I got this notebook near the start of my fountain pen journey as it was a cheap way to try out Clairefontaine paper. I didn’t actually get around to writing in it until September 2014 as I usually need to have a purpose in mind for the notebook before I start writing in it. It has taken me over a year to almost fill the notebook. This is not because I have nothing to write, but because at first I only wrote down information I needed when I left the house. I was using a different notebook, a Black n’ Red A5 spiral bound. That was my go to notebook for nearly everything, but I filled it up earlier this summer, so I starting using this little pocket notebook when that happened. The moral of this mini story is that it does not take me a year to get through a pocket notebook. Maybe about 6 months. 🙂
There are a few things that I want to touch on here. Durability, paper quality, and usability, which will cover a few different thing.
Lets talk durability first. Many people equate Field Notes as “the” pocket notebook and claims to be the most durable out there. I have seen pictures of well worn Field Notes and I must say that I am not a fan of the beat up look, especially if the spine is taped together. This does not scream quality to me. I plan to try out a Field Notes to see for myself so I can compare them with the same levels of abuse, but so far the Clairefontaine book is a tank.
The cover is super tough. After a year of use where I have kept in my back pocket and sat on it all day at school, it is still holding strong. The cover wrinkled a bit from being bent different directions, but it hold it’s integrity quite well. The binding is 2 staples rather than 3, which some people says is superior, but the 2 staples hold up very well.
The notebook does have a problem laying flat and closing fully (I’ll talk about this more later), so I am constantly bending it at the spine to lay flat or stay closed. Even with this added stress, it is still holding strong.
Next I will talk about paper quality. If you have ever used Clairefontaine 90g paper before, you can probably skip past this section as you already know how awesome this paper is. For those of you who don’t know about it yet, I will give you a quick recap on it. First off, it is super smooth. A fountain pen just glides across the page. The combination of the weight of the paper and the fact that it is slightly coated not only makes it smooth, but also prevents feathering, bleed through, and ghosting for the most part.
In my quick writing test, I used a few different pen and ink combinations, including a few that tends to bleed through cheaper paper. They all performed perfectly as expected. I also did a little drop of ink torture test on the page and let it dry. The drop of Diamine Oxblood dried on its own with no feathering or bleed through, but the Private Reserve Plum had more ink drip on the page than I originally planned, so I had to dab some away after awhile because it was taking so long to dry. Private Reserve seems to be a bit more… aggressive than other inks. Even with the torture test, it still performed decent! You can see some pink starting to show through on the backside of the page, almost to the point of being considered bleed through. I’ll let you be the judge of that!
I forgot to fill in the bleed through and show through section of my little template, but I think the above picture can answer those for you.
Now since this is a pocket notebook, we are going to want to know how it performs that task. The first thing that I will discuss is the dry time. I could have mentioned this in paper quality, but I feel like it plays more of a part in how this notebook can be used day to day.
When using a pocket notebook, you are likely just making quick notes on the go and then putting it back in your pocket/bag. Clairefontaine paper is good for a lot of things, especially using fountain pens on, but quick dry times is not one of them. Unless you are using a ballpoint or pencil (sorry I didn’t test those in this review), you will either have to live with waiting a bit longer before closing it, or have smudges on the page. This is one sacrifice that you usually make when you find a fountain pen friendly paper, the ink just takes longer to dry.
The positive that you will get out of having good paper is that you will be able to use both sides of the page, even with the wettest of nibs. If you add this to the fact that Clairefontaine pocket notebooks have 96 pages, or 48 sheets, you will get 4 times as much writing surface as other notebooks such as Field Notes, which has 48 pages (24 if you only use one side of the page) and 24 sheets. Looking at Pen Chalet’s prices, it only costs $3 for the Clairfontaine, resulting in about $0.03 per usable page. Now comparing that to Field Notes at $10 for a 3 pack, we are paying more per usable page at about $0.14 assuming that you use only one side of the page. There are a few editions of Field Notes out there that has better quality paper, but I am not taking that into account.
The last thing that I wanted to talk about is how well it lays flat/closes flat. If you want it to lay nice and flat on your desk or something, you can bend the spine backwards to make it stay open fairly flat. As I mentioned earlier, this won’t cause it to fall apart on you. The problem is closing the book. It just does not like staying closed, even after using almost the entire thing and “breaking it in,” it is still giving me grief. I usually have to bend the spine a bit to get it almost fully closed, but if you plan on just putting it back in your back pocket when you finish writing, it probably won’t be a big deal.
When I add up all of the variables that I mentioned throughout the post, I have been very happy with this notebook. The negative aspects of it, such as long dry times, took minor adjustments to make it work for me. That said, I know that these may be deal breakers for some so this notebook may not be for everyone.
I have a spare waiting for me once I finally finish this one, but since I have accumulated so many pocket notebooks since starting this one, I may mix it up for a few months. It will all depend on how I am feeling once I get to that point.