some of the abuse it might see during its tour of duty. There's silver decorative print (or black, depending on the cover color) and designs on the front cover, and minimal product information on the back. The paper has a nice texture that adds to the feel and aesthetic of the book. Overall, it looks nicer than what it cost.

The book is bound with thread. So far, it's a strong bind and the book has no problem laying flat once you've broken it in a little.

Apica CD Notebook Cover.jpg

The Value

For the quality of paper in this notebook, you really can't beat the price. Like the description from JetPens says, these "notebooks are ideal for your basic writing needs." Yes, they're relatively inexpensive. Yes, they're fairly basic and offer no perks. But they offer a writing experience that is friendly to every pen I've tried. That's difficult to come by. Give these notebooks a shot! They're available in the A5 size that I've reviewed here, or in semi B5.

(You can find more from Jeff online at Draft Evolution, Twitter, and

Apica CD Notebook Samples.jpg
Apica CD Notebook Back.jpg
Posted on February 27, 2014 and filed under Apica, Notebook Reviews.

Black n' Red Notebook Review

Black n Red 4.jpg

The Black n’ Red notebook line from Hamelin, which is a part of Oxford, is a simple, no-frills book that delivers decent quality at an outstanding price.

I’ve had a Black n’ Red notebook in my possession since 2009. I think I bought the first one at Target. This was a time before I was a Registered Pen Addict (RPA) and didn’t know or care about paper quality. I thought it looked unique, so I bought it. I still think the notebook look unique, and I’m attracted to the simple black and red design. It’s the composition notebook of the Moleskine class, if you will.

Black n Red 1.jpg


The Black n’ Red notebook I have is pretty average. It’s an A5 sized notebook with 96 pages (192 sheets) of white, lined paper. The lines are gray, which is awesome, and they’re about 7.5mm apart. This is perfect for my handwriting, which is on the medium to large side. In American terms, this spacing size is very similar to college ruled paper.

A nice feature of the paper is the 24 lb weight, which contributes to the nice feel and accommodating behavior toward all sorts of pen inks.

The front cover contains a calendar and dates table, and a table of contents on the first page. The back cover has a US map and a few of the more popular public transit maps. I’ll be honest, I’ve never referred to the maps, but they’re interesting to look at.

According to the Black n’ Red site, the notebook is “casebound.” This is my first time to stumble across this term, and I wasn’t really sure what it meant. A little research led me to this definition: “bound by gluing sewn sheets into a separately made cover.” So, very similar to lots of other hardcover notebooks.

The hard cover is very unique because of the color scheme. The front and back are black with a heavy texture, and the spine is red. There’s also a small red ribbon for holding a place in the notebook, naturally.

Black n Red 3.jpg

Feel and Performance

The paper is smooth and quiet. Every pen I’ve tried with this notebook glides with ease and hardly makes a noise. It took me a while to notice, but some papers are noisier than others. I like the quiet nature of this paper.

Bleeding and show-through are almost non-existent. Of course, the ink will vary. You can see in my samples that the paper does a great job of preserving the lines.

A major downside for this paper is the dry time. Since the paper is thick and not super absorbant, it takes a while to dry. For me, this means I have to wait a few minutes before closing the book if I want to avoid getting ink spots on the opposite page. For left-handed writers, I’m sure this is a much larger issue. I would expect lots of smearing and smudges.

Black n Red 6.jpg

Another general comment I have repeatedly had about this notebook is it is very stubborn about laying flat. It requires a heavy hand to keep the pages down and the notebook flat. It won’t entirely close on itself, but it tries. The good news is that even though I have to apply some “tough love” to the binding, it doesn’t really show any signs of wear. It’s resilient, and that’s great.

Overall, this is a great general notebook. It’s not the best out there, and it can hardly shake a stick at a Rhodia book, but I can also buy 3 of these for the same price. They also offer a larger A4 version as well as spiral bound versions.

(You can find more from Jeff online at Draft Evolution, Twitter, and

Posted on January 27, 2014 and filed under Notebook Reviews, Black n' Red.