If you were expecting an AC/DC world tour then brace yourself because there are no Hells Bells, no cannons and there won’t be ‘a whole lotta Rosie’ but there will be ‘a whole lotta notebooks’!
So welcome to my world tour of pocket notebooks; in no particular order the tour will be visiting Japan, calling in Taiwan for a quick TWSBI, stopping off in England, France, Germany, Italy and the USA.
This tour around the worlds notebooks is just in time to help you make up your mind about what you would like to find in your stocking on Christmas morning.
For each of the notebooks reviewed I intend to keep it brief; just a few thoughts and opinions on each and each of them have been subjected to a fountain pen test to find out how good the paper really is.
The tour dates are:
- Blackwing Clutch
- Moleskine Cahier
- Story Supply Co. Edition 407
- Moleskine Classic
- Field Notes
- Muji A6
- Taroko Design
- Muji Passport Size
The tour starts in the USA with the Blackwing Clutch; Blackwing market this notebook for use in landscape mode i.e. turn through 90 degrees so you can write/draw etc. on the long edge. Which is essentially nothing that anyone who has ever used a notebook has not already done and whilst it is not innovative it is an interesting marketing gimmick and one I can’t recall being used for a similar product, so points for trying.
The Blackwing Clutch is produced using nice 100gsm paper, stitched and has a sturdy card cover and for me this is where it ends. The thicker paper means you get better quality but fewer pages and no matter how much I tried I could not get it to lie flat and despite the thicker paper I still got a small amount of shadowing and bleed through during the ink test.
Would I recommend them? This is a yes and no answer. Outside of the USA they are prohibitively expensive (I ordered mine direct from Blackwing and whilst shipping was expensive they were delivered in a matter of days) so No; whilst they are good value if you are in the USA or know someone who will buy and post them to you, so Yes.
Overall as pocket notebooks go they are nothing special and there are better notebooks that are more easily available.
This is a notebook that has come in for a lot of criticism particularly surrounding build quality and I’m not sure a lot has changed. It’s nearest rivals on the tour are the Leuchtturm1917 and the Moleskine Classic both of which are much better built. However, having said that the TWSBI does have a trick or two up its sleeves; I like the fact that all the pages are perforated for easy removal and I like the red tape used on the sides of the rear pocket.
The TWSBI did do well on the ink test; it didn’t bleed through the paper but it did shadow though nothing that would stop you using the rear of the page. I don’t think I would buy another but considering the price per page, compared to its rivals, and essentially a pocket notebook is a disposable asset I might.
Moleskine Cahier/Moleskine Classic
This stop on the tour takes us to Italy and here we will look at both versions of the Moleskine primarily because the bit we are interested in, the paper, is the same in both my samples. Both failed the ink test with ink bleeding through from the swab and the pen samples making the rear of the page unusable. It’s worth noting that I’ve had the same result with my Pilot G2 gel pen, however, if you are a pencil person then this is not a problem.
If you want Santa to bring you a Moleskine for Christmas then I’d recommend the Classic.
Story Supply Co. Edition 407
Back in the USA. I first heard about these from a mention in an article on another site and curiosity got the better of me so I wrote to them looking for a shipping cost and less than a day later I had a reply telling me to contact the lovely people at pocketnotebooks.co.uk.
I did and a few days later my Edition 407’s arrived along with a couple of other notebooks all wrapped in tissue paper with a nice handwritten note; it’s these touches that make you remember where things came from and make you want to go back the next time you need to order.
These notebooks come in packs of three (mine are dot grid) with a card strap around the middle. The covers are very good quality linen finish card that is embossed, front & rear, with the company name/logo. The inner covers have rulers/degree charts etc. printed on them but the only thing they don’t have is a pocket on the rear cover.
The paper passed the ink test with flying colours with barely a hint of shadow from either the swab or the pens; it’s nice paper with a slight shine to the surface (to me it has a similar feel to Tomoe River) that is a pleasure to write on.
I can definitely recommend the Edition 407; everything about it is polite, understated and says quality, it is a notebook you could take and use anywhere and it won’t let you down. Put this one on your list for Santa, you won’t regret it.
I’d read a lot about Soumkine so decided a that the tour should stop off in France and catch up with these notebooks.
Soumkine make a quality notebook filled with good paper and wrapped in nice card that is available in a range of colours; the thing that distinguishes these notebooks from pretty much every other notebook I have for review is the flyleaf. Where every other notebook opens directly onto a usable page these open to a pale blue flyleaf, it’s a nice touch.
The front cover is embossed with the company name/logo and the rear has it imprinted; and it is this that I felt really let them down, it wasn’t square. It’s a little thing but when you are marketing a quality product you expect it to be as near as damn it, perfect. Little details such as poor quality control in one little area change the perception of the product.
Outside of this little itch in the brain Soumkine do produce a good notebook, the paper passed the ink tests and whilst there was no bleed through there is a distinct shadow but the reverse of the page is still usable. I would suggest that they consider rounding the corners and maybe a rear cover pocket and resolve their quality control problem with the cover.
This trip to Germany is for the soft cover pocket notebook; there’s not a lot to say about this notebook. It’s very well designed and made and with excellent quality control which shows throughout the notebook and it’s the little things that really make it stand above most of its rivals such as index pages, page numbering, good paper, stitched rather than stapled.
As for the ink test it passed with flying colours, yes there is a shadow on the reverse side but it will have no impact on you using it.
I own a range of their soft and hardback notebooks and I have never once been disappointed by them, so if you want a really good notebook this is one to buy.
Field Notes are renowned throughout the notebook world for their quality and design and there is no doubt about it these are nice notebooks and it is always interesting to see what the next edition will bring.
The edition under review on this US leg of the tour is ‘Pitch Black’. Pitch Black comes in a three pack and as the name suggests is black with silver print and contrasting bright white paper and is stapled. I mention this because whichever way you cut it stapling is inferior to stitching, however, Field Notes do get an extra point for their stapling; they used black staples which is a nice touch when you consider pretty much everyone else uses bare metal staples.
Sadly this edition did not pass the ink test, the level of bleed through would make the reverse of the page unusable but for use with pencils and ballpoints it’ll be just fine.
Originally, I was going to review all the Muji’s together but the test results were different so they each get their own reviews, so we’re making two trips to Japan for Muji.
I like Muji and have always found their products to be good value for money and the company spends time innovating with practical intent, more on this in a later post.
I’ve been using Muji notebooks for a while now and I like the Muji A6 because it is a really well built, very good quality notebook that sells for an affordable price. It’s one of those products that every manufacturer should strive to be as good as or better than, it really should be a benchmark product.
My only very minor gripes with it are that it’s not, at time of writing, available in dot grid and I find it just a little too large to be pocket friendly, the A6 is about 15mm wider and 8mm taller than the average notebook which is just a tad too much for the average pocket.
Overall, it passed the ink test with only a small amount of bleed, not enough to be a problem; so I would say if you are in or passing a Muji have a look at their range of notebooks and all the other little things they sell, just don’t blame me when you come out of the store poorer than you went in.
Darkstar is a name I’d never come across before but when browsing pocketnotebooks.co.uk for the Story Supply Co. notebooks I came across the Darkstar Traveller Notebook. I bought on the basis of ‘ooh, Darkstar, that sounds really cool’, always a sound way to make considered purchases!
It’s a simple black cover that feels coated and has Darkstar Collection printed on the back near the bottom in black, extra cool points for that, the only tweak I would suggest is use black staples it will look so much better with them.
In it you won’t find a rear pocket but you will find fifty-six pages of nice bright white paper and this was the biggest surprize.
Most of the time when reviewing notebooks Tomoe River Paper is the gold standard we take a measurement from. So when I ink tested Darkstar and compared it to the Tomoe River (look at the pictures for yourself) the results are the same, it really is that good.
If the MIB issued notebooks they would be Darkstar; so if you want a cool notebook pack for yourself or as a gift, this is the one to buy.
These are made in Taiwan using Tomoe River Paper, they are a nice basic little notebook and probably the most affordable route to using Tomoe River. I have them in two sizes, Regular and Passport, and they are my go to notebooks for ink testing; the bright white paper makes it very easy to test a new ink.
My only criticism of them is that the covers are a bit flimsy but ultimately that is a very small concern and I wouldn’t allow it to put anyone off buying one and the simple fact is I wouldn’t be without them.
Muji Passport Size
So this is where the tour ends, back in Japan and we are looking at the Muji Passport notebook. It’s a nice small pocket notebook with a good quality cover that comes in a range of colours and with a variety of papers; for this test I used the plain paper version.
Unlike the A6, this one failed the ink test; there is just too much bleed through to make it fountain pen friendly, however, as with the Field Notes it is still a good choice if you need a small pocket notebook to use with either a ballpoint or a pencil.
So that’s it the tour is over, the last gig has been played and the road crew have struck the set and gone home. Thank you for coming with me, I promised you a ‘whole lotta notebooks’ and I hope I’ve delivered and you found something useful along the way.
If I had to say to you ‘this is the one, this is what you want to find in your stocking on Christmas morning’ I couldn’t. I’d say ‘it’s either got to be Darkstar or Story Supply Co. Edition 407, but if you’ve been really really good and you ask very nicely maybe Santa will bring you both.’