Review of Write Notepads & Co Gear, Part II.

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Last week, we looked at the company who makes Write Notepads and at the large notebooks. In this review, we will take a look at the pocket notebooks and the pencils. Chris sent us over a pocket notebook in the regular and Paul Smith formats, both unlined. As much as I really liked the large notebooks, I find myself enjoying the pocket versions even more.

For one, these pages are not perforated for tearing out. While I can live with this feature in a larger notebook, I really don’t like the pages to fall out of my pocket notebooks, which I use most of all sizes. There’s precious [to me] stuff in there! It was also nice to find that the unlined paper performed just as well as the lined versions. These would make great sketchbooks, to be sure.
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These do actually fit well into a pocket, though not a side jeans pocket. There is more flex than I’d expect from something that feels so durable. But spirals don’t do it for me in the front pocket of my Levis. I have not subjected the spiral to a week under my posterior, in a back pocket, but the spiral feels like it would handle the test and stay together. While I could take the big rubberband or leave it on the large books, I use them all of the time on my pocket versions, to keep the pages closed in my puffy vest pocket or, ahem, diaper bag. These are also much less terrifyingly-sized. I will hide the larger ones when my brothers come to HQ this weekend for a little shindig.
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For size comparison purposes, the Write Notepads & Co pocket notebook with the Standard Memorandum from Word. and the current Field Notes edition. The WN&C book is slightly wider than the Field Notes with the spiral. This size is just about perfect for what this book is, and in the end, I can’t put my finger on what I like about these semi-chunky, semi-small notebooks full of really nice paper so much. But I can’t get enough of them, certainly.
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Chris also sent over some of Write Notepads’ pencils. These wooden implements are available in packs of five, for five smackers. They come in a nicely fitting resealable bag which feels heavy-duty enough that I’ll use it for something else when the pencils are gone. They are made in the USA by Musgrave and are very attractive.
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They are listed as cedar, though they don’t smell like any of my other cedar pencils. They smell familiar somehow, and the grain looks to Mr. Dan and I both like cedar. They certainly have a light weight, and they sharpen with ridiculous ease; seriously, even on sharpeners needing new blades, these were easily brought to a point. The printing is on a clear sticker of some sort. I really like the typography, though I’d like it much more if it were printed on the wood like the Field Notes pencil.
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What I think the Write Notepads & Co pencil has over the Field Notes pencil the most is the design. I am a sucker for a naturally-finished pencil with a pink eraser – doubly so with a gold ferrule. (See the older Prospector, of which I have only a precious few with pink erasers left.) The eraser on this pencil is soft and performs as well as the Field Notes version – pretty well, not great, not smeary. I have long suspected the Musgrave makes Field Notes’ pencils. So maybe this is the reason?

The lead feels a lot to me like the Field Notes pencil, though a touch smoother, darker and harder to erase. The eraser is crimped on (rather than glued), which I usually think looks better. The leads in our packs are well-centered, and these pencils are a pleasure to use. I’ll cop to using them 80% of the time I am writing/drawing in Write Notepads gear.
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Thanks again to Chris at Write Notepads & Co for the generous samples and for manufacturing stationery in Baltimore! I can’t say enough now much I enjoy these books, and I hope that we see more limited Baltimore editions soon! (I bought half of their run of the first limited edition as holiday gifts this year after testing these books in December — Okay, not exactly half of the run; you can still get ‘em.) Definitely get yourself some of these notebooks, and if you’re in Baltimore, hit up Trohv on The Avenue (Hon). And if you’re in Baltimore, hell, let’s all do a meet-up in the spring at one of our many good coffeeshops.

Field Notes Pencil in Action.

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One of the projects of my summer has involved putting in a new laminate floor at my parents’ house with one of my brothers. This is a frame house in Baltimore that dates back to at least 1880 and didn’t have plumbing, electricity or heat when it was built. Having houses of our own, it is difficult for Joe and I to find time (and energy) for this project. But it did provide a great opportunity to try my Field Notes Carpenter Pencil in The Field.

We also tried a promotion carpenter pencil we found in my mother’s antique desk (that’s been there since for nearly two decades, I’d imagine) and a USA-made Home Depot carpenter pencil with the date 2003 (bought in 2006).

The promotional pencil is now two inches long. Nothing would sharpen the porous wood and crumbly lead. My brother was attempting to use this on the first day before I got there with better pencils. He was relieved that it was not his sharpening efforts but, rather, a truly junky pencil that was frustrating him. The naturally-finished Home Depot pencil was actually very good, the best “commercial” carpenter pencil I’ve used. The wood (not cedar; I doubt it) was very…waxy from a successful treatment to make it easy to sharpener with a knife or utility blade. The lead left a bit of a light line, but it didn’t crumble or break. It was smeary though, leaving graphite all over the sharpened wood of the pencil. This surprised me for a pencil that made such a light mark.

I might have been biased because the Field Notes pencil was the most expensive and the one I wanted to work best. But it performed very well. The wood sharpened as well as the Home Depot pencil, and the lead was very strong. Even better, the lead was darker and didn’t seem to stain the wood and our project. The line stayed put. It performed on wood like a soft Castell 9000 does on paper, producing a sharp, dark line. The wood is not cedar, but the finish of the pencil is pretty nice. The black paint and white lettering are sharp, though we did lose it a few times because it was dark on the opposite side and hid itself in shadows while we had the ceiling fan and light down (before installing the new one).

Also, envy my wonderful sharpening job (accomplished with a very sharp blade and a few minutes of careful cutting)!
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Finally, I gave sharpening a carpenter pencil with an oscillating tool a shot, just to see what it was like. Don’t do it! In addition to doing an even worse job of sharpening the pencil than I thought I would, I am probably lucky to still have all of my digits. This could largely be because I do not have a lot of skill with this tool. But I don’t think this is a good way to practice to perfection skills with a tool I do not actually like.

The Field Notes carpenter pencils are available in three packs for $4.95. I bought these the first time I saw them this winter. (There are white and red ones floating around, for the collectors out there.) While you’re there, could someone please explain to me how there are still America the Beautiful editions left? That edition has probably the most graphite-friendly paper Field Notes has ever used. I am down to my last notebook from my last set of those, which I have been using very sparingly. Try one! This is one of my three favorite editions, I think.

First Finished Field Notes.

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Not mine! Gracious, I have at least 60-70 full from the last 2 1/2 years in a Beer Box* upstairs that I need to find, so that I can archive my last three notebooks since mid-July. Santa brought my daughter a set of the Summer Camp Field Notes books and pencils for Christmas 2011. She scored one when she started Serious Potty Training a while back. We carry it with us when we go to the coffeeshop, BMA, etc. She finished it last week.
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Full! It’s stocked with drawings and is covered with stickers. She started to eraser pictures so that she could draw more when we were out two weeks ago, prompting the introduction of the next book for her drawing adventures. At 3, she can draw recognizable pictures. Seriously. I don’t have a picture of it yet, but a recent drawing session went something like this:

Charlotte: Daddy, what do you want me to draw for you?
Daddy: A lion. And trees.
Charlotte: (two minutes later) Daddy! Here you go.
Whereupon she presented me with a two-page spread featuring a lion. And trees. And here I was thinking we didn’t get to the zoo often enough.

She’s always had a fondness for drawing and writing tools. It’s almost like our house has pencils,pens, paper and accessories everywhere. Eh…
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She stole my wife’s Balsam Fir Field Notes when she was about 9 months old and spilled coffee on it somehow, and she claimed a green Mongol HB pencil from me around the same time.
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At the risk of offending some of my Fellow Field Notes Fans, I joked that, with one full notebook, Charlotte probably has finished more than a lot of people who own an entire Archival Box of limited editions. For myself, I enjoy the photos folks put online of their notebooks that are beaten up badly and full of Good Stuff.

I have enough “rare” Field Notes editions that I could fund at least a decade of subscriptions by selling them — if I hadn’t filled them up. Like pencils, I think of them and treat them as tools. I use them. I use the hell out of them. I have had a few people ask to trade for my Fab.Com edition. I had to break it to these good folks that I filled them within 3 weeks of getting them.
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Certainly, Charlotte has other notebooks. She has a serious fondness for Composition Books, sometimes asks for her pink Moleskine, not to mention her Fairies books. I gave her a new pink pocket notebook last night, and she stole an old Golden Bear from my cup, claimed it as her own, and drew 3-4 pictures before I had to drag her off to bed.

*[Box in which 12 bottles of Excellent Beer arrived, before their cheerful departure.]

Night Sky, Norica, Black Scarf.

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I took Baby Henry to his first trip to Staples this evening after supper. He stayed awake the whole time, oddly enough. Came home with a three-dozen pack of Staedtler Norica pencils in black. When I emptied my pocket, I realized that everything in it matched these pencils. (Review coming soon; I like ‘em!)

Pencils and Early April Camping.

Not pictured: my mandolin and a nice fire.

Not pictured: my mandolin and a nice fire.

I mentioned that a couple of us at Pencil Revolution HQ went camping early last month. I learned a few things about pencils and about camping.

First, if you are prone to cracking fingers (and if you have no idea what I’m talking about, count yourself lucky!), take a fat pencil with you. My pocket-knife sharpened My First Ticonderoga came in handy when I was bandaged one night.

US Army issue messkit with said roughly-sharpened pencil.

US Army issue messkit with said roughly-sharpened pencil.

Also: pencil shavings are way way way more flammable than I thought. Comrade Dan shaved magnesium from a block designed for the purpose of making fire. There was too much wind Friday night (and we were hungry) to get it to light. We resorted to matches. Saturday, just for fun, he shaved a nice pile of magnesium shards into a box of a few months’ worth of pencil shavings from my house. Despite fierce sparking, none of the magnesium lit. But the pencil shavings did, and we lit a fine fire that way — which burned for about 20 hours until we thoroughly extinguished it.

Pencil shaving Tinderbox.

Pencil shaving Tinderbox.

Finally, (and I think I knew this), naturally finished pencils are perfect for camping. They grip well, get nice and dirty, and when you get home, they smell like fire forever.

Off to the Spring Woods.

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I am off to the woods for the weekend, for some spring temperatures, shortwave radio, fire and hiking with Comrade Dan. Sans pencil sharpener or sharpeners. I’ve got my knife sharp enough to have made a nice, clean, little cut on my finger that healed in twelve hours. I think it can handle some cedar.

How many pencil aficionados does it take to have an excellent camping trip in Central Maryland? Hopefully just two.
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We’ll be back this coming week with a review of USA Silver pencils and a report from the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC.

[That's a 1990, USA-made Camillus BSA "Official" knife I won for selling the most popcorn.]

Notebookism is Back!

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I’m not the only one who’s missed Notebookism, from the original stationery blogger, Armand. And now he’s back!

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The Revolution would never have had more than five readers without Armand’s help back in 2005. I’m ecstatic! I really am.

[Image, Jfg. Note: those Field Notes have all been filled, with many others, since this photo was taken in 2011.]

Hobo Signs and Traveling.

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This is another post from the Enoch Pratt library, the public library system in our Home Base of Baltimore (HON!). Pencils seem to mix with literature which seems to mix with walking which leads to wandering, and we were wondering, Why not put this on PR for the benefit of Comrades not lucky enough to inhabit Charm City? (there’s far too much coffee and too little punctuation in HQ this weekend, as you can see).

Read the entire article here, written by frequent Pencil Revolution contributor and featured writer, Brian.

A little over two years ago, Field Notes introduced the Steno, a 6×9 stenography pad made with just truly excellent paper (and I should make a dozen of them my birthday present this year, yes). There are hobo symbols on the inside of the heavy cover. I toyed with the idea of hobo symbols for my door, but we lived in an old apartment. Now that we have a house and a door (an old wooden job) of our own, I think I have to get out the chalk.

What’s the symbol for “Pencils and memo pads for helping me vacuum?”

 

Improving Carpenter Pencil Technique.

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While on an errand to get some supplies at the home improvement store today, I picked up a simple, USA-made utility knife for the pencil kit.
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I am trying to master the art of sharpening carpenter pencils, using only a blade. (I don’t know why.) I think I’m getting better at it. Hopefully.

Charlotte, TMI, Pencils, Field Notes, Cafe.

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(Please excuse the phone photo.)
I hope she never catches wind of this post. But, growing up in the home in which we live, my daughter (who turns three in April) has a serious affection for all things stationery. And this has been very useful, over the past few months, for potty training bribes. Here she is, with a Field Notes (before she “earned” the matching yellow pencil) and the Blackwing stub I had in my pocket as we enjoyed the sun on the back deck of one of our favorite local coffeeshops.

Field Notes Expedition Edition: Smeary?

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(Sorry for the lack of photos; my camera is in the shop. Literally.)

My subscription came today: the Field Notes Expedition. They are, as usual, much prettier in person. Opening it, I found them a little smelly, like last winter’s glossy edition. But the paper is smooth and flexible and feels wonderful. Check out the link if you haven’t already; the videos are pretty cool.

I immediately put both pencil and Space Pen to paper, after tearing open my packet. My Field Notes get filled and filed, not collected, though I certainly understand the impulse. Pencil feels like a magic marker on glass on this paper, with duller sides of the point feeling almost like a paintbrush. Writing on very wet paper with an indelible pencil produces a less smooth version of the same sensation. I was aghast. But then I noticed something….

Lots of stuff smears on this paper. Space Pen (and even the “fine” refill in my AG-7) smeared after nearly 1/2 hour to dry. Pencil smears more than regular paper, even somewhat smear-resistant pencils like the General’s Layout and Staedtler Wopex. Certainly, Comrades are not unfamiliar with graphite smearing, and it’s something that tests the Perfectionist in all of us. And, if you’re a heavy user of Fisher ink, you know that Space Pen’s write-anywhere ink comes at the price of severe ghosting and smearing from glacial drying times. Pigma Micron wouldn’t really adhere to the paper at all (it repels water). The Pigma Micron “Microperm” did write very well and actually dried. Still, I’d hate to be stuck with permanent markers for all six notebooks, even if I’ll have them filled before February most likely. I assume that Field Notes knows that regular pens will be powerless on this paper, since they gave out pencils this time around (I usually get a pen with my shipments theses days) and since they came out with their own Space Pen just in time for this release.

EDIT: I have found some pencils that are excellent, and even some surprises.

Pencils I have found to work pretty well:Faber-Castell “Castell 9000″ HB and B
Staedtler Wopex HB
General’s Layout
Faber-Castell Grip 2001 HB
General’s Draughting
New USA-Made Golden Bear HB
Field Notes Pencil

Things which smeared more than I’d like:
Blackwing (dark one, but this is always a little smeary)
General’s Semi-Hex HB
Staedtler Mars Lumograph 100 HB
Mitsubishi Hi-Uni HB
Faber-Castell Goldfaber HB

Surprises:
Verithins! If, like me, you’ve always wished they were better to write with, this paper works very very well. They feel like a regular pencil on this paper, and it’s very very difficult to smear them.

Someone asked if we were going to review this paper. But I think this might take more than what free time, energy and pencils we have on hand at HQ. Have other folks found the perfect graphite (or even pen?) for the new Field Notes? I will put what successful pencils I discover in the comments and will hope Comrades will do the same.

Shelf box.


There are various vessels containing pencils (and accoutrements) all over our house. This, one of the most recently added, was a box that held hankies (I bought the latter). I only realized recently that it holds pencils perfectly. It’s contained assorted stuff on my dresser for a few years and is pleasantly banged up. It also disguises some of the mess around HQ.

(My summer Field Notes are all full, all six.)

Field Notes, at the State Fair.


For my birthday two weeks ago, I was treated to a night at the Maryland State Fair by my family. I couldn’t resist breaking in my last County Fair edition between packs of the Day Game edition, for my Fairly Pocket Notebook. This was a Thursday.

That Sunday, I got caught — sans umbrella — in a long and heavy downpour and was soaked to the skin. Even my hardier cargo shorts were no match for this deluge. There were a few notes in this book in pen, and liquid inks (Flair, Zebra Regal) just made a huge mess, some enough to not be able to make out what I wrote. Everything in pencil (at least 90% of the book) was Okay.

One of my favorite things about the County Fair edition and Field Notes in general is how much better they look when they get worn-in. For instance, the corners and edges of these linen covers lose their floodcoated ink and aged in white, while the covers developed some prominent creases. I was sorely sorry when this was full.

This is also something I have always liked about pencils: they are not [always] neat. I catch myself trying to put an end to GHOSTING and things like that. But, in the end, anything but water/fade-proof ink on waterproof paper (can you combine them?) is going to look beat-up after some time in one’s pocket.

Why not embrace it?

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