Review – Bull & Stash Notebook Travel Stash

Bull & Stash was a kickstarter for a notebook company that I only found out about because my brother was excited about it. The particular product he was looking at still hasn’t entered regular production, but I figured I’d test out one and see if they were any good in general.

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The basic idea is that the notebooks have removable pages. This way, different types of paper can be used, and notes can be organized after they’re written, both inside and outside the notebook. This is accomplished by having two posts on the back of the notebook that have removable screws to allow paper to be put in an out.

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The cover is a simple slab of supple leather with two holes in the back, and a logo stamped on the front. I’ve seen some complaints that the logo is stamped unevenly, and while it is on mine this doesn’t bother me. The cover did have an unsightly curl when I first received it (the back and front didn’t match up) but this has gone away with use. On the inside, the hardware is simple, and it screws down a flimsy cardboard piece with a place for basic lost and found information. Inside this is the paper. Around 40-45 pages can fit in at a time, but I’d recommend fewer. The cardboard and leather cover do provide enough stability to write on in most situations, but I wouldn’t be taking long notes or more than a few without a stable writing surface. The cardboard is also prone to bending, decreasing the stability over time.

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The paper is all right. It is fairly bleed resistant, but prone to feathering inks. The graph and lined refills are only printed on one side, which is fine by me because I only use one, but others might find it annoying. It would be difficult to use both sides in this book, though, because the hardware makes flipping through pages difficult. I’d remove the first few pages regularly to prevent them from being destroyed, and I can say that writing on the back of a page is almost impossible. The hardware also cramps the writing space. If things were a little smaller I’d be more happy.

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In the end, it’s a solid first attempt. It seems more like a portfolio builder, though, and I don’t know how supported the books will be. There are little inconsistencies and design problems that make me shy away from recommending the books. It’s not worth the current asking price to me if the cardboard and stamp quality aren’t fixed. And the edges of the notebook aren’t finished very well, leading to a very strange appearance. It definitely will last a long time: the leather and steel hardware aren’t going anywhere. But it just seems like the designers dropped the ball a little bit. It’s almost too simple and feels like it’s slapped together from existing items. Maybe my problems with the hardware are solved in the larger version, but I doubt it. Until a more usable and better finished version is released, I’d hold off.

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Review – Monsieur Notebook A5 Blank “Fountain Pen” Paper

One way to make your notebook stand out in this new notebook market is to have high-quality components that are durable and look good. Monsieur Notebook has tried to do that, with their new leather notebook competitor to Moleskine.

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First a little story. Monsieur Notebook has been available in Europe for a little while now, using production from India, if I’m not mistaken. They recently had an Indiegogo campaign to distribute in the U.S. and get more local production (for them in the U.K.). I pledged (purchased) on Indiegogo for two notebooks and got laser engraving thrown in to review.  My notebooks were however caught up somewhere in the delivery process and ended up taking quite some time to get here. During this process I discovered that the customer service is very nice and expedient for being across an ocean from me. Anyway, some time later I have an extra notebook for my troubles and am getting on the review track. I should note that these books were sent to me directly and not through a distributor, so they did get a bit damaged in the post because they were not in a box, this will not happen if you simply order a book from them.

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The notebooks are a nice A5 size, a bit wider than a Moleskine. With 100 sheets of “royal executive bond” (100gsm) paper (that’s what the watermark says anyway). The cover is leather, and comes quite dry, so it will need some maintenance to make it more supple. The cover is completely plain (unless laser engraved) save for a tiny logo on the back in the right bottom corner. The cover sticks out from the pages just a bit to provide them some protection. There is an elastic band on the back that is loose when not in use like a Moleskine but tightly closes the book when necessary. The cover is glued to some heavy cardstock and opening the front reveals another logo with a website and a contents page with a place for a name and other information. There are no other features, this includes the conspicuous absence of a back pocket common to these types of books.

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Now to the paper, which in mine is blank, and meant for fountain pens. The promise of being fountain pen-friendly is a bold one, and one that is almost thoroughly lived up to. The paper is a very stark, almost perfect, white (with a watermark as previously mentioned). It has a bit of a grain to it, so it provides some feedback when writing, but it isn’t unpleasant. It is a bonded paper, so some paper fibers may come up and clog nibs on fountain pens after extended use, but that is only a fountain pen concern. As for writing, it’s smooth, with some feedback. There are very few inconsistant places that would cause hang ups, or strange ink behaviors. Bleed-through for liquid inks is minimal, but it is there, the paper seems to take wide spaces of ink in stride (like calligraphy) and has little to no bleed-through. But a pen that is quite wet with a finer line will make points of bleed-through. A similar phenomenon can be noted with feathering, as finer lines tend to feather more on this paper than broader lines. Which is a strange property indeed. But the overall experience is pleasant. The ink dries friarly fast, with some notable exceptions (Noodler’s red)

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So a few more things to note. The spine is good leather and doesn’t seem to take structural damage but does easily take cosmetic. The Laser engraving is awesome but it really depends on your image. The elastic strap could cosmetically damage the cover by pulling it. And occasionally the signatures seem to be pulling away from each other, but not the spine.

So overall I think this is a great notebook. It is made of high quality materials, if not high production quality. The materials seem to be good enough to make up for the shoddy construction and make a stable book that will work quite well for an extended amount of time. It is one of the best fountain pen paper notebooks, but not the best. I’d say the paper is worse, but the book itself is better than a Rhodia book. So it all depends on what you want. This book might not look very good, but it should last at least as long if not longer than any other notebook on the market. And it’s the same price as a Moleskine. So If you want a good “beat-up notebook”, try one of these.