The good folks at Rhodia Drive were kind enough to include me on a list of folks to provide feedback about the yellow Rhodia pad.
Shameful admission: I did not even know it existed.
Early conclusion: This is the nicest yellow paper I have ever written on!
Despite the reviews on this site for less-than-cheap papers, I actually like legal pads for the yellow paper and the format. Problem is, the paper often has a combination of too much tooth (soft pencils get eaten) and too much dye (lighter pencils don’t show up). As a result, I usually resort to white paper legal pads, even though I’m not sure they are still technically legal pads.
I have used the No. 19 lined pads of white and yellow paper for podcast notes over the last two weeks, to really get a feel. Backtracking: the Cold Horizon from Field Notes was, I think, a lovely notebook. But I hated the paper for pencil. The subtle dye in the pages repelled graphite enough that a quarter of mine are filled with…INK.* I tested the yellow Rhodia pad a lot before concluding anything because I was suspicious that my first impressions could not be true, that this dyed paper performed just like it’s bright-white counterpart.
But it does. I have never used yellow paper like this, and I will be a repeat user of this book for sure. I’d mention the smoothness of the paper and the solid construction of the Rhodia pads themselves. But, well, we all know this already. I really like the No. 19, coming in at 8.25 X 12.5 inches, with perfectly spaced lines, generous margins and printing on both sides.
My only qualm, and it is minor, is that the orange of the cover clashes with the yellow, chromatically. I understand that this orange is part of the Rhodia identity. But maybe using their black covers would be workable. Or, better yet: white covers with black printing? (Swoon.)
Thanks to Stephanie and Karen for the great notebooks to review, and definitely pick one of these up if you are even a remote fan of yellow paper.
We’ve talked enough about the eraser and ferrule of the Palomino Blackwing line. (See here.) The Pearl ships with a black eraser. I thought pink would look better, but the black eraser complements the black imprint pretty well. A silver imprint and ferrule and pink eraser would combine to look more like a pearl to me, but this pencil remains steadfastly un-aquatic In its current form. And that’s Okay by me.
The finish is, truly, pearlesque. It does not photograph accurately, the way that the tones of the 602 do not show themselves to a lens. (I can’t get them to, at any rate.) For some reason, the finish feels very different from the other two Palomino Blackwings — and most other pencils. It is certainly not rubbery like the Dixon Tri-Conderoga. It is not tacky. But there’s something almost…soft or….grippy about it. I really enjoy holding it. Combined with the soft lead and thicker (Japanese) diameter, it’s a pleasure to write with. The printing is sharp and precise and has stayed put (unlike the 602, which seems to prefer to shed its clothing). I like the minimal marking. All of the dozen I ordered have ferrules which line up with the printed side, save one. All are straight and solidly attached, with well-centered leads.
While the Pearl does not smell…chemically like the Blackwing Dark does out of the box, the cedar has disappointingly little aroma. It does sharpen perfectly though, and I’ve found that I like my Granate the best for this job.
The lead itself is why we’re here, no? This is supposed to fit between Palomino’s other Blackwings. I found the 2010 Palomino Blackwing Dark to be incredibly smooth and dark, but I rarely use it for writing. Certainly, its dark lines lend themselves well to a pocket pencil, for writing down set-lists, play-lists and reading-lists. But there’s something a little too art-pencil-ish or even charcoal-looking about the lines when the point gets dull. After a sentence. The Palomino Blackwing 602 is much less dark and slightly less smooth than the Blackwing Dark. But the point retention, sharpness of the line and durability of the point (even a looooong one) usually keeps me reaching for that model more often than the Blackwing Dark if I am writing more than a few lines.
Where does the Blackwing Pearl fit?
At first, it felt closer to the Blackwing Dark to me. It is much darker than the Palomino Blackwing 602, and nearly as smooth as the Blackwing Dark. If the latter feels like writing with a stick of melting butter, the Pearl feels like writing with a very very smooth pencil.
Point retention, smearability and erasability are right in the middle of the Palomino Blackwing line. See image (click to enlarge it) for detailed smearing and erasing. Smearing is really not bad for such a dark and soft pencil. Erasbility is, like the Palomino Blackwing Dark, not very good. The included eraser does not fully erase marks made by either the Dark or the Pearl (not even the 602, I find). If erasing is what you like best about pencils, this one may disappoint you.
Oddly enough, ghosting is not bad at all. In the week I used it, the Blackwing Pearl didn’t ghost any more than a regular HB pencil. While erasiblity is not my favorite Character of the Pencil, ghosting does bug me to no end. I was very pleased with the Pearl.
I admit that I was apprehensive that this pencil would be white like an Apple product and a stop-gap between two nice pencils just to make another pencil. (Well, maybe I just thought I should think that.) But, as I understand it, Cal Cedar is not having trouble getting the Blackwing line out there. And, when using it, I really like this pencil. I think it might be my favorite in the Blackwing line, if that’s not some kind of heresy. I’ve used it for journaling and a little sketching, and Comrades here at Pencil Revolution HQ have already pilfered from my dozen. I enjoy this pencil enough to order another dozen straight away. If you found the 602 too light and the Dark too…un-pencil-like, this might be the pencil for you, if you’re looking to buy another box of Blackwings.
In the packages from Rhodia and EcoSystem that we were lucky enough to receive this fall, there were two semi-large/medium black planners. These are both the variety that start in the summer; so I have given these 6-8 weeks of testing (each!) personally. And now, I am having trouble deciding which to use for 2011(and the Daycraft models we’ll look at tomorrow don’t help the decision).
EcoSystem 2011 “Advisor“, flexible black cover.
This is a great (and green!) EcoSystem notebook, printed with the days of the week on the left and lined note pages on the right. The paper and binding are top-notch, and the entire book is eco-friendly to boot, featuring 100% post-consumer recycled paper, organic cotton elastic and bookmark, etc. There’s the usual information one finds in the beginning of a planner and a nice pocket in the back to boot. I’ve actually beat the heck out of this thing since early November, and it’s come out looking practically new. If you’ve had a Moleskine in the soft-cover variety that’s had the “moleskin” and cardstock cover materials separate, fear not. In my own experience at least, this flexible and matte cover is as tough as a hardcover. And I really like the tacky material of which it’s made.
The printing is nice and unobtrusive, and the binding is tight. Maybe I need to just crack it, but the binding was tight enough that this book’s biggest flaw (which is, to be sure, slight) is that it doesn’t sit quite as flatly on one’s desk as some other books do. Still, the elastic is snappy, and the bookmark is beefy. “2011” is debossed in the upper right of the cover, and it’s classy-looking. This is definitely a planner that will last through the year intact.
In some ways, EcoSystem’s planner functions like a Moleskine, only, well, better. (I’ll talk more about that when we review the pocket “kiwi” EcoSystem book in the new year.) This might be worth mentioning for some Comrades: this book has the best moon cycle symbols I’ve seen. If you follow the moon (like I do), you might appreciate this. The fonts and inks are definitely a plush for this book.
Rhodia 2010-2011 Academic “Weekly Notebook“, black flexible cover.
This book is actually an academic (summer-summer) planner, but the 2011 model seems to have the same features. This Rhodia planner has the week on the left, and heavy graph lines on the right, on very very very white paper. The 6 x 9 inch dimensions render it rather large, but it’s actually very thin and carries well. It opens completely flatly on the table, all by itself. The elastic even “closes” into a straight line along the back cover when it’s open, helping it to both stay out of the way and help the book lay down well.
If there’s something I wasn’t crazy about regarding this book it’s that all the printing and graph lines are a little obtrusive and darkly-printed. One thing I always appreciated about Moleskines was that the printing inside was grey and out of the way. Using pencil, the heavy lines took some getting used to. This is probably a person thing, though. The colorful inks and well-planned fonts make up for it.
The Rhodia planner has great information about holidays around the world, not merely a mention that there is a holiday in a certain country on a certain day. It also has the best maps I have seen in a planner. We usually find one global map with timezones on it, sometimes even country outlines/labels. But the Rhodia has a total of seven pages of detailed maps! If maps and/or geography interest you, you might agree with me that this is a great thing. With the holiday listings and detailed maps, one might expect this planner to be unwieldy. But, as I mentioned, it’s thin and light and very portable. With the nice paper and great contents, don’t ask me how Rhodia pulled this off.
Karen was kind enough to send us a nice package of goodies to review this fall, and it’s time we publish some more reviews! I thought we’d go with a pad I’ve been especially enjoying: the Dot Pad — especially after the announcement of the Dot Webbie, which might be one of the greatest notebooks available. Vitals:
Cover Material: Coated cardstock.
Paper: 80 g acid-free; light lilac grid with 5mm intervals between dots.
Size: Assorted; 6 ” x 8 ¼ ” as tested.
Page Count: 80.
Unique Characteristics: Foldable cover; dot=grid.
As you can guess, the Dot Pad has dots in place of the squared lines regular Rhodia paper has. While this might seem like a small deal at first, I think this means several things. First, this paper photocopies better. Second, one can more easily ignore the dots, easier than ignoring purple lines, anyway. Third — and most important to pencil users — it makes what you write or draw easier to see! I have long loved Rhodia pads, but I have usually felt compelled to use a dark/soft pencil because the graph lines are a little heavy. It never bothered me enough to steer me away from Rhodia pads — to be sure — but the Dot Pad is still refreshing and, well, fun. While I appreciate the orange of Rhodia pads, I like the departure for black, and I really like the graphic/logo work for the Dot Pad.
As as always the case with Rhodia, the construction and design are both solid. The way the cover folds over and the extra cardboard backing are just intelligent and functional. Period. The paper is smooth and wonderful. While Rhodia paper usually wins praise from Comrades who love fountain pens, the pads are also excellent for graphite. (It’s no accident that the first post on Pencil Talk was about Rhodia pads.) Smearability on Rhodia paper has never been a problem for me at all. What’s more, strangely, the Dot Pad seems somehow extraordinarily smear-resistant. Ghosting is not an issue with a Rhodia pad because of the construction of the pad itself. I mean, I suppose one could write on the back. But it would be pretty difficult, at least if you have meaty hands like I do.
Another thing I always like about Rhodia pads are that they are easy to find in person and relatively inexpensive. I’m willing to bet that if you live in even a medium-sized city, you can find them at an art shop or even Target. I can walk to several shops from my office in midtown Baltimore and find them, for instance (though none of these locations sell the pencils).
I’ve been using this particular pad as a bedside reading notebook, and I definitely plan to get more when I fill this one up. Right now, it’s recording all the pencil mentions in For Whom the Bell Tolls.
There are myriad notebook blogs, on which Comrades can find information about notebooks’ construction, which ones can handle fountain pen ink, etc. What we try to provide with our growing number of paper reviews are pencil-specific reviews. We have a growing stack (er, box) of review samples we are testing for ghosting, point retention, etc. But, I thought it might be helpful to suggest a few great notebooks in which to write (or in which to take notes for) Comrades’ NaNoWriMo work — and, of course, invite others to share pointers.
1) Field Notes. I was hoping my “Raven’s Wing” editions would show up this week, but it is not so. Field Notes are stylish, durable and very pocketable. I might not want to draft much longhand in these (they’re small and not full of much paper), but for on-the-go notetaking, it’s hard to beat a Field Notes book.
2) Rhodia products. There are tiny stapled notebooks (like smaller Field Notes) for your pocket, the beautiful “Webbie” journals for long drafts and all manner of pads to suite your pocket or desktop. The smartphone pocket of my T2 bag usually has a Rhodia pad in it, in some kind of Luddite gesture.
3) EcoJot Workbooks. I was hoping we’d be able to publish a review of these from some samples Mark sent us in time for November, but it’s not to be. The review is coming, but you’ll have to take my word for it that they are like Moleskine Cahiers. Only greener. With attractive covers. And better paper.
4) Whitelines. We’ll have a review of these interesting notebooks in the near future, but I think they bear mention for marathon writing. The idea is that the pages are light grey, with white lines, since dark lines on white paper are harsh for the eyes. It might sound strange, but these are very nice books, and the paper is intriguing.
5) Something FANCY. A big Moleskine. Paper Blanks. Something handmade from Etsy. I have a beautiful journal that my sister-in-law sent me for a birthday a few years ago made from an old library book and big rings that I am considering using, or a giant EcoJot journal.
I thought about listing books I would personally avoid, but I think that’s unnecessarily negative. And, you know, one writer’s graphite mess is another’s silvery-grey paradise.
Exaclair sent us a box of Rhodia goodies to review recently, and one (two, rather) of the goodies is the orange and black Rhodia pencil. This pencil matches the standard orange Rhodia pad in much the same way as the Field Notes pencils and notebooks match. The quality more than meets the standards of the Rhodia pad.
Material: Linden wood.
Finish: Matte orange with all black details.
Ferrule: Aluminum, glossy black and round.
Eraser: Black and soft.
Core: Ceramic/graphite composite. Available in #2/HB.
Markings: The Rhodia fir tree logo on all three sides, near the eraser end.
Availability: From RhodiaPads.Com and select online retailers.
Like it’s cousin, the Rhodia pad, the Rhodia pencil is a pale orange with black details, made in France and just finely made. The designers of this pencil went so far as to dye the wood black, so that the pencil is absolutely and completely black and orange. I was disappointed to learn that the wood is Linden wood and not Cedar, especially given the cost and excellent design of the Rhodia pencil. I wonder if Cedar might be more difficult to dye black? Either way, sharpening is easy and neat with this treated Linden wood. The factory sharpening does not leave the zig-zag pattern that your sharpener at home (or work) will leave, and it looked oddly that way to me. I’d have liked them unsharpened, but this isn’t a big deal to me. My pencils are either in my stash or sharpened for use. I remember some triangular pencils being tough to sharpen the first time, if the shape is extreme. The shape of this pencil is just plain comfortable. The angles of the triangular cross-section are nicely rounded, but the sides are flatter than, say, a Grip 2001.
The finish is very fine. The orange matte is smooth and feels thick and easy to grip. There’s a layer of white paint (primer?) under the orange that shows up at the sharpened end, but it’s not a huge deal. The Rhodia logo is stamped in black on all three sides, near the eraser, leaving the rest of the pencil bare. This also means that very short pencils (pocket-sized!) will have the same logo and not any unsightly cut-off lettering. The stamping is crisp and nearly flawless. Following in the vein of carefulness the ferrule is crimped on perfectly. Unlike the Grip 2001 and Tri-Conderoga, the ferrule is round, despite the pencil being triangular. This can lead to poorly-fitted ferrules, as in the Dixon Tri-Write (at least all the ones I own), but the Rhodia pencil’s ferrule is tight, straight, flush with the barrel and doesn’t smash and flake off the paint like so many pencils I’m seeing for sale in the US have these days, even round ones. The eraser is also round. I like the triangular erasers of other pencils for detailed erasering, but the quality and length of the Rhodia eraser make up for it. The eraser is slightly longer than most pencils, but not so much that it feels like it’s going to pop out of the ferrule.
The core is very nice. It’s not as smooth as a Palomino or soft German pencil, but it’s not scratchy, either. It has a nice feedback, without being rough on the paper. Darkness on this HB runs darker than a Dixon, just a shade or two lighter than a Forest Choice. This tone is very nice on Rhodia’s white paper and also in other applications. The cores in both test units are nearly perfectly-centered, with no grit or crumbling. Smearability is minimal, and it honestly took some effort to produce. Bizarrely enough, HB pencils that are this dark are usually smoother writers, but this pencil’s smoothness is certainly satisfactory enough for me.
The design, quality and attention to detail we see in the Rhodia pencil are definitely in keeping with Rhodia’s other products. However, there is one small thing that I find out-of-step with the pencil: the price. Rhodia pads, for the quality of paper, French origin and sheer quality, are really a steal. Last time I bought a No. 11 pad, I paid $1.80 for it, about the same as the junky pads they sell at my grocery store. The Rhodia pencil runs about $1.90-$2.00 a piece. Most quality eraser-tipped pencils are a quarter of that price (or less), while premium pencils run about $1.00 each (Faber-Castell 9000s, Palominos, Mars 100s, etc.). I could definitely appreciate the Rhodia pencil as a premium piece on par with the pencils mentioned above, but at about $2 each, they seem to aspire to “luxury” status a bit. Rhodia pads are certainly nice, but they are more in the line of premium paper (Moleskines, Doane, etc.) than luxury (Italian leather and parchment, etc.). Still, maybe I’m working under false assumptions. These pencils really are of the highest quality, especially when you look at the junk paint jobs and crooked ferrules on a lot of recently-outsourced, formerly-American pencils these days. My other small qualm (which is actually even smaller) is that the Rhodia pencil is very hard to find! Considering that Rhodia pads are often stocked by art supply shops and that these venues contain and sell any number of premium pencils, I would think there would be some for sale with the pads in at least one of the four art supply shops near my office (you have to love Midtown Baltimore!). It will just prompt me to take extra care of the two I have.
In the end, though, this is really just a fantastic pencil. The design and execution are stellar, and it’s a pleasure to write with. That’s what pencils are for! I’ve been wearing my review pencil down quickly, writing on some of the other goodies from Rhodia, which we hope to review in the very near future. (Thanks again to Karen for the lovely package!)