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Levenger's Circa System


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#1 art8283

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Posted 06 September 2010 - 02:45

I am looking for opinions or reviews on Levenger's Circa notebooks, particularly from those who have had some experience with the system.

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#2 Blade Runner

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Posted 06 September 2010 - 02:52

I'm curious too. I understand you can use your own paper if you buy one of their punches. Do you recommend the portable, desk, or both?

#3 Pippin60

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Posted 06 September 2010 - 02:59

You can use your own paper and buy the circa rings. You need to use their punch however. Pretty good system you can use it to create a number of writing systems. I don't use it as I like Franklin Covey organizers but my life uses it for her recipes. I had brought her a starter kit a few years ago.

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#4 art8283

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Posted 06 September 2010 - 03:03

I'm curious too. I understand you can use your own paper if you buy one of their punches. Do you recommend the portable, desk, or both?

I am not using the Circa system, but am seeking information from users. The desk punch is about $70 and the portable punch is about $40. I am hesitant to start using the Circa system because everything you want to include into the notebook has to be punched to create the required holes. That means, for example, every piece of correspondence one receives and wants to save in the notebook will have to be "marred" with Levenger's proprietary punch pattern. Perhaps the system comes with pre-punched plastic sleeves into which unpunched pages can be inserted, but I have not found them on Levenger's site.

#5 welch

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Posted 06 September 2010 - 03:12

I tried the Circa a few years ago. Concluded:

- the rings are delicate, and pages tend to fall out...at least when you toss a Circa notebook in your briefcase, take it out, write, put it back, etc. Not durable for ordinary use,

- there might be some reinforcements you can buy to make the pages hold better, but that's not worth the effort. Page by page, ring by ring.

- I love the page layout, but Levenger's paper acts like a blotter with fountain pens. Feathers and bleeds. Their Notabilia notebooks did well with fountain pens, but not the Circa. Sad, because they have such handy page formats. Same problems with their three-ring binder paper.

On the whole, I thiknk you are better off with ordinary three-hole punch paper and notebooks.
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#6 KCat

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Posted 06 September 2010 - 03:20

I bought the Rollabind punch (they make the Levenger punch) and found it for a good $20 less than Levenger's price. But that was several years ago so may not be as good a deal now.

Yes, they do have sleeves for unpunched pages. They also have "zipper" pockets for Circa. The Circa Starter Kit

http://www.levenger....2-3|pageid=5574

Is a pretty good introduction to some of the products available.

here are other Circa accessories including sheet protectors, pocket dividers, zip pockets, etc.

http://www.levenger....6-329|level=2-3

I do not use mine as a planner or journal. I have one for keeping my submissions records (rather thin right now) and one for keeping syllabi and so forth for classes. I use too much paper to use them for actual class work.

I find most of the circa paper to be lacking. Surprisingly, the color circa papers are better behaved with FP ink than the white paper. In general, I use my own paper if it's something I want to really stand up to abuse. I have a small circa I use for keeping track of s/w information on my PCs for example. That needs to handle a lot of page-turning. The circa cards are virtual blotting paper, IMO. So unless you use a XX or XXXF nib, you will likely be disappointed with those. I was. Still, they get the job done in the short term.

I print my syllabi on 20lb paper and punch it and that seems to do okay. It's not for writing on so all I care about is that it stays in place. For writing I wouldn't go less than 24 lbs quality printer paper.

The zipper pocket holds all correspondence and receipts from school. I like that a lot. Very handy and sturdy. I use the plastic covers BUT, when I bought my Rollabind punch, I also bought some prepunched heavy cardboard that rollabind produces (or someone produces for Rollabind) and these give the notebook added strength for a lot less money than the leather covers. And, if you're artsy, you can decorate it as you wish. The plastic covers are just to keep the cardboard from getting too grimy since I am NOT artsy.

I don't see the cardboard covers anymore - though there is a recycled paper board cover. Don't know if it's the same weight as what I have which is almost Black n' Red weight.

Edited by KCat, 06 September 2010 - 03:27.

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#7 revbyrd1

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Posted 06 September 2010 - 03:53

I have been using the Circa System for several years and find it to be quite ample for any of my needs. I use it professionally, I am a pastor, and I have used it in all areas of my position. Taking notes in meetings, counseling, sermon preparation, and so forth. I do not have the Circa hole punch because I have simply purchased the paper from Levenger, and I have found it very FP friendly. I like the Cornell layout very much.

I have the dividers and the zipper pockets that I have used for various and sundry items. It allows you to fold the front, or back, cover over very easily to take up very little space. The choices in size are ample to allow for many uses, but I am also very biased when it comes to Levenger products. Most of my professional items are purchased from them.

The system is very easy to personalize through the various covers and rings that can be chosen. Monograms are an option and the professional appearance is without question. It definitely draws attention wherever you use it.
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#8 clickiechick

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Posted 06 September 2010 - 06:57

I've been using the discbound system now for close to 4 years. I wasn't happy with Rollabind quality paper or covers but I liked the modularity of the system, so I upgraded to the Levenger stuff and have been a very satisfied user since then.

According to my experience:

Pros: Flexibility! If you buy the punch (the new fullsize levenger punch has the nice big holes) you can punch anything you want, within reason, and bind it. I use it for scrap 3x5 notebooks, little "art" notebooks or activity books for kids, and for my own agenda. I find that the 2x3 card size comes in really handy for slapping pretty much into any circa-fied creation.

Also, durability! I use 24# paper and leather covers and have had no issues with papers falling out randomly, even the ones that I punch with my marginally inferior Rollabind punch (smaller holes). I'm a klutz and I've dropped my junior sized leather Levenger foldover notebook on hard floors repeatedly over the years and only once have I had one of the "teeth" chip. Levenger replaced it, no problems. I've thrown my Levenger micra leather foldover notebook (holds 2x3" cards) into the wash, even. It was all puffy with water when I pulled it out afterward, but I just pressed the water out of it and let it air dry. It looks and feels no different than it did brand new. Shocked me, I thought I had destroyed it for sure.

Cons: Price, initially. I'd recommend just buying some prepunched papers, discs, and plastic covers of different sizes initially to toy around with. Also some people just don't like the exposed rings. There are wraparound covers for the notebooks, sold by both Levenger and Renaissance Arts, if exposed rings are not your thing.


Good luck with your choice!
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#9 D.C. in PA

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Posted 06 September 2010 - 19:32

I use the Circa system extensively. As noted in an earlier post, it is not 'tossable,' meaning that it will not take the abuse of a hard spline three or five ring binder in terms of being casually thrown into a briefcase, messinger, or backpack. Other than such rough use (my definition) however, my stuff has held up well. Customizability is a huge plus - Levenger offers everthing short of spaceflight in their range. I've not found the paper particularly fp friendly, a disappointment. I'm a bit of a Rhodia snob, and am considering a Saturday punching orange covered materials with the punch (desk version) I bought several years ago.
In short - Levenger, please go for better paper. Failure to do so will not, however, avert my attention from a system that serves my work needs.
D.C. in PA - Always bitin' off more than I can chew.

#10 KCat

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Posted 06 September 2010 - 20:42

I use the Circa system extensively. As noted in an earlier post, it is not 'tossable,' meaning that it will not take the abuse of a hard spline three or five ring binder in terms of being casually thrown into a briefcase, messinger, or backpack. Other than such rough use (my definition) however, my stuff has held up well. Customizability is a huge plus - Levenger offers everthing short of spaceflight in their range. I've not found the paper particularly fp friendly, a disappointment. I'm a bit of a Rhodia snob, and am considering a Saturday punching orange covered materials with the punch (desk version) I bought several years ago.
In short - Levenger, please go for better paper. Failure to do so will not, however, avert my attention from a system that serves my work needs.


One of the reasons I got the cardboard covers (which I can't find now) was because they were larger than Levenger covers and allowed me to fit Rhodia A4 paper in there easily.

The Levenger paper is smooth and maybe it works well with some inks and fine nibs but for most of my pens and most of my inks it feathers too much. When I first started buying Levenger products they had thicker paper that was much better behaved. They had these wonderful top-hole-punch legal pads. "Juris" pads. I guess they got too expensive to produce for a smaller market than their other papers.

Don't ya wish Rhodia would make loose leaf papers just for people like us who want to punch holes in it and put it in Circa/Rollabind notebooks. :)

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#11 jaspertyler

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Posted 07 September 2010 - 03:27

That would be awesome. I bought some Rhodia notebooks today and would love to put the paper in my Circa Notebooks....contemplating my paper cutter!

#12 adamselene

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Posted 07 September 2010 - 03:59

I got great deals with the circa starter sets (which are essentially free as it comes with a gift card for the whole cost), and various sizes in notebooks and from 3x5 to letter size zippered folios. Levenger paper has IMHO gone down hill across the board in recent years, at least as far as FP use. I make my own templates with Word, and use the hole punch and the HP 32lb paper which is pretty FP friendly.

I have heard the travel punch is not practical. I have two of the desk punches, home and office.

One fault of the system in my experience is that it is not archival, because even the large circa rings don't hold that much paper. It is a very flexible system open to creative variation, and as such does pose the risk that the process can overwhelm the content. I think I am using the materials that I have to perhaps 20% of their capacity, but that is ok for now for me.

And the leather smells and feels great!

#13 dgturner

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Posted 07 September 2010 - 19:32

I use the Levenger Circa system both professionally and personally. I was disappointed in the Circa paper (but as a previous post pointed out, not the notepads...). My issue was not feathering per se, but "spreading", the lines frequently seemed wider than they should. I only had minimal bleed through and show through.
My solution has been to use HP 32# Presentation bond and the Levenger punch. I can make any page I need. I generally use templates from DIYPlaner (I also have copied the Levenger "Annotation" format from the Notability pads). It is well worth the time and effort.
As to durability, if you are using paper light enough to come out of the rings as easily as some posters are suggesting, I would say upgrade your paper, or use reinforcement strips (solutions I have had to use on three ring binders as well).

I have even migrated my 14 year old daughter over to Circa for her school work. Expensive, but worth every penny for the organization and modularity.

Edit: Levenger has recently added archival sized discs 2", 2.5", 3" -- I am getting some 2" discs for work.

Edited by dgturner, 07 September 2010 - 19:36.


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#14 Doug C

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Posted 07 September 2010 - 21:04

I have one of the Lakota Circa systems with the Kyoto rings, and I love it. I also have the new version punch which is why I bought it (so I wouldn't have to use their paper).

Bear in mind that I am a cheap***, and don't intend to use their paper when I can (no comments) use copier paper from work that seems to be perfectly tuned to my 100+ pens.


For some reason, once I have run the company paper through the copier with my template (Date, subject, lines, etc), it turns into wonderful paper. Without the little nuclear blast that the copier gives, it is horrible.

Go figure.
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#15 Hennypenny

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Posted 07 September 2010 - 21:28

I've used the Circa system for my daily planner for several years now -- make my own pages and calendars using the desk size punch (which I'd recommend over the portable one -- just sturdier and can probably be quickly resold). I like the plastic covers - quite durable and not as thick or heavy as cardboard or leather (although those are nice if you don't mind the weight).

I also punch large page-size envelopes and insert them and use for receipts, stamps, loose pages, etc.

The system is quite versatile!

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#16 peachie

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Posted 09 September 2010 - 02:47

I've used Circa mostly personally but have recently integrated it into my professional life. I've been very happy with it and I find that my drier pens work best on their paper, although I generally use my own. I only have the portable punch and so far have had no problems with it...I may upgrade to the desk version at some point just for convenience sake.
I love the flexibility of it and the fact that, while you can basically do the same thing with a 3 ring binder, these notebooks always look more polished.
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#17 tonybelding

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Posted 10 September 2010 - 13:02

I like the Circa. Sometimes you need a notebook where you can shuffle and organize things (like a project where different bits may need to be changed or updated over time), and a bound journal or spiral notebook just isn't right. Then it's Circa FTW. I mostly use the junior sized ones.

Paper is a sticking point. The standard Circa paper works great with pencils, ballpoints, rollerballs. . . Many people do not like the way fountain pens write on it. The good aspect is that it's absorbant and ink dries very quickly on it. It's also pretty opaque, so you can usually use both sides. However, ink "spreads" to make a wider line. You want to avoid wet writing pens, and even with a dry writer it's never going to be beautiful. Plus, I find the paper surface has a high-friction drag, which makes extended writing on it tiresome.

You can also get Rollabind paper which fits in Circa notebooks. It's very different, and quite fountain pen friendly. You may have to hunt around for it, though, and the printed ruling isn't as neatly done as Circa. You can sometimes save a lot of money buying Rollabind instead of Circa.

#18 HistoryNerd

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Posted 10 September 2010 - 14:13

I recently came into some money, won through a contest at work. I decided to bite the bullet and buy some Circa stuff, including the new Circa punch. I have to say, I LOVE this system. I use my own paper, as like everyone else, I find Levenger's lacking. I love that I can print whatever type of page I want on paper I like, and can move things around and re-organize to my heart's content. I also bought the Master Folio I think it's called, and it's great. It holds around 200 pages, which for me is tons and plenty. I have some tabbed dividers that I'm still playing around with, but the fact that I can keep a planner, notes of different sorts, and it's all in one neat little (er, actually, not so little) package is a big plus for me. I'll be starting back to school in the spring, and I know I will be even more pleased with my purchase.
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#19 Conan the Grammarian

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Posted 10 September 2010 - 20:54

One advantage to the Circa system is that I can combine different sized papers into a notebook. If I get take notes with a Junior or Compact, I can put those notes into the Letter-sized notebook. It also comes with phone number pads, small note pads, and other insertable paper sizes so everything can be stored in one notebook. Small point, but worth considering.
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#20 Slainte

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Posted 10 September 2010 - 22:31

I have and use Circa extensively. I love it! I would definitely purchase the desk punch over the portable system; from what I understand, the portable punch is fiddly and doesn't have the durability that the desk punch provides.

Circa/Levenger paper is pretty expensive. I really like the diyplanner.com website, as mentioned by a previous poster. I would NEVER suggest buying the "starter" set and then photocopying the paper that you like best on HP or other paper. ;). In the end, the punch pays for itself. I also agree with the earlier poster who suggested buying the $40 kit that comes with a $40 gift card, and using the gift card towards the purchase of the punch.

Good luck, and let us know what you decide!

Edited for spelling.

Edited by Slainte, 10 September 2010 - 22:33.







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