Mindstone Sketchbook Review

The Mindstone Sketchbook was sent to me to review here on the blog. This hasn’t altered my write up of this product. All true thoughts here.

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I had never heard of Mindstone before they contacted me to ask if I would like to test run a couple of their notebooks for review on the blog. They are a small Austrian company who wanted to make the perfect notebook. Today I will be reviewing their A5 sketchbook which I have been using for the past few months.

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The Mindstone sketchbook has a navy linen cover with flourishes of red used on the elastic closure and bookmark. The binding is on the short side of the notebook making this a great landscape mode sketchbook. The stock inside is 120 g/m2 bright white with each page perforated so any of them can be removed. It also comes with a handy pocket on the inside back cover. There is a crazy design on the inside cover showing off a little of Mindstones personality. These elements of this notebook really set it apart from other sketchbooks on the market. A sketchbook with a bit of personality in a sea of black sketchbooks is quite nice.

Inside backcover with the crazy design and handy pocket.

Inside backcover with the crazy design and handy pocket.

I have used watercolours, Uni-ball Posca markers, ink, drawing pens and pencils in this notebook. I wanted to test it out with as many different tools that I could to see how the notebook held up and how the paper responded to these different art tools. The results are a mixed bag.

My stechbook usage.

Firstly the paper definitely isn’t made for watercolour. The paper is not heavy enough and ripples a lot when water is applied. This buckling doesn’t bother me particularly as this is a sketchbook and a place to experiment rather than create masterpieces.

The buckled pages

The buckled pages

Heavier markers also suffered from the paper quality and resulted in a lot of bleed through. The Uni-ball Air and the Uni-ball Posca were some of the worst. It seems that wet or bold pens saturated the paper too much.

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Using ink, drawing pens and pencils worked absolutely fine in the Mindstone sketchbook as you would expect. The paper is very smooth which means there isn’t really any tooth for pencils.

With the different mediums I used in the notebook the binding did suffer. The watercolour and pens put too much weight on the stitched binding and the pages pulled away quite early on. I haven’t applied any extreme stress to the sketchbook, most of the use was at home. For urban sketchers or people who like to use lots of different mediums within their sketchbooks this may not be the right option.

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My thoughts on Mindstones sketchbook.

My experiences with this notebook is based on months of use and trying out different things in order to really get a feel for it. It sounds negative but when reviewing a sketchbook it carries a certain level of expectation. I am not sure the Mindstone sketchbook is comparable to other sketchbooks such as Moleskine and Stillman and Birn for numerous different reasons. The paper is a lot thinner, it’s not art or watercolour quality but simply plain paper.

But despite all of this I really have enjoyed using this sketchbook. The linen cover is really nice but I have a soft spot for linen cover notebooks. I’m not sure this style of cover is completely practical for a sketchbook but I like it. My sketchbook has worn nicely and given the sketchbook some lovely character with use.

Overall thoughts.

The red accents are a nice contrast to the navy cover. The inclusion of a back pocket for any pieces of paper is a nice feature to have. The size of the notebook works really well and I love the landscape format in a sketchbook. If the paper quality was upgraded in the Mindstone sketchbook this would be an excellent sketchbook.

I would like to thank Mindstone for sending me this notebook to review on the blog.

Thoughts on the WHSmith and Cult Pens Merger.

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This isn’t my normal sort of post here on The Finer Point. I normally focus on reviews, posts on how I use my stationery and load outs. But I felt I needed to write this editorial piece to share my thoughts on the merger of WHSmith and Cult Pens.

WHSmith is a British high street staple. Most British stationery addicts have a story of buying their back to school stationery from Smiths, deliberating for hours on end on the right pencil case, what pencils they needed, what the right eraser would be. I am no different. I used to love Smiths, spending a lot of my pocket money there and being excited when I saw something new. But Smiths is nothing but nostalgic. Now a trip to Smiths is rare and chaotic. Shelves are stacked high with clutter, navigation is hard work, staff are unhelpful and on each occasion my clarity is left at the door. The stationery section is uninspiring with the standard brands and products that they have always offered. There is nothing new and nothing that opens up the stationery world the consumer.

I had assumed that Smiths were living on their history, still part of the high street but not active. The British public don’t like Smiths and haven’t done for eight years. The acquisition of Cult Pens is a declaration of their commitment to the stationery portion of their business but I am struggling to make sense of this move. I haven’t seen any indication of Smiths commitment to stationery in any way, either in store or online. I haven’t seen them branch out into new areas, offer new product lines that have a proven success. I haven’t found any reason in my three years of running this blog to visit Smiths for a single stationery item. I can therefore assume from my personal experience and active interest in this hobby and community that Smiths haven’t done any of this.

It’s because of this that I am surprised by the Smiths acquisition of Cult Pens. Smiths have done very well out of this, they have acquired the biggest British online stationery retailer. They’ve acquired skills and expertise that they don’t seem to own themselves. But this could all be to the detriment to the consumer, the enthusiast and potentially Cult Pens. We could see them swallowed into the corporate machine and hampered by politics and processes. I have worked in several large corporate companies where ideas are impossible to achieve because the system doesn’t support or allow it. And I don’t seem to be the only person with these concerns, Twitter responses seem to mirror my own, there is a full on Reddit thread and a FP Geeks thread most of which highlight concern.

I hope Cult Pens aren’t stymied by this merger, I hope they are left alone to continue their business in the same vein. I hope that how they work, their helpful and friendly staff, their knowledge of the market, their product offering, I hope that this rubs off on Smiths and the high street brand benefits from this and the consumer notices a change. This seems like a best case scenario which the cynic in me doesn’t think is achievable.

All of this depends on the company’s structure, the position of the Cult Pens staff within Smiths’ organisation. It’s not easy to change an old company, get the buy-in from their existing staff at a corporate level and in-stores. All of this will be a long, slow process full of resistance.

It’s no surprise by my tone and questions throughout this post that I am concerned. I am a fan of Cult Pens and I like that there is a UK company that offers such a broad range of products. I have had nothing but positive experiences with Cult Pens. I think the lure of WHSmiths brand, of marketing support and the promise of growth may have accelerated this acquisition. I am sure there are ideas and plans to grow both businesses, I just hope Cult Pens isn’t absorbed and lost in the corporate world at Smiths and that we lose a well loved small business.

Nock Co Sinclair Review

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The Nock Co Sinclair has been on my shopping list since its launch. I was attracted to the design instantly and finally decided to treat myself before Christmas picking one up from Pocket Notebooks.

Exterior of the Sinclair with a very useful double zip. 

Exterior of the Sinclair with a very useful double zip. 

The Sinclair is a double zip case with space for three pens or shorter pencils, a few pocket notebooks and a small side pocket for loose papers. The double zip is really sturdy and never catches. It goes halfway down the pen case which means you can easily see and get to everything inside.

I opted for the coffee and amethyst colour way which is beautiful. The coffee coloured exterior is a really nice dark brown which doesn’t show up any scuffs or dirt. The amethyst interior adds a lovely pop of colour and makes it easy to see everything you have inside. The combination of colours works well together.

The empty Sinclair 

The empty Sinclair 

My set-up.

I have two pens, the Baron Fig Key Squire and the Zebra Sarasa Clip, and two short pencils sitting in one slot together. The pen slots are a good width giving you plenty of space and protection to the contents inside. In the side pocket I have the Field Notes annual calendar that came with the Resolution edition. I find it really useful having this with me and it sits perfectly in this pocket. Sitting in the main section of the pen case I am currently carrying one Resolution edition Field Notes which is simply a to-do list and a Shenandoah Field Notes which is for general notes.

My filled Sinclair case. I can squeeze in another notebook too. 

My filled Sinclair case. I can squeeze in another notebook too. 

One big reason I really like this pen case is that it holds everything I need to carry around with me. It’s the one thing that has made me use the Nock Co Sinclair everyday and why I haven’t been using my pocket notebook leather covers. The pens I need and use regularly are always with me and my notebooks now.

Overall thoughts.

This is by far my favourite Nock Co pen case that I own, and I have several. I love the colour way and durability of Nock Co products and having everything I need for note taking in one place is handy, its that simple.

My Humble Art Supplies.

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One of my 2017 stationery resolutions that didn’t materialise, was to draw. I had drawn a little but it was haphazard and my progress was slow simply because I wasn’t finding the time. This year I really want to change that and make drawing a habit.

I have amassed a small collection of items that I enjoy using and plan on making these part of my art supply toolkit. I thought I would share these with you.

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Notebooks.

There are two or three sketchbooks I have tested and tried to get along with but there are some that I have found I enjoy and plan on making these my staples. One is the Moleskine watercolour sketchbook. I have a pocket and an A5 size. I like how slim they are and the paper is quite nice.

The second is the Mindstone sketchbook which was sent to me to test out. There is a lot to like about this sketchbook and I will review this product properly in an upcoming post. I really like the cloth cover and the elastic strap. The size is great too so this is a big winner for me.

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Pencils.

I have a few pencils that I have been using. I find it helpful to sketch a very light and rough outline first as I am awful with my proportions and therefore not confident about going straight in with ink. I have been using my Baron Fig School Set Archer pencil, my Staedtler Mars Lumograph and a Blackwing 602. They’re not the ideal sketching pencils and really I should be using a Blackwing MMX.

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Fountain Pen and Ink.

It’s no surprise really that I have found my favourite sketching tool to be a fountain pen. It feels so nice to use and I like the wet ink on the page. I find it far more enjoyable than a drawing pen, but I do have a Uni-pin there for good measure. I am using my Lamy AL Star Copper Orange with a fine nib and Noodles Black for drawing. The pen is perfect and easy to carry around and the Noodlers Black ink is waterproof which means I have the option to add in watercolour.

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Watercolour palette.

I have recently changed my palette. I was experimenting with a simple Winsor and Newton Cotman 12-pan palette that I bought cheaply to basically try out the colours and not over invest in something that I may not have really liked. However I really struggled with the quality of this palette and after watching some YouTube videos I decided to upgrade. I now have a few Winsor and Newton professional watercolour tubes and have created my own palette and now in a lovely metal tin.

A partially empty palette

A partially empty palette

There are a lot of holes here and I know I am missing some basics (any suggestions welcome) but I am just piecing everything together and trying to find something that’ll work the best way for me.

Travel brush.

I invested in a Rosemary and Co. pocket brush some time ago based on a recommendation in a YouTube video, I forget which. I really love this brush because it’s a travel version. It takes up minimal room and I can protect the brush. I think I have the size 6 brush but again can’t be sure.

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Superior Labor pouch.

I have been keeping my sketching tools in my Superior Labor pen pouch which really wasn’t how I intended to use it but it works quite well. The large pocket holds my small palette really nicely and I can just throw all the pens and pencils and brushes everywhere else.

Superior Labor pen roll and the Mindstone sketchbook

Superior Labor pen roll and the Mindstone sketchbook

I’m learning.

This is the state of my sketching for the beginning of 2018 and I am sure there will be changes throughout the year. 2017 was almost a year of testing and trailing out different tools. I have refined my watercolour palette and found sketchbooks that I think work well for me. At the moment I like the simplicity of my current art toolkit, now I just need to use these tools more often.