Elemental Notebooks Review

For the second time, I’ve been burned by Kickstarter. The first time was with the Hippo Noto’s long wait time and questionable sturdiness. At least the Elemental Notebooks delivered fast. Also, the chemistry-themed design is spectacular, living up to every picture released. It reminds me of another cloth-covered favorite, Baron Fig notebooks. I bought the Nitrogen and Hydrogen, and a set of Unobtanium pocket notebooks. (I forgot Oxygen had the blue cover, this is why I hated Chemistry lol) But the paper is more important than anything else for me, so the Elemental Notebooks were a massive letdown.

Once again, I’m late to the show. Check out Mountain of Ink’s review here. In the next paragraphs, I review the Nitrogen notebook and the Unobtanium add-ons.

Specs:

  • 100 gsm cream dot grid paper
  • A5 size, or 3.5 by 5.5 inches for Unobtanium
  • $20 per notebook, pocket Unobtaniums were add-ons for $12
  • 192 pages
  • two ribbon bookmarks
  • no table of contents or numbered pages

IMG_5367

Appearance:

I was impressed by the Elemental notebooks as soon as I got them. The packaging is gorgeous! The notebooks come in black slipcases that explain the element the notebook is named after. The cover is made of a slightly rough cloth, with no decorations on the front. It reminds me of an old library book, especially with the indent near the spine. The dark green of Nitrogen is beautiful. The endpapers are well thought out. There’s a space in the shape of the periodic table to put your name in. The bottom of the spine is imprinted with gold foil showing the periodic element. It’s a nice touch. The edges of the book are tinted black with tiny colorful stripes meant to emulate the emissions spectrum of Nitrogen.

The Unobtanium notebooks have the element stamped in green foil on the lower right side. It’s made of a soft pleather material. They are the size of Field Notes, but have stitched bindings like Baron Fig Vanguards.

Paper:

But the paper is where it all goes downhill… I opened up my Nitrogen to see large, dark, dots. I hate when the ruling is too dark. It distracts me from my writing and looks generally unpleasant. But then I used my new Sailor Kingdom Note fountain pen to write the header and was instantly disappointed.

Feathering everywhere! No shading, only a flat color. Something I’ve noticed with bad paper is that “splotches” appear, instead of shading. I experienced that here. There was more show through than I’d like, but it’s not terrible. The paper itself was an off-white color, with some tooth to it, like Baron Fig. This paper is really bad. It’s usable with gel pens, ballpoints and pencils, but the dots are still too dark for me. So I don’t know what to use these for? The Unobtanium has the same paper. At least I use those for taking quick notes and the dot grid doesn’t matter as much.

Honestly, I feel misled. The creators of Elemental notebooks specifically said the paper was good for fountain pens. They even posed the Oxygen with a blue TWSBI Eco-T in a promotional picture! They also said the dark dots were part of the prototype and would be lighter in the final production. I wouldn’t have spent $47 on these notebooks if I knew they weren’t fountain pen friendly.

Comparison to Baron Fig:

The Elemental Notebook just begs comparison with the Baron Fig! I’m a huge fan of the BF Confidant, so this newcomer had a lot to live up to. I’d say BF won, for pure stylishness and usable paper. My Nitrogen is a typical A5 size, while the Confidant is more compact. The ribbons on Nitrogen are longer, and there’s two of them. See how they lay flat and are easy to pull on? That’s what BF needs. The stubby bookmark isn’t enough for me.

The Nitrogen is more like a library book, complete with the crease near the spine and rough linen cover. The Confidant is like a luxury product, with softer covers and a modern style.

The Confidant wins the paper battle, by far. First of all, its dot grid is large but a soft gray. The Nitrogen has the problem of both dark and large dots, which makes writing very distracting.

IMG_5350
Comparing the dot grid on the Confidant, on top, with the bottom Elemental notebook

The Confidant doesn’t have the luxurious Tomoe River feeling, but I actually like the slight tooth while using my fountain pens. Nib sizes tend to spread a bit, but don’t feather. The colors are vibrant and accurate. Honestly, I’ve only used the limited edition Confidants, and other reviews have made me question the paper quality. I want to do my own test on the regular Confidant. But the Nitrogen feathers and spreads everywhere. Instead of shading, I get weird splotchiness.

Overall, if you want a cloth-cover A5 notebook with dot grid, get the Baron Fig. It’s cheaper at $18 and has better paper.

Conclusion:

I think I’ve learned my lesson about not funding kickstarters. Both times, I’ve been disappointed. The nature of a kickstarter is itself fickle. It’s easy to run out of money, find problems in production, or deliver months late. I don’t blame the creators for running into problems, but I’m done accepting them. From now on, I’m ordering notebooks that are in regular production.

I bought these notebooks with my own funds. I was not paid for this review. 

Stationery Shopping: Kingdom Note

My first stop of the day was at Kingdom Note! I’ve heard so much about this place. It’s a store that stocks pens, inks and notebooks. It has an exclusive line of inks that are inspired by animals and plants. Kingdom Note also collaborates with the Sailor company to make veggie themed pens! These store-exclusive products are not available in the U.S. I’ve seen them on Ebay for exorbitant amounts of money but I’d rather not pay those prices.

The store is on the 6th floor of a building in Shinjuku and is hard to see from the street. You will see a sign for KN and a camera shop. Luckily, its 5 minutes from my hotel!

The store was smaller than I thought it would be. Only a few people work there. The attendant helping me was really nice and he knew enough English for us to communicate. The store was filled with a wide variety of fountain pens, many of them European. The small selection of Nakayas dazzled me. There was a rack of notebooks, but nothing very special. My eyes were immediately drawn to the vegetable themed pens and the giant wall of ink. I bought a “green pepper” fountain pen in a broad nib but there was also a pumpkin themed one. You could buy matching 20ml inks for it. I certainly did! There were also demonstrators in bright colors but I already spent all my money for the day. 😛

I also tested a variety of inks. There’s a whole wall of them, both European and Japanese! I was given a binder full of ink sample cards then I chose which one to try. The attendant let me test them with a glass pen. I bought three inks, two of them in 50 ml bottles and the other in a tiny 20ml one. I bought the Mycena pura, a dusty pink color based on mushrooms. I first heard about it from a post on Reddit, but I thought I would never buy it! I also got Thysanostoma thysanura, a pinkish purple like a jellyfish. And I bought the matching green pepper ink to go with my pen. When I get back from Japan, I hope to have ink reviews up for them.

Make sure to get the tax refund taken care of! Foreigners have to pay an 8% tax rate for some purchases, but you can get it refunded in kiosks and at the airport. I got a slip of paper with my purchase that I can turn in later.

The people working there were really kind and I felt welcomed inside the store. I’m glad I got the opportunity to go to a small boutique style store.

Tomorrow I’m going to Mt. Fuji on a tour but hopefully I’ll get to Itoya Ginza and Maruzen Nihombashi soon. I also added the Tools art supply store and Smiths to my list. It’s in the Lumine Est department store underneath the Shinjuku train station. I’m going to get Copic markers there. I will post more about the pen stores I visit!

Mini Review: Notebooks from Italy

Sometimes, I don’t feel like writing long blog posts for notebooks. So here’s the first of my mini reviews, for products that warrant testing but don’t need a full review.

I got these two notebooks on my trip to Rome last week. The yellow notebook was from the Massimo Palazzo alle Terme store and the black one was from the Ostia Antica gift shop.

IMG_2079

Let’s start with the yellow journal! It’s slightly shorter and wider than a B5 notebook, making it compact and easy to carry. It has 60 blank creamy pages. It’s nice to run my hand over the paper. The sunny yellow cover is a bit thin but held up well in my suitcase. There’s a beautiful design on the front that use the letters mnr. It stands for the Museo Nazionale Romano, the name of the larger museum complex the Palazzo belongs to. This name is repeated on the back in bold black letters. The word Electa is on the bottom right, possibly the maker of the notebook? I couldn’t find any more information online.

IMG_2080

The paper is thick and a smooth ivory color. When I did my pen test, pencil did wonderfully on this paper. There wasn’t much show through with gel and fountain pens. The paper was fountain pen friendly. Slight pink sheen from Sailor Sky High showed up in my test. There was no bleed through except with a sharpie. The only downside is that there were glue bubbles on the first page. Overall, this notebook exceeded my expectations and will be put to use as a sketchbook.

The black Ostia Antica notebook was not as great. When I bought it, it was in a display saying it was made by Paperblanks. I’ve heard of the company before and expected good paper. It has a nice cover, with the words Ostia Antica and below it, an illustration of one of the mosaics at the site. It’s A6 size and has 96 pages. It also has a black bookmark and elastic band.

IMG_2085

Unfortunately, the paper was scratchy and thin as tissue. Pencil was okay, but every other pen showed or bled through to the other side. Fountain pen ink looked dull, with no sheen or shading. At least I bought it with blank paper so I can use it for quick pencil sketches.

Hope you enjoyed this quick review! I’m busy working at an archaelogical dig but I hope to post more soon.

Surrealism is Awesome: Palomino Blackwing 54 Review

I first tried the esteemed Blackwing 602 pencil ($22 for a box of twelve, yes they’re pricy) at the CW Pencil Shop last year. It’s much talked about in the pencil fandom (you thought I only liked fountain pens???) so I was excited. It met my expectations, and so much more. The “firm” lead is smooth and creamy on paper. I was turned off from pencils after years of using ones that were scratchy and had broken lead.  I stopped using pencils during middle school, and never went back. Until now.

For the spring semester, I found a use for my new pencils. I used my Baron Archer #2’s for math problems and my Blackwing 602 for creative writing class, where I had to erase often. I’ve even used my pencil for sketching! So I was excited to see the new Blackwing Volumes release. Okay, at first I was disappointed by the color. But the pictures online don’t show how it actually looks. It’s gorgeous!

IMG_4953
This picture shows the color off best.

The theme is inspired by Surrealism, one of my favorite art movements. Surrealism is when artists take inspiration from their unconscious and dreams to create a bizarre, off-putting work. It followed the work of Freud, often showing what lurked in the hidden parts of your mind. Though most think of Salvador Dali or Rene Magritte, there were many women and people of color working in that style. Surrealism was a diverse movement that gained popularity in the Caribbean and Latin America. I’m happy that Blackwing mentioned artists on the box that weren’t just white men. (Nothing wrong with that demographic but it’s nice to see underrepresented artists.) Some other female surrealists include Leonora Carrington, Frida Kahlo, and Remedios Varos. Wilfredo Lam, mentioned on the box, was a famous Chinese-Cuban artist, who drew inspiration from his Afro-Cuban heritage for his paintings.

IMG_4937
They’re beautiful!

The shiny lacquer is a strange color, shifting like the color palette of Surrealists. It looked bubblegum pink in some pictures, magenta in others. Seeing it in person, the color is orchid, with just a hint of purple. The teal imprint and blue eraser add to the oddity of this pencil. It’s unusual, which I like.

I had a weird scratch on one of the ferrules, which annoyed me. I’m paying $25 for a box of 12 pencils, it better be perfect!

IMG_4956
Weird scratch on ferrule

The “extra firm” lead wasn’t as mind-blowing as the 602’s was. But it has better point retention and is slightly harder, making it better for precise writing. Some bloggers theorized that the “extra firm” was the same as the Palomino HB. I tested that out, along with my other Blackwing pencils I have.

“Extra firm” is definitely a different lead. Palomino is even darker than the EF. Its line isn’t as dark as the 54’s. It has even better point retention and just had an overall different feel on the paper. I’d suggest both as good pencils, but they aren’t replicas. I also compared my “soft” and “firm” leads. The “soft” was the darkest, but smudged the most and lost its point quickly.

IMG_4959
Pencil test done on Baron Fig paper

I really enjoyed the 54 and its cool theme! They’re out of stock in many places, but there’s still some floating around if you look. Below are some of the works of the Surrealists mentioned on the box!

Also I found a list of awesome female Surrealists!

europe-after-rain
Max Ernst, Europe After the Rain (1940-42)
Meret-Oppenheim.-Object-469x311
Meret Oppenheimer, Object (1936)
self-portrait-along-the-boarder-line-between-mexico-and-the-united-states
Frida Kahlo, Self-Portrait Between the Borderline of Mexico and the United States (1932)
lam the jungle
Wilfredo Lam, The Jungle (1943)

Sources:

Maruman Spiral Note Basic Review

The Maruman Spiral Note Basic has been recommended as the best fountain pen friendly spiral notebook for students. I mostly agree! However, there are some caveats that make it hard for me to use it with fountain pens. Warning: I am a side-writing leftie, so what bothered me about this notebook may not apply to you! I just wanted to show a left-handed perspective in my review, especially for students who take notes quickly.

I am on a neverending quest to find fountain pen friendly notebooks for taking notes in lecture! The triumvirate of cheap, light and fountain pen friendly has defeated many contenders. Brad from the Pen Addict suggested the Spiral Note Basic was good for students. So I waited for them to restock on Jetpens and ordered five for the spring semester. After several months, I have finally collected my thoughts.

Specs:

  • comes in lined, graph, or blank
  • B5 size
  • $5.70 on Jetpens
  • 70 gsm
  • Perforated pages!

Appearance:

The cover looks rather plain, a brown cardboard cover with space to write down your class. It’s B5 size, which is 6.9 x 9.8 inches. For those who haven’t seen that size before, it’s like a taller, slimmer composition book. The cover has held up for months in my cavernous backpack. Only the edges are rumpled, but no pages have ripped. It is spiral bound with strong metal rings that haven’t bent out of place yet. The Spiral Note lays completely flat and folds back, essential for students who are forced to use tiny desks. The pages are all perforated. None of them became loose but they could be removed cleanly without any damage.

Paper:

The paper is the star of the show. It is 70 gsm and an off-white color. Its light gray lines are 6.5mm, which fits more writing. It has 32 lines on each page. There are margins at the top and a space to number your notes and write the date! The paper is the smoothest I have ever felt, even more so than Tomoe River! It’s relaxing to run my hand over a blank page. The paper is thin but has less show through than the Kokuyo Campus. Once I write on the back, the show through doesn’t bother me.

For my purposes, the paper is too smooth. Softer pencils like the Blackwing 602 feel slippery on the paper. My Papermate Flairs, especially the Black, looked faded and washed out. I liked my gel pens, like the Uniball Signo 207, on this paper the most. The tip is slightly scratchy, so it slides on the paper less. Papermate Ink Joys were bright and vibrant but did take some time to dry. Fountain pens feel amazing on the paper! It was pleasant to write on, with no feedback or fibers catching the nib. I saw hidden sheen on this paper I couldn’t see on Tomoe River! Robert Oster Frankly Blue had a reddish halo, while Kyo no Oto Adzukiiro gained golden sheen. Monteverde Ruby looked vivid and the shading was beautiful. This can easily compete with Tomoe River as the smoothest, highest-quality paper I’ve used.

However, there were some problems for me.  When I could slow down, like to write this review, my Pelikan M605 felt pleasant. But usually, I write fast, using a Lamy Safari M nib or Pilot Metropolitan M nib. I write 5-8 pages per lecture, and quickly! I felt my nib was out of control when I wrote at my normal speed like it might fly off the page. I want to keep on using fountain pens and see if I get used to the slickness.

It took longer than I hoped to dry. As a student who takes copious amounts of notes, this is a downside for me. I’m a left-handed side writer so my hand drags across newly written words. I try to avoid smearing the ink, but on this paper it’s inevitable. Fountain pens, Uniball Signos and Papermate Ink Joys were more likely to smear. However, if you’re right-handed the long dry times may not bother you. This is another leftie thing, but the spiral binding annoys me. The metal digs into my hand when I write, making note-taking a somewhat painful experience. I forgot how much I loved the sturdy glue binding of the Kokuyo Campus.

Spiral Note Basic vs. Kokuyo Campus:

Now how do they compare to my favorite, the glue bound Kokuyo Campus B5? Kokuyo Campus paper absorbs ink quickly, but it doesn’t show off the qualities of the ink as well. They are much lighter, with only 30 pages. I can carry 3 of them without my backpack feeling heavy. I go through 2-3 of them for my more intensive classes, which is both nice and annoying. Nice in that I feel accomplished for finishing a notebook and annoying because I have to search for my other notebooks when I’m studying for exams! I’ve been using the same Spiral Notes the whole semester, instead of going through 2-3 thinner notebooks. But carrying 2-3 Spiral Notes is heavy! My campus is huge and getting from my dorm to class takes 15+ minutes. I pack lightly to avoid back pain, but Spiral Notes always add too much weight to my bag.

FullSizeRender 6
The contenders…

Using Spiral Notes is a better deal for me because it has 80 pages, so 160 pages front and back. They are heavier but quite compact. I bought five Spiral Notes for $28.50 and free shipping. On Amazon, 5-packs of Kokuyo Campus fluctuate from $10-12. I bought three packs. So I guess Spiral Notes are the better deal?

The Maruman Spiral Note Basic is great for high school and college students who want to use their fountain pens for taking notes! However, for lefties and people who are particular about paper, be more cautious. I’m going to keep using them because they’re the best student-friendly notebooks out there.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Lamy Vibrant Pink Ink Review

The Lamy limited edition inks have both enchanted and disappointed me. I discovered the fountain pen world right after the beautiful Lamy Dark Lilac ink sold out. Luckily, I bought a lifetime supply of cartridges at the D.C Pen Show. Petrol didn’t appeal to me at all, so I let that one pass by. Like everyone else, I was annoyed to find out Pacific blue wasn’t a new color (still bought it though). Now Lamy Vibrant Pink comes out, and I’m in love again.

IMG_4286

I bought the ink cartridges, $4.50 for five. This isn’t an eye-searing bubblegum pink like I feared it would be. It’s fun and different than others I’ve seen before. VP shades beautifully. Its color ranges from bright pink to a darker raspberry. It’s not garish but does stand out. I love using unusual ink colors so it’s great for me. It’s very legible and doesn’t strain the eyes. I used this ink to take lecture notes. Even better, VP has a touch of golden sheen! Not too much, but enough to make VP stand out from other pink inks I’ve tried. Just like Lamy Dark Lilac, the sheen needs to be coaxed out with good paper. It’s not visible on my sample paper, Rhodia No. 13 dot grid, nor my Maruman Spiral Note. Tomoe River is magical unicorn paper and brings out its subtle golden sheen. Surprisingly, Kokuyo Campus paper does too!

This ink is well-behaved in my Lamy Safari and doesn’t skip at all. Dry time is under 10 seconds, which is great for my note-taking needs. However, there is one drawback, something I’ve found with almost all red/pink inks. There’s extreme nib creep??? if that’s the right word for it. It’s because red/pink inks are more saturated than green/blue ones, so they leave behind residue on the nib. So my Lamy nib looks really gross.

IMG_4268
EWWWWWWW

But this has happened with Diamine Red Dragon, Monteverde Red, KWZ Crimson, etc. so it isn’t unusual. Wipe it off with a tissue if it bothers you.

This is the first pink ink I enjoy! I need to stock up on another bottle or three…

Monteverde Ruby Ink Review

This is my first review, yay! Today, I tested Monteverde Ruby. It was $8 for 30ml. I don’t mind the smaller size because I never finish bottles anyway. I bought it at the Baltimore Pen Show, among other goodies. 🙂 Red is one of my favorite colors (besides teal) so I’m always on the lookout for new red inks to try.

fullsizeoutput_671
I tried to make the color more accurate, need to work on better lighting

This ink leans more towards orange-red, rather than being a true red. I expected more of a dark ruby color. But I was pleasantly surprised! Ruby reminds me of a flickering flame with its beautiful orange shading. Either that or tomato soup! There is no sheen, but this ink doesn’t need any to stand out. It has a lot of character and isn’t as flat as another favorite, Diamine Red Dragon. (Review forthcoming!) It’s a perfect shade to use in fall because it looks like autumn leaves.

Monteverde claims that its line of ink is lubricated, to stop the nib from drying out. As a result, I found Ruby very wet and certainly lubricated. On Rhodia dot grid paper, the ink dried completely after 15 seconds. I don’t have a photo of it, but on Tomoe River paper it took forever to dry. I accidentally smeared it after 30 seconds. So be careful if you use it on TR. I tend to use more absorbent, fast-drying paper so it doesn’t bother me.

If you’re looking for a beautiful, autumnal red ink, then Monteverde Ruby is a great choice! However, it doesn’t top Diamine Red Dragon as my favorite red ink.

fullsizeoutput_67b
Beautiful shading!
fullsizeoutput_677
I tried to draw a campfire…