Green With Envy No More

At last fall’s Columbus Pen Show I visited the Franklin-Cristoph booth, my first time handling and playing with their fountain pens. I lusted after the emerald-green P66 and thought “someday.” Although the temptation was strong that day, especially after spending some time with their test pens, most notably the Masuyama fine cursive italic nib, I resisted committing.

Someday, as we all know, eventually shows up. Last week I ordered and received my long-anticipated emerald-green P66 with, you guessed it, the Masuyama fine cursive italic nib (despite the photos, I opted for the steel, not the gold, nib; the reputation of these steel nibs is pretty strong). The pen came with a small, leather zip case which I really like using. I’m not usually one for a case, preferring to drop the pen in a shirt or pants pocket and go about things. But this time the case is really speaking to me. For starters, it’s fairly small, so not a burden to carry. For another, and by purpose, the P66 has no clip, so the case is a useful protector.

This pen is a writer for me, as in, long sessions of journaling or free writing. To that end, I wanted a lighter, smaller than usual pen and the P66 is both of those. Additionally, I’ve always dislike feeling cap threads where my fingers rest above the nib, and the Franklin-Cristoph’s have an ingenious wide-thread capping system that puts these threads out of fingertips. The P66 is a very good feel and heft, posted or not posted.

I did pause in ordering the emerald green over the ice models, whose rough inside clear barrels make for dazzling effects interacting with the wondrous ink colors. I read one review where the author admitted he’s spent about as much time the first two weeks with his F-C ice just staring at and rolling the ink around to see the effect! I have enough distractions when I write, thank you, so decided that was not (yet) a good idea for me. Not saying whether my next F-C won’t be an ice model, but for this primary writer my love for the emerald-green color won over.

Papio Press Notebooks: Whimsy and Fun!

I stumbled on to this line at pocketnotebooks.co.uk during the owner change and at the time, they were the only notebooks they had! Now he’s restocked from the U.S. sources, but more interesting to me is he’s starting to carry some very cool European notebooks. At the time I was intrigued with the Papios and ordered three packs to check out!

These A6 notebooks are designed and printed in the UK, and spec out at two per pack, 300gsm covers, 48 80gsm recycled paper insides (in each pack one is blank, one is lined). I did a quick writing test and was pleasantly surprised considering the recycle paper spec which usual means meh on writing response. Fountain pen ink did pretty well with very minimal feathering, although my 1.1 Lamy nib was a bit messy, but it’s a pretty wet writer and few papers contain it! Graphite was great with no smearing though. The inks did show through some, but again, recycled paper that isn’t heavy so expected (and not that bad). I’ll be quiet now and you can enjoy the pictures. You can check out Papio Press’ site, or order through pocketnotebooks.co.uk.

Waverly’s Uncommon Commonplace Tartan Notebook

It’s unusual for me to stumble upon a new notebook line that is intriguing and compels me to buy it. Despite having so many notebooks that I’ll likely never get around to using, I stumbled upon a line that touched my 1/8th Scottish heart in a big way: the Waverly Tartan Cloth Commonplace Notebook.

My recent foray back into Moleskines Blends with the fabric covers paved the way for my new Waverly. I’ve never been a fan of vinyl or plastic covered notebooks, preferring the feel of something more…real. Even though my sub-clan (Guthrie) is not represented in the wide range of tartans Waverly covers these pocket notebooks with (and larger sizes), it’s still a high ooh-factor to feel and use this notebook covered in “genuine tartan cloth” as the extensive info sheet included with these states.

Here is the exhaustive list of features and extras with these little Moleskine Kilters* (Killers!):

  • Edge-painted page block
  • Ribbon marker, color-coordinated elastic band
  • Back pocket
  • Last eight pages perforated
  • Blank on left side, lined on right side
  • History of Tartan info sheet including Waverly’s history of book printing in Scotland, and a clan map of Scotland
  • Bookmark card on the notebook’s specific tartan
  • Back cover inside pocket (ala Moleskine) but with a horizontal slit for cards, bus token, etc.
  • 80gsm cream paper
  • 176 pages
  • 3.5″ x 5.5″

On graphite and fountain pen test the paper did well. It’s not heavy, so there is some show through, but the ink laid down crisply with no feathering. There isn’t a lot of finish to the paper, so the FP nibs have a lot of feedback, but not unpleasant. I’d call both FP and graphite use quite suitable for use.

I will definitely pick up some more of these after I use up my small supply of Moleskine Blends and this Waverly. These are available direct from Waverly Books, their store on eBay, or on Amazon in quiet the variety of tartans. (No Guthrie, alas! Bummer.)

*Props to John Campion in the Erasables Facebook group who countered my “Moleskine killer” comment with a more apt “Moleskine kilter” retort. Well played!

Dress for Success: Story Supply’s Pocket Notebooks

I’ve been a fan of Vito & the gang’s notebooks since they started with their Kickstarter launch. I love the good they’re doing with the matching story kits to kids with each purchase, but selfishly I love they make notebooks with 70# fountain-pen friendly paper!

The two current offerings have the same, smooth inside paper, but the different covers take each in a little bit different direction. I feel like I’m wearing a nice denim shirt when I’m using their original blue-cover Pocket Staple, but when I have the Edition 407 out, I’m dressed in a 100% pinpoint cotton dress shirt ironed just so. I was slow to get some 407s since I had a decent stock of the Pocket Staple and after all, they had the same wonderful inside paper. But while the Pocket Staple comes in blank, ruled, or grid innards, I guess I was slow to notice the 407 have my new favorite: dot grid. And not just any dot grid, but one printed very lightly: you can see it when you need it but it’s very low-keyed and doesn’t interfere with writing.

When I got my first pack of 407s, I emailed Vito to find out what new wizardry paper he added to these, since the overall experience, I thought, was a notch above the already exceptional Pocket Staple. Turned out to be a pure trick of the mind, since it’s the same paper in both. Realizing it’s the combination of the light dot grid and the silky linen cover with the understated embossed logo versus a printed one, it still feels a titch more special to use. In case you’re wondering, 407 was the number of Kickstarter backers thus the Edition 407 is a tribute notebook of sorts to those who helped launch the brand. The decision to go with an embossed logo was an intentional understating to deliver the message that the brand is not in the forefront: it’s really about the supporters and the story kit mission. Read all about the story kits here.

If you haven’t tried the 407s, don’t hesitate: I believe they may be discontinuing them. The nicer cover and embossing does bump the cost up, and with their prime mission of supplying the story kits to schools, cost plays a strong factor in their offerings. I expect we’ll see other dot grid notebooks in the future from Story Supply, since it seems one of the most popular page formats these days.

Disclaimer: All notebooks were purchases by me and not provided in consideration for a review.

A Year of Write

A new player in the niche limited edition notebook world came out nearly one year ago. The brainchild of Write Notepads, their limited edition subscription took a different approach to quarterly limited notebooks, a market well-cornered by Field Notes Brand COLORS limited editions.

Write is quickly growing a cult-like following for their limited pocket notebooks, and with good reasons:  consistent fountain-pen friendly paper (works superbly with graphite too), thematic approaches with classic designs, custom matching themed pencils, and that ooh-factor folding box to hold each set of three notebooks. And if that wasn’t enough differential design, each notebook is .25″ wider than the niche market’s ubiquitous 3.5″ x 5.5″ pocket notebook standard, coming in at a defiant 3.75″ x 5.5″ (the size difference, I think, to accommodate the PUR-formed perfect binding).

Admittedly, while I’ve enjoyed the approach, design, and themes, I have not embraced the PUR binding. My resistance? They’re not as easy to lay flat, fold back the covers, or write across the binding as the more-common staple or stitched bindings. With the latest release, In The Pines, I’ve finally adjusted to the PUR binding. While I still don’t like to long-write in notebooks with PUR bindings, I’m definitely a convert to using them for notes, lists, idea jots, quick sketches, and other on-the-go writing needs. Besides, my long-write habits keep me in my A5 or larger journals, or my Midori Traveler standard notebooks, so that specific use really is not a factor preventing me from embracing the Write way.

Available primarily by subscription, you can try out a pack during a short period after each release when extra copies go on public sale. Subscription sign-up is usually only available for a brief period around the time of each release.

To check out all the first year’s releases in detail, go to Write Notepads Web site and explore. Write also keeps in stock plain pocket notebooks of the same size and binding with three page layouts and solid color covers, another way to explore the notebook form used in the limited editions.

Shown in the picture above, in order of release: Lenore, Kindred Spirit, Royal Blue, In the Pines.

Suddenly There are Two: Field Notes and Write – Reporter Notebooks

Field Notes Expedition (standard size 3.5 x 5.5) for comparison
Field Notes Expedition (standard size 3.5 x 5.5) for comparison

Just like my previous Field Notes versus Write Notepads review, I don’t expect this one to be easy nor conclusive as to a clear winner (not that this is contest; it’s really a celebration of the amazing options we have these days in the stationery world with well-done and highly useful notebooks).

As a special bonus, I’ve locked up with Mr. Pencil, Johnny Gamber of Pencil Revolution for a tag-team blogging effort to cover these two great reporter notebooks. We’ll each be giving our overall opinions, but I’ll restrict my tool testing to fountain pens while Johnny will cover graphites. Jump over to his post and check out how these two notebooks perform with pencils.

Reporter Form and Function

Before I dive into particulars, let’s take a moment to appreciate the why of the reporter notebook form. Back in the day when reporters were plenty and spent much of their work lives on the beat, on their feet running from one story or source to another, or frantically reviewing things to hit their deadlines, they didn’t have iPhones or iPads to capture notes: they had to frantically scratch out facts and quotes on pocket notebooks. The nature of this work generally required something large enough to write a lot in, easily pocketable, and quick to flip through double-checking facts, finding pithy quotes, etc.

I’m not exactly sure what they used as notepads, but the flip-top reporter-style pad is not a recent invention: Moleskine and many others have had flip-top notebooks for a long time, but these two new twists on an old standard go much farther than merely rotating the binding 90 degrees clockwise.

Both companies share common approaches: similar size, top wire binding, pocketable-ish (if you have large pockets), ruled pages for note taking, and quality paper to handle any type of writing tool. But that’s where the similarities end: each takes a different approach to the overall feel and user-intangibles, each bringing different nuances to their version of this classic form.

Field Notes Byline

Field Notes BylineThe last time Field Notes strayed from their beloved form factor was the COLORS release of their two-pack Arts & Sciences with its oversized form and innovative page layouts. The Field Notes hordes were generally not amused, and A&S took a while to sell and even longer (if they’ve even gotten there) to gain respect. Fast forward to Summer 2016 and Field Notes goes outside the lines once more to release an out-sized reporter pad steeped in historical journalism connections and co-conceived by the famed journalist, John Dickerson.

Special Bylines sticker subscriber bonus
Special Bylines sticker subscriber bonus
Bylines brings several innovations to the table and once more rattles the sensibilities of the Field Notes obsessed (of which I am one), but while my sensibilities were embraced and not rattled on this one, some of the faithful cried foul on venturing beyond the stock 3.5″ x 5.5″ pocket notebook form. I think upon holding and using, some of these initial negative feelings may change and users discover different uses for Bylines than what they typically associate with the standard Field Notes form.

Byline overall feels and looks like something from a vintage era, yet crisp and clean with modern touches added. From the soft (to the touch and eyes) cover that protects the wire binding from snagging when closed and flips over easily, to the pocket on the inside back cover, and then to the easy-on-the-eyes natural-colored paper, Bylines definitely has a cool factor that invites use and thought into how to use this everyday.

FN-Write FP Inks

In use, fountain pens perform very well in Bylines, perhaps as well as any paper Fields Notes has offered to date. While previous notable fountain-pen-friendly issues such as America the Beautiful, Shelterwood, and recently Workshop Companion (and a nod to Sweet Tooth’s pen-friendliness although blank and colored paper) let a fountain pen user be pretty happy in a Field Notes, the Byline goes up a notch with paper that is a bit smoother than those three. I especially like the paper’s natural color, but I’ve always been a fan of light cream paper for writing. In my brief pen test, all felt great writing in Bylines and show through (my bane of notebooks with bad paper) is nearly non-existent. I also love the double rule at the top to allow for headings or other structure written above the line.

Write Reporter’s Notepad

Write Reporter NotepadTwo things set Write Notepads apart from the typical notebook maker: made in Baltimore with pride and their ongoing commitment to giving back to their community by donating a notebook to a Baltimore public school for every notebook they sell. And that terrific aspect of buying their products continues with their new Reporter’s Notepad.

Like all Write notebooks, they are seriously into beefy covers, sturdy wire bindings, and high quality production. Since they are both the designers and physical producers on site, they have the luxury of doing notebook runs as they need to which allows for optimum quality control on every book they produce. Although their designs fall to the utilitarian side of things more than Field Notes typically, they are passionate about materials and quality of their final product and it shows.

Write’s approach to the reporter pad form is very straight forward: provide great paper, beefy chipboard covers for a sturdier writing surface, a top wire-binding that will outlast the pages, and great paper that takes all kinds of writing tools with great-to-excellent results. If you prefer a more no-nonsense approach and more pages in one notebook, you may lean to the Write Reporter’s Pad. I see an edge to Write’s version for something I’d use around the house or at my desk. Sitting in my easy chair taking notes or spinning ideas, the extra thick covers offer an edge in comfort over the more flexible Bylines covers.

In my brief fountain pen test, Write did excellent and all pens felt great. Show through is just about absent, with a few tiny spots appearing, but less than the Field Notes (which itself had very little, the difference being pretty miniscule). Paper is very smooth, and if this is their new standard paper, it’s a winner and among the best out there in general notebook paper for fountain pens.

Summary

FN-Write Sideshot

I like them both, a lot, and even as I’m at this point in drafting this post, I’m still not able to do a 1-2 placement! Apologies to those looking for an outright choice. In my final analysis, it seems to fall into considering several camps when choosing one over the other:

Allegiance – If you’re a diehard Field Notes fan, you’ll likely buy Bylines. By the same token, if you’ve been using Write Notepads all along, you’ll feel very comfortable with this extension of their approach in this new reporter’s form.

Usage – If mobility and weight is your primary concern, I’d give an edge to Bylines. It is lighter, thinner, and has a flexibility that could be useful pocketing, sitting on it while in your back pocket, etc. But…with only 70 pages, you might be changing notebooks sooner versus Write’s hefty 120-page benefit. But again…if what’s most important is using as a stand-there-and-take-notes tool, the stiffness of the Write Reporter’s may jump past Byline’s edge in portable convenience. For a notebook on your desk, open for your next inspiration, an edge to Write’s in my mind.

Cool factor – This will depend on your preferences to begin with. Bylines has a coolness edge to me for its overall vintage feel, extras such as back pocket, covered wire binding, and inside covers reading stuff. Yet some will prefer the more no-nonsense, minimalistic approach that the Write Reporter’s Pad offers, and who admire (as I do) what Write does for the community with each purchased notebook. Always nice writing in a notebook and realizing your purchase helped someone in need.

In the end, these two have as many similarities as they have differences. They are both deserving of consideration and both fill a niche in the market nicely. Choose either, choose both: you can’t lose.

Where to Buy

Both can be purchased at the maker’s web stores (Field Notes Byline or Write Reporter’s Notepad) or at local or online resellers that carry their lines.

Disclaimer: Both test notebooks were of my own purchase and not provided by either maker. I also consistently use notebooks from both sources and use both maker’s products in my everyday writing, note taking and the other good stuff for which I use small notebooks.