This is just copied and pasted from my blog, The Pen Haul. Check it out if you want to see more like this!
Time to finally review the notebook that I’ve been using over the past year and a half. An affordable and easily available fountain pen friendly option that can be picked at most local big box stationery stores such as Staples. I say most because Staples in Canada (or at least Saskatchewan), does not carry this brand, which is super disappointing. I got my hands on a few when I was in the states last year. I decided to go with both a spiral bound and hardbound casebook A5 since I heard about the brand on Reddit. Yes this means I went to Staples on my holiday and yes that makes me a pen nerd! I have since finished the A5 spiral bound and ordered an A4 spiral bound from Amazon, which I will also be commenting on.
One question that I hear quite often is where one can find affordable paper that is also fountain pen friendly? Besides Clairefontaine and Rhodia, this is the next best option that I have tried when it comes to being fountain pen friendly. I’ll admit that I haven’t tried every option out there, but this may be the most affordable. It has handled every pen/ink combination that I’ve thrown at it besides my mass ink testing with my glass pen, which had a decent amount of bleed through. I am going to chalk that up to the massive amount of ink laid down and a slightly scratchy glass nib. The paper also seemed to be a little bit better quality in the spiral bound than the case bound, but not by much. Or they could be the same and I am just going crazy.
The characteristics that we look for are all there. No feathering, no bleed through (besides the above exception), fairly smooth with a tiny bit of tooth, and best of all you can still see the full depth of the ink, such as shading and sheen. Dry time is comparable to a paper such as Rhodia, but still manageable. For a price well below that of premium paper, you can’t go wrong. Now here are some bonus ink swabs for your viewing pleasure.
For Canadians, you can order these notebooks from Mead’s website for pretty good price. I’ve never ordered from there before so I don’t know how shipping costs are, but it is better than having to order from the US. In the US, you can either pick these up in your local stationery store, such as Staples , for about $9 for the A5 size, or from Amazon for about $5 right now. I’ve seen deals for these for about $3 USD, so it is definitely worth it to stock up when you see a sale.
As I mentioned before, the “Black n’ Red” notebook comes in a variety of styles. My first go around I went with the A5 spiral bound and A5 casebound, followed by an A4 spiral bound. Both spiral bounds have 140 perforated page of premium 24lb paper. I really appreciate the perforations because I can truly use the notebook as an everything book, which includes using it as a scratchpad and not clutter it with scribbles and none-sense. It does make it quite a bit thinner when you tear out 25% of the pages, obviously, but it is worth it in my eyes.
The cover is made of a very durable and flexible plastic that can definitely take a beating. It feels pretty nice in the hands too with a pretty cool texture. The coils bent out of place a few times when it got squished in my backpack with my textbooks, but they always easily bent back into place and remained strong and useful. The larger A4 spiral bound is identical besides the size and a slightly different pattern on the elastic closure strap. The elastic closure should be a must on all notebooks in my opinion. I know this is just me talking, but it makes life so easy knowing your notebook is going to stay shut when you want it to. (Apparently my fiancé thinks this part is funny)
The casebound is a little bit different animal. None of the pages are perforated. There is an attached bookmark rather than an elastic closure. The cover is completely hardcover, which has been very durable so far. the binding on the outside looks super tough, but the stitching on the inside appears to not be holding up 100%.
Another aspect of a notebook that I look for is the ability to lay flat. The spiral bound obviously lies flat, so you can easily write on both sides of the page. The casebound on the other hand has a bit more trouble. It doesn’t close on you by any means, but it does need a bit of… encouragement to make it easier to write on the backside of the page. Since the cover is fairly heavy duty, the notebook stays closed without any problems.
On the inside of both styles, you will find “useful information” pages that has info such as popular conversions and subway maps of New York. There is a good chance that a majority of the people who use these won’t actually use that information, but someone might and it is kind of interesting to read everything.
If you are into fountain pens and don’t want to spend $20 (or more) on a notebook, you should definitely check this brand out. They perform well and are affordable. What more could you ask for? They even look great with their black and red trim (hence the brand name) and they can even go on awesome sales!
Please comment below if you agree or have had other experiences. Here are a few other reviews done by other pen enthusiasts to give you multiple vantage points!