Blue Cats Quirks Notebooks.

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A long-time friend and Comrade of mine has started making/selling custom notebooks on Etsy at Blue Cats’ Quirks. These are standard pocket-sized notebooks in packs of four (not three!). What I like best is that the paper is missing until you order them. You get to pick what kind of paper you want in your covers.

“Individually handmade pocket sized notebooks made to order. Each notebook is 32 pages, approximately 3.5″x 5.5”, features a cardstock paper cover with rounded corners and a stapled spine. Sold in sets of 4 notebooks. (Please select which set you want. RANDOM includes 4 random covers on your choice of inside paper). Buyer choice of page type (once choice per set): blank, grid or ‘two-faced’ (when opened, each pair of two pages alternates between grid and blank) all of aprox. 16lb paper. Perfect size to slip in your back pocket or purse for those times when you just have to write things down. Great holiday or birthday gift! “

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I was lucky enough to receive a pack of these last Christmas, and I tore through them. They stood up to Pocket and Toddler abuse as well as any of my “branded” notebooks. Plus, they are made in Baltimore! Jenn put a special Hello Kitty-covered book in my latest pack for Charlotte, who, ahem, cutes (if I can make that a verb) her way into acquiring my notebooks and pencils. This prompted the statement, “Aunt Jenn is a nice lady.” Too true. So go and buy her notebooks! Through January 1, 2014, Jenn is offering a discount to Comrades, good for 10% off purchase if coupon is entered at time of purchase. Code: PENCILREVOLUTION1

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Monsieur Notebooks Coming.

You might have read about this already on other Stationery Blogs, but just in case, Monsieur notebooks are coming to the USA! They are already available in the UK and are hitting Our Own Sandy Shores in 2014.

“My name’s Tom, and along with an old schoolfriend we set up our own stationery
brand, Monsieur Notebook. Our books are made from real leather, you might like
them – please come and have a look!
We are currently on IndieGoGo, it might be of interest to your followers – we’re
launching on Wednesday, and will be seen here.

So you can have a sneak peak of our campaign video (and see my colleague and I
in stop-motion), you can watch it on Vimeo here.

These are gorgeous books! The site’s been full of gorgeous books on the horizon this week, it seems. (Fine by me!)

 

Review of Tops Idea Collective Notebooks.

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Also in our box of review samples from Shoplet and Tops, we have some of the new Idea Collective Notebooks. These are moleskin (no e) style notebooks (we have the pocket sized version to review) and also softcover large notebooks that come in a pack of two.

The hardcover book has the features with which Comrades who have used Moleskines will be familiar. From Tops:

Inspiration is a personal thing. Where its recorded matters. Idea Collective notebooks and journals are great for capturing thoughts, quick notes or anything that inspires you. Designed with the creative person in mind, these products feature all of the premium details you’d expect in a high-end notebook. The durable covers feel luxurious and the smooth writing paper makes it easy to get carried away. Includes an expanding envelope with attractive yellow gusset to hold odds and ends. Wide ruled acid-free cream paper. Pad Type: Notebook Sheet Size: 5 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ Ruling: Wide.

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The elastic is grey and snappy, and the bookmark and cloth on the pocket are yellow. And there is a subtly debossed pattern on the cover. All combine to make these very attractive notebooks, without making them…loud. With the size, page-count, features and cream paper of a Moleskine, are these notebooks worthy of the Revolution?

These books have everything I’ve liked about Moleskines in the past: all of the above. What I don’t like about Moleskines the most relates to their paper and the company who makes/sells Moleskines. The latter is irrelevant to the review of this book. But where I think these books improve upon Moleskines, INSOFAR AS GRAPHITE IS CONCERNED is the paper.

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The paper is thin, like Moleskines. It is smooth and cream-colored, with grey lines. The lines run a little dark, like recent Moleskines (not my favorite thing).  Ghosting/graphite transfer is pretty bad, honestly, though I don’t think that’s avoidable with paper that’s this thin. When I get concerned, I put a piece of paper between the pages as I go. I have always found Moleskine paper TOO smooth for pencil. Graphite shows up too lightly, and it smears like crazy. This paper has just a little more tooth than Moleskine paper, and it resists smearing very very well. I like the width of the lines, too, for using fat pocket pencils. At $5.83 a piece, these are a good buy.

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The larger, softer cover versions are pretty nice books for big projects. They lack pockets or a page marker, though the Moleskine Volants I assume they are meant to resemble don’t have these, either. I can certainly imagine using these for “work” and/or longhand projects, with the generous acreage and page count. They seem a little expensive, running about the same price as a 2-pack of XL Volants — especially given the modest price of the other book we have to review. They have little to distinguish them from every other softcover black notebook, though: not the yellow trim, grey elastic, or debossing. They also don’t have the DATE stamp on every “odd” page that the pocket hardcover notebook has. I think the design between these two collection mates is a little mismatched.

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That said, a new entry into moleskin (no e) territory by another brand is not a bad thing, if, like me, you enjoy many things about a moleskin but have grown weary of Moleskines (or never liked them at all). The hardcover books are, frankly, a steal at the asking price, and mine seems made as well as Moleskines from 8-9 years ago. My review sample is already being filled up.

Review of Word. Notebooks.

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The nice folks at Word. sent over two sets of their new notebooks for review. We promised a pencil-specific evaluation and are happy to share that these notebooks are excellent. From Word. :

Product Specs:
48 pages, lined
3.5″ x 5″
Made in the USA
Cover: Environment Desert Storm 120# smooth paper (100% post consumer recycled)
Interior: Lynx Opaque Ultra smooth white 60# text
Printed with Hostmann-Steinberg inks
Stitching wire comes from the Spiral Binding Company

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Word. books have two staples that serve as the binding. I thought the sparse stapling might pose issues, but mine held up perfectly well. Also, not having a staple in the center of the spine probably helped in the flexibility department. This is good because these run a little on the thick side for pocket notebooks that come in a three-pack. Certainly, this is scarcely noticeable on its own, but side-by-side with other books, it becomes obvious. Packaging is standard: a belly band. However, the belly band hides the color of the Word. logo. I’d suggest a belly band printed with the logo color, if possible, such as the Traditional Camo’s unexpectedly – but attractively – orange logo. The bands are otherwise perfectly suitable for packaging the notebooks and providing some information.

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The corners of both of our review sets were pretty much perfect. “Big deal,” one might think. But I can’t be alone in regularly receiving notebooks from other designer brands with downright shoddy corners. It doesn’t bother me hugely (I don’t handle them with care anyway), but I remember last spring that it bothered quite a few people on Twitter.

The paper seems whiter than normal, perhaps because of the faintness of the lines. This is a good thing. One of the challenges of using graphite can be competing with the printed lines for prominence. Word.’s lines are close to perfect, being visible while not outshining the graphite. The lightness means that one can, very easily, ignore the bullet circles at the beginning of each line.

[Ana at the Well Appointed Desk and Steve at Recording Thoughts wrote great reviews that talk about the paper’s ink-handing capabilities. We’d certainly have nothing to add to these great reviews in that department and will confine ourselves to graphite.]

The texture of the paper is very nice: smooth and stiff with a little tooth. Lead shaves off of the pencil point, but it doesn’t powder and smear as it does on most textured papers. It adheres to the relatively (for a pocket notebook) rigid paper. As a result, pencil marks appear much more darkly than one would expect, and this is a fantastic quality in a pocket notebook. Ghosting (graphite transfer onto facing pages) is actually phenomenal, especially for a paper that claims to be 60# text paper. Using soft-for-HB pencils, I experienced very little ghosting. I am in love with this paper, which seems to shine best with softer HB leads and B leads (Mars HB; Palomino HB; Chinese Dixon HB; General’s Kimberly B; etc.)

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The covers are “Environment Desert Storm 120# smooth paper (100% post consumer recycled).” They are stiff and have a nice aroma to them – papery. The inside cover features a pared-down contact info section, falling somewhere between Moleskine and Field Notes in number of entries. The Word. system is also outlined in the front cover. Were Comrades using these books to Get Things Done, the bullet system is a fantastic feature. The images explains it all. Implementation of this system is actually accomplished very well in these books where, again, the lightness of the lines allows one to ignore the circles and even to darken them with graphite. One can easily imagine the bullet system being so in-your-face as to make these notebooks unusable for any other purpose, and I think it’s a credit to Word. that they didn’t push the bullet system far enough to alienate potential users. Rather, they created something a little unique, and they implemented in in a very nice notebook.

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The back cover features random “facts” that, while entertaining the first time around, seemed like a waste of good real estate from a company trying hard not to copy from Field Notes (not copying is a good thing, I think; had these books been basically bulleted Field Notes, I would not have liked them as much). I’d suggest an index for the back cover, or even fields for archiving the notebooks, after they are finished. From someone with a growing stack box of filled pocket notebooks, I’d find such features helpful.

In conclusion, this is a very new notebook brand that I hope sticks around. They got the size just right, and the paper is perfect. I can’t admit to using the Word. bullet system very consistently, but that’s not how I use pocket notebooks, which tend to last me only a week to ten days before they are full. The covers are attractive and durable, and the corners are some of the best I’ve seen. I don’t understand the extensive use of camouflage, but, being a former Army Brat, I appreciate it and the variety of patterns. The solid colors are great, and some extension in patterns and/or more colors would be most welcome, albeit unnecessary.

Should Comrades go get some? Oh, yes.

“Keep a Notebook”: Jack London.

7-7-10_jack3I’m not sure how popular Jack London is these days, but I’ve long been a fan. I read a piece today quoting Mr. London on success, and I thought I’d quote from this quotation.

“Keep a notebook. Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. Slap into it every stray thought that flutters up into your brain. Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter, and lead pencil markings endure longer than memory.”

JackLondon-office-1916This is also the source of the differently-quoted line about inspiration:

“Don’t loaf and invite inspiration; light out after it with a club, and if you don’t get it you will none the less get something that looks remarkably like it.”

Jack London, “Getting into Print,” 1903, via The Art of Manliness.

The Art of Manliness and notebooks and pencils.


With apologies for what might seem, at first, to be a moderately chauvinistic post about the lost art of being a “man,” I have read two very interesting articles from the companion blog to the book The Art of Manliness (or did the book come first?).  First, there is The Manly Tradition of the Pocket Notebook, which features our favorite writing implement.  This post has gone around the writing blogosphere for a few weeks now, but this particular passage hits close to home for an Eagle Scout:

The Boy Scout
“In one of the pockets there should be a lot of bachelor buttons, the sort that you do not have to sew on to your clothes, but which fasten with a snap, something like glove buttons. There should be a pocket made in your shirt or vest to fit your notebook, and a part of it stitched up to hold a pencil and a toothbrush….

No camper, be he hunter, fisherman, scout, naturalist, explorer, prospector, soldier or lumberman, should go into the woods without a notebook and hard lead pencil. Remember that notes made with a hard pencil will last longer than those made with ink, and be readable as long as the paper lasts.

Every scientist and every surveyor knows this and it is only tenderfeet, who use a soft pencil and fountain pen for making field notes, because an upset canoe will blur all ink marks and the constant rubbing of the pages of the book will smudge all soft pencil marks.

Therefore, have a pocket especially made, so that your notebook, pencil and fountain pen, if you insist upon including it—will fit snugly with no chance of dropping out.” The American Boys’ Handybook of Camp-lore and Woodcraft, By Daniel Carter Beard, 1920

This week, they published a piece on The Pocket Notebooks of 20 Famous Men.  I did not see any mention of Thomas Edison’s custom-made pocket pencils, but I was very happy to learn about Mark Twain’s custom notebooks, about which I knew exactly nothing.  We have reviews of two pocket notebooks (Field Notes being one) in the works on Pencil Revolution and wonder what kinds of pocket notebooks work especially well with pencils.