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 Scout Books Artist Notebooks.

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Scout Books makes some gorgeous blank books with covers by contemporary artist. I saw the Meg Hunt edition of this book, which I meant to order (and still haven’t, for no good reason) next time I got around to getting some new pocket notebooks. But then Scout Books and Trohv hosted a “Notebook Party”* last month in Baltimore to launch two new sets by Baltimore-based artists. Taryn sent us the Perrin set, which are three of the prettiest pocket notebooks I have ever used, including seasonal editions of one of my other favorite brands. The printing job on that thick chipboard  cover is amazing. Despite the texture, there are no gaps in the ink (see below). I tore these right open and used one up, lest they sit unused in their beauty.

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I said that I would mention something else I have discovered about the paper that Scout Books uses: It has a nice texture and tooth, but it does not shave the points from pencils. I find that I can use a wide range of graphite on this paper, from HB German pencils (as hard a pencil as I likely to use) to soft drawing pencils. This is no small feat. The combinations of soft pencils on Moleskines** or hard pencils on Field Notes do not work well for me, personally.

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Pencil Glory to you if you can tell me which British television character my bad little drawing is supposed to be.

These are great little books. The covers are stiff enough that they are far easier to write/draw in standing up or on one’s lap than some other pocket notebooks. The paper is fantastic (and takes ink well, though I am certainly not a Fountain Pen Person, knowing little about them and owning exactly one that is not inked) and very white. Behold: the graphite in the above little drawing, in all of its High Contrast Splendor! I forget what pencil that was — probably a modern Blackwing 602? They have fewer pages than other brands at 32 (Field Notes and Word. books have 48), but the shipping is free. And their size makes them seem a little less intimidating. You’re not going to fit a novel in there. So get busy filling it up!

My other two will probably be broken in before you read this review.

*As my daughter, who was my date, called it.
** Though I only have a Little Prince planner and rarely use Moleskines Ever or At All, these days.

Review of Scout Books Mega DIY Notebooks.

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Taryn at Scout Books sent over some of their newest offerings recently. I love Scout Books (see our review from last year). Their proportions make them feel roomier than they are, and the covers have a…cuddly texture that I wanted to pet the first time I ever came across one. And their ever-growing catalog is a cause of wonder to me. They do a fantastic job with all of their books, and I wish they got more attention in the stationery blogosphere.

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What’s more: they are ahead in the softcover notebook game, with their new “Mega” format. These are 5×7 inch notebooks with 48 pages. They come two to a pack, and they pack a punch that is worthy of their name! I am in love with this size! I can imagine some pockets that would hold one of these (cargo shorts, suit jacket hip pocket, cycling jersey, tummy pocket on a pair of overalls, etc.), but there is a glorious amount of their paper that I like immensely. The covers are Scout Books’ DIY version, blank chipboard to Rock in any way that Comrades might choose.

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The Mega books come in four page-styles currently: blank, lined, graph and dot-grid. Taryn sent us the lined and dot-grid. The lines are the same as the pocket notebooks we reviewed last year: excellent. The dot-grid is my current favorite dot-grid available. The top and bottom rows of dots are darker, to serve as a sort of margin or border. And the dots on the rest of the pages are very small and light. The whole point (!) of dot-grid, as I understand it, is to stay out of the way. When such dots are usually grey for some reason (I’ve never seen brown dots, for instance), this is especially important for Users of Graphite. These smaller and lighter dots are very…mellow, as you can see below.

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The paper is the heavy stock that is one of the things that sets Scout Books apart from other popular pocket notebook brands. (I’ve written about this paper before, and I’ll talk more tomorrow on the Artist Notebook post.) These notebooks are, frankly, Great and a great deal to boot at $10. Remember that Scout Books always offers free USA shipping. You can’t go wrong. I’m thinking of using these for NaNoWriMo, if I am brave enough to give up even more sleep next month.

Sitting in the Woods.

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We are happy to share a project by Will Hudson in Illinois (300 or so miles North from original 2005-6 Pencil Revolution HQ in Carbondale). Mr. Hudson sent us a few paragraphs that speak for themselves.

“Sitting in the Woods and Why I Love the Revolution”

The fine folks here at Pencil Revolution have been so kind as to ask me to say a few words about my time sitting in the woods, and pencils.

Sittinginthewoods is an idea I came up with in June 2012 and began in earnest on a trip to Michigan’s Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park around mid-July.  The goal of the project is simple: commit myself to getting back in touch with nature by taking time to go out, sit in the woods, and write about it.  I decided to put together a blog, take some pictures too, and try to be consistent.   At the end of the year, meaning, by the time we circle around again to next July, my hope is that I’ll have something to show for it.  What I would love is to get enough material, and enough support, to be able to raise the funds to print up a batch of “Companion Guides to Sitting in the Woods” through Scout Books.  And then I’d like to give them away.

But what of the pencils?  Honestly, at the outset of the project, I wasn’t thinking about pencils at all.  I had my PaperMate Profile, my moleskine, and I was good to go.  Or so I thought.  This changed almost immediately when, sitting in that old-growth forest with Sugar Maple and Northern Hemlock all around, I realized that this plastic pen with rubber grip was wrong – it felt wrong, it looked wrong, and I knew it just wasn’t going to cut it.
Bottom line, I decided, is that you just can’t spend your time sitting around in the woods, reading Aldo Leopold, and expect to compose a communicable and personal version of a Land Ethic with a bunch of disposable plastic pens.

And so I went in search of pencils.  No plastic, not mechanical, but wooden, finely made pencils.  Thus, I stumbled across the Revolution.  I was amazed to discover this community of pencil lovers. I pored over the blogs, read all the reviews, tried to learn the vernacular, and finally settled on a box of Palomino BlackWing 602s.  My writing life has not been the same since.
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These days, I’ve taken to doing most, if not all, of my writing by hand, in pencil, and I’m enamored by the idea of a handwritten hardcopy of everything that eventually makes it up on the blog.  I’m not a purist, by any means, which is fine because that’s not the point.  The point is in taking the time to do this thing.   SITW is about carving out a niche in my life where I consciously take the time to sit still and listen, to reflect, to write, and to share.  It only seems sensible that pencils would be implicated in all of this.

In a way, the pencil and the paper have become as much a part of this project as the woods and fields themselves.  They require time and are markers of time, either through breezes and seasons, or the wearing down of a point.  Attached to a post in the basement of our old bungalow here outside of Chicago is an ancient Boston KS sharpener.  It’s likely been there for 30 years or more; it was here when we arrived, and it has become significant in a way that I would have never imagined.  It’s a great devourer of pencils, but an unexpected treasure nonetheless.  Similarly, I have discovered that there is always something unexpected that happens when you take the time to sit.  You become more aware of the rhythm of the light, the movement of the leaves, and all the living, breathing things that surround you. Every time I’ve gone out, and life does tend to get in the way of this from time to time, but every time I’ve gone out I’ve discovered something new.
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When it comes down to it, and I think that many Comrades would agree, be it with pencils and journals, or sitting around in the woods, it’s all about attempting to create and sustain a space in your day to day that meaning may adhere to, a space apart from this frenetic and incoherent present of which we’re so accustomed.  We all know that out here in the web there are endless paths to wander and spaces to linger; however, there are no places to sit.   What I hope to accomplish for myself, and what I hope to encourage in others, boils down to finding, or creating, your own space, making your own meanings, and engaging more deeply with the world around you.

That being said, seek out quality pencils, embrace your Comrades, and viva la révolution!

(Text, images W.H. Used with kind permission.)

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.]