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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 – 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.

 

Notebook Showdown – Moleskine Cahier Vs Field Notes

So another notebook competition today, huh? This time I’ll be comparing the higher end of the pocket book spectrum. It’s time for Field Notes to go head to head with Moleskine Cahiers.

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Starting with the covers the Moleskine is a very heavy, single color, piece of cardboard with an imprinted logo on the back. It’s got a flap on the back that folds in and serves as the famous Moleskine pocket. This pocket is not very well secured by the glue and tears out easily, it also causes the back to be prone to creasing rather than flexing. The Field Notes book has a thin “packing brown wrap” cover with a logo on the front and some identifiers. It also has a little on the back, but on the inside is where it really shines. It’s got name, coordinents, date, and return to blanks right in the front, and the back contains may useful reference items, including a list of uses, and all the materials used in the book. It’s still fairly flimsy, though, and when it bends it stays bent rather than easily popping back into place.

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Size-wise, both books are almost identical, despite the Moleskine having 12 more sheets. The rounding on the corners is also a bit less on the Moleskine. The paper inside the Moleskine is the standard archival quality, but fairly weak, off-white paper the comes with all Moleskines. In the Field Notes is a smooth, bright white paper. The actual type of paper is listed both on the website and in the book for easy reference. Both books come in: blank, ruled, and squared or graphed paper. But some special edition Field Notes have all sorts of different rulings. There is little variation in the ruling size wise, the only major ones being the Field Notes have a wide top margin and slightly lighter lines for the ruling. They’re brownish compared to Moleskine’s grey. One feature of the Moleskine that the Field Notes lack is that the latter half of the pages are perforated for easy removal, meaning you can tear them out without destroying the binding.

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Speaking of the binding, that’s where the really major difference between these books kicks in. The Field Notes are saddle stitched with three staples. The Moleskines however are stitched with 21 signatures. I believe they are also hand bound though I could be wrong on that. The Moleskine binding and cover makes it (like other Moleskines) like a rock. It is much harder to bend, but bends and creases terribly when it does so. The Field notes is a bit more lenient, bending more, but the staples provide great pivot points for bending and creasing as well. The Field Notes binding, while sturdy, can have the book come apart on it, though this rarely happens because of their limited page count. The binding on the Moleskine is much more likely to come undone itself and leave the book behind, though again this rarely happens.

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Really it all depends on what you want. They’re both about the same price so do you want: a better cover, more pages, perforation, and a pocket, or: better paper, better binding, and some useful information? In the end that’s what it comes done to. Also the looks a little bit. Personally I prefer the look of the Moleskine, but the quality of the Field Notes, so I use both. Try ’em and find out for yourself, it’s only like twenty dollars for three of each (at the time of writing).

Review – Escalada 3.5 x 5.75 Pocket Journal

So, you’re out and about, you’ve just finished your last pocket notebook and are looking for a new one. You happen across one. It’s got 80 sheets of thick sketch paper and is only a couple bucks. It even looks kinda nice in its faux-leather binding. Is this small Escalada journal a good buy? Let’s see.

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We’ll start with the binding. It’s surprisingly good, it flexes well and doesn’t break under standard usage conditions. The binding, as well as the cover is of course cardboard covered in faux-leather with a slightly unattractive sheen. This layer holds up alright, though it does start to peel and rub off at the corners which is very unsightly. It also gets gummy in high temperatures and begins to take the shape of whatever is next to it, so where the elastic band is there will be a permanent set of grooves. But it hasn’t melted or gotten sticky in the time I’ve used it and I live in the middle of the desert.

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The paper is 80 sheets of 74 lb drawing paper. It’s thick but flimsy, it feels as if it’s falling apart sometimes and ink bleeds through and can be easily seen on the other side in some cases. Yet I have had no instances of marking on the next page. It has an easily visible grain and does at times warp ones drawings, mostly pencil though and not very much. The roughness is a bit unsightly to me but that’s just personal preference. Despite the flimsy feeling of the pages they are very stout and remain ridged most of the time. They resist bending, however I feel that if they did bend they would soon fall apart.

It’s an alright pocket sketchbook. It’s cheap, both in price and manufacturing, but it does do its job well enough. Just carrying it in a bag or a case won’t do much harm to it, especially since it only has eighty pages and can be run through fairly quickly. However, if your life is a bit more rough and tumble than most this is not for you, it will look ugly shortly and fall apart not long after. It does best if you’re looking for a notebook to store in your bag or somewhere on the cheap and don’t have too much preference as to the quality of the content you put in it.