A few weeks ago, Mr. Lee at Daycraft sent us a box of samples. Daycraft is a leading Hong Kong brand of planners and diaries:
Daycraft diaries, notebooks and planners are designed in Hong Kong and manufactured in Dongguan, China by Tai Shing Diary.
Tai Sing Diary was established in 1988 and has over the years won a well-deserved reputation for getting things right. (more)
I was immediately struck by two things, which where somewhat related. First, these notebooks are sort of small. By no means is that a bad thing (and they do make larger books also). Being used to Moleskines, I didn’t expect the scale with the detail that Daycraft books have. What I mean is that these are just really carefully designed and carefully made books! See the photo below showing the size, compared to a Field Notes book, which is very pocket-friendly. But they have all the symmetry and care we find on larger, much more expensive notebooks.
Cover Material: “Fine Italian PU” — Human-Made, flexible material.
Paper: 100g cream-colored paper with 6.5mm lines in grey ink.
Page Count: 120.
Unique Characteristics: Beautiful design and construction; colors end-papers and page edges.
Availability: For now, mainly Asia. You can get them online with international shipping here.
The book in question today is the Signature Notebook. These come in two sizes (A5 and A6 — we were sent the smaller size) and have a softly textured cover. It looks and feels like soft leather, but it’s some kind of human-made material. Aside from leather issues (if you have them that is), this means that the softness does not preclude durability, the way that soft leathers often (not always) do. The bookmarks, end-papers and edges of the pages have colors that coordinate with the covers. In our case, we have the brown cover and red-orange accents. The effect is striking, while still being nicely low-key.
The cover is completely flexible. The binding is sewn, with a satin bookmark. The paper is cream-colored 100g, lined paper, with 6.5mm lines printed in about the same grey as Moleskine lines. The cover is slightly rounded at the corners, but the papers are not rounded at all. Because of the generous over-hang, this is not an issue. The entire book is very light-weight and flexible. At A6 size (a little larger than a small Moleskine), it’s not exactly pocket-sized. But it could fit into a jacket pocket, purse or bag easily. I carry mine in the pocket of my puffy vest with no problems, especially since the book is so light. Once you get past the first page, the book lies flatly on the desk or table, and the binding feels very very secure.
We promised Mr. Lee a pencil-specific review, and this book is a treat for pencil lovers. The paper looks a lot like the color of Moleskine paper: cream with grey lines. It’s much more stiff and at least twice as thick, however. While soft pencils prone to ghosting (Palominos, Faber-Castell 9000 4B, Blackwings, soft General’s Pencil Co., etc.) do ghost, they do not ghost with the intensity that they do on thin paper. Daycraft’s paper has a texture which is very nice for graphite, having much more tooth than Moleskine paper but slightly less than Field Notes. It doesn’t wear your point away, but it doesn’t shy away from taking some of that graphite off and keeping it to make marks, either. Smearability is about average, which accounts for the majority of papers I ever use. The lines are definitely not dark enough to distract you when you write in graphite (which I’ve noticed can be a problem with some papers lately), and they are nicely-spaced for using wooden pencils.
This is a notebook that surprises you with its price tag, especially considering the design and quality upgrade over Moleskines and some other books. Frankly, this notebook (and the other items they were kind enough to send us which we’ll write more about in the future) puts to bed the stupid supposition (don’t laugh; people claim it all the time) that quality goods cannot be made in China.
While it’s disappointing to see some companies move production overseas (I’m thinking of Dixon and it’s serious American heritage), Asian production does not mean a lack of quality any more than American production necessarily means that something is better made. There are better made than a lot of American and European notebooks I’ve used and seem more carefully assembled than any Moleskine I’ve bought in the last three or four years.
Unfortunately, Daycraft does not currently have an American distributor, but you can purchase from an Australian dealer that will ship worldwide. It’s worth it.