Category Archives: Review

Review: Weskin Journal by Bookblock

I’m just going to start right here, the Weskin is a little weird. There is a lot to like though so let’s start with that, then I’ll get to the weird.

This is a really well made journal or notebook. The stitching is top notch, tight where it should be and glued really well. I have zero glue creep in mine and we all know how much that irritates me. There are two ribbon place markers that are nice and long- 2 full inches extends past the bottom of the book. I love this. I can grab the ribbon, slid it to the right and open the book with it- the way place markers are meant to be used! Mine weren’t heat sealed but I sealed mine in about 2 seconds with my handy lighter. The cover is nicely textured fabric. I’m not sure what kind of fabric it is, but it has the look and feel of linen. It seems to attract less dirt than other fabric covered journals I own so perhaps this has a coating or some synthetic content. The Bookblock logo is simple and pressed into the lower back of the cover in gold foil. The edges are gilt and snap, crackle, and pop when the book is opened. Classy.

The journal opens flat and even folds over onto itself with ease. Doing this you can, as I have, write out of hand into the journal. The ruling is an interesting shade of blue grey that matches many of the pens I uses. The intensity at which is printed is a few shades too dark for my liking. The ruling doesn’t disappear into the background of my writing, rather it stays right there, front and center. It is less noticeable when I write in graphite or black ink, but my prefered blue grey tends to meld with it. The ruling doesn’t extend to the very edge of the page which is a tad old fashioned, and I know annoys some of you. Thus it bears mentioning. About 15 years ago having the ruling centered with a margin around your page was fashionable and expected, today, thanks to moleskine, the cheaper and easier alternative of extending the ruling to the very edges of the page is much more fashionable and prefered.* You will either like it or not.

The paper itself is ok. It reminds me of the Paper Oh! Ondulo I reviewed back here. It is a smooth to the touch coated paper that performs really quite well with graphite, ballpoint, rollerball, and gel ink. It is abysmal with any fountain pen. All of my pens regardless of nib size and ink combination feathered like crazy and bled through. Like the Ondulo, pencil is where it is at for this paper. Graphite feels awesome on it’s toothy coated surface. It’s not so toothy that you’ll wear your point down in a line or have severe smearing issues, rather, it’s just right for graphite. The weird. The cover is stiff flexible. Like the Firma-Flex you can roll this journal over onto itself and shove it into a back pocket. This is odd to me. Folded over onto itself you can write in hand. It’s not so flexible that the cover is limp, it’s still stiff. In a nicely fabric covered journal this just seems a tad… odd. That said, this is a perfect cover weight to shove into a bag with a lot of stuff inside. The bendability of the covers means that the journal conforms to the shape of the bag. I’ve been carting mine around for a month or so now, and I stick it in the compartment of my bag that holds my Lihit labs Bag-in-Bag. It conforms to the shape of the Bag-in-Bag and allows me to get more stuff in the bag. There is a note of genius in the oddity.

The bottom line when it comes to the Weskin is that I  like it, but I know to only use it with pencil and my favorite gel and ballpoint pens. It reminds me of picking out a nice journal back when I was a kid. At €15 this isn’t a cheap alternative to other brands out there. If you are a European stationery nerd, you’ll be happy to know these are made in Europe. Where exactly? I don’t know, but Bookblock is based in London.

If you are interested, head on over to the BookBlock site. Unfortunately BookBlock is still working on their shop and the Weskin is not yet available.

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Review: Baron Fig Prismatics LE Pencils

Baron Fig had some issues with the Snakes and Ladders edition of their Archer pencil. Shattered and off center cores were the worst of the issues. I also read reports of the core being significantly softer than the previous edition, which to me is a good thing. The original Archer is lovely to behold  but contains coarse somewhat gritty graphite.

Let’s start with the awesome thing about the Prismatics* they are gorgeous and the packaging is beautiful. When I opened the box that Michael of Leadfast sent my way, I was struck by the gorgeous tube- deep blue-ish purple with red, blue, pink, and yellow geometric shapes all over. There is a white outline of a pencil shape and opposite is the informational copy. The tube feels sturdy and it lovely to hold. I ripped the plastic off the tube and was greeted by the pretty hexagonal pattern created by the 12 pencils held tightly together. The end dip matches the package. Perfect.

Inside there are 4 pencils of each color- red, blue, and yellow. The colors are bright and cheerful. One hex side is adorned with geometric designs the opposite simple says, “Baron Fig.” Inside the bright cheerful coloring is cedar. The cores are well centered and the whole deal sharpens with ease in all my sharpeners- from the Carl A5 to the Pollux to the Masterpiece.

The Prismatics contain the same core as the Archer with it’s somewhat coarse and gritty graphite. I sharpened 3 of the pencils, one each color, and found that each pencil had different level of coarseness and softness. One was about perfectly an HB, another slightly harder and much more coarse, and another slightly softer with less grit.  The point retention is great.

These are not a bad pencil but nor are they a good pencil, they are acceptable. I found them to work perfectly fine on toothy paper- paper where the coarseness of the core was less evident and mattered less because the paper was working hard to create the smooth experience I prefer. That said, if you use composition notebooks, yoobi journals, and other inexpensive paper with plenty of tooth you’ll like these well enough.

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Review: Koala Tools The Bear Claw 2B Pencil

The Bear Claw is a fat triangular pencil. If were round it would be a jumbo but the triangular shape makes it feel like a semi-jumbo in my hand. I keep writing that I’m MEH on triangular pencils but I keep liking them when they have rounded corners, this is no different, I really like it’s rounded triangular shape. It feels awesome.

The pencil is made out of redwood. It has a lovely pink color that contrasts nicely with the black paint, gold printing, and ferrule The green eraser is round and looks okay with the rest of the printing. I think a black or pink eraser would look a lot better with the color scheme. The printing on all of mine is pretty janky. The black paint is thin and reminds me of an over applied stain that wasn’t wiped off properly. The gold imprint is off on most of mine, with half of the pencils having only half a print. The ferrules are well affixed, but hold the eraser rather loosely. In fact the eraser is so loose that in use I’m worried it’s going to work its way out of the ferrule. One of my pencils has a deep split up the side where the wood split and then was painted over. The final coat of varnish is thin in places, thick in others and there are runs on some of the pencils. On some the runs are actually raised and can be felt.

The redwood is hard and really resists sharpening in my Dahle 133, but does sharpen up nicely once you get past the resistance.

The 2B lead is smooth and dark and feels good on smooth as well as toothy paper. The core is the best thing about these pencils. It’s soft and really is a B pencil rather than a 2B and doesn’t hold a point for very long. I’ll get over that because the core is so dark and smooth. I have to say that I rather like the core, it is a redeeming core for such a shoddily made pencil.

A 6-pack at the MSRP is $5. Not a bad deal if you can find them for that price. Mine were $7 at Black Ink in Cambridge, MA.

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Review: Yoobi Document Organizer

Back to School Sales are irresistible. I end up picking up stuff I really have no interest or need for the Yoobi Document Organizer (YDO) is one of those things. The YDO is reminiscent of two very different products, but not exactly like either. The first is a favorite of mine, the Lihit Labs Bag-in-Bag organizers. The YDO is close in size to the large. The other item it reminds me of, and you can thank Leadfast for the comparison, is the Nock Co Lanier. It’s not exactly like that either. I’ll get to those comparisons later.

The YDO is available in 4 colorways- Goin’ Bananas, Aqua and Checks, Aqua and Black Dotty, and Yoobi Awesome. Aqua and checks is a bright shade of blue, while Aqua and Black Dotty is more of a seafoam green. Not at all aqua. There are also 2 different price points, which is weird. The Goin’ Bananas and Aqua and Checks are both $10 while the other two are $13. Why the price difference? The two higher priced YDO have velcro flaps on an inside pocket.

I picked up the Aqua and Check because it was the only version my local Target had. If I’d had my choice I’d have gotten Goin’ Bananas. The quality of the stitching is acceptable, for a $10 item. If I had spent any more on this I’d take it back. There were a few loose threads here and there, that didn’t have an effect on the sturdiness of the item, so I hit them with a lighter and sealed them off. The zippers seem fairly sturdy but not as sturdy as say, a Tom Bihn bag. But then this isn’t intended to hold a backpack’s worth of stuff. Rather the YDO is intended to hold a few items in a well organized manner.

The organization inside is simple. One large pocket, two smaller pockets, a mesh pocket, and a flap. The zipper unzips fully around three of the four sides. The remaining side holds a handle.On the outside there is a zipper pocket and two smaller pockets. The whole thing is just under 2 inches thick, 13.5 inches high, and 10 inches wide. The polyester canvas slides in and out of my backpack and bags with ease. The handle is far from comfortable as it’s just a thin strap made of canvas. It’s also rather small. I can’t imagine carting the YDO around for more than a few minutes fully loaded.

Speaking of fully loaded, this thing can hold a lot more stuff than I first thought. Loaded to comfortable non-bulging it holds the following: tablet w/case, BT keyboard, composition notebook, pocket notebook, handful of pens and pencils, earbuds, cord and one small charger. If I pack it to bulging I can add to the above a back up power source, another cable, my pocket notebook in case, phone, and my BT speaker. Either way, this is a decent amount of stuff if you want to use it to organize a specific set of tools for a specific purpose- like heading to the cafe to peck out your next novel without carting around a large backpack or messenger bag. If say I was heading into work and I knew I had a block of time where I wasn’t going to work but I could head to the cafe this would be a fast way to ditch my backpack and take only my tablet and keyboard with me. Also, I could see myself taking this with me on the weekend to the cafe. Or I could slip this into my backpack and have all my stuff ready to go in seconds.

The big drawback to this is the lack of shoulder strap. I should weigh how much stuff I can cram into it, but at the end it’s heavy and if I were to cart it around by the strap, my fingers will go numb before I get to the cafe. Unlike the Lanier*, I don’t mind adding loops for a shoulder strap to this because I paid $10. If I look at this as a Bag-in-Bag contender the strap doesn’t matter.

I guess if you wanted to back the Lanier and you want something similar at a budget price, this is a great alternative. Just don’t expect it to wear and last like a Nock product would. If you want a Bag-in-Bag at a budget price, this will do the job really well. Yeah some of the patterns are silly- but I kinda love the silliness of the bananas. Yoobi makes some silly products, but they are aimed at teens and fun loving adults.

Overall I like this product. It functions for my uses and I’ll be adding a shoulder strap to the outside so I can lug it to the cafe without carting a full bag of junk. It is really interesting to pare down my carry and look at what I need and what I don’t need. But that is a whole other post. Continue reading

Review: Nataraj Active Gel Ink Pen

The Nataraj Active Gel Pen is a prime example of why I don’t like to review things after only writing a few pages using the product. Let me start off by stating this is not a BAD pen but it has a few things that make it not great.

First off I love the colors. They remind me of the Pop or Joi pencils by Hindustan. The pens aren’t much thicker than the pencils and are also hexagonal The stripes are similar but not exactly the same. Alternating with the colored side is a translucent milky colored side that allows you to look in and see the refill. Neat.

The refill is pretty narrow and features a needle-like tip that seems to be about 0.5mm depending on the paper. I found that the tips were smooth on most paper and felt pretty good. The ink flow has been decent on almost all papers. On the super absorbent recycled paper we use at my DayJob the ink would occasionally flow less well, it never actually skipped but it did take a moment to catch up. You can see the ink level drop as you write. The ink color is a really nice blue shade. It’s bright but dark enough to stand out on most papers and really pops on the forms I use at work. I really like it on the cream paper of the Ondulo I reviewed earlier.

I work in what most call a heavy use environment and within 3 days of use I have used more than half a pen. I’ll have one drained by the end of a week. These won’t be long lived pens. That said other than the slowed ink flow on super absorbent paper, these things flow consistently and smoothly from start to finish.

So my big gripe about these pens is… The cone at the tip that holds the point of the refill in place. It’s soft flexible plastic and the hole the refill slips into isn’t tight enough. It’s a tad sloppy. Further the refill is flexible as well. The metal pen tip sticks out of the cone too far, so when I write I get a soft spongy springy feel to the pen. It is weird and took some getting accustomed to. It’s not like the movement you get with some pens, it is a feeling of flexibility. It is a really odd feeling when you are going between these cheapie pens and a Baron Fig Experiment with it’s precision made body and refill.

Anyway, I like these pens. They aren’t meant to compete with something like the Baron Fig Experiment or even a cheap fountain pen. These are pens that you buy because you MIGHT lose them or because you need to have pens with a decent ink in them in assorted place and maybe you want something bright that you can find in the bottom of your purse/murse/messenger bag. They aren’t special but they are fun.   Continue reading

Review: Franklin-Christoph Firma-Flex Notebook

Often, when I write reviews of notebooks when fountain pens are tested they perform not so well. Fortunately, that is not the case with the oddly named Firma-Flex by Franklin-Christoph. Silly name aside, this is a pretty lovely notebook or journal. 

The journal is typical of all of notebook in this style and is Smyth sewn. The book block is well stitched and glued to the cover which is stiff flexible* but sturdy enough for writing notes in hand. The cover is made of “durable cover material,” I assume that it is some sort of vinyl or recycled leather impregnated with vinyl. It had a strong odor that reminds me of shoe polish I used on work boots in college. The odor fades quickly but struck me as very strong upon opening the package.

It features 192 pages of smooth 90gsm bagasse or sugarcane based paper. The paper has a pink hue with light grey dot grid. The grid is light enough to fade behind my writing. I really like the 5mm distance. At the top and bottom of each page are slightly larger burgundy colored dots. If you’re using lightly colored fountain pen inks on this paper they will not come out true to their color. The pink hue will darken the color.

There is no elastic or pocket in this notebook but it does have a place marking ribbon in black satin. The ribbon is not heat-sealed however I was able to do that myself with a lighter in a matter of seconds. There is nothing especially noteworthy or new about this notebook except it has very nice paper. It is very well made and sturdy. The notebook is not quite pocket-sized. It is A6 sized or 4 3/8 by 6 inches or 111 by 153 mm. You can also get them in A5 and A4 size.

On the front cover the Franklin-Christoph Celtic knot logo sits dead center. On the lower back cover there is another Franklin-Christoph logo. The imprinted logo is tactile and I find myself fidgeting with it. The cover stitching is done in deep eggplant that looks quite lovely with the black cover. According to the Franklin Christoph website the stitching color varies depending on the type of ruling inside the notebook. Eggplant denotes dot grid.

Let’s talk about the beveled or mitered corners. They remind me of Battlestar Galactica. Anyway they seem… Odd. Most likely because I’m so accustomed to rounded or sharp corners. As I’ve used the notebook they don’t strike me as weird unless I’m looking and thinking about them. It’s simply another design choice, maybe an unusual design choice but it is a choice.

At $11.50 for the small, it’s not cheap but this is better quality than a moleskine at roughly the same price. If you’re a fountain pen user this notebook might be for you. It does play well with most of my fountain pens and inks it makes it a better value than others that are cheaper. Here and there with wider nibs and wet inks I had some show through, but none that made it hard to read the next page. Overall this is a fine notebook. It’s beautiful and well-made and looks and feels great. It performs well with fountain pens and pencils it’s got enough to be nice with most but not destroy pencil points.

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Back-to-School Sale Composition Book Round Up Part 2

My last post was incomplete. I’d only been able to get books at Target and Staples. This week I went to two of the three the local Walmarts. One had not one composition book and was a wreck. The other Walmart was also a wreck but they had composition books. All are standard size (9.75X7.5 inches or 247x190mm) and college ruled.

Entry 1: Norcom Fashion Covers Made in Colombia 50 cents

The so called “fashion covers” feature patterns in white and some fashion color. In the case of these there were light teal, salmon pink, and a few other colors. These were also available in awful tacky metallic animal prints. UGH. These were the least offensive of the “fashion” covers. I chose teal and white.

The cover is printed onto thin cardstock. It is not quite as floppy as a poly cover but almost. The card is sturdy enough that the notebook might survive a semester in a backpack but I doubt a whole school year. There is a rather thin strip of textured paper tape on the spine. The width of the tape is proportionally off. It looks wrong. The front cover has a label area, which I greatly appreciate. It is pretty generic looking. Good job on that Norcom, you nailed what a comp book label SHOULD look like.

Inside the 100 sheets have light blue ruling that disappears quite well. The paper is nicely smooth but has enough tooth to be great for pencil. Ballpoint, rollerball, and gel ink all did great too. Fountain pens feel great on the page but spread and feathered all over. Even fine nibs bled through. If this didn’t do so well with pencil I’d say avoid it at all cost.

Entry 2: Mead Five Star Poly Cover Made in Vietnam $1.97

Why try another Mead 5Star when the one from Target was good? Well first this one is $1.97 and the copyright date is different. The Target version is 2016 while Walmart’s was 3013. Does it matter? Yeah.

The cover is the same as in the last entry. Thicker and stiffer than most of the other poly covers in the race. The stitching is well done. Repeat the last entry.

Until you get to the paper. It is slightly more absorbent and you don’t get the super sheen with fountain pens. I also had some bleed through that I didn’t have with the Target 5Star. The price is better but you’ll have to dig through the boxes to find some from 2016. I checked but found none, all at this Walmart were from 2013. They were great for pencil and the rest of the pens. Well, except for the firehouse of a Papermate InkJoy I tested. That had issues with bleed through where the letters crossed themselves.

Entry 3: Pens+Gear Poly Composition Book Made in India 67 cents

This is the first Pen+Gear* product that I can tell you to avoid. Get their made in India pencils and index cards but avoid this composition notebook at all cost.

Why? Let’s start with the cover. Yes it is poly, the thinnest floppiest poly I’ve yet to pick up. The textured fabric tape on the spine is far too narrow completely throwing off the look of the book. Normally I’d be super pleased that they actually used real fabric tape instead of textured paper, but not when a wider application of paper tape would look right but also do the job of protecting the area where the spine will flex properly. Further the spine is poorly stitched. It is not centered on the spine but folded oddly. The top half of the notebook has wider pages than the second half.

Inside there is an odd 80 count of sheets with bright blue ruling. It’s bright and thick and will never recede into the background. The paper is crisp and holds up well to fine fountain pens. Wider nibs tend to bleed but feel great on the page. Ballpoint, rollerball and gel all do okay. Pencils slip and slide. The paper lacks tooth. I had to really work hard to get graphite onto this paper.

The label doesn’t peel off easily. It left a sticky mess.

I really disliked the Pen+Gear offering. It’s not good enough with fountain pens to justify buying for that purpose and it is just so terrible with pencil that it goes into my do not buy list.

Entry 4: Norcom Neon Ink Splatter Made in Colombia 50 cents

The paper in this is essentially the same as the previous Norcom offering. The cover, other than a different “fashion print” this one straight outta 1988 with neon ink splattering, is the same as well. It sports the same too narrow textured paper tape and thin card cover.

Norcom has another meh offering. It’s not bad at 50 cents- especially for fine or ef fountain pens, and pencil.

Entry 5: Studio C Pattern Play Collection Poly Cover $1.96

This entry sports a poly cover printed with a variety of patterns in a variety of colors. I picked out dusty blue in squared swirls. The classic front cover label is circular. The poly cover is as thick as the Mead 5Star cover but lacks the interior printing. The spine is taped with metallic textured paper tape. The width of the tape is generous and looks appropriate on the cover. The poly cover is translucent and to protect your work inside, they have placed a plain sheet of white paper with the traditional school info printed on the inside. It is a nice touch.

The ruling is bright blue and disappears behind most of the sample writing I did.The paper doesn’t feel particularly smooth, until you run a fountain pen across its surface. Then the pen dances and slides in the most wonderful way. Even better, there was no spreading, no feathering, no bleed through and loads and loads of wonderful sheen. This notebook performed as well as the Mead card covered from Target. My inks all look amazing on it. Also, pencil feels wonderful. There is enough tooth that the pencil slides perfectly and looks nicely dark. I didn’t have to work to get the graphite on the page.

The Studio C was a very pleasant surprise given how disappointing I was with the rest of the Walmart offerings. It’s not the greatest value, at 1.9 cents per sheet it’s in the middle of the road of expense. The Target Mead card covered is still a better value at about 1.2 cents a sheet. But the price difference is negligible when you compare the 100 to 70 sheet offered in each notebook.

If you don’t write with fountain pens and you stay in the realm of gel, ballpoint, rollerball, and pencil the Norcom have fun covers, and some ugly stuff too. At 50 cents a notebook it is a good value.

I have to say, avoid the Pen+Gear notebook at all cost. The paper is terrible, binding shoddy, and poly cover flimsy and floppy. It is garbage.

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Review Franklin-Christoph Pocket Notebook Cover Indigo Linen

The Franklin Christoph pocket notebook cover in indigo linen is a luxurious looking pocket notebook cover. The packaging is gorgeous and unfolds to reveal the cover. The indigo colored linen reminds me of raw denim and feels like a well worn in pair of jeans. The front cover has a Franklin Christoph logo dead center. The back cover has a tiny Franklin-Christoph logo along the bottom edge.

The cover arrives with one Franklin-Christoph pocket notebook inside. The cover perfectly fits the Franklin-Christoph pocket notebooks. It also fits Field Notes, Word notebooks, No Brand Notebooks, Story Supply Company, and many other brands of pocket notebooks. I found I was able to fit two pocket notebooks into the cover. It holds them well and still closes easily. There is no notebook overhang or hang out with two notebooks inside.

Like many fabric pocket notebook covers that the cover itself is somewhat floppy. Unlike a leather cover which is given heft from the leather itself, the fabric must be supported. Between the layers of indigo linen there is some sort of cardstock inside. If you plan to continue using the Franklin Christoph pocket notebooks this won’t be a problem. Because the cover perfectly fits their pocket notebooks. If, like myself, you plan on using other brands of notebooks inside. You may find that the cover is a tad too floppy. My solution was to cut a piece of cardstock that is about 7 and a quarter inches wide and three and a half inches tall. This gives the cover a little more heft than it does without. 

Once I added my little sheet of cardstock the cover is perfect and holds my two notebooks together, slides in and out of my pocket with ease and looks fantastic.. If you have someone who doesn’t want to carry leather around with them and once a cover this might be the perfect notebook cover for them. It conforms to your pocket ie your buttcheek and is lightweight and looks fantastic. If  you’ve been wanting a nice cover but not wanted to carry animal skin, the FC notebook cover is a great looking option. It’s lovely in hand and in looks. I added a  Leuchtturm1917 pen loop to mine and it is a wonderful pocket carry.

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Review: Staples Number 84 Rubber Bands

Maybe like me, you love the Field Notes “Bands of Rubber” but balk at the cost of them. Maybe you’ve looked at a variety of options, and maybe you’ve even order a pound of the wrong size. Or maybe you learned that the FN Bands o’ Rubber are the same thing as #84 rubber bands and are available at just about any office supply store. Yeah, maybe you are a bit smarter than I am. I’m late to the game.

I’ve taken to calling the #84 rubber band the “Rubber Bundler*” an I’ve got one wrapped around my wallet holding cash, one around my F-C pocket notebook cover, another around my pencil case as extra security. I’m finding all kinds of uses for these simple sturdy rubber bundlers. Best thing? A quarter pound, or roughly 52 rubber bands is  about $4 with tax. Sure they aren’t black, just plain old natural crepe rubber, but they do the job.

You can also get a different brand in black on Amazon or a full pound of the crepe rubber.

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Back-to-School Sale Composition Book Round Up

This is a very image heavy post!
I decided to head to back to school sales and pick up a few composition notebooks to update my old best of Composition Notebook review. I go through a lot of them writing my drafts, so I have room in my budget to spend the money to buy during the sales, because for the most part comp books are around 50 cents at Back To School Sale time. All are college ruled. Unless otherwise stated these are all the typical size for comp books:9.75X7.5 inches or 247x190mm.

Entry 1: Generic Made in Taiwan 51 cents (Target)

Target’s entry has thin flimsy card covers graced with a marble pattern that has bled together so much as to have little white space. It has a black textured paper tape spine. Beneath the tape it is stitched. It does have a nice oval shaped Composition label on the front cover that looks absolutely generic. I kinda love it.

Inside are 100 sheets or 200 pages of thin smooth paper. In my testing I found it worked well with pencil, rollerball, ballpoint, and gel ink. Fountain pens bled through but didn’t feather until I started to use wet nibs paired with inks that tend to feather. With fine and extra fine pens it did okay. With any darker colored ink the verso of the page won’t be usable as the show through is intense.

What sets this comp book apart from the pack is the smooth paper. It is smooth yet toothy enough that pencils were superb on its surface. Point retention is phenomenal even with soft dark pencils like the Glimo Super Black. Smudging was minimal.

Entry 2: Staple’s Made in Brazil 50 cents

The latest iteration of the venerable favorite has thin flimsy card covers. A definite downgrade over past years. The marbling is splotchy and evenly distributed between white and whatever color cover you purchase. It isn’t very marble-y. The label area is rectangular and rounded over. Rather boring. The spine has a black textured paper tape over it.

Inside are 100 sheets/200 pages of thin bright white paper with a dark purple-blue ruling. The ruling is far too dark and never receded into the background.Even with thick black ink it stands out. Gross.

Testing proved that this toothy paper did well with the usual round up of pencils, rollerball, ballpoint and gel inks. It was shite with any fountain pen. Even the thinnest and stingiest of nibs feathered and bleed with the best behaved of ink. Wet thick nibs soaked through to the page beneath. The verso of the page is unusable with any liquid or hybrid ink. Even some of my gel inks tended to show through. What a  mess.

What an abysmal fall from grace.

Entry 3: The Mead Poly Cover Made in Vietnam $1 (Target)

I’ve had very bad luck when it comes to Mead comp books in the past. This year’s is far different than the past iterations. There are 70 college ruled sheets, though they are also available in wide rule. The poly cover is thin and rather floppy. The tape is gray textured poly. The cover has lines printed on the fore edge but no other design. The typical label area lacks anywhere to write your name or other information. This is a sad oversight.

Inside the 70 college ruled sheets feature very thin pale blue lines that recede into the background of every ink. I’m in love! The paper is thin and crisp. It’s not slick feeling but it performs remarkably well with every pen and ink combination I’ve used. My wet pens and inks glide over the surface and feel wonderful. Better yet, there is no bleeding, feather or soak through. No, I even get sheen on this lovely paper. There is show through, but that is to be expected from paper this thin and crisp.

I find it shocking that I have a Mead contender for best Comp Book of 2017!

Entry 4: Mead Card Cover Made in Vietnam 79 cents (Target)

Repeat everything I said about the Mead Poly cover here. No Feathering, bleed through, or feathering. Loads of lovely sheen, even from my EF pens.

The covers are decently sturdy card, and at least at the Target where I purchased my sample they had 2 patterns- one for wide and narrow lines. The patterns consist of stripes made of vertical lines roughly the height of the lines inside the book. Clever. They were offered in a rainbow of colors with textured paper tape over the spine. Sadly this also lacks the classic front cover label area.

The big downside of this paper is that because it doesn’t absorb liquid ink, it takes quite awhile for that ink to dry, resulting in smudging.
Not only do I have 1 but I have 2 contenders for best comp book from Mead. Shocking.

Entry 5: Mead Five Star Poly Cover Made in Vietnam  $2.99 (Target)

In another shocker, repeat all the good stuff from the last two Mead entries and it applies here. The paper is great. There are 100 college ruled pages in the 5Star. It features a classic textured black paper tape along the spine. Mead skips the classic front cover label area.

These poly covers are among the toughest of the poly covers. Though they are still floppy, they are less floppy than others. The interior of the cover is also lined with white poly so that the contents aren’t on display. Further, it features some of the classic composition notebook interior goods- class schedule and conversions.

Comparing this to the other Mead offerings, this is not a great value. The paper is wonderful and the poly cover sturdy but not enough (to me) to justify the increased cost  over the other poly cover.

Entry 6: Up & Up Card Cover Made in Mexico 5 for $4/80 cents per book (Target)

It is tempting to return these and cash in on the Target 100% satisfaction guarantee. Yes they are that bad. The poly cover is thin, flimsy and floppy. The paper taped spine features glue squeezed out of it’s edges. Unlike most of the comp books written about thus far which have stitches at roughly 10mm, the Up &Up is stitched at 15mm.

The paper is bright white with pale blue ruling. The positives end there. Every fountain pen I used feathered and bled, even dry extra fine nibs using dry well behaved inks. Blotter paper is less absorbent. The only thing that works okay on this paper are ballpoints and pencils. Even pencil doesn’t feel that great on the paper. It lacks tooth to get a decent line and what graphite does get onto the paper is pale and smudgy.

This goes on my do not buy list.

Entry 7: Greenroom Decorative Card Cover Made in Vietnam $2.50 (Target)

Here is another comp book with only 70 pages. The paper is cream colored with brown ruling. The lines are actually tiny dots. I really adore this ruling and wish that I had better things to say about the actual paper. This paper feathers and bleeds with every fountain pen used. Gel ink also feathers and bleeds. Unlike our last entry, pencil feels good on this paper. Rollerball and ball point are also quite nice, so there are a few more options for use than the Up &Up.

The very pretty card cover is very thin, very flimsy and as floppy as the poly entries. It will not survive carting around in a book bag for long. A spill will spell the end of this comp book. The textured paper tape is well applied and looks good with the lovely printing of the cover.

Entry 8: Yoobi Card Cover Made in Vietnam $2.29 (Target)

The Yoobi comp book is a venerable contender and little has changed since the last time I purchased one- the covers are sturdy and thick, printed with one color or a fun pattern. The textured black paper tape is well applied. The front cover features a large block where you can label your notebook with your name and other info.

Inside are 100 college ruled sheets. The ruling in this year’s is pale and thin. I like it. The paper is smooth but not too smooth. It’s toothy enough for pencil but not so toothy that it eats up your graphite. Fountain pens fair less well than in the Mead notebooks but fine and extra fine do really well.

Though the Yoobi books aren’t the greatest value at full price, they are a great cause. Plus they go on clearance often enough that you can usually snag some decent deals in the middle of the winter.

Which is the winner here?That really depends on your final use of these notebooks. If you are a fountain pen user you can’t go wrong with the Mead card covered available at target for 79 cents. The paper is phenomenal for everything tested for this review. I was able to see sheen even with my finest fountain pens. Nothing bled or feathered. The per page price was 1.13 cents a sheet. While this isn’t the cheapest, it’s squarely in the middle of the road. If you are planning on using pencils or ball points (looking at you Bic Cristal lovers and folks who put the Fisher Space refill in friggin’ everything) you really can’t go wrong with the Staples 50 cent composition notebooks. At 0.5 cents per page these represent the cheapest of the cheap. Sadly they no longer fair well with fountain pens or liquid inks. Finally if you want a solid writing experience, fun covers, and a good cause, the Yoobi books are a good choice.

There are two here I’d avoid at all costs. Sadly the pretty Greenroom notebooks are just far too expensive at 3.5 cents per sheet to have paper that performs so poorly. Though the Target Up &Up brand is on the low end of cost at 0.8 cents per sheet the performance of the paper is abysmal and the shoddy stitching will likely give out before the poly covers have a  chance to break down.

This series of mini reviews reaffirmed something I’ve know for a long time; I hate poly covers. They are floppy, you can’t write in hand or even in your lap. The plastic won’t break down for ages. The brighter the poly cover the more likely you are to be able to see through to your contents. They add unnecessary cost to a product that should be inexpensive. Here let’s put it into “print:” poly covers are garbage. Continue reading