Monokaki A5 Notebook

Having this Monokaki A5 notebook arrive in my letterbox a little while ago was indeed a pleasant surprise. Picked up in a Japanese stationery store by a friend during a recent trip overseas, I was the lucky recipient of a notebook I had not come across either in stationery stores or online.

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Although I knew nothing about the Monokaki range of notebooks (Monokaki meaning “writer” in Japanese), the quality of both paper and overall manufacturing was immediately apparent. Also, given the decorative border around the front cover included pencil, fountain pen and inkwell motifs, I was further encouraged as to the likely merits of the paper stock, and its ability to handle my favourite writing instruments.

Yes, I was a little excited about this one.

Background

Seeing the unfamiliar Monokaki brand name immediately sent me on an internet search for a little more information, an endeavour which also had me thankful for Chrome’s translation button when viewing the manufacturer’s website. There isn’t as much information readily available compared with some of the more common brands, however what I did find was indeed of interest.

UK store Choosing Keeping (online or 128 Columbia Rd, London) provided some background, which included a little dig at another major brand’s claim about being a notebook for novelists:

The one exception being that while other’s marketing campaigns are entirely fabricated, the Monokaki notebook’s paper – Kotobukiya paper – was really created as a bespoke product for Japanese author Fumio Niwa by the company’s present day owner’s grandmother in 1939 and used by countless authors and poets including no less than two Literature Nobel prize winners and one nominee.

I’d encourage you to click-through and read a little more, as the page also includes information on the company, which continues to operate and manufacture the notebooks from the Sakura district in Tokyo. The 1940’s woodblock cover design apparently comes from Japanese manga artist Ryo Takagi, commissioned to create a design of “traditional Japanese atmosphere – to include familiar stationery and writing instruments”. I think you’d agree the design goal was achieved.

On a more practical note, and certainly of great interest to many of us in the pen community:

The manuscript paper was indeed designed with novelists in mind for its excellent performance when used with fountain pens – no bleeding, no feathering

So all in all, things were looking good, with both first impressions and an initial foray into learning a little more about the brand yielding positive results.

For reference, some links (I’d recommend Chrome for opening those in italics and translating the result):

Update, 13 December 2015: I have now updated the information above which incorrectly stated Choosing Keeping were an online store. The store has been in touch to advise they also have a brick and mortar shop specialising in classic stationery and notebooks at 128 Columbia Rd, London as well. Thanks Julia!

Look and Feel

If I consider what actually is my preferred or favourite “look” for a notebook, I don’t believe I really have one to be honest. There are times when an understated black might be what I am after, yet other times it might be something a little more individual or unique. The Monokaki range is itself a little unique in that it probably fits both these descriptions.

I do enjoy a little variety from time to time in what I am carrying, however not at the expense of the writing experience. Considering this, I do have what I’d call a spectrum of tolerance here. By that I mean certain notebooks I’m happy to use even if it means finer nibs and certain inks only, as long as things are not too restrictive. Mind you, that particular subset of nibs, inks and pens must perform without further compromise, otherwise the notebook will be gently set aside and see no further use.

Although I’ve probably begun to drift a little off track, my intended point is to merely highlight the fact there are no real compromises with the Monokaki’s paper — to any of my pens, nibs or inks, as you’ll read about a little further below.

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I do love the look of this notebook, with its relatively understated, yet very individual cover design. The contrast of the binding tape complements the unique monokaki_traditional_japanborder and designs contained within it. Even the font used on the cover branding, combined with the central symbol and what I believe to be traditional Japanese lettering (part of manufacturer Asakusa Masuya’s logo) add to the overall design aesthetic of the front cover. The back cover is also not forgotten, containing a central symbol, with both corners also demonstrating fairly intricate detailing.

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While I am not entirely certain if some of these symbols carry significant meaning over and above their decorative effect, the overall feeling I have about the character of the design is one of old world Japanese tradition or history. I have no specific basis for that, however that is the feeling I keep coming back to when I look at it, and is something I find quite compelling.

In the hand, there is a feeling of quality evident in the construction. With time, I’d expect some wear and tear around the corners of the front and back cover if it were going in and out of a bag on a daily basis, however it would more than likely be filled in short order as well if that were the case. That said, I have no real concerns about the overall durability of the cover, if a little care is taken along the way.

imageThe paper is thread-bound and glued in small sections (apparently to assist flatter opening), and externally reinforced with tape along the spine, which not only provides additional support, but I believe enhances the overall external look. Additional stiffening is also provided by a second sheet of card stock inside the front and back cover, providing a kind of double cover for want of a better term. monokaki_dbl_coverThis again adds to the overall sturdy feel of the notebook, providing additional rigidity to the cover.

The pages themselves are lined, with a larger margin at the top of the page. The only additional markings are 10 mm graduations marked along the top and bottom line (which are themselves bold), allowing the accurate addition of a vertical margin if you so desire. monokaki_vert_margAt a guess I’d say this may be present to allow vertical rulings to be created for a grid of 24×18 boxes, similar to the Masuya manuscript paper from the same manufacturer.

I do not find the absence of other possible additions such as page numbering or date fields detracts in any way from either the look or the usefulness of the page. In fact, the simplicity of what is offered fits with its overall character.

Specifications

Courtesy Choosing Keeping:

  • Monokaki Notebook
  • A5 210 x 148 mm
  • Soft flexible washi paper card cover
  • Acid-free smooth light cream paper
  • Plain or ruled (lines 9 mm apart)
  • 160 pages
  • Fountain pen friendly cream paper
  • Thread-stitch bound in small sections for flat opening throughout
  • Sizes available
    • Large, B5 – 257 x 175 mm
    • Medium, A5 – 210 x 148 mm
    • Small, B6 – 182 x 128 mm
  • Price £12.00 ($AUD24.70)

Also available on Rakuten Global Market with a list price of $AUD12.56.

imageA word about the Masuya paper (English page link), which is used in the Monokaki range of notebooks (also referred to as Kotobukiya paper, with both terms used somewhat interchangeably from what I’ve read). Masuya manufacture 2 types of manuscript paper and have a range of 35 different products. Originally cream, the paper also comes in white, created to better reflect the light source — apparently coming about due to one of the previously mentioned “novelists” writing by a single spotlight.

From the site itself (unaltered):

Masuya in Asakusa is a traditional company successing Japanese hand-writing culture. We have various products made of high quality paper many famous writers have chosen. Japanese traditional design, unique touch…

Along with the rather unusual:

Feel Japaneseness through Masuya’s products.

It has been a little difficult to track down more detailed information about the Masuya paper used in the Monokaki line of notebooks, and you will note the absence of a gsm rating in the specifications above. The paper in this notebook is certainly far thinner than a 90 gsm Rhodia or Clairefontaine notebook, and also the 80 gsm softcover Leuchtturm1917 notebook I have been most recently using — by a considerable margin. Given Tomoe River paper weighs in at 52 gsm, then at a guess — and I repeat this is my own guess-timation only, this paper feels like it would be around 60 gsm. I may be way off the mark here, however it is very thin and very light compared to your standard “fountain pen friendly” notebooks — and is certainly closer in properties to Tomoe River than any other paper I have used to date.

Once written upon, the paper has a little of what I’d call that “crinkle”, reminiscent of Tomoe River paper, and does seem to have properties that lend me to think of it in similar ways. At times I feel I have turned one page when I have actually picked up two.

Needless to say, I like it — a lot.

Writing Performance

From my comments above, you probably can see what is coming here.

This paper is pretty amazing — particularly if you enjoy writing with fountain pens, meaning of course it handles pretty much anything else you care to throw at it as well. The exception of course being Sharpie markers and the like, where thin doesn’t always hold up to such an onslaught of saturated ink. For fountain pens though, this is some of the best paper I have written on since, well… since I’ve been concerned with such matters. As much as I loved my Rollbahn and Apica Notebooks of previous reviews, the paper in this one surpasses those.

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For my paper requirements and preferences, this one is now certainly a favourite. Beyond the obvious shockers of horrendous feathering (my number one hate and deal-breaker), excessive bleed-though (a slightly lesser evil to me), and show through (perfectly acceptable to me for the most part), I’m sure we all have our favourites for various reasons.

monokaki_reverse_pageThe paper in this notebook has what I’d call a moderate amount of show through for darker and more saturated colours you might use. So in all likelihood, many of your fountain pens. Again if we compare it to Tomoe River, it has possibly a little more — but only just, assuming my eyes aren’t deceiving me.

Because the paper is so lightweight, although it has a little tooth to a gliding nib, there is no sinking in feeling from toothier, heavier-weighted paper. I’ve also noted in the past how on some heavier paper such as a Clairefontaine notebook, I feel as though the nib skates away from me a little, and what I gain in less resistance, also results in less control. There is none of that here — even with more rapid writing. To me it really is the best of both worlds. As far as feathering goes – what feathering? None of that here.

IMG_5250As far as the shade of paper is concerned, I’m a little picky here. Every time I try a notebook in the off-white/cream/yellowish spectrum, I begin by thinking: gee, this would be fantastic in white. However this is typically followed by filling up the notebook with all manner of ink colours and not thinking another thing of it. As you can see from the writing sample page, all of your colours will vividly show in all their glory.

One point I should make here, is that this is not a flat opening notebook, even through the middle third of the book. I have doubled it back and left it open in attempts to coax it a little flatter through the spine to no avail. While not a deal breaker for me, it is noticeable, and something which does get in the way of the writing experience somewhat. Something to consider in any event.

In summary, the writing experience is as close to a Tomoe River experience as you can get. Why is that relevant? Well, Tomoe River paper is popular and well regarded for a reason. Light weight paper, smooth without the slip, handles pretty much every ink and nib, a little show through yet no bleed or feathering. Sound familiar? Indeed it does, however applies equally well to the Masuya paper in this Monokaki notebook.

Probably the one thing about these types of paper that can sometimes be an issue is ink drying time. By comparison, the Monokaki on average dried a few seconds faster for a given ink — often at around the 15 seconds mark, versus 18-20 seconds for the Tomoe River. So again I found the overall performance quite similar.

Without a doubt this is great paper, and if you are at all able to get your hands on some, I highly recommend trying it out — whether in notebook or manuscript page format.

Conclusion

imageThe Monokaki A5 Notebook is indeed a joy to use, largely due to the writing experience of the Masuya paper itself — and isn’t that pretty much the key to our love of pens and paper? True, I have a little flexibility as far as my specific paper requirements for writing, and this Monokaki Notebook sits very close to the favourite end of that spectrum.

To make it pretty much perfect? There is probably nothing I’d change about the properties of the paper — for fountain pens it is pretty much spot on. I’d perhaps tweak the binding to allow truly flat opening; opt for a truer white in paper shade; and finally, have a local store or online seller stock the range so I can easily replenish my supplies when they dwindle!

This is certainly a great notebook, and with 160 pages to play with, will serve me well for a little while longer — and that can only be a good thing. I often get the impression there is a whole world of Japanese stationery that I am entirely oblivious to — which is also a good thing, for it simply means there will always be more to discover.


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Apica CD11 A5 Notebook

Hypothetically speaking, were I someone who walked through their local CBD bookstore’s stationery section more than say, a couple of times per week (who does that?), I would have noticed the Apica Notebooks display stand.

I might have also watched as the stocks slowly dwindled, perhaps picking up an A5 size in a mustard yellow — one of the last remaining colours. Of course, I then perhaps noticed the very next week, stocks were replenished with just about every colour available in the range — I mean I’d know that if I were someone who walked in looking at the notebooks all the time.

What I can confirm, is at the time of writing, there is a nice range of Apica Notebooks in different sizes at this particular store. That’s the word on the street anyway.

Look and Feel

 

IMG_4584The Apica CD11 Notebook, is an A5 (148 x 210mm), soft cover notebook with a distinctive, traditional looking cover design. Made of flexible textured card stock with tape reinforcement along the spine, the overall look harks back to times gone by.

Although not my favourite, the mustard colour has certainly grown on me, and is only a stone’s throw from the colour of the Baron Fig Three Legged Juggler limited edition I finished a couple of months ago. I’m not sure what it is with me lately, however you might recall a recent review of the Delfonics Rollbahn notebook which I also purchased in — uhh… yellow.

FullSizeRender 19Back to matters at hand. As listed in the specifications below, the CD11 is a 28 sheet or 56 page notebook, so although a little larger in overall dimensions, thickness-wise is similar to a Field Notes Arts & Sciences edition, which runs 32 sheets or 64 pages. The Apica CD line does includes a smaller pocket-size — the B7 sized CD8, and would be well worth considering if a very fountain pen friendly pocket-sized notebook was of interest to you — great value at $AUD2.75 for 72 pages.

The cover is adorned with a nice border pattern and a few words from the manufacturer. The Most advanced quality and Gives best writing features inscriptions I can live with, however I am not one to write any details such as my name, contact or the like on a front cover. At best I might put the start and end dates or a specific topic if relevant for the book, however the fact it remains blank with half the notebook used is probably telling on this point as far as my preference goes.

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From (L): Field Notes Two Rivers & Arts and Sciences; The CD11; Baron Fig Confidant Three Legged Juggler Edition

Overall, I do rate the design highly, and although very thin and light, still affords the feeling of a quality product.

Specifications

Courtesy of the fine folks at JetPens, whose specifications tab on products never fails to provide just about every specification you’d care to know.

  • Model: Apica CD11
  • Manufacturer: Apica
  • Country of Origin: Japan
  • Weight: 2.6 ounces (74g)
  • Binding: Thread
  • Cover Material: Card stock
  • Cover Type: Softcover
  • Line Spacing: 7 mm
  • Number of Lines: 25
  • Number of Sheets: 28 (56 pages)
  • Paper Weight: 80 gsm
  • Perforated: No
  • Refillable: No
  • Sheet Style: Lined
  • Size – Depth: 0.3 cm
  • Size – Length: 21 cm
  • Size – Width: 14.8 cm

The notebook you see was purchased at the Brisbane CBD Dymocks bookstore for $AUD5.50. It can also be purchased online in six different colours from Australian retailer Bookbinders Online for $AUD3.95, or in the US from JetPens for $USD1.75. For a single purchase, I certainly could not have had one delivered all up for less than $5.50, and was happy to pay the store retail.

There are no bells and whistles here. The CD11 contains no sleeves, pockets, elastic enclosure, perforated pages or other paper ruling options. There is no numbering or pre-formatting on any of the pages. This is a traditional, 7mm lined notebook with a blank margin at the top of those 25 lines. If you have a preference for blank or dot grid pages, this may not be the notebook for you.

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This is a straightforward, high quality product, at a very competitive price — which handles fountain pens very, very well. If that sounds like something you would be interested in — and I believe many would be, then I don’t believe too many of the other features are all that necessary.

Writing Performance

The 80gsm paper of the CD11 reminds me very much of a Clairefontaine Essentials cloth bound A5 Notebook I own. Apart from the 90gsm paper, the major difference of course being the Clairefontaine’s 192 pages. For that reason I have never really had any great affinity for carrying it with me – it just feels too heavy and bulky.

When used with fountain pens, the CD11’s acid-free off-white paper handles almost everything you can throw at it, with the exception of the tiniest bit of feathering on wetter nibs and inks. Here your own experience might vary a little, as my pens are typically on the medium to fine side. The pictures tell a better story, with no bleed through and only minor show through apparent on the reverse of the pages. Rollerballs and ballpoints were handled with ease, however I suspect avid pencil users might want paper with a little more tooth to it perhaps.

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If you are thinking of picking one of these up, you can count on using most if not all of your pens, and you’ll certainly be using both sides of the page — something which I see as important when you only have 56 to play with. As far as ink drying time is concerned, as expected with paper like this it does take time, however I found it a little faster than your average Rhodia pad and the Clairefontaine notebook I mentioned above.

I have very much enjoyed writing in the CD11. The fountain pen experience is top notch, the 7mm grey lines are perhaps a little darker than I might like, however these soon disappear when surrounded by words. The combination of the thread binding and small number of pages, also ensure the CD11 will lay completely flat when opened. IMG_4597Here I mean completely flat, as the softness of the spine makes for a simple bend backwards upon opening, and you have something as flat as a sheet of looseleaf paper on the desk in front of you. Closing after this? As simple as running your fingers down the spine as though you were folding a sheet of paper and the notebook will almost completely close — certainly good enough for me.

Closing Thoughts

IMG_4582I have thoroughly enjoyed using and would highly recommend the Apica CD11 notebook. It has been in use as my writing and summary notebook for a little over a month now — that is, for slightly longer writing sessions calling for more than a pocket-sized notebook.

There are three main points I keep coming back to when I think about whether I’ll buy another of any particular notebook. Whether it is fountain pen friendly; opens flat; and is light and easy to carry. The CD11 more than fits the bill on all three fronts.

When I try to get some writing done in my lunch break, I carry one pen (fountain); my iPad mini (plus or minus Logitech keyboard cover attached); FullSizeRender 17and a notebook. The lighter the notebook the better, and I have not found one better in this regard, and to have it accept whatever fountain pen I’m using at the time perfectly when I get to my cafe destination — just brilliant.

Sure, I’ll buy and try other notebooks, and yes I do like dot-grid as well, however the CD11 is one of those I’m sure I’ll return to when I just want to use a high quality, well designed, value for money product, built for a specific purpose at which it excels.

Just remind me not to buy another yellow one will you?


Delfonics Rollbahn Spiral Bound Notebook

IMG_3485

In my ongoing quest for a quality spiral bound notebook, I decided to pick up a Delfonics Rollbahn recently, during a free postage promotion on Notemaker, one of Australia’s best online stationery stores.

Since then, I have also seen new stock arrive at the Dymocks Brisbane CBD bookstore, and the Rollbahn metallic covers (silver, gold) look absolutely fantastic. How do they perform? The most apt description here is also fantastic, and I have put together a few thoughts on this below.

The Notebook

The particular model purchased was the large (14 x 18 cm or 5.5 x 7 inches), which is a little more square in form than say, an equivalently sized Moleskine, which measures 13 x 21 cm (5 x 8 inches). I must admit, I do like the square format of the pages, as my writing is often not on the small side when jotting down a few quick notes, a list, or even something a little longer.

Specifications (from Notemaker):

  • PAGES: 180 (90 sheets)
  • RULING: 5mm x 5mm Graph / Brown-Grey coloured ruling
  • PAPER WEIGHT: 70gsm
  • PAPER COLOUR: Off White/Ivory
  • DIMENSIONS: 14cm x 18cm
  • SOURCE: Made in Japan

Look and feel

Looking more closely at the design, the binding is double spiral for added strength, with the cover made of extremely stiff, robust semi-gloss card stock (also described in the product specifications as splash-proof, however I did not specifically test this).

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At the rear of the notebook are five, top-opening, clear plastic sleeves between two thick yellow dividers matching the front cover. As with the front, thick card stock forms the back cover — this time in kraft, complete with a small letter-pressed Delfonics branding. An elastic closure strap in navy blue (matching the contrasting logo on the front cover) completes the picture.

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The overall look of these notebooks is quite striking, and I am quite drawn to the styling, quality and attention to detail applied to both the design and manufacture — not surprising given two factors: it is stationery, and it is made in Japan.

As I mentioned earlier, the silver and gold metallic covers are even more impressive, and nothing can beat seeing them first hand in a store. In fact, I have no doubt my accompanying photos would have been of the silver model had I seen them in-store prior to my online order.

As far as I am aware, the Rollbahn series come in 5 x 5 mm graph paper only, however the rulings are so faint I did not find it dramatically different to a dot grid type of paper, nor should those who find graph ruling a little “busy” for their tastes. At the very least it is worth a look, even if graph ruling is not your thing.

All sizes in the Rollbahn series contain 180 pages (90 sheets), with every page perforated for easy removal, however a little care is required when initiating the tear. I would note here I am always loathe to criticise a notebook for this, as my technique can be a little, how shall we say — “cumbersome”, at times.

Writing

Of course the best design components of a notebook pale significantly if the paper is not up to expectations.

A note here about the paper first up. It is yellow. Pale yellow, however yellow nonetheless. The specifications on Notemaker describe the paper as “off white/ivory” with “brown/grey” coloured ruling for the 5 x 5 mm graph paper design. Is the paper colour a deal breaker? I’d say no, however if you are someone who uses a lot of subtle colours or shades of inks, it just might be.

Not a great photo, however top to bottom: Clairefontaine, Rhodia, Moleskine, Rollbahn
Not a great photo, however top to bottom: Clairefontaine, Rhodia, Moleskine, Rollbahn

Just to confirm — it’s definitely yellow. There is no way I can be convinced this is merely off white or ivory, and if the performance of this paper were not as good as what it is, I may not have enjoyed using it as much as I did. I simply prefer paper towards the whiter end of the spectrum — particularly for those types of inks.

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That said, upon putting down some samples on a page, (see accompanying image above) most of my comments above might appear unwarranted or a little harsh — comments which I almost removed (the sample page being written after drafting the post). More vibrant, colours such as Montblanc Irish Green and J.Herbin Orange Indien were fairly true to their white paper appearance (the orange perhaps losing a fraction of nuance), however I have also added a shot below of some Montblanc Daniel Defoe Palm Green, where most of the green tones can only be seen in a smudge. Conversely, I have found a nice, consistent shade of earthy green when the same ink is used on whiter paper.

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See for yourself in the accompanying images, and the only reason I highlight this aspect in particular, is that for me, were this paper white, I would be telling you it would be pretty much perfect. It is that good.

The usual characteristics such as bleed through, show through or feathering are handled perfectly by the 70gsm paper — that is, pretty well none of these are demonstrated in the writing I have put down so far. This is great paper for note taking — fountain pens included, with dry time certainly on the quicker end of the scale compared with other brands of paper.

I find it a little less “slippery” for want of a better word than say Rhodia paper, my go to for fountain pens typically. The little bit of extra feedback suits my writing style perfectly, as I sometimes find a really smooth nib more difficult to control on very smooth (e.g. Rhodia) paper.

One minor qualm I noted when writing was the small amount of “wiggle” or movement of the page if not held with your opposite hand, mainly due to the large squares cut in the paper for the double spiral binding. Most likely not a problem in the extra-large size, however in a notebook of this size, I often rest my hand on the left page or off the notebook completely. Not a major issue however the movement was noticeable and something I thought worth mentioning.

Use case

For me, this large size notebook — my first Rollbahn, is best suited to shorter note taking given the size of the pages, however would hold up well for longer form writing. In a larger size, I can see this working extremely well as an office meeting note taker or “day book” of sorts, which is where I find the spiral bound books to work best for me.

Many of the notes I take during the day relate to meetings, general thoughts/ideas on processes, procedures or projects, and rough working, mind mapping or outlining these very topics.

Why does the spiral binding suit here? Simply because I prefer a notebook at work which opens flat, closes flat, and can be turned back on itself to allow notes to be taken on a somewhat stable and rigid surface if I choose to rest the book on my lap. This I find to be a common scenario, either for comfort reasons in a long meeting, or to jot down a few confidential notes, where the notebook is angled towards, and closer to me.

IMG_3516It is also at my office job I am most likely to be using ink colours in the blue-black spectrum, or more gel ink pens or my trusty Retro 51. As good as the paper is, as I’ve state above, the yellow shade is probably not best for testing your new ink colours — at least those on the subtle shade side in any event.

My purchase receipt tells me I bought this notebook in late October, and in the intervening two months, I have: made a few plot related notes for NaNoWriMo; jotted down some coffee tasting notes; written a few pages worth of outline for a post on what I learned from NaNoWriMo (must actually finish and publish that one!); and taken a dozen or so pages of notes whilst watching David Sparks excellent OmniFocus Video Field Guide (in Daniel Defoe Palm Green – see accompanying image). A group of notes largely consisting of bullet points, lists and short text notes.

Conclusion

It is pretty clear I am very impressed with the Delfonics Rollbahn, and find it suits my style of writing and notebook requirements extremely well. The styling, design and build quality are second to none. I will definitely be giving the extra-large size a run as my office notebook in future.

What do I like most? Definitely the paper quality, (if not quite the colour), the overall build quality and design, and the attention to detail that is apparent in the double spiral binding, rear pockets, and perfectly rounded corners. Although nice, the closure strap is something I generally prefer not to have (particularly in a notebook which closes well on its own) — as I find they often get in the way. Certainly not a deal breaker by any stretch.

My dislikes? Here it is really only the shade of the paper, for otherwise it is essentially flawless. A minor qualm about the “wiggle” in the page when writing I mentioned earlier is not something which would stop me buying more in the future.

As far as value for money is concerned, here is where things get a little (not a lot — but certainly a little, depending on your budget) interesting. The 14 x 18 cm sized notebook retails for $AU14.95 (either brick and mortar store or online), and the extra-large 19 x 26 cm for $AU24.95. Not an insignificant amount, however when balancing this with what you get for your money, that is, exceptional quality, and 180 pages of it, I’d say the value for money certainly is definitely there. I should also mention the notebook also comes in a smaller (10 x 15 cm), 180 page top opening reporter style notebook for $AU9.95.

Although this is my first Delfonics Rollbahn notebook, I doubt it will be my last. My recommendation would be to try one for yourself, and if you write with fountain pens, my advice is the same — try one out.

Just remember, though perfectly fine for most colours, the shade of paper isn’t made to showcase the subtleties of your ink collection, but will serve you extremely well for taking meeting notes or writing the intro or outline to your next long form essay.

NaNoWriMo – My Analogue Tools

The tools.
The tools.

With so many words to be written this month as part of my first foray into NaNoWriMo, I feared this blog would be a little forgotten over the coming weeks – and no, I had not planned ahead well enough to have written and scheduled posts in advance.

In a rare moment of wisdom, I came to realise my best chance of putting something up on the blog would be to combine the two. That is, participate in NaNoWriMo, and occasionally blog about participating in NaNoWriMo.

I plan to write a few more NaNoWriMo flavoured posts throughout the month, which is of course assuming the weight of expectation that comes with a 50,000 word target doesn’t crush me first.

So, with a tip of the hat to yesterday’s Fountain Pen Day, today I thought I would share some of the analogue tools I have been using to help plan out, and hopefully get written, the 50,000 words that constitute the NaNoWriMo challenge.

Notebooks

Various notebooks, pads, scraps of paper and even the odd dreaded yellow Post-It Note have all played their part here.

Although I have the overall plot and story outlined, my fear of running out of specific ideas to keep filling scenes, has resulted in a litany of places with either paragraphs, a line, or even a single word jotted down to avoid forgetting that great idea. Though I must admit, the more common scenario seems to be noting down why events written two chapters ago no longer make sense given the turn the story has taken.

This whole novel-writing thing is certainly not easy!

The paper I’ve been using:

Clairefontaine Essentials Notebook and Pelikan Edelstein Tanzanite ink written with Pelican M205 EF Fountain Pen
Clairefontaine Essentials Notebook and Pelikan Edelstein Tanzanite ink written with Pelican M205 EF Fountain Pen
Clairefontaine Essentials Notebook with Pelikan Edelstein Tanzanite Ink
Delfonics Rollbahn Notebook; Montblanc Daniel Defoe Palm Geen ink (Pelikan M205 EF Fountain Pen)

Pens

(L to R) Pelikan M205; Palomino Blackwing 602; Retro 51 Stealth; Lamy Safari; Montblanc Meisterstuck Classique
(L to R) Pelikan M205; Palomino Blackwing 602; Retro 51 Stealth; Lamy Safari; Montblanc Meisterstuck Classique

Again, this is either dictated by what is closest at hand for immediate idea capture, or what will be most enjoyable to write with for more extensive outlining. The following pens (and pencil) have to date suited either of these scenarios:

Inks

I have found using inks of varying colours quite helpful when going back through my notes to either check off ideas or plot lines I have implemented into the story, or in highlighting areas that may require more thought or detail. The Montblanc Meisterstuck inked with Burgundy Red has been particularly useful given it’s contrast to the Safari’s blue ink, clearly showing notes made as additions to the originals.

Markup in Field Notes Arts Edition; Lamy Blue ink (Lamy Safari M Fountain Pen); Montblanc Burgundy Red (Montblanc Meisterstuck Classique M Fountain Pen)
Markup in Field Notes Arts Edition; Lamy Blue ink (Lamy Safari M Fountain Pen); Montblanc Burgundy Red (Montblanc Meisterstuck Classique M Fountain Pen)
Rhoda Ice No 16 Lined Notepad; Lamy Blue ink (Lamy Safari M Fountain Pen)
Rhoda Ice No 16 Lined Notepad; Lamy Blue ink (Lamy Safari M Fountain Pen)

Summary

The most used of the items outlined above is probably a combination of the Field Notes Arts Edition notebook, the Lamy Safari for note taking, and the Montblanc Meisterstuck for marking up the Safari’s notes.

The Field Notes became the notebook of choice early on as I my initial intention was to keep all of my ‘NaNo’ notes in the one book, and the majority have ended up in here. I found the larger ‘Arts’ edition the ideal size for more extensive notes, yet small and light enough to carry with me.

Delfonics Rollbahn Grid Notebook
Delfonics Rollbahn Grid Notebook

The Delfonics Rollbahn notebook contains great paper stock for fountain pen use, however the yellow colour is not the best shade to highlight any particularly vibrant inks you may be using. Certainly not a problem for the darker blues and blacks if that is your preference.

The Safari was not necessarily my first choice pen, however is only a fairly recent purchase, and the paper based planning of this project seemed a great chance to test it out. No real complaints here, except it has been a little ’skippy’ occasionally, however I put this down to not having given it a thorough clean before inking it up after purchase.

I am really enjoying the Daniel Defoe Palm Green ink, which is now residing in the Pelikan M205 (EF). Again only a recent purchase, however what a great colour! I am sure it will see quite a bit of use throughout the remainder of November and beyond.

My main (and only minor) grievance has been the extent to which the Safari Blue Ink has faded. Although most likely due to both the ink and Field Notes paper (the same amount of fade was not evident on the Rhodia stock), I would have preferred it to maintain the vibrance it had when first laid down.

NaNoWriMo itself?

With my word count currently just over the 10k mark, I am finding this an extremely interesting challenge. I was falling on the side of “maybe I’ll just do it next year”, right up until a few days before November 1, however would perhaps have continued to say the same thing every year had I not bitten the bullet and entered.

So very glad I did.

Gotta go. There’s an important word count that needs increasing!!

 

Wiser Web Wednesday

Wiser Web Wednesday – a weekly link to posts of interest from around the web:

The Newsprint
Whilst a good majority of posts I link to from The Newsprint will be pen or tech based pieces, I really enjoyed this two-part photo essay from Josh Ginter’s recent trip to New York. Regardless of the topic, you can guarantee there will be great photography. Yes, an obligatory Field Notes pic appears, though you’ll have to find it yourself:
New York 2014: Part 1
New York 2014: Part 2

Jet Pens
In the spirit of the epic The Well Appointed Desk pen refill guide, comes the Jet Pens guide to everything notebook. Again, one for the reference collection:
Notebooks Explained

The Modern Stationer
After picking up a clothbound Clarefontaine Notebook recently, I was interested to read some other thoughts on this paper. I myself had a couple of issues with ink drying time, particularly with a very wet ink (Montblanc Meisterstück 90 years Permanent Grey). I believe I was a little ambitious given it was a during a meeting requiring somewhat rapid note-taking:
Clarefontaine Basics Life. Unplugged Staplebound Duo Review

Presentation Magic
Follow up to a link from a couple of weeks ago, the focus this time on videos used (or overused) in presentations. This is certainly something I have noticed in recent times myself, mostly with good effect, however there is indeed a limit:
Think including a TED talk or video can improve your PowerPoint or Keynote presentation?

Capital Public Radio
Whilst a shortage of high quality coffee is never a good thing, the reality of both crop and employment decimation through the coffee rust problem becomes a little more real with stories such as this:

Mendez’s brother sends money when he can. But the family is deep in debt, both from the smuggler who tried to help them cross the border, and from their previous failed crop.

Rust Decimates Guatemala’s Prime Coffee Crop And Its Farmers