My way or the cahier

I have more than a few rough notes laying around containing thoughts on the humble cahier (“ka-yey””)style of notebook. Most are written when its new notebook time, and I start thinking about exactly what I might need. I guess the usual pro’s and the con’s type of thing. While far from exhaustive, the following outlines why the humble cahier more often than not fits the bill — at least for me.

As pen people, we all understand the joy of any writing instrument (fountain or otherwise) is inherently tied to the paper we’re using. Despite quality paper coming in many formats, we’ve probably all been in the “I can’t find the exact thing my ridiculously picky pen-nerding soul wants right now” situation more than once. At times like these a default go-to works more often than not, and for me that has long been a cahier of some kind.

While Dictionary.com tells us the cahier (ka-yey, kah-; French ka-yey) is, amongst a couple of other things, a notebook, paperback book, exercise book or journal, most know it simply as something like this:

There have been a few…

Start Here

Although the adage goes something along the lines of any journey begins with a single step — occasionally it’s a stumble. Though perhaps a little harsh, fountain pen users will know what I am talking about here. My first cahier experience? A set of three from Moleskine. I mean, back in those early days of my stationery exploration, that’s what people who cared about such things used wasn’t it? Well, perhaps according to shrewd marketing, airport gift shops and large department stores — however this soon ran contrary to my paper quality sentiment above.

Since those early missteps there have been quite a few more positive experiences. Familiar to many, there have been Clairefontaine, Rollbahn, Rhodia, Baronfig, Milligram, and currently a set from Lamy which I’m finding very pleasant to use. There are no doubt a good few others in my tried-those list which escape me at the current time.

I refuse to even start down the specifications rabbit hole, and with so many unique dimensions around the place these days, there is hardly a cahier “standard” of any sort when it comes to sizing.

To be honest that doesn’t really bother me too much, however the following would be the general description you would find from most sellers – here, the Dymocks bookstore Moleskine product page:

The medium-sized Moleskine Cahier is a beautifully made Moleskine exercise book. It’s a soft-cover notebook with a flexible cardboard cover and visible thread-bound stitching.

…The plain notebook is the perfect art notebook, university notebook or personal journal, with simple mid-sized blank pages. The Kraft notebook has a beautiful, natural-cardboard cover that will appeal to those who love earthy tones.

…perfect for students, designers and creative people who take a lot of notes. Each has 80pp with 16 perforated pages and an expandable inner pocket.

All shapes, sizes and colours…

Whether you are a stickler for specific definitions or not, a cahier to me is a thin, softcover notebook. Having used thread bound, staple bound, A5 (and A5-ish), B5 (and B5-ish), and up to A4 — my definition is fairly broad.

Cah-yay…

So, why this humble notebook?

A simple answer to that question is found in that sublime interaction of paper quality and utility. I’ve always found most manufacturers who produce quality, fountain pen friendly paper, generally have a cahier in their line up alongside the usual hardcover notebooks. So in most cases, there are numerous choices if paper quality lies anywhere within your key criteria. Again, if you are reading this, I assume it probably does, and if your fountain pen performs well on the paper, generally most other pens will too.

As for utility? Well we could just as accurately substitute mobility here. There is a certain lightness about the cahier which a hardcover notebook will never quite match. Here I’m not talking about simply mass in grams — more so the overall footprint. Absolutely, your typical cahier will weigh less than an equivalent hardcover, though beyond that, a cahier is generally unobtrusive in nature. Tucked beside your iPad or laptop walking to a meeting? In and out of a briefcase or back pack? Stacked on a bookshelf or corner of a desk? The cahier is an easy carry, straightforward in and out, and seamless fit for any space.

Ok, so in praise of this jack of all trades — what about compromises? Generally where significant breadth of application is apparent, we tend to sacrifice depth, or quality and performance in a few key areas. To my why of thinking, the question should relate more to fit for purpose than what may be lacking compared with an arbitrary list of criteria. Any criteria need to be yours don’t they? Further, they should indeed be very specific to you.

For me? Paper is a deal breaker, and I’m sure anyone this far into the post thinks exactly the same. As I’ve mentioned though, with the right brands, there aren’t any real compromises required here. The softer, card-stock covers? As long as they prevent the the front and back pages ripping off as it goes in a bag — all good. Further, they allow each half of the notebook to be folded back on itself — perfect for cramped desk spaces or perhaps when you have no desk at all.

While they perhaps don’t look quite as a good as a hardcover on ”my minimalist desk setup” posts, and may get a little scuffed going in and out of a bag, for my own purposes, I cannot really come up with any significant negatives.

Well that’s me. You? It may be all, all wrong, so thank heavens for the choices we have in this stationery caper, and as usual, that’s why we’re so often invested in the search.

Restocking – a trip to Bookbinders

Although I’ve posted an image to Instagram from yesterday’s visit to the Bookbinders store on Brisbane’s Northside, readers of the blog and my social media following are not one and the same, so I thought I’d share a couple of things in a brief post.

img_7934

It was my second visit to the actual store itself — such a wonderful, calming space amid the chaos of rainy Friday afternoon traffic. The Bookbinders team do a fantastic job, stocking great products and provide outstanding customer service. It was great to hear business is strong, with foot traffic continuing to increase at the store itself.

It is definitely worth a visit if you have yet to do so, and of course if you already have, you don’t need me to encourage you to return — I’m sure that is inevitable.

Though it wasn’t a big haul by any stretch, the few key items on my list were ticked off.

Coffee drinking and roasting logs

I’ve written in a recent post about my thoughts and plans for recording my coffee roasting data, and the main reason for the visit was to pick up the new 33 Roasts log from the 33 Books series.

My only concern (immediately alleviated upon closer inspection) was whether the log contained units in degrees celsius as well as Fahrenheit (being a US publication). All good to go here, with units in celsius appearing on the R hand axis of the roast graph. Key details from each of my roasts will end up in a spreadsheet, and the entire notebook contents scanned, indexed and saved for safe keeping and easy search (perhaps a post for another day).

img_7935

A few drops of coffee in the ink is a nice touch

My coffee drinking habits? Well why not 33 Log those as well? When out, I use a modified version of this Day One / Launch Center Pro template (also available as Workflow app action if that is your preference) to rate the beverages cafes serve me, however when at home I’d like to record a little more often in relation to drinking what I’ve roasted myself. The 33 Cups of Coffee log seems like a good way to go here.

Upon completion, these will also be scanned, and I’m thinking perhaps the 4 and 5 star rated cups are worthy of indexing for future reference. I’ll give that one a little more thought.

 

Writing

img_7938

Though 40 pages less, a considerable reduction in paper weight from the Life Symphony to the Monokaki

One of the most pleasing aspects of visiting the store was seeing the healthy stock of Monokaki notebooks, which still remain my all-time favourite. Previous posts about those? Yes — here and here if you are interested. Having passed my 50% rule (that is, of usage in my current notebook before searching for another), it wasn’t a hard choice as to what I’d pick up next.

The masuya paper contained therein is a perfect mash-up of Tomoe River-like weight with a little more tooth to the nib. Just the way I like it. In order to share my fondness, some of that very paper will also be going out in handwritten correspondence from the Yuga Letter Pad I picked up as well.

Signing off

Given this was never intended to be a lengthy post, in closing, I think we are very lucky to have the Bookbinders team not only based in Brisbane, but having a brick and mortar presence as well. They are wonderful people with a passion for the industry — something well worth supporting as a consumer.

Happy writing, roasting and drinking.

Life Symphony A5 Spiral Bound Notebook

img_7800An interest in fountain pens inherently carries with it a similar level of attention to paper. Although I’ve written about some budget friendly notebook options on one or two occasions, I’m not averse to paying a little more for them either.

One such notebook — while not prohibitive in cost — is the L!fe Symphony N93 Spiral Bound A5 currently sitting on my desk. For the remainder of this post, I will mostly use Life rather than L!fe, as I do find it a little distracting, and an online search term of Life Symphony Notebook will bring up what you are looking for.

Look and feel

In summary, I’d say the Symphony notebook has no bells and minimal whistles — just high quality design, construction and performance.

Though technically a soft cover notebook, the Symphony carries very thick, stiffened card stock front and back which is about as hard as you’d find in a soft-cover notebook. As the images in this post show, I purchased what is described on various retail sites as the “grey” version. The front cover features some intricate detailing reminiscent of a dense vine, and is quite attractive to my eye. The back cover matches in colour, however is unadorned with any detailing or labelling.

img_7808

A colour

To be honest I’m not sure how I’d describe this colour. At the time of purchase, I was drawn to the contrast between the prominent brass coloured double spiral binding and the deeper, slightly more mysterious looking cover. Something enigmatic to provide a little mystery, and shroud what would ultimately be a collection of fairly superficial writing you might say.

Speaking of the binding, those brassy double spirals follow the lead of the cover, in that they are very stiff, providing a solid backbone to the book in a way befitting the overall quality throughout. There is a little wiggle room or “play” in the pages, however I’ve not noticed this when writing, and believe me I would, for it is a pet peeve of mine with spiral bound notebooks.

img_7806

Those spirals!

Referring back to the “no bells” statement above — rather than a criticism, is more a reference to a design which appears focused on the essential requirements, and doing them exceedingly well. There are no pockets, bookmark ribbons, elastic enclosures or pre-formatting on the paper other than the 8mm ruling in subtle grey.

I do tend to use ribbon markers if they are in a notebook, however equally don’t mind if they aren’t — avoiding the need to get them out of the way once the notebook is open to write. Pre-formatted page numbering and perhaps a date field? Again, generally used when present, though inconsequential if not. Plain, grid or ruled? Personal preference, for which I’ll take ruled nine times out of ten these days.

Specifications

The subject of this post:

  • L!fe Symphony N93 Notebook
  • Size: A5 (15x21cm)
  • Cover: Thick, stiffened card stock front and back
  • Pages: 200 (100 Sheets) acid-free paper; estimated at 80-90gsm
  • Binding: Brass coloured double ring
  • Style: 8mm Ruled
  • Features: Fountain pen friendly paper, hand-made
  • Source: Made in Japan
  • Purchased: Pen and Paper, Brisbane CBD, AU$26.95 (December 2016)

Looking around online, you’ll find A5, B5 and A4 variations, available in grey, red, and blue covers. I was unable to find a specific gsm weight rating, however the paper feels very similar to your usual Clairefontaine/Rhodia type weighting. Searching around reveals 8mm ruled, 5mm grid, and plain paper variations, however I am not sure how widely available these options are.

Some online retailers:

Writing Performance

Of course most of the notebooks you see on these pages from time to time are great for writing, and whether they reach the “just about perfect” status is really a matter of personal preference isn’t it. I’ve written ad nauseam about my preference for a little feedback on the page, rather than skating about one a little too slick. No surprises the same thoughts will be applied here.

img_7812

Bookbinders Snake Inks Ground Rattler (l) and Eastern Brown (r)

As I write this, I am 130 pages in of the 200 available to me in this notebook, and I’ve certainly no intention of not continuing right through to the last.

img_7801

Whether running a finger down the page or forming letters along a line — the paper is quite smooth. Not Clairefontaine notebook smooth (a skater for me) by any stretch, and not quite Rhodia smooth either — however probably not far behind. Therefore, on the feedback/tooth scale I’d say it sits squarely in the upper end of my preferred window.

Currently in my hand is a Pilot Custom Heritage 92 (FM nib), containing Bookbinders Snake Ink Red Belly Black. On cheaper, softer paper, the CH 92 will occasionally want to “dig in” a little, however that is certainly not the case here. Both the sensory and auditory feedback (on a quiet pre-dawn morning), are pleasing to say the least. I’d be happy enough if restricted to this paper for the rest of my writing days.

img_7803

Bookbinders Snake Ink Red Belly Black

Using a stiffer nib, such as my medium Platinum President, I find more of that “skating across the top” feel, highlighting the nib and paper interaction, which influences the perception of all our writing experiences. Add to that the usual differences in writing on the left hand page atop the stack of 65 or so filled sheets versus the harder, compressed, yet to be written sheets on the right. Whatever your particular preference or thoughts here — this is great paper for fountain pens.

img_7811Feathering, show through, or bleed are nowhere to be found, and I feel you’d have to use a very broad nib containing extremely saturated, very wet ink to change that to any great degree. You will be safe with most general writing pens. Dry time is commensurate with my Rhodia notepads, or a perhaps a touch faster with certain inks.

At this point I am probably meant to test and demonstrate numerous different pen types to illustrate how this paper handles them all (and I am thankful to those who do), however looking back through those 130 pages, I can find all of about three with non-fountain pen markings (Retro 51/Schmidt rollerball from a Baron Fig Squire out of interest). As you’d expect, handled with aplomb by the paper.

In a notebook bought on the basis of being great for fountain pens, that can hardly come as a surprise, and call this a “review” if you like, however this post is written merely as a reflection on how I’ve found using rather than “testing” — the Symphony notebook over the past few months.

In Use

One of the more common uses for my notebooks is to carry them on my lunch break, perch on a stool at the bar of my favourite cafe, and do some writing. Having purchased the Symphony notebook with this activity in mind, I soon found its suitability for the task was not quite spot on.

img_7814

With that iPad Air 2

The notebook itself is fantastic of course, however given its thickness, something as simple as the size of the spirals prevents it sitting nice and flat against my iPad Air 2 when carried together. A big deal? Hardly – though why bother when I don’t have to, particularly when there is plenty of flatness in say, the Baron Fig Vanguard of similar size (not thickness) which is currently fulfilling lunch break longhand duties.

Beyond such silly personal eccentricities, the Life Symphony No. 93 is what I’d consider a perfect desk book, where weight, thickness and spiral size matter less. It’s perfect for long form writing, with the A5 size constraining my hand, which at times can become a little unwieldy and careless on a larger sized page. Brief notes or meeting minutes – all perfect as well, however to me, a notebook like this begs for something a little grander. Perhaps some poetry, elegant prose, or even a your next novel.

In rounding things out here, I’d have to say from a construction and aesthetic perspective, the Symphony is more than well equipped to handle just about anything you could throw at it. Perhaps you’d see some wear and tear from repetitive backpack in/out cycles, though I think it would stand up pretty well.

Signing off

I’m certainly enjoying the quality of both overall construction and paper of this Symphony notebook from Life Stationery. It’s traditional without being staid; functional yet solid; and clean without feeling underdone or sparse. While it doesn’t suit my particular style of carry, it makes a fantastic desk notebook, and if you are someone who always uses a bag, my concerns are a moot point.

Whether a notebook like this represents value for money really comes down to how you personally value quality of construction and overall aesthetics. It is a notebook I consider represents excellent value for money, and would certainly buy one again – for my desk of course.

Monokaki Notebooks: Now On My Doorstep

Late breaking stationery news this blog certainly isn’t, however when there is good news to share…

A little over a year ago I wrote about the Monokaki A5 notebook, received from a friend who’d been travelling overseas and picked one up in a Japanese stationery store. Well and truly filled cover to cover some time ago, I occasionally come across it when filing other notebooks away, and usually pick it up and flick through.

In reading over that original post, I’m reminded just how much I loved using that notebook with its Masuya paper, and fabulous overall design and attention to detail.

As luck would have it, the great folk at Bookbinders now have that very notebook in stock, along with its larger B5 sibling. You’ll also find some Masuya Manuscript paper as well. To clarify — the luck is with me, however the collection of stock Bookbinders are assembling shows a real passion for — and understanding of — a pen and paper enthusiast’s needs.

Of course we all have our favourites, whether notebook, paper type, or combination of both. The perfect size and construction; our favourite binding; just the right amount of slide or skate of the nib; perhaps a little tooth (raises hand) to help control things just a little. While our styles and hand are different, you and I, the Masuya Monokaki notebook stakes an overwhelming claim as my all time favourite.

Sure, I’ve not used every notebook out there, though I’ve tried a few, and I’d encourage any keen fountain pen user to at least check these out. If by chance you all do so before I get over to the store — yes, the actual store on the other side of town — I’m sure there will be plenty more coming.

Err… right Bookbinders? Right?

Fine print: Please note I have no affiliation with the Bookbinders company, brand or products. I do however have every known affiliation, connection, and association (both direct or implied) with stationery related products I buy and thoroughly love using.

Some Fountain Pen Friendly Budget Notebook Options

2016-07-10 all_three_blog_postIf there is one thing I am somewhat mindful of in this hobby (or obsession if we’re being honest) relating to pens, their associated inks, and paper — it is the cost of feeding the habit. I am not even speaking of bigger ticket items such as a quality fountain pen or leather-bound notebook — simply those everyday stationery purchases we often make.

Of course relative to that new pen purchase, a notebook or notepad remains fairly cheap by comparison, irrespective of brand or manufacturing quality. Although your standard A5 (No. 16) Rhodia pad may come in at AU$7.00 – $8.00, and even the A4 variant only AU$13.00 – $14.00, things can go skyward pretty quickly when stocking up on a few “essentials”. Like many, I have boxes and drawers filled with a collection of such products ready to be called into action when the inclination or need arises.

That being the case, why the need to seek out lower end options? A valid question, and I often ask myself whether I have become someone who buys something just because it is cheap — regardless of quality. However I can assure you I do have some standards, and only search for, test out, and put into ongoing use the products which although may not be perfect, will at least pass those minimum standards and be enjoyable and satisfying to use. I am certainly not going to put up with poor paper just because it was a bargain, spending my writing time cursing at the ink feathering or nib catching on cheap, rough paper.

At times I’ve actually found certain features in some of the cheaper options have suited me a little better than some of their higher priced cousins. Let’s face it though, there is a certain amount of satisfaction to be gained in finding some local, readily available alternatives which reduce the rate at which I burn through those more “premium” products.

I do acknowledge I am lucky enough to have access to many retail outlets given I work in the Brisbane CBD. All of the products here were simply bought off the shelf, and if available online, result in additional postage charges, rendering them less of a budget buy. I do feel for those of you unable to simply walk by in your lunch break, drop a few gold coins and walk out with a notebook or two.

As always, my intention is not to sell these products to you — merely to report in on how I found them to be valid options which are a little easier on the budget. All three I purchased myself, and I have no affiliation with any of the manufacturers or retailers.

Kokuyo Campus B5 Notebook – AU$2.80 DanDa

2016-07-10 campus_cover_blog_postThis notebook has been in daily use for the past month or so, and performed extremely well at the task. As you can see the cover is a little worn. “Daily use” generally involves blog post drafts, coffee tasting notes, general notes or song lyrics rewritten to test out a pen or ink. Many and varied content, however a common theme being longhand writing — often several pages at a time.

Design wise, the Kokuyo Campus series comprises a selection of thin, glue bound (external tape reinforced) notebooks unadorned with any additional pockets, closure straps or the like. They actually remind me of a standard school exercise book in many ways (perhaps with the exception of the better paper quality). The cover is simple card stock, which is not overly thick however does the job as intended.

Not having used any of the Japanese made Campus line of notebooks before, the quality of the paper was certainly pleasing, though not a complete surprise given listings with online retailers noting the paper to be decidedly fountain pen friendly. The 70 gsm paper handled my daily writer (typically M or F) fountain pens with aplomb, showing no feathering, bleed through, nor ghosting of any significance. Writing is almost as smooth as you’ll find anywhere — great paper for most fountain pens.

2016-07-10 campus_close_blog_post2016-07-10 campus_reverse_blog_post

With a 0.7 mm Retro 51 refill, the show through was just a touch more evident, however as always I also put this down to my heavier hand when using rollerballs or ballpoints.

The slightly off white paper shade provides a perfect canvas for true ink colour representation, and dry time is comparable to, if not better than some of the heavier weight papers — dependent on ink type of course.

The Campus line of notebooks comes in various sizes in plain, ruled or grid options, and the pre-printed No., Date and bold title lines at the top of the page are a nice touch. Although my numbering always goes in the bottom right corner of each right hand page, other indexing or notations can always take advantage of the field provided at the top.

The model I’ve been using contains ruling at 6 mm spacings, with contains additional 7 mm markings along the top and bottom lines for reference in the vertical plane.

2016-07-10 campus_spine_blog_postOverall I am very impressed with this thin, light, high performing notebook, and if there were any negatives, it is probably only the binding, which is beginning to stretch a little in the initial pages. I suspect I have contributed to this by regularly (and unnecessarily) bending the book back on itself to then lay it flat for writing — probably not the best habit given running the heel of my hand up the open book would achieve the same result. Coming in at 60 pages, I imagine most will have this notebook filled and move on before any real issues are seen with the binding, however it is perhaps best to take at least a little care.

I’ll certainly be buying from the Campus line of notebooks in the future, and if you haven’t already — I’d highly recommend at least trying them out. For the princely sum of AU$2.80, there is not a lot to lose, and as far as I’m concerned is quite the bargain for what you get.

Side Note: The design and evolution of the Campus series of notebooks is also an interesting story.

The Complete Report Pad — AU$2.80 Daiso

2016-07-10 reporter_cover_blog_postThis particular purchase was driven by the need for a “correspondence” notebook or notepad which was fountain pen friendly, contained tear off sheets, and was a little larger than an A5 Rhodia No 16 notepad.

The specific reason for this being I write a good portion of the letters I send during my lunch break, and often do so sitting at the bar of my favourite cafe in the CBD. Said bar is fairly narrow from front to back, and not therefore suited to the Rhodia A4 sized pad I had been using. Having resorted to the A5-sized Rhodia No 16 instead, ideally I wanted something in between to fill the void, with a B5 sized notepad was of course the way to go.

The Complete Report Pad is an Indonesian made B5 tablet style notepad sold through Daiso, and as noted above — for a bargain basement price.

The top binding is again glue with tape reinforcing, and allows straightforward tearing of sheets from the pad once completed. The front cover is your standard glossy, slightly thicker paper stock, with the rear thickened cardboard. Both do their respective roles as intended, however the front cover is not designed for very rough use.

Of course the most important aspect is the paper. Ruled at 6 mm spacings, the pages also sport a title bar along the top, containing pre-printed Date and No. fields. There are also 6 mm divisions marked at across the top and bottom-most line of each page. The ruling and printed divisions/fields appear on the front facing side of the page only, with the intention of single-sided use.

I’ve not been able to find specifications as far as the weight of the paper is concerned, however a reasonable estimate would be in the order of 70 gsm or so. Whether this is correct or not I am not sure, however the performance is certainly comparable to papers around that type of weight.

2016-07-10 reporter_close_blog_postWriting performance is very, very good for the price you pay for this notepad. It is not dissimilar to the Kokuyo paper I’ve described above, yet is marginally toothier to the feel. Again I’ve used numerous fountain pen nib types (M and finer) and inks with no problems. A small amount of ghosting with no bleed through; feathering is non-existent; and the overall feel of the paper provides a pleasant writing experience. I’d still describe this paper as being relatively “smooth”, yet of course it is not your Rhodia or Clairefontaine.

There really isn’t too much more to say about this one. For my intended purpose of finding an appropriately sized correspondence notepad, The Complete Report Pad is just about perfect. For the price you can pick these up for, they are exactly the sort of thing to grab a few and leave them in the various places you may jot down a few words or as I do — write a letter.

Wonder if they’ll let me leave a stack on the end of the bar?

Aqua Drops Twist Ring Notebook by Lihit Lab – AU$4.70 Officeworks

2016-07-10 aqua_drops_cover_blog_postHere is where I’ve really upped the ante, with the 30 page Aqua Drops Twist Ring notebook thundering through the register at a cost of AU$4.70 — almost double the price of the two mentioned above. To me it is still considered a budget option, though in the same store you can pick up a Rhodia No 16 Notepad for a list price of AU$7.16. There is also a B5 sized Aqua Drops notebook listed at AU$5.00 — agin for 30 pages.

The choice here though is not necessarily just price, but some of the utility gained in features of the Aqua Drops Twist Ring — namely the fact it is easily refillable, and those refills can be obtained in plain, ruled or grid loose leaf sheets. A packet of A5 refills will set you back AU$2.95, so in effect, once the notebook is purchased you have endless refills at a similar cost to the products above. I’ve mentioned the B5 size, and refills for this size are AU$3.50.

Although the utility of refilling and/or rearranging sheets in this notebook is probably the main drawcard, the writing performance is right up there as well. This is super smooth 70 gsm paper, and any nib or tip will glide happily across its surface. All of your ink colours will shine on the white paper, and while the lines are not overly dominating, aren’t quite as light as the Campus notebook.

If you are a heavy fountain pen user, and use a lot of broader nibs combined with wetter inks, the paper is probably not going to be up to scratch for double-sided use. However for my medium nibs and finer, the only negative is a little ghosting on the reverse of the page. There is no bleed through or feathering to be seen at this end of the nib spectrum, however my European mediums were right on the cusp of feathering with certain inks.

2016-07-10 aqua_close_blog_post2016-07-10 aqua_reverse_blog_post

The refill system is quite straightforward, with a tug on the top and bottom of the page adjacent to the spine when the notebook is open, popping apart the rings. I’ve not had the product long enough to comment on the longevity of the plastic spirals, however they seem strong enough. Fatigue with repeated use may perhaps be a factor, though equally it may not. Being circular in shape, the rings feel quite strong, however I wonder about something like a heavy textbook being dropped on the spirals — which I guess you’d never know until it happened.

My other main quibble, which isn’t unique to this particular product — more so with spiral bound notebooks in general, is the inevitable “page wiggle” which occurs while I’m writing. Unless the pages are a fairly tight fit on the binding, which tolerances generally prevent — I find myself needing to hold the page steady rather than simply resting my free hand on or beside the notebook. Not a big deal however I do find this a little annoying to constantly do.

With a packet of grid refills, I’m planning on using this as a recording notebook for my coffee roasting. Perfect.

Three new notebooks — budget intact

Although this post is not intended to be a head to head comparison of the three products I have described above, I have certainly come out of the experience a little more knowledgeable on the merits of each. Also worth mentioning in addition to those above, is the “X” branded spiral notebook from Officeworks which I have previously written about.

To be honest, I would buy and use all three again. One thing is for certain though, the B5 Complete Report Pad is now my default for written correspondence. I love the size, the paper is great, and sheets tear off with ease. A definite ongoing purchase when the current one runs out.

Of the other two, the Campus Notebook slightly edges out the Aqua Drops, and appeals mainly based on the quality of paper and overall lightweight yet quality construction. The Aqua Drops notebook series I consider a solid option, and for me, would be an ideal “project” notebook, as the option to add, subtract, or rearrange pages (of ruled, plain or grid options to boot) is a real positive. A few sketches and notes as part of a project negates the ongoing “page wiggle” issue of prolonged writing sessions, and tends to be where a lot of spiral bound notebooks I try end up.

As I mentioned above, I do find satisfaction in seeking out lower cost stationery options, which, admittedly aren’t always on point, however the three above are great options to try out for yourself. If they don’t suit? Well, I guess you haven’t really lost much in finding out.