Joshua from Neko Heavy Industries (also check out the Etsy store!) sent us some very fine sketchbooks this winter — hell, he MADE us the giraffe print custom edition! After a thorough run-through, WOW.
Cover Material: Faux fur-covered library book cover.
Paper: 216 g/m2 (80#) and Acid-Free.
Binding: “Patented nylon over steel cable with a steel ball and socket closure”.
Size: Assorted; Aprox. 7×10 inches.
Page Count: 50 sheets (100 pages).
Unique Characteristics: Replaceable paper, HEAVY construction, plastic internal protector sheet, custom ordering.
Availability: Neko2’s Etsy store and Neko Heavy Industries.
The flagship model of this review is a custom book made, in part, from the cover of an old book. The giraffe material is securely and carefully glued onto the old book. Only, unlike some others I’ve seen, these babies have brass-reinforced holes for the rings and for the archor which holds the truly beefy elastic in place. Don’t let the faux fur fool you; this book can take a beating.
The “rings” are actually cables with steel ball-and-socket closures that open easily and close securely. This means that you can refill the book (Neko sells refills), remove pages, add pages (the holes are standard-spaced), and more the included plastic sheet. This sheet is designed to protect the pages from ink, but it’s also excellent for preventing ghosting of the graphite onto other pages.
The paper is WHITE and SMOOTH as you’d ever want sketch paper to be. Graphite glides effortlessly and wonderfully. But — the real kicker is that it does so with pencils that are not as smooth as, say, a Palomino or soft-grade pencil. The only other paper on which I have this kind of pencil-smoothness experience is Rhodia paper. This paper is much thicker and stiffer. While paper that is too smooth (like glossy paper) is practically useless for pencil, this paper remains tough/toothed enough to take on graphite and provide a smooth sketching surface for pencils. It’s smooth enough that you can actually write with your very-soft Blackwings, while still being able to sketch and draw and get some darkness out of that famed graphite with a little pressure. Frankly, and I don’t have a lot of experience with paper that’s this…nice. But I’m really liking it and will certainly get more such experience filling up my Neko Heavy Industries book.
Neko Heavy Industries sketchbooks also win the day on presentation. The giraffe book came with a custom sleeve, indicating paper type, etc. For lack of a better phrase, this book felt like something bought from a local artisan shop while traveling, and definitely not like your run-of-the-mill “handmade sketchbook.” Joshua tells me that he’s been making this books for over a decade, and the craftsmanship really shows.
He also sent a small, brown-covered notebook made from vintage office papers. I would be remiss not to mention it, since I’ve wound up severely attached to it and wishing these were available long-term.
There’s something fun about writing on paper with oddly spaced lines and margins, and the alternating blank pages make this a great pocket notebook and sketchbook.
Speaking of portable sketchbooks, there are also Neko Heavy Industries spiral-bound, smaller sketchbooks, made from recycled covers. I know, right, big deal — tons of people on Etsy make/sell these. Having some experience with these types of books, I can say for sure that Neko’s are a [very huge] cut above the rest.
The spirals are tightly-inserted (I’d love to know how they do this), with perfectly drilled (?) holes and finely rounded corners that (sorry, guys), put Moleskines and Field Notes to shame. Even better, this paper is hardly distinguishable from Rhodia paper by site and feel (minus the lack of graph lines, of course). And, if you care about your paper and writing/drawing implements, you know that is very high praise indeed! Mine has a cover from Burn After Reading, and I think my better half might steal it.
In the end, you’d do yourself favor to score yourself some goods from Neko Heavy Industries — unless supremely smooth paper, careful craftsmanship and versatility upset you. You’d do yourself a BIG favor. Spending your hard-earned paper/pencil/pen money on beautiful books made by hand (not some faceless corporation) and getting some of the best and most heavy duty books around is win-win, if you ask me. I can’t decide if the mega-durable construction or the paper is what I like best about these books. But, then again, I don’t have to decide. They have both, and that’s what counts. And, frankly, for what Neko charges, you can’t beat it.