Saturday, January 17, 2009

Review: Exacompta Basics Journal

Karen Doherty, the VP of Marketing at Exaclair (the US distributor of Clairefontaine, Exacompta, Rhodia, Quo Vadis, J. Herbin, and more) generously provided this blank journal for review purposes. Thanks, Karen! :-)

Here's the link to their website, where you can find the latest catalog (Karen informed me that the new catalog will be coming relatively soon!).

The Exacompta "Basics" Tan lined journal is the subject of this review (E993/, page 22 of the 2008 catalog). It's a little bit confusing, since they have basically the same name, but this is NOT the same thing as the Clairefontaine "Basics" journals (p. 13 of the catalog, C79546).

Note: You can enlarge any of the pics in this review by clicking on the picture!

According to their website:
• Tan with brown cloth binding and gold edge /1 (lined only)
• 25% cotton, pH neutral, 100 g off white paper

The paper appears to be 80gsm.

This journal also comes with a black cover and silver gilding. There are 100 lined sheets in the journal, and it measures 5 1/2" x 8".

Here's a pic of the journal, still in its protective plastic:

And a pic of the back cover in plastic:

The front cover, with the journal standing up. Love the picture of the inkwell and quill dip pen on the cover! The cover is a textured cardboard cover, clothbound. According to their catalog, there is a leather cover available (M9934/), but I haven't seen this at the "usual suspects" websites.

A bright, multicolored ribbon marker (orange, red & green) is bound to the spine. It has an unfinished edge, cut at a diagonal. As you can see, the ribbon doesn't extend that far past the bottom of the journal. It's not too short, but if it was any shorter, it might be hard to grab.

Love the gold gilt edges! Unlike some gilding, this didn't come off on my fingers when I rubbed the edge of the journal. What a relief! I didn't want to look like an 8-year-old who had played with glitter glue after handling the journal. (Not that there's anything wrong with that! ;-)

Inside the front cover and 1st endpaper (there are 2 in the front and 2 in the back). The first endpaper doesn't open fully (it's attached to the front cover), but the second endpaper opens completely.

The first "real" page. This journal opens pretty flat (almost all of the pics in this review were taken without any assistance in holding it open). However, there is a bit of a hump in the middle, especially at the beginning of a signature. I'm not very picky about this, but some of you out there might care!

Here's the inside of the journal, showing a stitched signature. There are 4 stitches, approximately 1" each in length. There's about 1 1/8" margin between the top of the top stitch and the top of the journal (and the same margin on the bottom of the page). I didn't find this to be a problem in turning the pages--the signatures did not lift up while I did so--but again, some people are concerned about this.

Here's the ribbon bookmarker.

Closeup of signature stitching.

The paper is a laid finish, but not as obvious as some G. Lalo cards I have. It's pretty subtle, but definitely present. The paper is an off-white/cream color, easy on the eyes, but not buttery yellow.

I wrote with several different colors of fountain pen ink, with nibs ranging from 0.3mm to XXXXF super-needlepoint. Normally, since I write with such finely-nibbed pens, I prefer glassy smooth paper--I don't like a lot of feedback while writing. I expected to really dislike the texture, but I was surprised that I actually found it pretty interesting with my 0.3mm nibs. It was a little distracting with my super-needlepoint pens, however.

I normally prefer bright white Clairefontaine paper, because I use lots of brightly colored inks, and the white paper shows off the ink color better. However, the color wasn't too yellow for me, and made some of my ink colors seem warmer. I still prefer the bright white, however, given the choice, though many people like off-white paper for ease of reading.

Most of the inks I tried fared pretty well on this paper. There was some feathering with Noodler's Spirit of Bamboo, Britannia's Blue Waves, La Reine Mauve, and Prime of the Commons Blue-Black, but those tend to feather on many papers. The feathering wasn't bad enough to be really distracting, but this did feather more than the standard bright white Clairefontaine paper. It didn't widen the line as far as I can tell.

Here's the reverse side of the page. As expected, the lines written with my finest-nibbed pens didn't show through much at all. There is a little bit of showthrough with the darker inks and the wider nibs, but not much. And absolutely NO bleedthrough whatsoever (YMMV). Britannia's Blue Waves tends to bleed through many different papers, but not this one!

Here's a comparison with a small Clairefontaine notebook:

The line spacing in this journal was a bit wide for me (10mm between lines). I find Clairefontaine line spacing a bit wide, and this was even wider that that! But some of you may actually prefer this, especially if you write with juicy broad nibs, or have large handwriting and feel cramped by the line spacing of other journals.

Here's a comparison with a Markings by C.R. Gibson small pocket journal. I like the line spacing in the Markings journal better, but that's a personal preference. This journal is almost 2 Markings lines per 1 Basics line.

Here's a comparison with the small US Quo Vadis Habana. The line spacing is similar to the Markings journal, almost 2 lines to 1 Basics line. Note the difference in paper color, too.

The back cover.

Overall, this is a nice journal, and would be even nicer as a refill with a cover--I found the cardboard cover more durable than I expected, but I'd prefer to use it with a refillable cover. The line spacing is good for people with large handwriting, and the laid paper gave a little feedback, but not too much. The paper performed better than some journals with my FP inks (mostly Noodler's), as it didn't widen the lines of my nibs, but not as well as the regular bright white Clairefontaine paper--there was a bit of feathering with this paper. There was very little showthrough, and absolutely NO bleedthrough with my ink/nib combos, so those of you who write on both sides of the page might accept a little bit of feathering for this quality! The paper is very easy on the eyes without being too yellow, and the size is nice for those of you who don't need a pocket-sized journal--it's still small enough to put in a bag or large purse easily.

Update: For those of you interested in a cover for this journal, there are a couple of different covers available for this journal--a beautiful, upscale Mignon leather version (M9934 or M9924) and a pebble-grained Prestige Leather version.

Update #2: This also comes in a leather Saint Germain cover and a leather-like Madeira cover. Both on sale now at Writers Bloc (as of 2/18/09)--$20.00 and $14.50, respectively!

Update #3 (4/13/09): Here's the same notebook after it's been "toddler tested!" :-D

I Have a Problem....

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This is a pic of the journals stacking up on my desk from about a month ago. Can you name the journals in this pic? (Answers forthcoming.)

Embarrassingly, there have already been several new additions since this pic was taken--probably at least 11 new journals. While I've written in several of these journals, none of these are full! (Well, okay, one has been filled since this pic was taken. :-)

Anyway, more journals reviews will be added, as I find the time (and if the weather ever obliges me--it's been overcast for at least a week!).

Thursday, January 1, 2009

FPN Review: Noodler's X-Feather

(Here's a link to my review on FPN.)

As many of you know, Jetpens has started carrying Noodler's ink. They had a few bottles that were damaged during shipping that couldn't be sold. They offered the damaged bottles free to the first 6 people who responded in exchange for a review of the ink. They kindly sent me a bottle!

Noodler's X-Feather was designed to resist feathering, especially on cheap papers. It is billed as archival and 100% bulletproof.

I tried to use different papers than those used by the other 2 reviewers. I tried Noodler's X-Feather along with Noodler's Esplanade (Singapore exclusive), Noodler's Prime of the Commons Blue-Black (UK exclusive), and Noodler's La Reine Mauve (regular distribution). Esplanade in particular feathers a lot on many different papers, PCBB varies in its feathering qualities, and La Reine Mauve is generally well-behaved.

I used Sensa Meridian FPs, custom ground to 0.3mm, in all the handwritten samples.

Here are pics of samples on the different papers I tried:

Cheap copy paper (Georgia Pacific, 88 brightness, 20#)

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Mead Composition Book, Vietnam paper

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Index card (Oxford brand, really old and slightly yellowed)

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Newsprint (old TV guide from the Sunday paper)

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Facial tissue (Puffs)

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Ink drying time: As you can see, it smudged at 10 seconds (but not much at 5 seconds). This will be variable depending on how much ink was laid down by the pen, etc. I've used X-Feather to take notes on cheap copy paper, and it seemed to dry pretty fast--I'd heard it takes a long time. It probably does on Clairefontaine paper with a super-smooth finish, but that's not the type of paper this ink was made for!

Ink flow:
I really like the flow--it's not too dry in my pens, but not too wet, either! It puts down a nice, tight line, and doesn't widen on the page. I left it in a pen without using it for 5 days, and it started up immediately. I haven't experienced any problems while pausing during writing.

Overall, this is a nice, rich black ink that was very well-behaved in my Sensa Meridians. It performed beautifully on cheap recycled papers, and, true to its name, didn't feather! It didn't bleed through anything I tried, either, not even on the facial tissue! Its flow was perfect in my pens, and felt nice while writing. The drying time on cheap, absorbent papers was much better than I thought (on the newsprint, it seemed to dry almost instantaneously). I wouldn't bother using this ink if you mostly use Clairefontaine paper or other papers that are pretty feather-resistant anyway, but if you use a lot of more porous papers or a wide variety of papers, X-Feather will do the trick!

FPN Review: Noodler's Majestic Orange (Singapore Series)

(Here's a link to my first FPN review!)

Here's a review of Noodler's Majestic Orange (thanks to penguinmaster for the review template!):

This ink is from Noodler's Singapore Series. It's billed as bulletproof, though I haven't tested its waterproofness or UV-fastness, etc.

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The handwritten sample was written on HP 32# Premium Laserjet paper with a Sensa Meridian gold-plated nib, custom ground to an XF 0.3mm round point.

Drying time: pretty good for a Noodler's bulletproof ink. As you can see, there wasn't much smudging after 10 seconds.

Flow: good flow--doesn't gush, but is definitely not on the stingy side. It starts up immediately even after leaving it unused in the pen for a week or more. It also performs well while writing, and doesn't dry up in the nib while you pause.

Feathering/Bleedthrough: I tried this ink on many different papers (Rhodia, Clairefontaine, Pentalic, Alvin Saray, Apica, Derwent, hand*book, Pen+Ink, Exacompta). There was no feathering on most of these papers--the Rhodia, Apica, Pentalic had a very, very tiny bit of feathering (like a tiny stray bump every few words or so), but most people probably wouldn't notice it. I'm a bit obsessive about feathering. There wasn't any bleedthough that I could detect (if by bleedthrough you mean dotting the next page). There was a little bit of show-through on the reverse side of the page in thinner paper such as Apica (though less than some other Noodler's bulletproofs like Upper Ganges Blue).

Shading: very little on any paper I tried. I only use XF Sensa Meridians, so I have no experience with other pens/nibs.

I'm not sure I'd use this ink to write a novel--it'd be a bit hard to read that much text in this color. I use it for journal entries and margin notes. It's a nice, strong orange without being too reddish (it looks redder on my monitor than it does in real life). In fact, now that I look at my Rhodia pad, it's not that dissimilar from the orange cover of the stapled graph paper pad. How's that for a frame of reference!

FPN Review: Noodler's Mata Hari's Cordial (new formulation)

Here's a link to my third FPN review.

This is Noodler's Mata Hari's Cordial, in the new formulation. The previous review was of the old formulation, from what I can gather, since the color of the other review looks closer to Pendemonium's swatch of the old formulation. I traded a fellow FPNer for a sample of this ink.

Here's a scan before color correction:

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In a post somewhere, Nathan said this color was "burgundy." I've never gotten anything close to that! I'd call it an eggplant color--it's purplish-gray, with a hint of reddish. The scan above looks more like Iraqi Indigo/The Violet Vote--in real life, the ink isn't nearly that violet.

Here's an attempt to color-correct a bit--this scan is a bit too purpley and not reddish enough (and the pinkish undertones around the Q-tip swab is an artifact of my color correction), but it's the best I could do. The text looks closer to the actual thing on my monitor, though.

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This is a bulletproof ink in the UK Series, sold exclusively in the US by Their swatch looks a little redder than I've experienced. In the UK, Pelikan Pens sells it (probably among other places). Pelikan Pens' swatch is a little more violet on my monitor than I've experienced--Mata Hari's Cordial looks closer to their scan of Highland's Heather to me.

The ink dries about standard for a Noodler's bulletproof--not the fastest, but not the slowest. There was a little smearing even at 30 seconds, but that was on a particularly wet spot of ink where I finished the downstroke. I've never had a problem with smearing.

The flow is good--not fast, not slow. It doesn't widen the line that I can tell.

This ink is a good all-around performer--it did feather the tiniest bit on some papers (I was surprised by a teeny bit on Rhodia). However, it worked pretty well on cheap copy paper and never had more than a little bit on any of the 15+ papers I tried. It never bled through any papers I tried, but there was some showthrough on the thinner papers.

The color is reasonably consistent, though it does look a bit murkier on cheap copy paper, and shows up better on bright white, higher quality papers.

There's a little bit of shading (I'm not the best judge of this, though--I can never tell if an ink shades unless it's REALLY obvious).

This ink is very close in color to Noodler's Singapore Sepia, but the SS is even grayer and less reddish.

This is a nice ink, and I think I'll get a bottle (if it's ever back in stock), but this is not my dream BP purple! It's too eggplanty and not purpley enough.

FPN Review: Noodler's Lotus Grace (Singapore Series)

Here's a link to the second review I did on FPN (The Fountain Pen Network): Noodler's Lotus Grace ink. I'm not thrilled with the color corrections, and my scanner didn't quite capture the proper color. (Later on, I switched to taking photographs of handwritten samples, as they captured the colors more accurately.)

A review of Noodler's Lotus Grace (thanks to penguinmaster for the review template!):

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This ink is from Noodler's Singapore Series. It's billed as bulletproof, though I haven't tested its waterproofness or UV-fastness, etc.

The handwritten sample was written on HP 32# Premium Laserjet paper with a Sensa Meridian chrome nib, custom ground to an XF 0.3mm round point.

Drying time: somewhat slow. There was some smudging after 10 seconds, and even a tiny bit at 30 seconds where the ink pooled in the center of the X.

Flow: When it's flowing, it flows fine. However, it often dries up overnight (capped). I don't mind that much--I just drip a drop or two of water on the nib then wipe it off, and it's fine for the day, but this may bother some people. After this treatment, it doesn't dry up in the nib with moderate pauses, but if you leave it uncapped for a couple minutes it needs a stroke or two to start up again.

• MiquelRius - no noticeable feathering. No bleedthrough, but there is a fair amount of showthrough, especially where the ink pools at the end of a downstroke.
• Alvin Saray graph paper - minimal feathering, no bleedthrough, minimal to moderate showthrough.
• Derwent - moderate feathering, no bleedthrough, no showthrough.
• hand*book - minimal to moderate feathering. No bleedthrough, only a hint of showthrough.
• Pen+Ink - moderate feathering, no bleedthrough, moderate showthrough.
• Exacompta Nostalgie/Basic - no feathering, no bleedthrough, minimal to moderate showthrough.
• white onion skin paper - no feathering. It's translucent, so it shows through completely, but does not bleed through the paper.
• random cheap copy paper - minimal feathering, no bleedthrough, minimal showthrough.
• Apica - no noticeable feathering. No bleedthrough, but some showthrough.
• Pentalic (ivory paper) - minimal feathering, no bleedthrough, moderate showthrough.
• Clairefontaine - no feathering, no bleedthrough, minimal to moderate showthrough.
• Markings by CR Gibson (off-white paper) - minimal to moderate feathering, no bleedthrough, moderate showthrough.
• Exacompta Journey - no feathering, no bleedthrough, minimal to moderate showthrough.
• Rhodia - negligible feathering, no bleedthrough, minimal showthrough.

Shading: minimal--a little bit where the ink pools on some papers. I only use XF Sensa Meridians, so I have no experience with other pens/nibs.

Nib Creep: minimal. Clearly visible in the center nib slit, but doesn't significantly extend past the slit.

Overall, this is a beautiful, bright magenta-pink color. It looks a lot pinker on my monitor than it does in real life--not sure if that's my scanner or my monitor. (I plan to send it to someone who can calibrate the scan.) On paper, it's much more magenta and much darker than it appears on my monitor--it looks a lot like Rachmaninov on my monitor, but it looks nothing like Rachmaninov in real life. It looks closer to scans I've seen of Socrates (I don't have Socrates) in real life. In Deirdre's picture in this thread, it looks more purple to me on my monitor than it does in real life. It's a little purpley, just not as much as it appears on my monitor. Interestingly, Deirdre appears to have gotten some shading with this ink.

This ink frequently dries in the nib overnight. I'm willing to put up with it for the color and bulletproof nature, but others may find this too high-maintenance. I haven't experimented with adding InkSafe or water to it yet (I usually dilute Rachmaninov with water, which makes it quite usable).

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I played with the settings a little, and this appears a bit closer on my monitor to the color in real life. It's still a bit more magenta than this in real life, but this is closer than the original scan!

Review: Quo Vadis Journal 21 (Exaclair)

I received this complementary copy of the Quo Vadis Journal 21 after responding to a call for reviewers on the Quo Vadis blog. Thank you, Karen Doherty for sending it! Here are my thoughts:

Overall, I liked this journal/agenda a lot. The super-smooth, light-colored paper was divine for my purposes, but as always, YMMV--some might find it a bit too thin or white (even though it's slightly off-white). Even though I generally prefer journals that are much smaller, I found this to be a nice size for an agenda, particularly if you have lots of items each day. I also liked that it's refillable, so if you find a cover you like, you can keep using it. However, if I were to purchase this, I'd get a different cover, and I'd prefer if it had a ribbon bookmarker and some sort of closure. But these are personal preferences!

Front cover picture (I had peeled the sticker off the cover, then tried to put it back on for the picture, so it's a bit curled--it was pristine when I received it).
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The cover on the version I received is black vinyl, with a faux "stitching" pattern on the edges. It has a slight vinyl odor to it--not horrible, but noticeable to me. I didn't like the sharpness of the edges, either--I could totally see myself accidentally skimming the edge of the cover trying to get it out of a bag or something, and getting one heck of a paper cut! They do come in 2 different covers, though. I like the Club covers I've seen on other Quo Vadis agendas in the store--they're made of a prettier, softer vinyl. Otherwise, the cover is nice and classic-looking.

Front cover with paper insert
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Inside front cover
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Personal information page
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Personal information page, closer up
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Semi-annual planner pages
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The semi-annual planner pages seem like they would be handy for some people, so they could see a half-year's worth of information on 2 pages. I intend to use this mainly as a journal, so I could see putting people's birthdays on these pages.

Monthly planner pages
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The monthly planner pages are also a nice touch, so you can see upcoming events. I like the ability to have some perspective in a planner, even though the body of the journal itself is in a daily format.

Writing sample on a main body page
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Close-up of writing sample
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Reverse side of the writing sample page
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I LOVED the paper in this agenda/journal. This is what really makes the journal for me. Even though the paper is pretty thin, I happen to like that in a journal--otherwise, the journal becomes too thick and unwieldy. The paper is extremely smooth to the touch and writes like a dream with a fountain pen. Even my super-needlepoint fountain pens wrote smoothly in this journal, unlike some other papers, where the very fine nibs catch on paper fibers. I couldn't seem to stop touching the paper, it was so nice! The paper is off-white--not the brilliant bright white of other Clairefontaine papers, but not buttery yellow/cream colored.

However, as you can easily see from the pictures, you can see the ink showing through on the other side. I didn't have any bleedthrough, where there were dots on the next sheet of paper, but you could definitely see that something was written on the reverse side of the page. This didn't bother me, but it might be a consideration for some people. For those of you interested, I used Sensa Meridian fountain pens, custom ground with various nibs (0.3mm down to XXXXF super-needlepoint). The inks I tested performed admirably--the only one with feathering easily discernable to the naked eye was Noodler's Britannia's Blue Waves, which feathers horribly on lots of paper, especially if you don't use a hairline nib.

There are little perforated tabs that can be removed from each page to help you find the current page, but I don't think I'll personally use them. I would have preferred a ribbon bookmark of some sort, instead, but that's a minor issue.

Blank main body page, showing stitching of signatures
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Close-up of signature stitching
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I really like that this journal has stitched signatures, so the agenda lays flat. I didn't have to push on it much at all, and I took all the pictures in this review without having to hold the book open. I didn't measure it, but the book is about an inch thick. I also think that stitched signatures make for a nicer experience--glued-in books tend to crack at the spine and open unevenly.

Address/phone information pages in the back
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Back inside cover
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Back cover
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All in all, I liked this agenda/journal a lot more than I expected, since it's much larger than the journals I usually use. I suspected I would like the paper, since I use a lot of Clairefontaine paper, which has never disappointed me. The paper in this Journal 21 was no exception--it was ultra-smooth, light-colored, and wonderful to touch. It was heavenly with my very fine-nibbed pens, too, which can be scratchy on "normal" paper. There was no noticeable feathering on most of the inks I tried, and very little with inks that feather a lot on normal cheap copy paper.

I usually use 3"x5" or 4"x6" journals, so I thought this might be too large. I'll probably use this for my desk diary to jot down various things that happen each day, so the size is actually pretty nice. I would have liked some sort of closure (elastic or a snap), because if I carried it around, it would get trashed in my bag. But this isn't a deal-breaker!

Thanks again to Exaclair (US distributor of Clairefontaine/Quo Vadis/Exacompta products and more) for the opportunity to review this product!