Baron Fig Atomic.


Baron Fig is on another roll full of beautiful new editions. The Computerworld Vanguard books are colorful and perfectly produced, and we talked about them on Episode 96 of Erasable.

The first Baron Fig product I ever used was an Apprentice, the former range of pocket notebooks. I love the dimensions and paper, and I was a little disappointed that the limited edition Vanguards always come in the “flagship” size (near A5). I had all of the Apprentice series, aside from the tri-color set given to visitors to the studio in New York. The Seer is one of the loveliest pocket notebooks I’ve ever filed.

The newest release is Atomic, a return to the old Apprentice books that I loved from three-ish years ago. I read on Facebook from Joey that these were produced before the re-brand (of Apprentice into the Vanguard line, which comes in three sizes). Therefore, the older paper (which I still like) is in these books, but the design looks fresh. The color is perfect. Everything that I loved about the Maker Apprentice is true here. The dotgrid is perfect.

I have mentioned the “off” stitching on Erasable before, but Baron Fig has gotten their manufacturing to the point that the Vanguards come out looking about as perfectly as books can look. Computerworld has perfect stitching, perfect cuts, perfect corners. It’s really impressive. I wonder, if the Atomic is successful, if they might bring back the limited edition Apprentice books. With their new paper and new QC, these would challenge any other brand of pocket notebooks.

(These notebooks were kindly provided to me free from the folks at Baron Fig, but the opinions are my own.)

Pile of 114 Used Field Notes.

114 Full Field Notes, in no particular order. (Click to enlarge)
114 Full Field Notes, in no particular order. (Click to enlarge)

Prompted by both a thread on the Field Nuts group and a great post on The Finer Point, here are my pocket notebooks from late 2010 to the present, not counting the ones I am still using. Pictured above, 114 Full Field Notes. Below, other branded books, including the number/alphabet books that might be too large/thick to qualify for this category.

Assorted pocket notebooks, fall 2012-present. (Click to enlarge)
Assorted pocket notebooks, fall 2012-present. (Click to enlarge)

I have been meaning to do something like this for a while. But:

1) It feels like bragging.

2) It feels like confessing to a problem.

3) I am lazy.

I have a small stash of empty Field Notes and assorted other pocket notebooks around, but they will soon move to the full pile. I keep them in a Sam Adams box that is literally splitting because I am a creature of habit and have stuffed way more into that space than really fit.

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.

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.