Review – Daler-Rowney Simply Pocket Sketchbook (3.5×5.5) Hardback

Every time I have the time, I foolishly look in the notebook section at Walmart (both the office and/or crafts). I don’t know why, I always know that the notebooks won’t be great but I’ll be swayed to buy one anyway. In this case it was a hardback pocket sketchbook that I thought was only a dollar (it’s about 5 times that). The book basically has the same dimensions and look as a Moleskine Pocket notebook, but with 72 sheets of 100 gsm (65lb) “sketch” paper (heavier than the Moleskine notebook, lighter than their sketchbook, and with fewer sheets than either) at a discounted price. But is it a worthy “replacement”?

photo 2-42

The cover is very Moleskine reminiscent, being a black sort-of faux leather wrapped around cardboard, but in this case much more shiny and plastic-y. There are visible creases on both the front and back because the spine has been stiffened to remain flat, meaning the covers more or less “hinge” open. There is an elastic band attached to the back cover that does its job of holding the book together when wrapped around and warps the covers a little bit. Also on the back cover, stamped slightly off-center is the Daler-Rowney logo.

photo 1-44

Inside there is no strict “this book belongs to:” or logo page before getting right into the 72 sheets of “ivory” sketching paper, augmented by a very cheap looking/feeling black ribbon bookmark. Inside the back cover is a page-size pocket with cloth folds for strength, and I never use these so I can’t tell you much more than that.

photo 3-40

The paper itself is good. It is indeed fairly thick and heavy, with a grain that is smoother than most sketchbooks I’ve encountered but more toothy than any “notebooks” I’ve used. Aside from telling you that it’s “acid free”, the sticker on the front cover also has a picture of a pencil and a nib (I assume standing in for all ink pens) and it handles these two quite well. If you use pencil, there is a little bit of show-through if you go looking for it, but you could easily use all 144 “pages” of the book. The show-through becomes much more prominent with ink, especially from felt tip, brush, or fountain pens. There is also some minimal bleed-through with the more intense ink pens, but I never got it to actually mark on the next sheet. Still, it reduces the usable space of the sketchbook to 72 pages when using inks. Feathering is also a bit of an issue. There isn’t much of it, but when it happens (mostly with fountain pens) there are long thin lines of ink stretching away from your mark that almost look like little hairs. They’re pretty hard to see from far away, but when you notice them it’s hard to un-see.

photo 4-37

For the price it’s a nice little sketchbook (even if it cost more than I thought). It’s held up to a few months of moderate use from me with virtually no battle-damage, and while I suspect it to be less durable than a Leuchtturm or Moleskine it is short enough that it’ll probably last until you finish with it. The paper is good quality and pleasant to write on, and the handy pocket is there with an elastic band closure to keep every thing tidy. It’s a pretty good, if unrefined, option if you want a black pocket sketchbook.

Advertisements

Review – Moleskine Pocket Softcover Notebook

I’ve already reviewed the Moleskine pocket notebook in hardback, but I’ve also used the softback version, and since there are a few key differences besides the obvious, I though I’d highlight them. So this is only half a review, if you want to know about the paper you can look up my other Moleskine pocket review.

20131030-010203.jpg

So the cover is obviously soft. It is a lot thinner and as such you can see the binding through it, especially on the back where you can see the attachment points for the elastic band. They are a bit intrusive and noticeable. The cover is blank aside from the name Moleskine stamped rather deeply into the back cover. The look is a bit like the regular Moleskine, but the pages are cut the the same length as the cover, and it looks a bit more shiny. The front cover can roll up on itself and then bounce back, but it never fully regains its former shape. The back is much less flexible due to the back pocket that comes Moleskine standard. The cover also feels almost moist and rubbery, and any minor scratches and such simply bounce out unlike the Rhodia Webnotebook. The softness does mean that the elastic band leaves very noticeable marks on the cover and sometimes the paper. The spine in contrast to the hardcover feels much more durable and able to stand up to long, continued use.

20131030-010210.jpg

Which style of cover is better is a decision you have to make. This one is flexible, easily fits in a pocket, and is harder the permanently damage than the hard cover, but it offers less page protection and stability for writing, so it’s give and take.

Review – Rhodia Web Notebook Pocket

Well, it’s that time again, time to talk about a little black book. This one’s particularly good for fountain pens. It’s the Rhodia Web-notebook pocket black version.

20130911-014436.jpg

The dimensions are almost exactly the same as the Moleskine, with the exception of it being slightly thicker. The cover is a strange, and easily warped, faux-leather. It is quite pleasant to hold, and the spine sustains much less damage than with stiffer cover books. Not to say the cover is flexible, it is definitely hard, though the Moleskine still holds the record for notebook most like a rock, the Rhodia does have a little give in it. Also on the front cover is a stamped Rhodia logo and an elastic band holds it all together. The standard pocket in the back tops it all off.

20130911-014444.jpg

Inside there are the same number of pages as the Moleskine. The pages are thicker though, the first page is unusable and gives you their specks. They are slightly off white with a bit of an orangish tint. This version has them lines with thin grey lines and a slight margin on top. The paper is insanely smooth, as in the smoothest paper I’ve ever written on, right there with Clairefontaine, being made by the same company that makes sense though. It takes ink well, and it even dries relatively fast on there, though there are some problems with bleed through on broader nibs or wetter inks. It should be noted that the paper is different from the larger notebook paper.

So overall, if you have a fountain pen and need a notebook, this is a better choice for you than almost any other notebook on the market. Though if you’re drawing with flex pens or thick brushes be aware that you’ll still only be able to use half the pages in the book. Though bleeding onto the next sheet is something I haven’t seen. Are these the best pocket notebooks? It depends on what type of pen you’re using, and how much you care about the feel of your notebook, because this one does feel quite different.

Review – Leuchtturm 1917 Pocket Notebook

Notebooks again. Is Moleskine your style but you find the paper a little lacking? Well Leuchtturm claims to have you covered with the 1917 line of notebooks. Specifically I’m reviewing the black pocket (dot) hardcover version.

tumblr_mqsc926InY1rrdkoco1_500

Starting with the outside, the dimensions are nearly the same width- and thickness-wise as the Molsekine, but about half an inch taller. As the Field Notes and Clairefontaine pocket books are the same size (lacking thickness) you could compare it to them as well. The cover is in the black Moleskine style and is almost indistinguishable. It is also fairly flexible, something entirely absent in the Moleskine. It has an elastic band that feels slightly cheaper, but nonetheless works well. The most disappointing thing is the spine, which constantly creases, cracks and groans. The problems appears the be that the cover on the joints is separate from the binding. The binding does feel solid, so I don’t believe it will fail, but the spine will definitely encounter cosmetic damage with prolonged use.

Inside there is a standard back pocket, an address and name blank, and several table of contents pages, helpful little things if I do say so. Also the last few (six) sheets can be torn out and are as such perforated. Each page is numbered and of course there’s a bookmark ribbon. It has about the same sheet count, and same page color as the Moleskine, but with better paper. The Leuchtturm has 80 gram paper that is supposedly ink resistant. I can say it is, I didn’t even get bleed-through with a flex pen. That being said, everything shows through to the point of being annoying, even a ballpoint pen. Only pencil makes for a clean, two-sided drawing experience. Though the paper, unfortunately, is not very smooth at all, especially not as much so as the Molsekine or Clairefontaine books. You’ll get a lot of feedback on this one. The rulings are all standard and nothing to write home about.

tumblr_mqsc9pB2EJ1rrdkoco1_500

So, how does the Leuchtturm perform? Well. It performs well. It’s cheaper than the completion and better in some ways. Most of these things are up to personal preference. I would say the binding is a little weak on this one, but other than that it’s up to par.

Review – Clairefontaine Spiral Classic wire bound French Ruled Notebook

Do you have trouble with making your handwriting look good? Do you feel that many of the lined notebooks are ruled just to small for you? Then the Clairefontaine Classic Wire Bound French Ruled Notebook may be for you.

20130516-124453.jpg

The notebook’s size is about 6¾” X 8½”. It comes with 60 sheets of 90 gram paper. The paper is a nice, crisp white. And it really is white, it’s brighter than the white in a composition notebook, and is a very stark contrast to most of the higher quality off-white, moleskine-type notebooks.

The quality of the paper is superb. It is buttery smooth and provides a great writing surface. There is no feedback to speak of; so if you like feed back you should be looking elsewhere. The thickness and smoothness of the paper means it handles ink very well. Pencils, ballpoint pens, technical pens, and even fountain pens are handled with ease; though there is a prolonged drying time. Some very wet writing implements, like heavier fountain pens or the Nano-liner, do ghost and occasionally bleed through, but for the most part you can use both sides of the sheet if you so desire.

The ruling on the particular book I have is French ruling, or Seyès if you will. It is designed to make one’s handwriting better. It has five thin lines between each pair of thick lines, which allows for the various heights of minuscule and majuscule letters (upper and lower case). It also has lines running vertically that act as indentation guides for paragraphs and the like. It is great for practicing handwriting or for easy spacing of lines, though it can seem overwhelming at times.

20130516-124504.jpg

The binding is a simple spiral that is heavy duty and will allow the book to lie flat easily. The cover is a simple piece of card stock that has nothing special about it. It is covered in a design that I frankly find ugly, but then again I like plain black books so what do I know? It serves its purpose well.

Over all this is a superb book. The paper is incredible, both to write on and to look at. The French ruling is very helpful in writing and can also serve as a general (stress that) guide while drawing little sketches and the like. The binding is nice and simple, doing its job well. It’s not particularly an art book, but it’s a very good writing/note book.

Review – large Blank Moleskine

A little while ago I reviewed the Moleskine blank pocket book. Now in the same notebook direction I’ll take a quick look at the Moleskine blank large book. Will the classic renowned Moleskine hold up to closer scrutiny? We’ll see.

20130430-230325.jpg

The cover is cardboard wrapped in faux-leather. It’s fairly sturdy, though it does begin to wear at the corners with continuous use. Though if you find a notebook that doesn’t I’ll be amazed. The binding is rounded, flexible and lies flat. It does have a tendency to crease when opened for too long. It also tears eventually, and if the book is really old it even begins to split down the back. This only happens toward the end of the book’s life (the last twenty pages or so). Around the cover is an elastic band which does a good job holding everything together but will eventually bend the cover in.

The pages are super thin. There are 240 of them in this half-inch book. They are of okay stock. Anything heavier than a ballpoint pen bleeds through but not usually onto the next page, it can just be seen through the page. The paper is smooth and writes well, the fine texture is just enough to prevent slips of the hand.

20130430-230332.jpg

The first and last pages are attached to the binding, rendering them mostly useless. In the back is the standard pocket, which contains the story of Moleskine (and a quality control number which is actually quite useful). In the front is a ‘who owns this’ page with a reward blank. I don’t find those particularly useful but they are there.

So are they worth it? Like all notebooks it depends on what you’re looking for (unless they just fall apart, those are useless no matter what). They are great for free range writing with sketches to enhance the look. As a sketchbook they work best with pencil as most anything else will bleed through. They are very solid in construction, the front cover especially can take a severe beating. They have very few organizational features, which some may find liberating and some infuriating. Like I said, best as a free range writing/sketch book. Alright as a travel log or such. They’re decent, and the ones I use all the time.

Review – Moleskine Pocket Notebook Blank

As I may or may not have mentioned here before, I take a small pocket book everywhere I go. The brands and styles vary, but the idea for me really doesn’t. I generally don’t use lines, and I prefer hard backs because they are harder to damage etc. And one brand has quite a large hold on the market for such books, whether they are journals or pocketbooks. So today we’ll be seeing if the Moleskine notebooks are really as good as they’re cracked up to be.

20130315-000852.jpg

The one I’m looking at is a Moleskine blank pocket notebook in the classic black. It’s a standard notebook size in terms of width and height. It’s a little thinner than most due to the extremely thin paper inside. The binding is nice and solid. The cover is sturdy and wear resistant, though it can only take so much before the faux-leather starts to wear. The spine holds up, it doesn’t really break, it lies flat and rarely creases at the joints. There is also an elastic band attached to the back that wraps around and nicely seals the book together, but it does warp the cover eventually.

The pages are thin as previously noted. They are super smooth but not slick, making writing easy and stifling bleeding over the page or hand slipping. However their thinness and readiness to take ink causes easy bleed through, especially with a fountain pen or similar device. Most colored pens also bleed through so I would recommend pencils or ballpoint pens unless you only want to use every other page.

20130315-000859.jpg

There is a pocket in the back for keeping notes, it’s great but nothing terribly special or amazing. It holds what it needs to hold and doesn’t increase the thickness of the book too much.

So are Moleskines all they’re cracked up to be? No, not really. The binding is superb but the page quality is mediocre. All of the little things that were once innovations of the Moleskine are now present in other notebooks and possibly done better. It is really nothing special, but it is much better than the cheaper look-alikes. I continue to use Moleskines because I like the sturdy binding and I like the consistency within my notebooks. If you want the best you should look elsewhere, but if you want a nice, durable, consistent notebook, try Moleskine.