Posts filed under 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.

Midori Color Paper Notebook A5 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.)

The Midori Color Paper Notebook is a 28-sheet (56 pages front and back) staple-bound, soft-cover notebook in A5 (8x6 inches). The series, which comes in several colors, including pink, blue-green, purple, yellow, brown, and yellow-green, is meant to evoke French macaron's, with darker colors on the outside and softer colors on the inside.

Each notebook has an oval heading area on the cover outlined in gold (this shape is based on the macaron). The pages inside are lined in gray ink with 6.5mm spacing. The paper weight is not indicated on the notebook, the JetPens website, or the Midori website, but it is heavy enough to handle fountain pens (see below).

The notebook offers plenty of lines per page for writing substantial thoughts, but it is small enough to fit in a larger notebook or a purse. These notebooks stand out from other Midori notebooks because of their bright covers and pastel interiors. They are well made, but they won't hold up to heavy abuse. The card stock cover is fairly light and bends easily. Pages are not perforated so if you want to remove one, you'll have to tear it out carefully. The notebook does not lie flat on its own, though you could probably bend the cover backwards to help it stay open.

The paper holds up well to different pens and inks. I tested it with most of my fountain pens, each with a different color of ink, as well as a few other kinds of pens.

Although in my first test, the Pelikan Jade ink in my Omas bled and feathered, I think this is because I had just refilled the pen.

When I re-tested that particular ink and pen, the paper handled it fine.

Even my broadest, wettest nib (a Nakaya music nib inked with Sailor Yama-Dori) did not bleed through or feather.

There was, however, some show-through with several of the inks. Thus, if you plan on using fountain pens, you might want to use only one side of the pages, which means you'll only get 28 pages per notebook.

Although the Midori Color Notebook is nicely made, it is not something I would likely use. For journaling, I prefer notebooks with more pages that can be put in a refillable cover. For people who like to have multiple notebooks for different tasks, however, these might be quite useful. For example, a student could use a different color notebook for each class (though he/she wouldn't be able to take copious notes). A person who keeps a gratitude journal could use a different color each month and rotate them. They would make beautiful guest books for baby or bridal showers. I suspect these notebooks will be popular with many people.

The Midori Color Notebook can be purchased at JetPens for $3.25 a piece.

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

Posted on April 3, 2015 and filed under Midori, Notebook Reviews.

Midori Traveler's Notebook Passport Review

To say the Midori Traveler's Notebook has a cult following is probably a bit of an understatement. The Western market has begun to discover this over the past few years, while the Far East is knee deep into all things Traveler's. I admit to not really "getting it" for a while, but now that I have a Passport sized Midori I'm beginning to see what all the fuss is about.

People ask me all the time "Why fountain pens?" My answer, almost always, is customization. I can take one specific fountain pen and build it exactly to my liking with nib and ink choices. Someone else can choose the same fountain pen and have a completely different, yet still perfect, experience. This exemplifies what the Midori Traveler's notebook is all about.

It starts with a simple leather cover. The not too thick, not too thin, rectangular hide has no adornments, aside from the few holes the elastic bands require, along with two small slits in the spine. If anything, I think the simplicity of the cover is what confuses people the most about the Midori Traveler's system. Why should I pay $50 for a non-descript hunk of leather? I struggled with that same question for years. But then again, why fountain pens?

Customization is at the core of what the Midori Traveler's system is all about. I use the term system loosely, because there are honestly zero guidelines on how you should use or build your Traveler's Notebook. I started out simple, in this case choosing two grid notebooks, a zipper case to hold business cards and loose papers, and a set of connecting bands, which we will get to in a moment.

To put it into action, you simply need to slide one notebook through the elastic band found in the spine of the leather cover, and then add any additional notebooks or accessories with the help of the aforementioned connecting bands. Mentioning these bands for a second time is where a slight digression needs to take place. Part of the fun of the Midori Traveler's system is that you don't need to buy any part of it to have a similar experience. The connecting bands? Rubber bands that you probably have laying around the house. Leather cover? Google the term "fauxdori". Any paper insert can be printed from one of the many Midori resources on the web. All that said, Midori gets design - and marketing - right. Quality and thoughtfulness of their products is part of the experience.

I'm a novice compared to those who have been using a Midori Traveler's notebook for a while, but I am having fun putting personal touches on my Passport. One of the most common questions that arise around this size Midori is will a Field Notes notebook, or any other standard 3.5" x 5.5" memo book fit in the cover? In short, no. The leather cover is designed to hold a 3.5" x 5" notebook, so standard memo books are too long. But you know what does fit perfectly? The Baron Fig Apprentice. Adding one of those into my Passport cover was a no-brainer.

While building it is fun, putting the Midori Traveler's Notebook into use as part of my daily carry is still something I am working on. Prior to getting this model from JetPens, I had purchased the regular sized Midori cover from the now shuttered Resor Shop. I loved every aspect of the bigger size, but I never fully committed to it. The Passport seems more my size and speed. So far, I am using it for daily tasks and future planning as part of my portable writing kit. I can toss my inbox (aka the Nock Co. DotDash Notebook) and any pen I want to use through the external elastic band and hit the road.

Before I owned a Midori I drooled at all of the pictures online of various Traveler's Notebook setups. Patrick Ng is my Midori muse, and should be followed by anyone with an interest in Midori, or even an in interest in product photography and design. His day job keeps him on the front lines of all things Midori, and his Instagram and Flickr feeds are not to be missed.

How do you use your Midori? What tips and tricks do you have? Who do you follow in the Traveler's Notebook world? I'm on board the Traveler's train and ready to explore!

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

Posted on March 2, 2015 and filed under Midori, Notebook Reviews, Traveler's Notebook.

Kyokuto F.O.B COOP Memo Book Review

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

The Kyokuto F.O.B COOP memo book caught my eye because of its size and sturdy wire binding. I'd been on a memo book hunt, and this one seemed to be a book worth trying. After using it for a while, I understand that it's not really a good notebook for me, but that doesn't mean it's a bad notebook. Far from it — it's actually a great notebook as long as you're aware of the caveats.

There aren't a lot of caveats, so I'll make this simple. The F.O.B COOP memo book paper just isn't fountain pen friendly. It tends to do OK with fine Japanese nibs, but even those results are hit-and-miss. Liquid roller ball refills get similar results. But really, this notebook shines when it comes to gels and ballpoints. If that's your sweet spot, then this notebook could be a great companion.

As far as size goes, it's roughly the same width and height of a Field Notes book, minus about half an inch on the height. But the depth/thickness is about three Field Notes, which makes it a tad uncomfortable in the back pocket. Maybe you don't carry your memo books in your back pocket, so that isn't really a concern, but just be aware that it's a thick notebook. I'm not sure it's really meant to be carried in a pocket, but it can certainly be done.

Now, the notebook will be right at home in a bag of any kind. The front cover is made of a durable translucent plastic material, the back is a thick card stock, and the wire binding is robust, which means it can take a fair amount of abuse. In my experience, it does great if it's secured in the bag somehow. I wouldn't recommend letting it go freestyle in a bag as it might get banged up by larger objects.

The paper in this version is a 6mm lined format, but you can also get in plain. There are 80 sheets in the book, which is a lot more than you'll find in most memo books. Like I mentioned earlier, it sings when used with gels and ballpoints. The paper is delightfully smooth and feels fantastic when jotting down quick notes.

Fountain pens and rollerballs cause issues in this paper. My guess is that it's a combination of being thin and soft that make it vulnerable to feathering and show-through. Both of these things happen frequently with this paper. Some people may not be bothered by it, and others might outright despise it. Just be warned that it tends to feather and bleed through.

The size and sturdiness of the book make it a prime candidate for holding it in your palm while writing. I've never been a huge proponent of this method, but it does the job pretty well, thanks to the thick card stock on the back. When I jot notes like that, I always feel like a '40s reporter covering a breaking story — but the reality is I just prefer to write on a large, hard surface most of the time.

At just under 4 bucks, it's not a bad deal at all. If you want to try something besides a staple-bound 3.5x5.5" memo book for a change, consider the Kyokuyo F.O.B COOP. It's a fine notebook with smooth, glossy paper that feels great — just make sure you're using a gel or ballpoint pen.

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

Posted on February 25, 2015 and filed under Notebook Reviews, Kyokuto.