Review – Crayola Crayons (120 Crayon Box Part 1 – White, Pinks, Reds, and Purples)

When it comes to crayons there is one brand that immediately comes to everyone’s mind (right before “and Roseart? Is that their name?”): Crayola. They’ve been making crayons for more than a century, and seem to really know what they’re doing. Their products are pretty close to ideal for school use, and can be used, in good hands, to even make fine quality art.

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They’re simple and sturdy, with just a traditional paper wrapper that is almost instantly recognizable to anyone who was raised in the United States. They’re harder to make a mess with than markers and easier to use than colored pencils. Still, they don’t lend themselves well to more advanced techniques, like any type of blending really. But to solve that, Crayola has a (relatively inexpensive) box of their 120 “standard” colors (excluding metallic, sparkling, and retired colors) available to give you as many different shades as you need. I roughly organized this set and split it into 4 parts of 30 crayons each. Where I will go through and evaluate each color and whether or not getting the 120 is really that much better and the 64 or 96.

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White – White is white, and on white paper, virtually invisible. There isn’t much of an off-white look either; it really does look like white paper on another color. It’s probably everyone’s least used crayon, but it’s good for highlighting, and covering an entire page without being able to see what your doing.

Piggy Pink – And very quickly we get to one I’m not really a fan of. Piggy Pink is a next-to-impossible-to-see color that, based on all of my observations, might actually be a pink hue. Maybe it’s for highlighting, but how often do you see that with crayons? I think it’s close to useless.

Salmon – Next up is a Salmon, which does look like the fish, though darker. Like most of the pinks it doesn’t cover well and is quite pale, but its still a pleasant color that could find a variety of uses.

Shocking Pink – Shocking pink is one of those fluorescent colors. It is easily the brightest pink and since the set has no “hot pink” it is a suitable replacement. It’s good for coloring 80’s clothing and aliens, but I suspect some could find more creative uses for it.

Radical Red – The name of this one is a bit of a swap, I think. It’s not really a red, much more of a pink (even with pink being weird as far as the light our eyes see and everything). I would best describe it as a darker, and more subdued, version of hot pink. Think the 90’s version of Shocking Pink up there, with much the same uses.

Wild Watermelon – Wild watermelon is quite an apt name for this one: it does look like a ripe (perhaps a bit overly so) watermelon. It’s a bright spring or flower color that unfortunately doesn’t cover well and has limited use.

Razzle Dazzle Rose – A color very similar to shocking pink, but with slightly different coverage properties (less even, but darker in spots). It is a bit darker and does give off a hint of the classic rose color, but it isn’t very spectacular.

Carnation Pink – This pink does resemble a carnation, but of course flowers range hugely in colors. It is a good flower color and covers well, but it’s too light to have many other applications.

Pink Flamingo – Despite the name being slightly misleading (it doesn’t really look like a flamingo, it’s quite a bit darker) this is one of my favorite pinks. It has a nice easy-to-see color, that covers alright, and has a versatile (for pink) range, from flowers, to berries, and even flamingo shading.

Tickle Me Pink – Lacking any knowledge about what color “Tickle Me” is I will say that this pink is a very similar one to the Pink Flamingo, it covers better and is a more “blueish” color. Filling many of the same roles, but being just a hint different.

Cotton Candy – Cotton Candy is one of the last “It is really hard to see this” colors we’ll have for a while (until lavender, and then not until yellows) but by virtue of it being one of those I am not a fan. It does cover surprisingly well, but it isn’t the color of cotton candy (at least what I’ve eaten) nor much else.

Mauvelous – Mauvelous is a wonderful pun and a nice-looking color. It isn’t the best covering one, but it is a light, purple-ish pink that is nice too look at. The one problem though is that the color isn’t mauve. It might be in the same realm (as in purple) but it wouldn’t have nearly the same uses.

Scarlet – Scarlet has always been one of my favorite colors. It’s a nice very bright red that looks good in highlighting, flowers, and anything that is generally a red color. It doesn’t cover as well as some of the other colors unfortunately. But it does draw the eyes while not being too overbearing.

Brick Red – Another apt name, this color is very much like a new brick wall with perhaps a dash of purple. It works for brick, obviously, and some older red items, like old fire hydrants and the like. Like most reds it’s all right in coverage, but lets the white show through here and there.

Razzmatazz – If I had to tell you what a Razzmatazz was, I wouldn’t be able to. I might guess that it would be a similar color to a raspberry, which this color is. It is also very much unlike Razzle Dazzle Pink, being a fairly dark pink/purple-y red that covers well enough. It’s good for berries and flowers and such, but I couldn’t pick it out in a lineup.

Red – A classic color there really isn’t much to say about. With coverage being much smoother than all of the pinks or pink-likes, and a pigment suitable for fire trucks, or apples it is an indespenable one.

Pink Sherbert – An interesting spelling choice on this one, but an apt description. This color would be very usable for frozen fruity treats. It is darker and covers better than most of the pinks and is quite soothing and cool looking.

Wild Strawberry – Wild Strawberry does look like a wild berry, but I’m not sure a strawberry would be the one I’d pick. It is a bit more purple/blue than most strawberries I’ve seen, but perhaps that’s just because I haven’t seen them in the wild. It is a nice raspberry or grape color as well, but like most reds it lacks good coverage.

Violet Red – This color is very hard to differentiate from the previous wild strawberry. It’s a little lighter, and a little more purple, but it has much the same use and properties.

Maroon – Maroon is one of my favorite colors in general, but it is generally a redish-brown-purple. And this version is distinctly less brown than is typical. I’d almost call Brick Red a more standard maroon color. It’s still a very nice, deep, satisfying color here, that gives the best coverage out of any of the reds. Unfortunately its uses are limited to shading, bruises, some clothing, and Texas A&M paraphernalia.

Cerise – Another color I am mostly unfamiliar with, but the name is quite accurate here. A purplish red, cerise doesn’t have many uses, save berries again. But it is a pleasant, lighter color that covers decently when applied.

Jazzberry Jam – Crayola seem to really like adding “z’s” to their color names, a theme that another color will follow before we’re through this first part. Jazzberry Jam is a lighter purplish-red and is indeed like many types of jams, jellies and berries. It’s got good coverage and is nice on the eyes.

Blush – Another good color name, Blush is exactly what I would have expected this color to be, or at least one of the variations. It’s a medium tone red-purple that covers very well and could be used as an actual blush color, unfortunately, despite it being nice looking, there isn’t much else to do with it.

Lavender – A fairly accurate representation of the flower, lavender is a light purple that is one of the more difficult crayons to see, and doesn’t cover very well, but is also one of the most interesting to look at. Not much to use it for, though.

Hot Magenta – This color is very similar to Razzle Dazzle Rose, with a dash more purple and some of the “atomic” glow taken out. I’m not a fan, and it doesn’t cover well, but it is seeable and not too hard on the eyes.

Purple Pizzazz – The final of the various “azz” colors, Purple Pizzazz is pretty unspectacular. It’s a light purple suitable for light purple things that covers all right. It’ll get use as an in-between color, but I can’t see reaching for it that often.

Magenta – Taking time off from Blues Clues magenta makes a good showing here. It covers well, looks very much like magenta, and because of that is nice too look at. Other than again flowers, berries, and the character, I’m not sure where it would be used, though.

Fuchsia – The hardest to spell color is also one of the hardest for people to pin down what exactly makes it (like chartreuse). Fortunately to that end it is a flower, and this color isn’t quite like the examples of the flower I’ve seen. But it would still work for other flowers and has good properties.

Red Violet – Another good color name, it is basically purple with a bit more red mixed in. Getting into these true purples though, means fewer and fewer uses, but better coverage, which this one has.

Egg Plant – And finally for this first part one of my (and certainly my mother’s) favorite colors (really just because it’s a goofy name) eggplant looks a lot like an eggplant. And it covers well enough that if you wanted to color an eggplant or shade some other purple color it would work perfectly.

And that’s all for the first 30 colors. Next time I’ll look at another 30 going from the purples to in the greens.

Blog 4-1-16 – The Good and the Bad

Hello again. I’m Austin Smith from the Dragon Funnies (dragonfunnies.com), Art Supply Critic (artsupplycritic.com), and Dragon Co. (dragoncompany.org) Blogs. And I have finally and unfortunately reached the point where work, social obligations, sickness, and just life in general have rendered me unable to keep up with maintaining my web endeavors. Over the past few weeks I have failed entirely to keep the deadlines I have set for myself on all three of these Blogs. And with more than 3 years of not missing more than a day that is a huge blow to me.

I will not give up on posting to these sites. And in fact I can see the crest of the mountain where I can go back to the normal maintenance of them. It is disheartening for me to still have this problem even after I have streamlined so much of my content. But it is still just a hobby for me, and it is a hobby I will have to “leave” on this side of the mountain and come back for once I have brought everything else to the top.

The real announcement here is, I will be suspending my posting schedule in April. That doesn’t mean things won’t be posted. It just means there will be no schedule. I will finish what I can when I can and then review my situation in May. If everything goes as planned (and things, contrary to how it seems, tend to go as planned, just not on schedule), I will catch up through all of these days by the time I am done. So the amount of content in the end will be the same, but will be posted in bursts rather than daily.

Until that is done there is quite a bit still on the site to enjoy, and I will still be showing my art and books in a gallery here in Alpine Texas from April 1st to 10th. There will be a lot of photos and maybe a few videos from that. And I will be working on a way to get some of the really cool new stuff I made for the show out and available on my site.

-Austin.

Review – Faber-Castell 033 Ballpoint Pen

I recently received a box of things my brother got for me on his trip to Peru. Inside were several pens that seemed to be commonly available there. Indeed, they are more common there than in the US, because all of the information I could find on them was in Spanish, or Russian (Ukrainian? Cyrillic of some sort). And they do say “Product of Peru” in Spanish. So let’s get to it and look at the first type I received, the Faber-Castell 033 ballpoint in black.

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The pen has a very classic octagonal design, and it’s made with a plastic that feels much like the plastic that older pens and mechanical pencils were made out of, except it is much lighter and feels more brittle and thinner as a result. The faceted barrel is capped on the back by a step-down plug of a light grey color that allows the pen to be neatly posted, and the cap on the front is a very simple, if unsightly, ribbed design. The clip is molded in and works, but is quite filmsy, and I wouldn’t trust it. The cap does fit securely over the section, which is a simple taper in the barrel to a larger-than-normal metal cone, at the end of which is the ball. As far as I can tell, this tip is not removable, and thus the pen is not refillable. Stamped in gold on the side is just enough information to identify it, but not much more.

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Writing is surprisingly smooth for a ballpoint, but it does have occasional startup issues and more blobbing than I can get past. The ink is comparable to inexpensive Bic ink. It’s suitably dark and black, but it’s got a bit of a red sheen, and upon close inspection under a bright light it looks like a very dark purple. It’s still on the warmer side of things, though. It dries fast (except for the blobs), but with certain types of paper I wouldn’t try it left-handed. And its blobbing might cause it to smear for left-handers anyway. It is suitably waterproof like most ballpoint inks. I haven’t tested lightfastness, but in general even cheap black inks do well, but it isn’t archival quality.

Overall it’s a well-working, inexpensive pen. As far as super cheap pens go it isn’t the best, but it’s far from the worst. It writes well, but not perfectly. The body is simple with no frills and holds together despite being cheaply made. And there isn’t much more to it than that. I wouldn’t be going out to import them, but I would (and will) use them if I ended up with them (which I obviously did).

Review – Huion 17.7” Light Pad (L4S)

There have been some huge leaps in lightbox technology in recent years. I’ve owned 3 lightboxes in my time, one being a repurposed dental x-ray box, the second being a traditional style box and the third being this which I bought as a possibly temporary replacement for my more traditional-style box. But I might not be swapping back so soon.

Their photos look a lot better than mine

Their photos look a lot better than mine

The Light Pad itself is a rectangular prism that measures 17 7/8” diagonal and 14 1/8” x 10 5/8” x 3/16”, meaning it covers quite a large area, but is very slim. The workable white/translucent area has markings on the side indicated in centimeters 12 ¼” (31cm) x 8 ¼” (21cm) with a ½cm margin. The non-workable black margin is about ¾“ all the way around the pad and it’s only features are the power button and a logo. On the side of the device next to the power button is a micro USB port that is only used for power (this version has no internal batteries), and a red LED will come on when the device is correctly connected. On the back of the device there is some modest information and nicely padded feet that prevent the pad from sliding around when being used.

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Using the Light Pad is a breeze. Simply touching the power “button” lights up the entire workable area to the highest brightness setting (which isn’t very bright, and being shone through a white plastic makes it much less glaring on the eyes). Touching and holding the button will start the pad lighting up, and releasing the button during this will keep the pad at the current brightness setting. This setting is remembered and the next time one starts the device it will light up at the chosen setting unless you hold the button down again. The working area accommodates A4 and Letter sizes well, and the light on the brightest setting easily works with 2 sheets of 110lb cardstock. The plastic the surface is made from is very smooth, but resists sliding and scratches. The feet are also very nice and the device is stiff enough that it doesn’t bend around them under normal use (I still wouldn’t go stacking things on it).

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I don’t think I’m going to be going back to the more traditional lightboxes anytime soon. In my opinion the only advantage they offer is an angled working surface, which is a feature I never really used. The Huion Light Pad is a great lightbox; it’s sufficiently lighted and durable enough to be easy to work with, thin enough that is stores easily, and draws very little power. Its overall workspace footprint is very small, and its job is done almost flawlessly. I do find the red LED indicator light to be annoying but I can’t think of a better way to do things and it is much less troublesome than other indicator lights I’ve had to deal with. I also have no use for the multiple brightness settings but I suppose it’s better to have it than not. Still, the device has become a permanent feature of my workplace and I would recommend anyone looking for a lightbox to look at these cheaper and thinner LED alternatives to the traditional boxes.

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Review – Slant Collections Mini Journals Preppy Stripe

I’m not exactly the type of person to be found in Tuesday Morning (the store) but I did find myself in there one day, and there was quite a bit of interesting stuff. And being someone who has been drawn to the stationery aisle since I was little I found myself in the stationery section, where I found a set of Slant Collections mini journals, this particular set in the discontinued “preppy stripe” (it was Tuesday Morning, after all). Let’s take a look.

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The books themselves are 3¼ x 5¼ inches, just smaller than a Moleskine pocket book. The cover feels like plastic-coated cardboard and in this version has a very simple design that comes in 3 colors. It is a single piece bent around and stitch-bound onto the 70 inside pages. These pages are lined with a thin 7mm ruling that is the same color as the main cover color, printed on a very white background.

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The paper itself is quite thick and a medium roughness. It is very bleed-and feathering-resistant despite this. Fountain and other liquid ink pens are handled well, and with most other writing utensils both sides of the paper can be used, though at this size I wouldn’t recommend that. The cover and binding are very well done and hold up (the stitching looks very slightly unsightly at times) and the corners are nicely rounded to prevent the corner bending that some books get. On the table the book lies adequately flat and while the cover does bend out of shape it bends back just as easily.

In the end I have been surprised by these little notebooks. They are hardy, easy to carry, great writing things. It has taken me some time to review them as they weren’t good enough to replace any of the books in my normal rotation (but that’s more because I prize consistency, a book would have to be head and shoulders above to get met to move something out of my rotation). I enjoyed using them very much (even the pink one) and if all of the Slant collection journals are as good as these were I’d consider more in the future.

Review – Flex By Filofax Pocket

This review has been a long time coming. I first picked up the Flex by FiloFax pocket book a year ago from a surplus store as they were being discontinued in America (though I can find them on Amazon again now). I’ve never really been the organizer type and I didn’t know what I would use the item for, but it was cheap, and black goes with anything so I picked it up. How could I resist another notebook?

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So I have settled on a use for it, and it goes with me (almost) every day as my wallet (second wallet: my first one isn’t large enough to carry much cash and business cards as it’s attached to my phone). So this will be a review of the product as a wallet, and not the myriad of other things it could be used for.

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The book comes with two notebooks that I’ll cover first. One is a small, journal-type book, and the other is a tear-able (not a pun) pad. Both are good quality paper that’s fairly smooth, and can stand up to some fountain pens even, but they’re a bit stiff. They fit snugly into the slots on the cover and never seem too intrusive or fattening. Replacement books and other styles can be bought individually, and they are still good even if not protected in the cover.

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The cover has a leatherette feel to it (I don’t know the material) but it’s pretty strong and the spine is designed to be flexible so it doesn’t look bad or get destroyed by being opened and closed a lot. On the outside there’s nothing but stitching and a subdued logo, which I like. On the inside there are two panels, each has an inside-facing, and outside-facing pocket that are about business card size and can hold the notebook covers. One panel then has three card slots for business/credit cards or the pad, and the other side has only one slot for either the pad or any other item that FiloFax made to be put in there (I suppose cards would work there too, but there is only one slot). Finally, it comes with a thin piece of cardboard with a pen loop attached that can be inserted into the back pockets, allowing for one to easily take their pen with them.

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I personally have: business cards, cash, a small pen (Monteverde Poquito stylus), and all of the included items stored inside. The cover has held up well, with no signs of wear yet, and while I rarely use the books because I have so many other ones (and I’m not a fan of jot-pads) they do come in handy and can take inks that many cheaper papers can’t. I’ve had no problems with the spine or the pockets, and the stitching is still all there. I wish it was a little more customizable, but I wish that about everything.

The Flex is a quality product, as a wallet, organizer, or notebook. It is very customizable and very hardy. If one’s needs change, the Flex can change with them, and it seems to be built well enough to last through those changes. I really like it, and wish it was more widely available here (it might be now: I need to check up on it). It is on the bulky side, so it’s not for the minimalist, and more customizable options would be nice. But unless I see something great I’m not on the hunt for another wallet.

Review – General’s Jumbo Kneaded Rubber Eraser

So what’s something every artist needs but no one talks about? If you answered eraser, congratulations! You get a digital cookie. Now then, let’s talk about a good eraser, a General’s Jumbo Kneaded Rubber eraser.

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Kneaded rubber erasers are really cool. They bend and twist into any shape you like, they don’t leave any shavings behind, and they can be used for a long time. They “clean” themselves a little when you knead them, allowing you to use them more regularly, and without smearing. They are rubber, so they come apart and back together. This particular brand comes in a nice square and works perfectly.

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All-in-all, even though there’s little to say about them, they are amazingly handy tools to have around, and much superior to any other eraser you’ll find, though much more expensive.

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.

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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.

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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 – Micron Rose, Brown, and Sepia Colors

So now we get to the final group of the Micron colors that came in the 8 pack of Micron colors. These are the weird or non-standard colors, in my opinion.

The first is Rose, which is a pink: they just call it Rose to make it fancy. It’s a very deep, pleasant, pink color, not like the very vibrant, in-your-face pinks that dominate what is considered pink these days. It doesn’t really approach purple, but it is darker than most roses I’ve ever seen. It’s surprisingly nature-y for a pink, though. It does have some problems with bleed-through on thin paper, but not a lot.

Next we have Brown, which I would call light brown. I would say it’s sort of a fertile, soft, earth color. Again, for a light color it’s fairly subdued, not like a Crayola pencil or anything. Again, it’s surprisingly real looking. It has no problems with bleed-through at all really, and goes well in a landscape.

Finally we have Sepia, which I call dark brown. It’s very mud-like. Another deep, saturated color. It can get very saturated though, and end up looking like black in the final product, so it does take careful application. It also tends to pool, resulting in spots of darker color. Some skill is required to get it to look right. Surprisingly, though, it has very little bleed-through even on thin paper.

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These ‘non-standard’ colors are very nice overall. If one is looking to do nature sketches, landscapes, etc. these are quite nice. They are very subdued and blend in nicely. I find them much more pleasant than the bright reds and blues of the other Microns. If you just want standard colors for organizing or technical things, these are not the pens you need.  However, if you’re drawing a lot of the outside, or in cool colors, these are fantastic.

Review – Clairefontaine Staple Bound Pocket 3.5″ x 5.5″

There is a new contender in the pocket notebook category. Well, not new, but new to me. The Clairefontaine staple bound 9 X 14 cm pocket book. This is not really very comparable to the other two pocket books I’ve reviewed as it is much thicker, but it is still around the same size, so here we go. The book is twice as thick as a Field Notes book and about a millimeter wider, and the rounding on the corners is about the same.

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The cover is a fairly thick but flimsy card stock. There is a website URL, paper weight, dimensions, and page count listed on the back cover, and no other information save the logo. The inside cover is a simple white, while the outside is the standard Clairefontaine cover, which I consider to be fairly ugly. The cover also has a blank space which I assume is a subject line or a name space.

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Inside is 48 sheets of 90 gram Clairefontaine paper, which is superb. This is one of the few notebooks where the page count, rather than the sheet count, matters, as you can write on both sides, even with a fountain pen. The paper is lined with a 7mm ruling, a small margin at the top, and an infinitesimal margin at the bottom. The lines are a very pale purple and not at all intrusive. As far as I know they only come in a lined version at this size. Writing-wise, the paper is buttery smooth. Very easy to write on, but ink resistant enough to have little to no bleed through, except for the nano-liner which can bleed through tables it seems. The paper is also heavy, it takes effort to bend it along the spine to write with it, and once you have bent it, it stays there.

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Finally the binding: it’s bent over and squared with two staples each about a quarter of the way in. It seems far from the sturdiest binding, but it can take a fair amount of flex before buckling. Though with no support at the edges they do tend to get a little banged up. Because of its interesting folding style and large page count, the binding does seem a bit weak, in mine the staples aren’t even fully stapled, so pulling this book apart intentionally would be easy. But unintentionally it seems to hold up fine, more due to the paper than the binding. It will buckle and get bunged up at the edges, though. I’m skeptical about it’s ability to take some hard wear and tear for all 96 of its pages to be used.

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Overall this is a great little pocket book. I personally won’t use them as much as some other books because of the terrible, intrusive cover designs and its thickness. But for writing or drawing with fountain pens, dip pens, or ink brushes, this thing can’t be beat. It’s a great, sturdy little notebook with especially good paper.