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Exacompta Basics (large size), the perfect journal?


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#1 HDoug

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Posted 23 September 2007 - 07:45

SUMMARY: My search for a large, unruled, fountain pen friendly journal ends with the Exacompta Basics sketchbook from Swisher Pens.

THE PATH:
For the longest time, it seems, I've been looking for a journal with the following four characteristics:

(1) Large (U.S. letter or A4) UNLINED pages;

(2) Fountain pen friendly paper that will allow writing on both sides;

(3) Must lie flat (I don't care if there aren't too many pages in a volume); and

(4) Must not require me to write into or out of a "hump" or into a wire binding.

These requirements don't seem too difficult to accommodate, but I've had the hardest time finding something.

I started out with Mead sketchbooks, the kind that are wire-bound at the top:



Couple of problems: (1) Since it's wire-bound at the top, it's hard to write on the "second" page. For a while, I'd write on one side till the end of the volume, then flip the whole thing over and write on the other side. Then Mead seems to have changed the "formulation" of the paper and ink would bleed through to the other side (and feather a bit).

So I tried their side wire-bound sketchbooks that have thicker paper. The paper was a bit too thick, but whatever works... The thing is, I hate writing into the wire biding, so I'd write till the end, flip it over. A completed volume would have a set of pages "going" and a set "coming" like this:



Then I found some Lalo cahiers at Vickery.com and tried them out. The big one (8.25 x 11.5) was perfect! The paper, an off-white laid that loved fountain pen inks and nibs! I decided to order another, but the large journals have apparently been discontinued!

I tried Renaissance Art -- expensive, even without the leather -- but didn't like the paper. Too thick and too bumpy -- like watercolor art paper or something.

After searching the web, I found that Exacompta makes what they call "Basics" series of journals and sketchbooks. They're called "sketchbooks" if they have unruled paper. I thought I'd try one out, but after emailing a bunch of internet shops, I couldn't find one that either stocked it, or were willing to special order it for me.

Except for SwisherPens.com. Swisher's Jennie Lee told me that If I didn't mind ordering them in packs of three, and be willing to wait a little longer than usual (special order), they would put an order in for this finicky guy. Each sketchbook is 50 sheets, 100 pages long, and the edges are gilt in gold. I can do without the gilding, especially when I calculate that it's just driving the price of each journal up. After all, it's the paper that I'm after.

They look plain straight on...



... but have a shiny, gold gilding (that I'm sorry I don't have a photo of).

The big surprise was that although at 8.25 X 10.5 inches it was slightly smaller than the Lalo cahier, the paper was exactly the same! Yeah! Here's a pic of an Exacompta Basics sketchbook lying on top of the Lalo cahier. For scale, that's a Pelikan 605:



The paper is wonderfully fountain pen friendly. One caveat: its luscious off-white pages are a "laid" paper and have a finely lined pattern on one side (and a smooth one on the other side). Some of us like paper that's smooth as glass, paper like Clairefontaine or HP Premium. The laid side of this paper has a texture (I hesitate to describe it as "tooth").

Here's a close scan of my smallish writing. The "m" in "proclamation" is about 2mm high, and the nib is a .5mm Binder cursive italic (with my own bulletproof Noodler mix, New Old Bishop Street Blue-Black):



I use a very light touch, so the slight texture caused by the laid pattern is a non-issue for me, but just mentioning it as something that might tint some opinions.

Although I appreciate Clairefontaine's (and HP Premium's) smooth surface, one thing I don't like is the way it seems to "absorb" the ink. I'm not talking about feathering, but something else. It tends to make the inks I use less lively. The paper in the Exacompta journal is more like Crane's stationery -- the ink seems to sit on top of the paper. Here's a closer cropping of the above:



No feathering at all, no bleed,shadowing, or print-through!

I don't know if my quest for the perfect journal is completely concluded -- I'm open to suggestion -- but I'm willing to rest at this oasis for a while.

Doug

P.S. Jennie Lee of Swisher Pens emailed me to say that they will be stocking this item -- it's no longer a special order, and you can order them one at a time instead of a pack of three. I can't find the item on Swisher's Exacompta page, but if you're interested, here it is on the "purchase" page.

Edited by HDoug, 23 September 2007 - 07:51.


#2 CharlieB

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Posted 23 September 2007 - 12:02

Doug: Great post with a very complete and clear explanation of what you've been seeking and your successful journey in finding it. Congratulations!

Like you, I prefer large cahiers formats, mainly because my writing style can't accommodate any kind of "bump" on the left or top edges of a journal. My favorite journal is the Moleskines Cahiers, in either the 5x8 or 8x11 size. However, like other members of this forum, I am dismayed by the poor quality of the paper.

For me, not just any cahiers format will work. It has to be thin. In other words, like you, I'm willing to live with few pages in order to get it to lay perfectly flat while I'm using it.

I love your ink color, but it has too many ingredients for me. I may try experimenting with adding just a few drops of Noodlers Black to Luxury Blue or Swishmix Blue to see if I can come up with something similar, but less complicated.
CharlieB

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#3 lefty928

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Posted 23 September 2007 - 16:29

Congratulations, Doug. I know you've been looking for quite awhile. Does the notebook lie really flat when open?

I have a couple blank Basics notebooks, non-sketchbook and non-gilded-edge version, but the paper (not a laid paper) was a bit rough and featherprone for my finicky tastes. Will have to make note of this model in my own continuing search for the just-right notebook (and I have an embarrassingly large stash of "rejected" or "maybe I'll find a special purpose for this one someday" collection of blank books).
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#4 HDoug

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Posted 23 September 2007 - 19:53

QUOTE(CharlieB @ Sep 23 2007, 02:02 AM) View Post
I love your ink color, but it has too many ingredients for me. I may try experimenting with adding just a few drops of Noodlers Black to Luxury Blue or Swishmix Blue to see if I can come up with something similar, but less complicated.


I think your mix will work fine. I only added Legal Lapis to get a very slight green tinge. You can't even notice it unless it's next to a "true" blue ink. I've never been a very visual person, so this ink-thing is really fascinating. I no longer think of color in "absolute" terms, but just a "place" relative to other colors. (Or something like that -- I need more coffee to get my sentence-making machinery started up...)

Doug


#5 HDoug

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Posted 23 September 2007 - 19:56

QUOTE(lefty928 @ Sep 23 2007, 06:29 AM) View Post
Does the notebook lie really flat when open?


No, not really flat, but thankfully, adequately flat. It's just on the good side of the acceptably flat borderline.

Doug


#6 lefty928

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Posted 23 September 2007 - 20:12

Thanks for the helpful answer.

I was horrified recently to find out that now I am noticing the finer gradations of flat. Moleskines lie really flat. A sketchbook I was using turned out not to lie flat and so I abandoned it for sketching. The Black n' Red casebound notebook I have started lies flat, but probably not adequately so.

When will it end? ohmy.gif
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#7 Brian

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Posted 23 September 2007 - 20:49

Thanks for a really great review post. I use the same larger format for work and for a while used bookstore special hardcover journals such as found at Borders Books. Over the years many makers have changed the paper type and papers ranging from mead to loose leaf papers tended to feather...aargh. Switching to Rhodia is a possibility, but I am happy to know about this option.

Best regards

#8 quattro98

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Posted 08 May 2008 - 21:26

I use the ruled version of this notebook in the 5.5 x 8.25" size. I like the version with silver edges instead of gold (# 993/0). There is also a leather cover which is nice, because it provides have a durable cover for the notebook I am actively using.

http://www.swisherpe...a/exacompta.htm

http://www.pendemoni...y_exacompta.htm




#9 Phelsuma

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Posted 03 September 2010 - 13:56

T
his is a very old post that I'm resurrecting but does anyone know where I can get the larger version of the Exacompta basics sketch book? I'd really like a couple. I can only find the smaller ones at the moment.

Thanks guys.

#10 shane27

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Posted 07 September 2010 - 15:25

T
his is a very old post that I'm resurrecting but does anyone know where I can get the larger version of the Exacompta basics sketch book? I'd really like a couple. I can only find the smaller ones at the moment.

Thanks guys.


It seems that the a4 sized Basics journal was discontinued a couple of years ago...which sucks because they were awesome if you like the larger size (which I do). I think there might be a couple of vendors that make a large sized blank journal but I haven't seen any in a while.
Currently in use: TWSBI Mini Classic (EF nib)

#11 Rekord

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Posted 23 September 2010 - 07:59

Ask Brian about it: My link see if he can order it for you.
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#12 shane27

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Posted 01 October 2010 - 00:31

I asked him and also Karen at Exaclair and they no longer make them. There is a Moleskine 8.5 x 11ish available though, don't know about the paper or anything though.
Currently in use: TWSBI Mini Classic (EF nib)

#13 glyeakley

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Posted 20 October 2010 - 14:46

Someday I hope my handwriting looks half as good as yours.
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#14 alvarez57

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Posted 05 November 2010 - 01:35

Has anyone tried Exacompta Forum paper? I like their Nostalgie journals but read somewhere that the paper is not worth for fountain pens. Please advise!
Thanks.

sonia alvarez

 

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#15 Ghost Plane

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Posted 05 November 2010 - 02:53

The older ones had 60g and were disappointing. I don't know how the newer ones are.

If in doubt for paper questions, Brian Goulet or his missus at Goulet Pens are wonderful about answering questions, special ordering less popular sizes, or testing products. :thumbup:

#16 alvarez57

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Posted 06 November 2010 - 00:03

The older ones had 60g and were disappointing. I don't know how the newer ones are.

If in doubt for paper questions, Brian Goulet or his missus at Goulet Pens are wonderful about answering questions, special ordering less popular sizes, or testing products. :thumbup:


:thumbup:

sonia alvarez

 

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#17 GouletPens

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Posted 06 November 2010 - 15:38

The A4 sketchbooks are no longer imported in the US. I don't know if they're discontinued entirely or just not in the US. They haven't been in the US since I started carrying the line last year. I would also like to note that the tan sketchbook with gold edges is no longer available even in the A5 size. You can get the 'journal' or lined version with the tan cover, but if you want the blank 'sketchbook' version, the only option is A5 black cover with silver edging. Still a great sketchbook though! It uses 100g G. Lalo Vergé de France paper, if you've ever used that.

Thanks for the kind words too :rolleyes:
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