Sakura from Write Notepads & Co.

Spring release season continues with Write Notepads & Co. and their latest release: Sakura. Since they have discontinued their membership/subscription plans, I had to order these manually. I’ll admit that I like when these types of things automatically ship, and it eliminates (or, at least, reduces) the anxious question of how many I should order, since two are not automatically shipped. On the other hand, ordering is always fun, too. Chris & Co. split the difference here with the deluxe pack; you save a buck with the purchase of two packs and get a cool treat to boot.

The specs from Write Notepads read:

  • Sold as a set of 3 notebooks
    3.75” x 5.5” saddle stitched notebook with rose gold staples and graph pages
    80# cover stock with tri-tone letterpress details
    48 pages of 70# paper stock, selected to perform best with most writing implements
    Printed graph size: 4mm, printed with vegetable based inks in our trademark blue-green
    100% American made in Baltimore, MD

This release is the third (behind Chesapeake and Walden) to feature a belly band. It’s a Moleskine style, tucked into the first and last covers of the pack, rather than a Field Notes style, which works like a belt. But this release is a first in several ways.

First, the wrapping. This is a resealable bag, rather than shrink-wrap. I tossed mine right away. I have a feeling that the folks are Write Pads are thumbing their noses a bit, with a wink, at hoarders. While these are all sealed, they also are not; they could have always been opened. The easy solution is to just unwrap your damned notebooks when you get them. Always.

Second, the binding. I have read multiple times that folks like the themes/covers of Write Pads books and the paper but not the PUR binding. These are saddle-stitched with rose-gold staples. They open completely flat[ly]. The dimensions keep them from feeling like another notebook brand, though.

Third, the page-count. Instead of the usual 64 pages, here, there are 48. I’m assuming that the thick paper Write Notepads uses would be unwieldy if 64 pages were wrapped around two staples. I don’t mind this. With the flat binding and the graph running to the edges, there’s plenty of space on which to make marks.

Fourth, the covers are letterpressed in three colors. This is no small feat, and they look AMAZING.

So how do these work out? I have held off on reviewing them until I got through a book, and it held up super well. The thinner-than-usual cover stock did not pop off of the two staples, and neither did the center pages pop out. I prefer the lighter cover stocks because they keep the books flexible; the paper Write Notepads uses is a little stiff. I don’t think these need the reinforcement of heavy cover-stock. They carried well in my pocket, and even the baby failed to damage one when she got “stabby” with a heavy bullet pencil.

The paper is printed with a graph, a narrower grid than that featured in Field Notes books. I have used a black and white high contrast image to compare the Sakura to a Field Notes County Fair book.

In practice, the graph is a little narrow for my taste, but it hits just about right if I skip lines. Even better, this graph is printed very lightly, and it’s easy to ignore. Using softer pencils and writing quickly this past weekend, I found myself treating this almost like dot-grid in that I was aware of the lines (they kept my writing from going aslant), but I almost mostly ignored them.

The “extra” in the deluxe set is a letterpressed envelope containing two cherry tree seeds. Not having several years in which to plant and nurture them, I have not tested these out yet. But I know from talking to Chris that they are actually the real deal.

This is easily my favorite spring notebook release this year. You can’t get more spring-like than cherry blossoms, in my book. And I love the extra real estate I get from the wider pages that open flat. I am not going to start hating on the PUR binding, but I really do hope that Write Notepads puts out more staple-bound books in the future, even if they do not switch over entirely.

(These books were not review samples. We are  happy to support our hometown stationer.)

We Who Like Pencils.

[Stephen Watts is back, with another fantastic contribution! Thanks, Stephen, and we hope this is the first of more pieces for Pencil Revolution!]

We Who Like Pencils (or “WWLP,” pronounced “WWLP”) routinely deal with any number of annoyances in the pursuit of our inexplicable obsession. One of my pet peeves has been the scarcity of suitable pencil display options.

There aren’t many choices available unless you’re okay with hiding one end of your pencils in a cup or stand. I prefer my pencils to proudly stand out in the open, reveling in their naked glory for all the world to see. Acrylic holders that horizontally showcase 1-13 pencils worked well for me until my collection outgrew them.

Several years ago, I succumbed to the madness and beyond all reason purchased a $500 lockable jewelry display cabinet. My son Hunter was with me the week it arrived and when, conveniently, my wife was away with Hunter’s twin brother Garrett. The exorbitant shipping charges should have been a clue that the cabinet was so heavy it had to be shipped on a pallet in a moving van. Hunter and I stared, dumbfounded, as we watched the platform on the back of the trailer slowly lower the beast to the ground. Desperate to hide all evidence of the crime, my deputized accomplice and I decided the smartest thing to do was get the cabinet upstairs in the den and mounted on the wall before my wife got back home. 200 pound painful-to-hold lockable jewelry display cabinets, we learned, don’t travel easily up twisting flights of stairs.

Fortunately, through destructive trial and error and before my wife arrived back home, Hunter and I got the Heavy Beast from Hell securely fastened to the wall and populated by a relieved flock of vintage pencils.

Dazed by a celebratory excess of potato chips and Mountain Dew, we forgot about the empty pallet which remained in the front yard awaiting bulk refuse pickup. Our ill-conceived plan to pretend as though nothing happened instantly collapsed when my wife pulled into the driveway and cried out to Garrett “How many pencils did he have to buy for them to be delivered on a PALLET?”

My wife never found out how much I paid for the cabinet or how tiny our tax deduction was when we donated the cabinet to Goodwill a few years later as we downsized into an apartment three states away.

Once again, I needed to find a way to display these little treasures. Typical searches unearthed descriptions of how to construct my own suitable-for-framing display using thick poster board and elastic cord. This utterly ridiculous, labor-intensive solution brings with it the reprehensible requirements of patience and the ability to evenly punch holes in the poster board so one can thread the cord through perfectly-spaced holes while leaving enough slack in the elastic to hold the pencils. Sure, I found images of terrific-looking results. But with intentional deception, the instructions never revealed that such craftsmanship, in real-world scenarios outside the laboratory, is achievable only by skilled lunatics unaware they can more profitably spend their time binge-watching Netflix.

Time and again in my quests I found myself staring admiringly at the readily available but wholly unsuitable golf pencil displays. The ubiquity of these pretentiously perfect products is especially maddening because we know that golfers don’t care about their itty bitty 3.5 inch “pencils,” more accurately referred to by normal people as “stubs,” or we can separate ourselves from them altogether and call the teeny pencils “teencils.” Golfers aren’t displaying their teencils, they’re displaying how many golf courses they visited. The irony here is that golf itself doesn’t even matter. To quote the authoritative July 1979 Sports issue of National Lampoon Magazine, “If you want to take long walks, take long walks. If you want to hit things with a stick, hit things with a stick. But there’s no excuse for combining the two and putting the results on TV.”

After looking at these displays time and again, either I saw one model for the first time or for the first time realized what I could do with one model and it dawned on me the answer to my problem was hiding in plain sight.

If you’re like me, not just uninterested in golf but adamantly opposed to it, you’ll appreciate how I’ve discovered a way to cheat the golf cabal’s clever little system: Yes, available to both golfers and humans alike, there exists a beautiful display case intended to hold 64 embarrassed 3.5 inch teencils that can be repurposed to triumphantly hold one row of 32 anatomically correct pencils. It’s available in a cherry or oak finish and can be found at Great Golf Memories and Amazon. I purchased two, and a full month after putting these displays on my wall I still spend whole days standing in front of them, silently weeping with joy.

Author’s Note: I don’t work for the companies that create or sell these display cases. I just revel in this “hack” and hope that if you go this route, you won’t spoil it for the rest of the WWLP crowd by admitting your true purpose to the golf mafia.

Baron Fig Show & Tell.

 Baron Fig continues their indefatigable series of limited edition releases with their newest Confidant, the Show & Tell:

In collaboration with Dribbble. Designed to give you the space to express your ideas through image and words. Half blank, half ruled.

First, the cover is gorgeous! Like the Blackwing 54, this color seems difficult to capture in a photograph. I’ve seen it range from a very dark blue-violet to lavender. I think an apt description would be be Deep Purple (as opposed to Dark Purple). It’s gorgeous. As soon as a I saw a teaser of the cover, I had to have one. But the attractive cover is only half of the draw of this addition for me.

Some of the Confidants that came out a year ago drew criticism for having interiors that were too weird to be useful. I’m not sure I agree ; I enjoy their experimentation. This edition has an usual format, and that’s half the other half of the draw for me. Trying to kick-start myself into some creative endeavors with little success this winter, this spring-like notebook with a format for someone working on a project involving visuals and text looks like just the thing to get the graphite flowing.

My daughter turns 8 next week, and she is a Serious Creator of graphic novels and cartoons, and I already ordered another of these to accompany the set of Blackwings with some other writing/drawing supplies in store for her. (Their cards are nice, too, and I picked one of them too.)

Go here to read more of our thoughts on the Confidant in general (tl;dr: cuddly book with very graphite-friendly paper).

Grab your Show& Tell while they’re still available, and do some showing and telling of your own.

(This edition was received for free from Baron Fig, but that has not influenced this review. We have bought at least one more so far!)

Blue Museum Carry.

Henry’s drawing supplies at the Baltimore Museum of Art today all matched. Of course, we followed the rules and left the pen with our coats.

Blackwing Volume 54.

   Blackwing Volume 54, the Exquisite Corpse pencil, is here. The spring 2018 release from Blackwing screams SPRING, BLOSSOMS, and YES YES YES. This “Rose Pink” pencil is topped with a silver ferrule and blue eraser and is stamped in teal. Perhaps best of all, it contains Blackwing’s Extra Firm (EF) core that we saw in the 24, the 530, and the 1917.

I’ve seen it referred to as an 80s pencil, but anything with teal screams 90s to me (though it could very well just be that I prefer the 90s, with the angst, the coffee, the auburn hair.

The packing material is even teal, to echo the pencil.

[I should probably begin this post by apologizing if the color of this pencil is way off in my photos. To tell the truth, it’s not entirely on point (!) in Blackwing’s photo, either. The exact shade of pink is elusive.]

It feels weird to “review” a Blackwing that’s really just a pencil I already like with a different paint job, but I think we can say a bit about the theme. This is gutsy. Usually the Blackwing tributes lean toward the masculine (go troll these comments if you’re bored), and the aesthetics usually run on the safe/muted side. This pencil is loud, possibly the brightest premium pencil I own. At a distance, it almost looks like a cheap novelty pencil, but the thickness and quality (of all but one) of the lacquer quickly reveal this to be a lovely Japanese pencil.

This pencil is supposed to have been designed by playing the Exquisite Corpse game, and the subscribers’ kit has cardstock guides for this.

Blackwing certainly has no reason to be making this up, and we can just be happy that the results of the parts work so well together and that this is the second year of three that all four releases have represented all four cores.

The pink and teal look fantastic together. A black or gold ferrule would have been….too much; silver is perfect. I want the eraser to be a different color (the royal blue and teal clash for me), but I can’t say which currently available colors I’d rather have. Custom teal or purple would have been incredible, but, I expect, expensive.

The EF core echoes the original Palomino HB enough that, as my Erasable Podcast co-host Tim put it: “If it’s different from the Palomino, it doesn’t need to be.” It’s a great core. I don’t find that it smears less than the Firm core, but one does not use something as soft as Blackwings expecting no smearing or ghosting. I’m Okay with this.

This pencil looks amazing with the silver Blackwing point protector.

I love Volume 54, and my daughter has a box waiting for her 8th birthday later this month. I told her, truthfully, that they sold out. (And Blackwing reports that this is the Volume that has sold out from their own stock the fastest.) I didn’t tell Charlotte that I ordered a set from The Pencil Shop and that it’s waiting for her.

While pink is not my favorite color for pencils, this Volumes release is a winner for me. The looks are seasonal, and the theme is original and also something in which I’ve long been interested. The EF core and thick finish land this pencil in premium territory.

(These were not samples from the manufacturer. I’ve been a paying subscriber since literally day one.)

Charlotte’s Novel.

My daughter, who turns 8 (!) next month, has decided that she’s going to write a novel. I gave her this notebook for the project. When she was only about two or three, she had the same notebook. I bought her another one for when she got older and gave it to her tonight. She wants to do Camp NaNoWriMo next month! She promised me that she would share all of her ideas with me before publishing a novel. I feel very honored.