paper

Six years of studying complete

Today marks the end of a six year journey. I have handed in my last ever (maybe) piece of homework. Over the last month specifically I have had to put all my spare time into writing which has meant that the blog has suffered.

This year I took a creative writing course which meant that I got to use a lot of paper, ink and pencils. Whilst I have no real measurement for the amount of ink and pencils consumed over this time, I do have a selection of used notebooks. I always enjoy seeing peoples used stationery items moreso than the new stuff and thought I would share some photos here with you.

On the whole I have used A5 composition style notebooks from a number of different brands. I found these a great size to carry around and the slim-line nature was far more comfortable to write in for longer stretches of time.

The majority of the notebook I used were ruled, my preferred grid. The last few notebooks I used were Baron Figs that only had a dot grid.

Some of these have been used for note taking from course materials while the remainder were used solely for drafting and editing some of my creative writing.

Normal blog service will resume over the next week after I have had time to enjoy some celebratory drinks and catch my breath.

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

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.

Clairefontaine

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!

Dark Star Collection Notebook Review

The Dark Star Collection Notebook in hand

The Dark Star Collection Notebook in hand

Dark Star Collection are a UK notebook brand that I discovered through a post by Hey Matthews blog. They have a strong social media presence and have been lauded for their high quality paper stock. Being a bit of a paper junkie I had to give this notebook a test run. I was also drawn to the brand as they were British and felt a strong desire to support a home grown stationery brand.

A nice and simple title/cover page 

A nice and simple title/cover page 

Initial impressions.

First up the notebook looks good. It's simple in terms of design with a standard card stock cover and a simple logo, which looks like a tattoo I have. There is a nice little cover page allowing you to note down the intended use of the notebook.

Close up of the binding and glue holding the pages together. I think the excess glue here, which is coming away may be the source of my page problem

Close up of the binding and glue holding the pages together. I think the excess glue here, which is coming away may be the source of my page problem

A used page beginning to come away from the notebook binding

A used page beginning to come away from the notebook binding

There is a thick black binding on the left hand edge of the notebook, which kind of looks like gaffa tape. This binding is designed to allow the notebook to lie flat when open however it has not been without faults. The binding is designed to help this notebook lie flat. Lie flat notebooks have become a big selling point that are discussed a lot. Baron Fig talked about this with their Confident notebook and now Dark Star Collection are focusing on the same selling point. This notebook does lie flat and also closes after use. The only issue I have found with fulfilling this lie flat feature is that the binding of this notebook is not strong enough to hold the pages together securely. I have found some of the pages are becoming detached from the binding. You can see from my photo above a large lump of glue at the top of the binding. As I am working my way through the notebook this is becoming detached which I think is contributing to some of the pages becoming lose, as you can see on the right. As I work my way through the notebook I think this could get a lot worse and I am guessing I will loose some pages. So the lie flat works, but you may not keep all of your pages.

Lie flat view

Lie flat view

Paper quality.

The paper stock is a high quality dot grid with an off white colour. I have been using this notebook as a morning pages / journal to document everything going on in my life right now. Being a new mum and trying to remember all the small things going on with the little man is a challenge. My mind is a complete sieve at the moment so I have dedicated this notebook to capturing all the stuff, big or small, interesting and mundane. I have been using all my different fountain pens in this notebook and the paper has held up well. There is some tooth on the page and I have noticed that you get some feedback when using the fountain pens. With my finer Japanese nibs it can feel a little scratchy but with the German nibs the performance is a little better.

Pen and pencil test

Pen and pencil test

Some shadowing with fountain pens 

Some shadowing with fountain pens 

I have tested a number of different pens and pencils on this paper. Whilst it performs well with fountain pens and there is limited bleed through and feathering I actually think that the performance with pencils is really good. This is one of the only notebooks that I can say the performance with both fountain pens and pencils is good.

Overall impressions.

I think that the Dark Star Collection notebooks are one to watch. The brand is new and through their social media account the guys there are always looking at ways to improve the quality of their notebooks therefore I am not overly disappointed with the binding problems I have experienced. The paper quality is good and as I can use my fountain pens and different inks this is a winner for me. This notebook cost me a mere £6.99 which is a fab price for a good quality notebook.

I love finding a UK based company and want to support more local companies. I think we need more UK stationery makers emerging.

I would love to see some additional notebook sizes and ruling options at some point in the future. A pocket notebook (which seems to have been teased on their Instagram account) would be interesting as would a larger size.

The reverse of the notebook. Unfortunately the branding and information on the back has not been aligned with the binding width taken into consideration.

The reverse of the notebook. Unfortunately the branding and information on the back has not been aligned with the binding width taken into consideration.

Baron Fig Apprentice Notebook Review

The Baron Fig Apprentice notebooks are pocket sized notebooks launched by Baron Fig a little after their successful Kickstarter campaign of their larger Confident notebook.

I have been an avid pocket notebook user for some time always having one, or several, notebooks with me at a time. For years this was exclusively a Field Notes memo book, however lately after changing how I carry my notebooks my preferred notebook choice has shifted.

My passport sized Travelers Notebook

My passport sized Travelers Notebook

I now carry around a passport sized Travelers Notebook (TN) as my everyday carry. This houses a notebook, a calendar and a sketchbook. I had been using the Midori branded notebooks however recently I decided to try one of the Baron Fig apprentice notebooks as they fit perfectly into the passport size TN.

The Seer, the standard Apprentice and the new Explorer

The Seer, the standard Apprentice and the new Explorer

Benefits of the Baron Fig Apprentice

There are several things that I quite like about the Baron Fig Apprentice notebooks. Firstly it’s their simple design. The standard Apprentice has a light grey cover and a choice of optional grids. On the whole I have used the blank and the dot grid versions, however I do have a ruled pack that I will be trying out soon. The grid is subtle in all their notebooks blending into the background. I find the darker notebook grids off-putting so these light grey grids work really well.

Example of the different ruling options

Example of the different ruling options

I also really like the size of the Apprentice notebooks. A big benefit is that they fit into my TN but I don't feel robbed in any way by the shorter size. In the photo below you can see the size difference between the Field Notes and Apprentice notebooks.

Each Apprentice notebook has a few perforated pages at the back. I haven’t found a use for these, however its good to know if I needed to rip out a note or share something with a friend, this can be done without rooting around for a scrap of paper or damaging the notebook in any way.

Lastly Baron Fig run the occasional limited edition run of an Apprentice notebook. This benefit may appear to go against my previous post on limited editions, but I don’t have the same pull with these notebooks. For example when recently buying some of the Apprentice notebooks from Baron Fig I did pick up a pack of the Seer and Explorer notebooks, as they were still in stock, not because I needed to have them. Both of these designs are really nice and I have enjoyed using them, but we are only talking about a different cover. There is nothing else unique about these limited edition notebooks.

The paper

The writing experience in a Baron Fig notebook is good on the whole. The paper works really well with pencils in particular, but mostly I use a gel ink pen, a fineliner or a rollerball.

Examples of gels pens and pencils in the Apprentice

Examples of gels pens and pencils in the Apprentice

In terms of fountain pen use things can be a little hit and miss. Some of my fine nib fountain pens work ok, others feather and then you also get some wetter and broader nibs bleeding through the page. As you can see from the below image many of my fountain pens and inks performed fairly well. There was some feathering with the J.Herbin inks, but on the whole they look ok on the page.

Fountain pen testing on the Apprentice paper

Fountain pen testing on the Apprentice paper

However flip the page and you can see the extent of the bleedthrough these have on the Baron Fig paper. This wouldn't bother some people however with some of these inks and fountain pens the bleedthrough is too severe for me. I therefore wouldn’t class the Apprentice notebooks as fountain pen friendly. There are so many alternative options of fountain pen friendly paper, albeit not in a pocket sized notebook, that I don't necessarily see this as a downside of the Apprentice notebooks.

Severe fountain pen bleedthrough

Severe fountain pen bleedthrough

Overall thoughts

Over the past few months the types of pocket notebooks I am using has changed, completely moving away from Field Notes. I have found that there are other notebooks that suit my everyday note taking requirements mostly stimulated by my use of the TN.

Baron Fig has become a little bit of a favourite. The notebooks work well, are durable and the paper quality is perfect for note taking. But the big thing I have been surprised by is my preference for the shorter size that Baron Fig Apprentice notebooks offer. I have really enjoyed using these notebooks and more than likely will alway have one in my TN moving forward.

The lovely guys over at Pocket Notebooks sent me a pack of the standard Apprentice notebooks as part of this review. They have these as well as the Explorer notebooks in stock at the moment so if you are intrigued why not head on over there and pick up a pack.