Notebook Comparison: Rhodia versus Clairefontaine A5 Notebooks

Rhodia and Clairefontaine notebooks

Rhodia and Clairefontaine notebooks

Since I have been using my Start Bay Navigator, I have been using A5 notebooks from Rhodia and Clairefontaine. I opted for these brands as they are renowned for having high quality paper thats suitable for fountain pen use. As I have been using them, usually alongside one another, I have come up with some thoughts on both trying to work out which notebook I prefer.


Rhodia staple bound A5 notebook in black

Rhodia staple bound A5 notebook in black

I have used Rhodia paper before therefore I was familiar with the brand and the paper quality. The A5 Rhodia notebook is a staple bound book with a black or orange coated cover. I have been using the ruled grid as I am doing long form writing in these notebooks.

The Rhodia paper is 80g and takes various different writing tools really well. I have used gel pens, pencils and fountain pens and they all work wonders on this paper. In all you get 96 pages which is pretty good and means you’re not flying through these notebooks too quickly.

A small thing I really like about these notebooks is how they feel and sound once they’re full. The pages get a slight crinkle making that dreamy noise when you flick through the notebook. It’s like the notebook is acknowledging that I have filled it up giving me a pat on the back.

The only downside I can find with the Rhodia A5 notebooks is the prominent blue colour used for the different grids. This isn’t just on these staple bound notebooks, a lot of their lines have this grid colour, but I find it a little too bright and intrusive. I really like the Rhodia ice notebooks which have a cool grey grid line that blends into the background nicely and I wish they had a version of this in these notebooks. But despite this once the words are on the page you really don’t see the ruling at all.


I have used a few Clairefontaine notebooks in a couple of different designs. The easier to come by version has white paper, staple bound notebook with 90gsm paper. This paper stock has a slight sheen to it and giving it a smooth feel. Fountain pens almost glide over the page it’s that smooth. Even though the paper does have a coating of some description dry times with fountain pens has been good.

Stitched binding and ivory paper Clairefontaine notebook

Stitched binding and ivory paper Clairefontaine notebook

The second Clairefontaine book I have used has a stitched binding and ivory paper. The ivory paper is softer on the eye which I find really nice to write on. The ruling is grey rather than blue found with the white paper. I haven’t been able to source these notebooks anywhere which is a real shame and I’d love to get my hands on some more of this version of these notebooks.

So which is best?

Both notebooks have a lot of similarities which makes it hard to decide which notebook is better. With the Clairefontaine notebooks you have different cover colour options and the cover is a matte finish with a small box on the front giving you space to write a title on the book. I have really found this small design feature rather helpful. The paper in the Clairefontaine notebooks has a sheen whereas the Rhodia notebooks don’t. Both the notebooks with the white paper has the same bright blue grid lines which is a negative for me. And both notebooks come with a wide ruled grid which I prefer as my handwriting is a little on the large side.

Rhodia and Clairefontaine ruling

Rhodia and Clairefontaine ruling

I like both of these notebooks and as you can see the differences are really quite small. I have found myself preferring the Clairefontaine notebooks. If I can source the ivory paper versions then for me there will be no contest. I like the design of the Clairefontaine notebooks, the paper quality is lovely and the helpful additional features make it feel like how this notebook is used has been thought through. However despite all of these bonus features the Rhodia notebooks are lovely and I will happily use these too. So I guess what I am trying to conclude is that both of these notebook brands are really very nice and you shouldn’t be disappointed with either choice!

My Fountain Pen Day Line-Up

The fist Friday of November marks International Fountain Pen Day. This year to celebrate I have decided to share the fountain pens I am using and the paper products I use with them.

Lamy LX, Tacticle Turn Gist, Kaweco AL Sport, Kaweco Skyline Sport and the Pilot Kakuno

Lamy LX, Tacticle Turn Gist, Kaweco AL Sport, Kaweco Skyline Sport and the Pilot Kakuno

Fountain pen and ink combinations

Lamy LX in Rose Gold with a medium nib and KWZ Brown Pink - this is a new fountain pen and ink combination both bought at the London Pen Show. The rose gold colour of this pen is gorgeous and works so well with the KWZ Brown Pink ink, it's a natural pairing. Over the past few months I have been enjoying broader nib widths and the medium nib on the Lamy LX is perfect. This was I get to really see and enjoy the inks I am using.

Tactile Turn Gist with a fine nib and Pilot Iroshizuku Shin-Kai - this combination is left over from my 1 week 1 pen mini series. It’s my sensible combination that I can use is almost all scenarios.

Kaweco AL Sport with a fine nib and J. Herbins Bleu Nuit - I really love my AL Sport. The grey colour is so nice in person and the Bleu Nuit seems to be the perfect ink colour for this pen. It’s a very wintery fountain pen and ink partnership.

Kaweco Skyline sport with an extra fine nib and Diamine Ancient Copper - I love the mint colour of this fountain pen, it’s possibly one of my favourites. I have this loaded with a Diamine Ancient Copper cartridge, an ink colour I have been keen to try for some time. The thing is I am not sure that this pairing works very well, therefore I don’t see this partnership lasting long.

Pilot Kaukuno with a medium nib and Pilot Iroshizuku Syo-ro - I love my Kakuno. As it’s a simple, entry level fountain pen I don’t feel too precious about it and its one that comes on the move with me. I opted for Iroshizuku Syo-ro as it’s a nice deep green for the autumnal season.

The notebooks I am using

The notebooks I am using

My current paper choices

The Soukime plain A5 slim notebook is used for blog post planning and outlining of ideas. I have this with plain paper in the dark green cover.

I have a Midori Kraft notebook that I use as a photo journal. This is crammed with photos of my son documenting the small developments he is making and the things we are doing together. This isn’t a journal I use everyday and is somewhere I can experiment with different journaling techniques.

My Rhodia staple bound ruled notebook is being used for notes for my Open University course. I am using this in my Start Bay Navigator.

I have a Clairefontaine ruled notebook for morning pages, or my version of it. This is also in my Navigator.

I am using a Field Notes Lunacy edition notebook to capture notes on the move and for some journaling on the go.

I have the English version of the Hobonichi Techo which I am currently using as a sort of bullet journaling and planning notebook.

My Midori 019 free weekly refill is being used as a small memory keeper recording snippets of my day.

Fountain pen day 2016

I have found that my fountain pen usage has swayed towards Western brands and that I have begun to enjoy a range of different nib sizes. A year ago all of my fountain pen choices would have been extra-fine or fine nibs, but this isn’t the case any more. I have tried to align my current ink colours to the time of year enjoying Autumnal tones. As usual I am using a lot of different notebooks at one time, (I plan on streamlining this a lot next year). Due to my love of fountain pens I have found and acquired a range of notebooks that have the right types of paper for fountain pens.

This year I won't be celebrating Fountain Pen day by adding to my foutain pens as I am happy with my purchases from the London Pen Show. Instead I will be enjoying some time writing and appreciating those fountain pens I own.

How I use my notebooks - the February 2016 edition

The notebook selection currently being used

The notebook selection currently being used

How I use my notebooks is something I think about a lot. In July 2015 I wrote a post on my notebook set-up exploring what notebooks I used and more importantly how I used them. However since July quite a bit has changed therefore I wanted to post a February 2016 update running through my notebook usage.

The Daily Carry Notebook

A daily carry notebook is really important for me. Without this I would feel lost and not have somewhere to scribble down random thoughts that pop into my head. For the past couple of months I had been using the passport Midori Travelers Notebook as my catch all system, however last week I moved into a Raydori and two Field Notes memo books. I may switch between these two notebook systems, but a portable, pocket or passport sized notebook will always be an essential carry around. One of the Field Notes contains the mundane and boring things that I need to remember on a daily basis such as shopping lists, things I need to do, doodles, tattoo ideas and garden plans. I complete one of these notebooks every month. I am using a second Field Notes to doodle. I am not very creatives but having a blank page notebook with me at all times gives me the opportunity to doodle or sketch out something I may see during my day. So far this has been going pretty well. Depending on the notebook I am using I will have a pencil, a Pilot Hi-Tec-C or a fountain pen to make notes.  

Travelers Notebook

My Travelers Notebooks are used for various things and I have wholeheartedly jumped into this system. I have two Travelers Notebooks on the go each with two notebooks inside. My brown Travelers Notebook houses a plain refill used to hash out anything to do with the blog and outlines of post ideas.  

My second refill is the monthly planner where I have a full picture of what my month looks like. In this calendar I note down blog related content, when drafts are started, when photos are taken and when the final review is done. I also add in when I need to get some studying time in. I don't include anything from my personal life in here, I use this planner to see what work I need to do and how I can fit it all in. 

A sample of my February 

A sample of my February 

My blue Travelers Notebook is where I have a weekly calendar refill and a ruled notebook. The weekly planner is somewhere I can record the days events, no matter how mundane they are. I try and add in a small doodle to be a little bit creative. On the right hand side of the page I add anything I feel could be memorable to that week. Sometimes I just draw on this page, I mark down books I have read, or starting reading or may stick in a ticket from something I have done that week. 

I love using the Travelers Notebook and the refills. The size of the notebook means that you can get that little bit more onto the page without the notebook becoming too big and bulky. You also get to enjoy a wide variety of different pens on this paper without any fear of fountain pens feathering or bleeding through on the page.  

Hobonichi Techo

I am still using and enjoying the Hobonichi Techo. I use this to record a more in-depth and personal account of my day. This year I was leaving space on the page each day to include a photo as a visual momento of my day, however after filling up January I am not sure the Techo would make it through the year. I have therefore abandoned that idea, but may include the odd photo here or there over the course of the year. I am not very creative with the Techo and I don't try and get crafty with this at all, I purely using this as another outlet for writing.  

Midori MD A5 Notebook 

This doesn't get used that often, and when it does it's usually because I have a lot of things in my head that I need to get out and I've run out of room elsewhere. This notebook isn't pretty. There are no doodles, sketches, or pretty handwriting. This notebook is scruffy and has pages and pages of scribbles. I include in here the date and time of an entry and one long stream of consciousness. 

Rhodia A5 No 16 Notebook

This is my review notebook. It has great paper especially for fountain pens and I have been steadily working through one of these notebooks since I started The Finer Point. I really like the Ice edition as the grid colour is grey and blends nicely into the background making the words and beautiful ink colours stand out. I would happily use these notebooks for other tasks if I had a need as they are so lovely to use. 

The Work Notebook 

I have often neglected the work notebook, but for my day job I need to take notes. I am currently trying out the Word Notebook for this due to its list making layout. I have been using this mostly with pencils as the paper in these notebooks does not like fountain pens. The more toothy paper works well with pencils and means I have a dedicated place to work with graphite, which sometimes takes a back seat when there are so many pretty pens lying around. 

The Study Notebook

I use my Field Notes to take notes on my course work. This year I am doing an introduction to design course and I didn't want to lug around or buy more notebooks when I have a healthy stock of Field Notes. Since I started in October I have gone through 4 of these notebooks and I almost completed the 5th now. They are perfect for writing down small notes that I need and for doodling out ideas and designs. 

In Summary 

I am obviously not a one notebook sort of person but I feel that each of these notebooks has a purpose. I use several notebooks to record my day which may seem excessive, however they each fill a different role and allow me to enjoy a slightly different system. I am sure as time goes on these may reduce down as I find something that works just right for me.  

By having so many notebooks on the go at one time it does mean that I get to enjoy using my pens and pencils. At the end of each day I spent anywhere between 15-30 mins reflecting and recording my day. After using my Travelers Notebook weekly refill since December 2015 I have flicked back through my completed weeks and it's really nice remembering what I have done. I don't do this as much with the Hobonichi Techo as it's long blocks of writing so perhaps in the long term how this notebook is used will change.

Some of my other notebooks are functional and needed just to do the normal day to day things and I need a dedicated place for these notes. 

I'd love to hear how many notebooks you use at one time. Do you use as many as me, or are you the one notebook at a time person?