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”?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Review – Poppin Fineliners

Poppin is a company that I don’t know much about, but their pens definitely catch the eye. When I saw this set of fineliners (felt tip pens) from them, I knew I had to pick a set up. The packaging and the feeling of the pens themselves appears quality, but do they live up to their first impressions?

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The outsides themselves are very nice looking. At the bottom is a small inset for posting the cap, which connects via a visible seam to a very smooth and featureless barrel. Underneath the cap are a series of step downs that are quite short and would be uncomfortable to hold, leading quickly to a standard-looking felt tip point, making it more comfortable to hold the pen by the barrel when writing. The cap, when on, has a slight step up from the barrel but is equally pleasantly smooth, and its only features are a dimple in the top and a rather unique u-like clip that looks like a Lamy wire clip that has been flattened.

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Functionally, the clip is about useless. It doesn’t have any dimple with which to grip, and is spaced farther from the cap than the width of most fabrics, meaning friction won’t be holding it in. The tips themselves aren’t that great, either. Like most fineliners, they do write with minimal pressure, but unlike most they do not give a consistent line. Dots very quickly form when writing or drawing due to having a very fluid ink not well controlled, and when writing fast at times skips can even develop, though this is rare.

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The colors of black, blue, and red are very standard, but the two extra colors are very washed out, blue especially. The blue is very pleasant sky blue when controlled well, but becomes darker quickly. But it still sticks out compared to other office blues. Red is nice and vibrant, though its tone is closer to that of a pink. It’s the least prone to problems as the ink is a bit thinner and less likely to dot. The black is fortunately a black and not a very deep purple or gray as some are. It is slightly on the cool side, which is unusual. The colors do match their corresponding pen bodies fairly well, but the inclusion of a 4th pen that has a white body, but also black ink, is slightly confusing. They unfortunately do bleed through the paper, but have minimal shading and resist water (while they do spread slightly when wet, they remain easily readable).

Overall I think the pens aren’t really up to par with what one can get for their office. They are sturdy and the ink works well, but without functional clips, they must remain at the desk or in a case, and their writing performance leaves much to be desired. The user just ends up with a pen that feels slightly rough and dry. If style and durability are your main concerns (and potentially ease of writing as the ink almost jumps from pen to page on contact) these might work for you. But for those looking for the superior, super-smooth and comfortable writing experience, or a portable reliable writer, these can be easily passed up.

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.

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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.

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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 – Swingline Personal Pencil Sharpener

Some people might not consider a pencil sharpener an art supply. But we’re using my definition of an art supply and if it in any way helps you with art it is now an art supply. Okay, maybe not exactly, but let’s just get into this Swingline Personal Pencil Sharpener.

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The sharpener itself is a chunky bubble of plastic with unappealing curves. It’s designed to be different rather than practical. It’s got a dust- and scratch-attracting polish on the front and a pleasing matte finish on the back. Also in the back are several fairly useless pencil holders. Back on the front is a dent that guides your pencil into the sharpener, or more likely just breaks your lead as you try. There is also a clear plastic shaving container that can be easily removed from the front.

The entire assembly is heavy and barely moves when one is sharpening. It feels solid and almost unbreakable. And with some nice rubber feet on the bottom it stays where you put it.

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The sharpening itself is alright. There is no swaying or destroying of the pencil. It sharpens fast and without any clogging problems. The point, however, is not as fine as it could be. It gets the job done and definitely counts as a sharpened pencil, but I generally prefer the finest of pencil tips for my work. These are simply sufficient for me.

Overall it’s a pencil sharpener, what do you expect nowadays? The build quality is nice if misguided, and the sharpening is good but lackluster. It’s sadly one of the better sharpeners on the market, beating the X-ACTO sharpeners you see in schools and offices. It doesn’t come close to a good Boston sharpener though and if you really want to get some sharpening done that’s what I’d recommend. This is only for people who just want a decent sharpener.

Review – Royal Langnickel Nano-Liner 02 Red Technical Pen

So, you really need a red technical pen. You’ve heard good things about Microns, but you can’t find them in red at your local store. You instead find a red Royal Langnickel Nano-Liner pen. Is it a good substitute for a micron pen? Let’s see.

First off, the body of the pen is not sleek. It is grippy as a result but feels a bit rough on the hand. All necessary information is printed on the side and is fairly hard to rub off, though it can be done more easily than with other pens. The metal clip on the cap does its job well and the number on the top is easily visible and rub-resistant.

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The ink is a bright red, unmistakeable for any other color. It’s brighter than most other red pens and would most likely have to be diluted to even begin to simulate reality. It is permanent and a bit more liquid than most technical pens. It bleeds through thin paper with ease and pools at starting and stopping positions. With card stock it works just fine, but with a heavy grain paper the line tends to seep out and become wider. Precession drawing is difficult, even with the 02, which would seem to make a line as big as a Micron 05. However, for large sweeping motions this pen seems right at home, just don’t push to hard and destroy the nib.

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So, is this pen an adequate replacement for a Micron? Certainly not! It does have several good points: large amounts of ink are good for long, and sweeping lines, but less so for the precision drawing it is marketed for. It does do the drawing job better than a standard office pen and is cheaper than a Micron. I think it’s really up to personal preference as with all art supplies, but one should really try a Micron first before checking this pen out.