Pencil for Long-Term Writing, Part 3: Paper.


(Continued from 2010 and also Part 1: Pencils.)

We have established that pencil is the perfect medium for preserving your writing for the future. We recently examined what to look for in a pencil for journaling and/or long-term writing and some examples thereof. Today we will look at paper for keeping your pencil writing safe.

There are several details on which to reflect when selecting a notebook or journal if you plan to fill it with pencil, and this is even more true when one wants to preserve the writing forever.

Binding
Spiral bindings  can allow pages to rub against other other, creating smearing and thereby affecting the legibility of your writing for the future. Write Notepads & Co. solves this with an enormous rubber band. Generally, if I am going to carry a notebook around for more than a week, I prefer something with an elastic closure like this or like a Moleskine. A staple-bound Field  Notes book lasts only a week; so there’s little time to smear. The Write Notepads pocket books are tightly-bound with the PUR spine, and they do not rub much either. Also, consider that an notebook crammed into  your pocket will not move very much against other paper, that the fabric of your pocket (and your butt/leg/etc.) will likely keep the pages together anyway. For bouncing around in a bag, I never use a book that can open a even a little on its own, allowing the pages to mingle. Graphite is not to be trusted in the open like that!

Tooth
I avoid papers with too little or too much tooth. For instance, anything with more tooth than (and sometimes even including) a Scout Books pocket notebook will collect more graphite from the point of the pencil than the marks which one seeks to preserve. This results in dust and smearing and a generally untidy notebook. This is fine sometimes; pencil is not always tidy. But for writing which we seek to protect, smearing can render words, lines — even pages — illegible. Even worse is paper which is too smooth. The writing never even has much of a chance to stay put. The paper on Rhodia pads, for instance, is a lovely and smooth surface on which to skate a piece of graphite. However, I would not trust words meant for future generations to such glassy paper.

Ruling
An overly-tight graph or narrow lines can cause one’s writing to bunch up, resulting in less crisp lines. Something around the line-spacing of a Moleskine and 1/4 inch is my own preference, though I often just forgo any guide whatsoever too. Try to go line-free with pencil and the intention that your writing with last forever. Be bold!

Archival Quality of the Paper
These days, most major-branded books (Moleskine, Field Notes, etc.) are bound with acid-free paper. Since graphite does not react with paper anyway, this is, I assume, slightly less of a issue than when using ink. However, brittle and yellow paper can cause an issue for any writing medium.

Balance
As in pencils, the key is balance. I like a paper with a medium tooth, light (or no) lines, and a binding that will not allow the paper to rub against itself. As with pencils, this is harder to explain than it is to give examples of.

Write Notepads & Co. – This is probably my favorite notebook paper right now. The 70# stock takes graphite wonderfully, and the minor stiffness of the paper combines with the PUR binding to hold the pages still. The texture is nearly perfect, and they use a nice 1/4 inch line-spacing which is a great balance of efficiency and comfort. Plus they are made in my hometown, and Chris is a friend IRL. But I still claim not to be biased. Their books really are that good.

Moleskine – I swear that Moleskine has been quietly (because loudly would be admitting the paper was inferior before?) improving their paper. The texture is lovely for your less soft pencils, and the elastic keeps everything in place. If you hit Target at the right time of year, you can steal one for a few bucks from the clearance section. I like to remember that a Moleskine in 2002 led me to being lucky enough to co-host a really fun podcast.

Paperblanks – I have not used one of these in a while, but the paper is very stiff for nice pencil lines. Some of the covers get a little…LOOK AT ME for my taste, but the subtly-designed ones work well. Ghosting/graphite transfer is very low on this paper, even without a blotter.

Baron Fig – In speaking with Joey and Adam, I learned that this paper was designed, in part, for pencil, and it shows. The texture is lovely, and the themes and special editions they produce appeal to me greatly.

Field Notes – The newer 60#T version of the Finch Paper Opaque Smooth is lovely for pencil. I’m not sure why it works so much better than the 50# version, which I find to border on too smooth. These do fall open and allow pages to rub together in a bag. I generally get only a week of pocket carry out of them, however; so I do not experience this issue.

What are some papers/books Comrades like to use for long-term writing and/or journaling in pencil?

Pencil for Long-Term Writing, Part 2: Pencils.


According to this blog’s stats, the post from 2010 about long-term writing and pencils is one of the most visited posts on this site. While we are behind in answering mail, we recently, we heard from Don, who asked

“I am wondering if you have any suggestions as to what kind of pencil lead to use for a high quality, long lasting journal?”

I think this is something to explore further, since some pencils (and some papers) perform better than others at keeping your writing safe for the future. Today, let us take a look at what makes a pencil effective for long-term writing, since (as we all know) Pencil is Forever. We’ll cover paper and accessories in two subsequent posts.

When I think of  good Journaling Pencil, there are some considerations I like to, er, consider. In re-reading this list, it could also serve as a Guide to Selecting the Write (!) Pencil in general, in some ways, though the models on that list might be somewhat, or even very, different if that was my intention here.

Darkness
While a German 4H will lend itself to an extreme degree of smear-resistance, it will not make a suitably dark mark for most users’ readability. While a hard pencil’s marks might actually be there on the page, I’d prefer to read them with the naked eye. And as I quickly approach Middle Age, that naked eyesight is not getting better.

Point Durability
A pencil is more likely to continue to make crisp lines if the point is durable and keeps its sharpness without crumbling and making a mess on the paper. I seldom go for the softest option. I like a point that stays crisp and clean for journaling.

Smoothness
A smooth pencil requires less pressure to make a mark. It indents the paper less, and that is always a good thing if you are being careful about your writing — not to mention fighting hand fatigue.

Smear-Resistance
Hard pencils resist smearing, but they can indent the paper due to the pressure required to make marks with them. However, some soft and/or dark pencils resist smearing more than others. This is a sort of Grail to which a lot of individual pencil models seem to aspire, along with a blend of darkness and point retention (a term I do not like).

Ghosting/Graphite Transfer
Almost all pencils and almost all bound books I have used involve the transfer of graphite between pages to some degree — at least when writing on a page which has writing on the other side. I always use a sheet of smooth paper between pages in such instances. A custom-cut piece of an outdated map (a method I’ve used for years) will last through several notebooks, and paper from a Rhodia pad cut to size works very well, too. Please note that cleaning the “blotter” sheet periodically with an eraser will yield maximum results.

Balance
What I look for is a pencil that is a good balance of darkness, smear-resistance, and smoothness. This is difficult to quantify or even to qualify. So I will list some examples of pencils which I personally find to be useful for long-term writing.

Staedtler Wopex – While there are many Comrades who eschew this extruded piece of weaponry, none can deny that the damned thing just won’t smear. It is also difficult to erase (possibly marring a journal full of mistakes, but maybe we shouldn’t run from our mistakes). You cannot have it all. But you can have this fantastic pencil in more colors if you buy from European sellers on eBay.

Blackwing (Firm or Extra-Firm cores only) – For some reason, the Balanced core in the Pearl (and 725) seems to smear more than the others. It has become my least favorite core for journaling. The MMX is lovely, but you can kill a quarter of a pencil writing about a good camping trip. The Firm core in the 602 (and 211, 56, and 344) and the Extra Firm in the 24 and 530 are both smooth and do not smear readily on good paper, though I learn more toward the smoother side of the spectrum of acceptable papers for long-term pencil writing.

General’s Layout – This pencil is oddly smear-resistant, with a durable point, for a pencil which produces such black marks. The slightly wider, round body is a bonus for True Writing Comfort.

Camel “Natural” HB – There’s not much to not like about this pencil. It definitely makes a much lighter  line than most Japanese HB pencils I use, but the point durability and aesthetics are top-notch. And I don’t always want something so soft and/or dark.

Faber-Castell Castell (9000 in the B-4B range) – This pencil can run easily through the 4B range without becoming a blunted, smeary mess. The exact grade you might enjoy will depend on how much darkness you demand and what paper on which you are writing. Try a 4B on Moleskine or Field Notes paper (see the next post), and you will understand that of which I speak.

General’s Cedar Pointe HB – This is a great all-around pencil. When I first tried them circa 2005, the leads were too hard for journaling. But they have softened the formula since then, and this is one of the most balanced cores I can think of. This certainly extends to long-term writing.

Premium Japanese HB – I cannot decide between the Tombow Mono 100 or the Mitsubishi Hi-Uni. Both make smooth, dark marks that stay put.

I am sure that I am forgetting some, and I know I am leaning heavily on pencils I have used recently. What are some things Comrades consider and some favorite journaling pencils among us friends?

Review of Gallery Leather Oporto Journal.

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Gallery Leather contacted HQ a few weeks ago asking us if we’d review one of their made-in-maine leather journals. We received the Oporto Journal free of charge, and here is the skinny. Gallery’s description:

Modern Italian design in a journal constructed true to Old World book making tradition. Flush-cut, supported bonded leather cover.

I think there’s much more to say than that, especially with the very graphite-friendly paper in this book.

desk_journal

This is a Desk Journal. I don’t know why, but I really like the idea of a desk journal, a ledger or book for sitting at one’s desk. For this purpose, this notebook is great. It measures 8×5.5 inches, with 192 lined pages. The lines are spaced at 1/4 of an inch, which is identical to the Field Notes Shelterwood. The lines feel less wide than they do in the Shelterwood, though, since they are spread over a larger area with the increased page size.

binding

The binding on this book is solid. Upon opening the book for the first time, both the leather and the binding were stiff. However, with time spent with this book for review purposes, it’s softened and loosened up nicely. I imagine that a week of desk use would render this book able to open fairly flatly.

spine_color

The leather is smooth, with a subtle texture and sheen. It smells great, but is not over-powering, and the raw/rough edges are a very nice touch (and keep the book more flexible). The spine is especially attractive, with a nice semi-boxed shape that neither sits too loosely nor refuses to budge for opening the book.

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My favorite thing about this book is the paper. It’s got a tooth that makes using harder pencils not only possible, but enjoyable. Certainly, this paper is not rough, and I imagine that pens that don’t like rough paper would work well. But the tooth does have certain consequences.

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Pencils which are as soft as the 2010 Palomino Blackwing* are out of the question, unless you like a smeary mess in your journal. Middling darkness HB pencils performed well, as did high-end but relatively dark Japanese HB pencils like the Hi-Uni and Mono 100. Some German HB pencils which I love but which are unloved by smooth papers (like Field Notes’ regular paper) were a true pleasure on this paper, producing a distinct line and showing great smear resistance. In general, I found this paper to be a little on the messier side in smearability, but erasability was excellent. Castell 9000 and Mars Lumograph HB pencils are dreamy on this paper, and I had good luck with the Grip 2001 also. Because the paper is stiff (not necessarily thick), ghosting is very good with this paper. The German HB pencils I used retained much of their point retention, smoothness and smear resistance, while appearing much more darkly on the page.

If you’re on the lookout for a nice Sitting Still Journal, take a hard-but-smooth HB pencil with this book, and journal to your heart’s content.

* I think they should adopt this coinage of mine and send me a dozen to boot, don’t you?

Review of AquaNotes®: When Inspiration Strikes in the Shower.

[Today’s review comes from Comrade Gary Varner, long-time friend and contributor to Pencil Revolution.]
Where and when do your ideas come? And do you always remember them later when you want to use them? If you’re like me, it’s usually when I’m wet and about to get soapy. And that’s why I started using AquaNotes®.

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AquaNotes® is 40 waterproof 3-1/2 x 5-1/4 inch pages bound in a pad with rear suction cups to adhere to your shower or tub walls, along with a water-resistant pencil with it’s own special suction cup holder. Not only are AquaNotes® made and assembled in the USA, they’re eco-friendly as well. From their Web site:

“…waterproof paper that is totally recyclable, environmentally friendly, and non-toxic. Each pencil is water resistant and is made with Incense Cedar wood, a responsibly harvested renewable resource meeting stringent environmental requirements. Even the ink used to print the logo and company information on the notepad is soy based.”

In the past I’ve tried Rite in the Rain and other waterproof pads, Fisher pens, and even waterproof pencils. But invariably when the idea comes I can’t find the pen or the pencil or the pad. With AquaNotes, it’s on the wall at the ready when your next great idea strikes you during lather or rinse (and sometimes both!).
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There’s definitely a lot of science behind why ideas come more easily to us when in the shower. This great article from the Bufferapp.com blog gives some details on brain science and creativity and why showers are a great incubation place for ideas. And as the video below shows, its common for the relaxing effects of water on the body to open up the flow of ideas, and I for one don’t like relying on my memory to capture those gems! With AquaNotes® I’m ready when the ideas decide to show up.

http://youtu.be/itaHohHGuQg

You can buy the pads or parts, and even bulk packs straight from the manufacturer’s site, but places like Amazon.com, Vat19.com, and SwimOutlet.com carry the basic pad kits as well.

Gary Varner writes about communication, productivity, and core skills at garyvarner.com, and on Twitter @GaryLVarner.

Writing Makes Us Smarter?

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Via Comrade Brian.

Don’t trade in your pencils and paper for a keyboard just yet.

A new study that compared the different brain processes used for writing by hand and typing has found that there are cognitive benefits to putting a pen to paper. These findings give support to the continued teaching of penmanship and handwriting in schools.

Children who don’t learn the skill of handwriting, like generations before them had to, may be missing out on an important developmental process. Compared to using two hands to type out letters on a keyboard, writing with one hand uses more complex brain power.

Read more at The Huffington Post.

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.

Review of C-Line Document Protection.

Handles and closure on the Expanding File.

The good folks at Shoplet sent over a C-line Bound Sheet Protector Presentation Book and C-line Expanding File with Handles for review. It’s nice to see that someone still makes presentation books (which I’ve always called “report covers”), to tell the truth. With Powerpoint and multi-media taking over in business environments, I’m surprised that there is still demand for such a product. Pleasantly so. I didn’t know how we’d work a review of these into the Pencil Blog Idea, but I think this certainly fits with the Paper is Better mentality that I don’t think I’m alone in espousing.

With Field Notes, for size comparison.

This presentation book features room for 24 pages (12 sheets), with a stiff set of covers. The spine has a sleeve into which one can put customized material, like a quality binder that harbors room for identification in the spine. The materials are archival and acid-free. While I have been driven to frenzied profanities by flimsy report covers, these “pages” are easy to fill, with no tearing or creasing.

Interior of Presentation Book.

My daughter has already declared her intention to make a little story book by inserting drawings into the sleeves. It holds up even to a two-year-old (2 1/2 really). The thin and crinkly covers that we had when I was in school don’t compare with this presentation book, in looks, function or durability. I wouldn’t hesitate to pass this book around at a meeting, avoiding using a projector altogether.

Spine slip removed, showing how one can insert a custom spine.
With Field Notes, for size comparison.

I have a fondness for accordion files — you know, the brown-papered ones with a brown cotton tie or elastic. When revising the faculty handbook at the university where I used to work, I found some old ones. They held my notebooks, my papers and hand-outs for meetings. What they didn’t have was a handle or durability. They fell apart from six months of transport across campus and between my office and my home.

Open up and say “AH!” for papers!

The C-Line expanding file has stiff covers and handles. The materials of which it is made resemble those used in making day-packs. I’d suggest that amounted to over-kill, if I didn’t witness the demise of such a cover made only of paper. The file remains light. There are thirteen pockets, with 12 plastic tab holders, with tabs included. The tab and velcro handle completes the package, both holding the file closed and making it look like more of a briefcase than a folder. I’m actually using this file presently, to hold paperwork pertaining to our house, from settlement papers to the warranties on our appliances.

Like the presentation book, the expanding file harkens back to a PAPER ERA for me, when projects required enough paper that a filing system of some sort was necessary, as well as a way to carry these documents and notes around. Despite operating a Pencil Blog, my fondness for getting things done on paper is a deep love. I never ever ever take notes on anything, except on paper. While the style and, especially, the materials of these cases are nothing short of Very Modern, the notion that such paper-holding accoutrements are necessary in today’s office makes me smile.

Review of Rite in the Rain Notebook No. 373.


The good folks at Rite in the Rain were kind enough to send us a notebook and pen[cil] holder to review. After the “super storm”, we are finally ready to get our review out there. My better half prevented me from braving Super Storm Sandy last week to see how Frankenstorm-proof these books are. But! Boy, are they nice for pencil. Oh, and they are waterproof!

Everything made by Rite in the Rain is made in the USA, from the books, to the pens, to the accessories. It’s no secret that USA-production is a big plus around Pencil Revolution HQ. Green credentials are also wonderful, and Rite in the Rain doesn’t disappoint. Their paper can be recycled like regular paper (the coating is water-based), and the covers contain post-consumer materials. The paper inside is not made of recycled paper, however, since RiR says that it weakens the paper, which is designed to be durable. The waterproofing process is streamlined to be low-impact, environmentally speaking.

Rite in the Rain does sell all weather pens. They are made by Fisher (of Space Pen fame) but with specially designed ink for their paper. I haven’t tried the RiR pens (though I’d certainly like to), but my trusty 2002 model Space Pen performed pretty well, albeit with a little skipping. But that’s not what this amazing paper is designed for! Erin from RiR tells me that their paper was made for pencils, literally, since there were no special pens for use on waterproof paper in the 1920s, when their paper was developed.

We’ve touched on the archival aspects of pencils before. There is little shortage of archival-safe notebooks. But how many of them are also waterproof?

Rite in the Rain 20 & 32 lb. papers meet the archival criteria laid out by ANSI/NISO Z39.48-1992 (R2002). This means that it is an archival quality paper and will last several hundred years under normal use. So… not only will it survive the elements, it will survive the attic! All of our books and copier papers are made from these grades.

Pencil on Rite in the Rain paper might be the best way to save writing for posterity. Only fire, theft, or a nefarious individual (or Crack Team of Baddies) with an eraser would delete one’s notes.

Onto the actual review!

The notebook we tested is the No. 373, a 4 5/8 x 7 inch book with a double spiral on the side (coated for rust resistance). It includes a nice title page, with space for contact info and a few lines for  the “Project.” Flipping the page, we find a table of contents page, and then it’s on to the note pages. The lines are “encased” in a rectangle that does not allow for marginal notes but which made referencing a list of camping gear and procedures much easier for me. There are 64 pages all told (32 sheets), including the title and contents pages. For the cartographically inclined, each page features a scale at the bottom: “Scale: 1 square = ____”. The ink is a light blue, vegetable-based ink. The pages have rounded corners and are lined. Unusual to me are the dotted vertical lines running perpendicular to the “main” lines, allowing Comrades the option to use lined or graph paper. Rite in the Rain calls this their “Universal” page format. I like it a lot. The cover is a Stiffly Flexible yellow plastic. Combined with the pencil band, this book survived a camping trip in my daypack looking like I’d never used it at all.

This is a solid notebook, with thoughtful detailing and a sensible size. It’s not quite pocket-sized, but it fits well with other books and certainly into the smallest of daypacks. But my very favorite thing about this book is the paper, and not entirely because it’s waterproof.

As I mentioned above, this paper was designed for use with pencils. The coating is applied over paper that seems to have a bit of a tooth, and the coating allows this tooth to come through, possibly adding some of its own texture. What results is a paper that “drinks” up graphite the way that some papers drink liquid ink. While this paper is by no means rough, those of us who prefer a dark line will delight with the Graphite Shearing Action of this paper. Points don’t wear away very quickly, but they don’t last forever — though Lovers of Dark Lines may even delight in the pencil sharpening required by this Marriage of graphite and paper.

Mr. A from the fantastic La Vie Graphite told me a few years ago that General’s Layout is a wonderful pencil for this paper, and he was entirely correct. I tested quite a bit of graphite in this book, and the slightly chalky Layout is my current favorite, bolstered by the American Heritage it shares with the book itself. Other honorable mentions include pencils with unwaxed cores (Paper Mate Earth Write), USA stock Dixon pencils, and USA Gold. While very smooth pencils performed very well, the slightly…more textured leads produced the darkest, neatest results.

This is some of the most smear-resistant and ghosting-proof paper I have ever used. Only on a blank page can one spot graphite transfer, and a person really has to rub her or his hands on this paper to get the pencil to smear. It goes a long way toward keeping the pencil writing legible over time. Erasing is not much different than with regular paper, although I noticed that less soft and more abrasive erasers didn’t seem up to the task. Soft erasers did a nice job, and I wouldn’t use anything else, at the risk of removing some of the coating that makes the paper waterproof.

The pencil strap is very well, made, with a long, thick, elastic strap and strong velcro. It holds a pencil more tightly than you’d think and does a good job of protecting both the pencil point and the pages of the book in a backpack. Made of black Cordura, it looks like it will last for years.

Many thanks to the folks at Rite in the Rain, and stay tuned in the next few days or week for our Rite in the Rain Water Test!

Wheel of Information at the Pratt, in Baltimore.


This is not especially pencil-related, but it is written by frequent Pencil Revolution contributor Brian Manning, who works at the central brand of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore City. Folks calling the library Telephone Reference Service get their answers via paper books, contained on a custom-built device designed to make finding books faster and easier.

Call the Enoch Pratt Free Library’s Telephone Reference Service (TRS) with a question—ranging from the correct spelling of “insurrection,” to what the heck is in scrapple?—and librarians are waiting to answer your questions using both computers and books.  But while computers are prone to their glitches, fusses, and viruses, there is a tried-and-true partner for these information detectives that is spinning into its 45th year of operation: the information Wheel (a.k.a. “information carousel,” or “Lazy Susan”).

Despite the proliferation of computers in society in general and libraries in particular, computers cannot replaces the Information Wheel, “which is still a necessity in this modern age because the internet does not have a reputable answer for every question.”

We’re not making this up! Comrades can call 410-396-5430 to have their questions answered. Of course, let’s not jam up the lines and time of the hard-working folks at Charm City’s main library.

Read the rest of the piece here.

Review of Scout Books Composition Book (lined).


The good folks at Scout Books sent a set of their Composition Books over to Pencil Revolution HQ a few weeks ago for review. After a few weeks and pencil points, I have to say that these books are really fantastic! They invite comparisons to Field Notes (packs of three on craft paper, made in the USA), the way that Field Notes invite comparisons to Moleskine Cahiers (packs of three on craft paper). But I’d like to examine these books on their own, if possible, comparing them for size only.

Scout Books are made in Oregon, using recycled material papers from domestic mills and vegetable-based inks. While this often used to mean an inferior paper, this is certainly not true of Scout Books, as we’ll see. They come in three packs and singles, with different color options and interior options. Prices are similar to other high-end pocket notebooks, though the DIY option clocks in at only $8 a pack. And: FREE SHIPPING to the USA! We got our review set very quickly. You can also design your own Scout Books, which is an idea I’ve been pondering since trying these books out. (Hmm…) Perhaps coolest of all, you can get Scout Books that are actually BOOKS, with illustrations by contemporary illustrators, like the American Lit pack I’ve dropped hints to my wife about, which contains stories by Poe, Jack London, et. al.

Scout Books are about the same width [3.5 inches] as Field Notes (end of comparison), but they are shorter [5 inches]. This not only makes them incredibly shirt pocket friendly; the shorter height actually makes them feel larger in your hand than they are, since they come closer to being square. It could just be my square hands, but they are easier to write in than I would have thought, given the size. The covers are very heavy, and they make writing standing up a cinch because the back of the book is nice and stiff — but not too stiff for a pocket. I had no issues with covers wearing out or the binding giving up the ghost. If anything, my review books looked too new since I filled them up too quickly to really break them in. But that’s really nothing to complain about. Scout Books are unusual in that their “contact” info is on the back cover, containing places for your name, notebook start date and end date, and the front cover of the Composition Books has a space to write whatever you want.

The paper is where these books really shine! They reminded me of Eco Jot’s paper at first, with the dotted lines and nice color. But this paper is smooth! Pencil glides across the lines, and I’d filled one up in days, trying out different pencils. Ghosting is very light, since the paper is relatively stiff and thick, and smearing is very minimal, as much so as any other pocket notebook I’ve tried (and much much much better than others). To be sure, only the softer leads I’ve been enjoying this summer (Baltimore is muggy!) ghosted at all, while German HB pencils do not. The paper hits that sweet spot, where it’s certainly not glossy and certainly not overly toothy. While the page count is disappointing sometimes (32 pages), the satisfaction of filling up a book and moving onto the next one comes more often.

Given the ecocreds, stellar design, USA production (and free USA shipping!) and amazing paper, anyone who wants to try some new pocket notebooks would do well to grab a set of these. There aren’t a lot of reviews floating around; I’d love to hear what other Comrades think, especially as we tinker around with the idea of Pencil Revolution Notebooks. Thanks again to Taryn at Scout Books!

*[Footnote: I did try ink in these books, and nothing bled — not bold gel pens, wet rollerballs, wide fiber-tips, or fine fountain pens. I don’t think any of it even qualifies as show-through, to tell the truth. It was very very good.]