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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

Review: Uniball Air

Here is another pen that if I’d reviewed it when I first purchased it would have received a better review than after about a month of on and off use. I resist my urge to again rant and rave against drive by beauty reviews that are pretty but lack a substantive amount of use to back the reviewer’s claims.

I picked up a 3-pack with red, blue, and black capped pens. The pen body is made of translucent plastic the same shade as the pen which is then covered in a print. The print is in black and gray and looks to me like a generalized idea of black carbon fiber… The pattern is slightly raised and feels nice. The cap is smoke colored with an inset attached to the clip matching the ink. The cap secures over the business end with a nice click. It posts deeply and I have no fear of losing it.UNI Air

The pen is lightweight and well balanced both posted and unposted.  I found that the grip section was slippery in longer writing sessions and that I could feel the coordinating colored bit. Something about this annoyed me. I think mostly that the section was slippery and thus I had to  adjust my grip frequently. I am not a sweaty hand person, I use metal and plastic sectioned pens all the time with no issues. So this was not a matter of my hand but the slick nature of the plastic.UNI Air UNI Air

The pen tips glide over every surface I’ve used them on and I think this is due to the huge ink flow. These pens are gushers. Using them in my comp books meant I had bleed and show through everywhere. This is less of an issue with these books as I don’t use the reverse of the page other than writing brief notes about things I need to address later or ideas for edits. But it does show how much the pens saturate the paper as well as how much ink is wasted. The pens were only available at target in the large 0.7 but I’d put them on most paper at a 1mm. The ink really spreads out. This is anything but a fine tip.UNI Air

These pens are so smooth that you can almost feel the ink being pushed out of the tip. My wife described these as a combination in feel of a gel ink and a fiber tipped pen, and I think that is an apt description. I did not like these for writing very much because they felt so weird, BUT they were really nice for drawing and the ink is waterproof. The high flow of ink really lent the pens to doodles and sketching. But again, because of the flow, lingering anywhere on a page will cause bleed through. These really flow so wet that writing on regular paper is akin to writing on toilet paper.

I really liked the shade of red and blue that was offered in the 3-pack. The red is a nice bright red, perfect for marking up edits. The blue is a wonderful shade that is both bright and bold. The black is deep and dark.UNI Air

Overall, I don’t really them much. I also think they are overpriced. With the ink flow being so high, I’ve used a quarter of the black already and can see myself blowing through this one if I used it more frequently very quickly. At $7.99 for 3 at Target, or $5 at Staples, and $6.57 at Walmort, or a whopping $12 on amazon, these are just not a value. Especially when you consider how quickly they squirt ink onto the page. Also, they are a little ugly. Actually, a lot ugly. The futuristic design will appeal to high school kids and possibly dudes, maybe dudebros. The slick grip was also uncomfortable even with my cool dry hands. If you must buy these, get them while they are on back-to-school sale for $5 at Staples.

There are much better options at better prices- the Uniball 207/307 or Signo gives you better feel and the same quality ink with a better grip, ink flow, and look.

Review: Field Notes Unexposed

The new Field Notes edition, Unexposed, has been exposed. Like Shelterwood before,  this edition elicits both love AND hate from fans. The edition arrives within a black envelope so that you cannot see what covers you are getting. The editions are packaged somewhat randomly, so you have no guarantee of getting all 6 colors in your packages. To me this is a very interesting way of randomizing the packages. This has also led to frustration among collectors and subscribers. In some cases people have only received 3 of the 6 colors and are trading with other collectors and fans to get all 6 colors.unexposedI was one of the fortunate people who received all 6 colors in my subscription package. But I liked them so much I traded off my sealed Arts and Sciences edition to get another 3-pack. I received 3 more of my favorite colors and another black envelope.

Let’s get to the nitty gritty of this, the review. The colors are neon, eye searing neon with a near opposite color logo. I love these colors. They go very well with my Ticonderoga Neon pencils or Neon Wopexen. They bring me back to back-to-school shopping in 1989 or 1990 where neon ruled the world in pencils and pens. My love of these colors is pure thrown back, sort of like my total enjoyment of the new Trapper KeeperunexposedThe covers and interior feature the same soft touch printing as the Drink Local series, Which up until these was my favorite edition. The soft touch just feels really neat. When thinking I can rub the covers between my thumb and fore finger. The texture is just fantastic. unexposedI read more than one complaint about these colors being “not professional.” I use my FN as catch alls and journal, and now during my internship and a place to take quick client notes. Are they professional enough for me to take into staff meetings? I don’t know, but I’m also secure enough that if someone were to comment on the color to be able to say, “I know! Isn’t it AWESOME!?!”unexposedInside is what FN calls “reticle graph.” Before I had received my books I had to look this up. Instead of dots for dot graph they have replaced them with little plus signs (+). One could think of these like sights  or unfinished graph. They are printed in light gray. I wasn’t sure if I’d like these, but so far I really really like them. I might even prefer them to regular graph. I do like dot graph a little more but these are fun.  The paper itself is regular FN paper. It’s not fountain pen friendly but great with pencils, gel ink, and roller ball pens.unexposed unexposedAnother complaint I’ve read about is that people really really hate the near color opposite* printing on the inside color. It really does make the interior stuff hard to read. I find it impossible to look at and read the interior of the green covered notebook. The neon green on neon orange is impossible for my eyes to makes sense of. If I squint I can read it but it’s hard. I don’t mind since all of the FN stuff stays the same from book to book. I know where to write my name. I also found that once I wrote my info  into the various sections in black ink it broke up the field of neon and I was much more able to read the neon-on-neon printing.unexposedThe envelopes that houses the notebooks as they are shipped to you are a flat black. As soon as you remove the shrink wrap the envelope starts to show finger prints. The envelopes aren’t super sturdy but they are neat and a great way to store 3 FN in a bag or backpack.unexposedOverall, this is a great edition from Field Notes. Great colors, great “soft-touch” covers, awesome reticle graph grid inside, and your typical fun FN uses inside. This will be one of the few that I stock up on and keep a few extras in my stationary boxes.unexposed Continue reading

Review: Yoobi Pencils

A few weeks ago I was browsing the stationary section at Target, don’t pretend you don’t do the exact same thing, and happened upon the new display for Yoobi. It’s a nifty brand that donates a pack of what you bought to a school in need. Cool.

I picked up a few notebooks and a pack of pencils. I selected the mixed color 24-pack and received bright magenta, purple, blue and yellow green pencils that perfectly match their notebooks, journals, pens, highlighters, glue sticks, and other desk items. They are very brightly colored, which I like a lot.IMAG2045The pencils are standard #2 HB graphite cores. The core is well centered and whatever wood it is made of, sharpens well in all my sharpeners, from the KUM Ellipse, Long Point and wedge. Easy as could be. The core is nice and dark for an HB and is good for writing. it does okay for basic sketching but for anything resembling deep dark shadows a 4B or 6B pencil will need to be used. Point retention is decent but with pencils this cheap you can have a dozen sharp and ready to go without being worried about cost. Written journalers will be happy with these pencils.yoobiSpeaking of price, a 24-pack was a mere $2.29! They give a package to a school in need so it becomes an even better deal. The fact that these pencils  are super brightly colored and give to charity is great thing. They also coordinate with their notebooks really well. Even if you aren’t using a matching color, all of the colors work really well together.yoobi yoobi yoobi yoobi yoobi